If you have an online presence, then you have an online reputation. And that reputation will play a significant part in whether your business becomes a success or disappears overnight. While that may sound dramatic, you only need to consider for a moment how easily customers can research businesses, a brand or a product name. If they like what they see, then they’ll commit to a purchase. Google now provides everything that people need to know about your services.
While that may be the one unfortunate incident that leads to a negative review, if that’s what people see on the first page of their Google search results, then sadly that’s likely to lead them to seek out alternative companies.
In this guide, we consider how to use a strategic approach to online reputation management. When this is combined with experience and knowledge, businesses can create a positive and resilient online reputation.
Assessing Your Online Reputation Management Needs
Online reputation management is the process of ensuring that positive information is displayed when people use search engines such as Google or social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to create an impression of you or your brand.
As a starting point, you or the online management reputation company will need to see how your reputation currently appears. Using Google and social media as a guide, they will search your business name to determine what people can find and what they’re saying. So, that will include looking for both positive and negative comments towards your business, brand, and product names and whether people like to share your posts. They will also search for the names of key personnel within the company to assess the public’s impression of them and their association with the business.
With a raft of data to review, a strategy can now be formed, which is likely to include both proactive and reactive online reputation management.
Proactive Online Reputation Management (ORM)
In a perfect world, all ORM would fit within the proactive approach. So, this means that processes and strategies are already in place to use and which minimise the risk of damage to an online reputation. Should there be even a hint of an issue, then they are very quickly nipped in the bud before there is the opportunity for them to escalate. We’ve identified five key elements of proactive ORM.
Monitoring Matters Online
Online reputation management isn’t a one-off activity. It’s a process which will need regular fine-tuning and attention throughout the life of the business. In online reputation management terms, this effectively breaks down into listening closely to what people say about you, your brand and the company name. When effective monitoring is in place, you will be able to assess your current position while also comparing results from week to week or even day to day in some situations.
Once you know what people are saying about you online and whether they like or share information, you have a guide regarding what’s working and what isn’t through your online reputation management processes.
Improving Search Engine Optimisation
Search results matter. Rarely does anybody click onto page two of Google search results. That means that the first page must contain positive content that promotes your brand and company name. Google makes use of algorithms to decide on the order that information is presented in the search results. This means that knowledge is needed to ensure a successful online reputation management strategy that ensures appropriate content is seen at the top of page one.
This can include identifying the keywords that people search for when using Google. For example, if people are regularly searching for ‘the best chocolate brownies’, you’ll want to ensure that your bakery is at the top of those search results.
Another search engine optimisation strategy connected with online reputation management is to develop links with other well-considered businesses and organisation. This can then have the effect of their status becoming associated with yours. That might mean that when your local newspaper writes an article on the town’s best bakeries, they include a link to your website.
Engaging With Social Media for Online Reputation Management
Social media is an essential aspect of your marketing strategy and online reputation management. It provides opportunities to establish your brand’s voice, identify and understand your audience, and build a following.
Establishing the Voice of Your Brand
Consistency is essential in ensuring that customers know what the company name stands for. When the communication style varies, and the message continually changes, it can be confusing, creating doubts about its authenticity.
That means there is little point in sharing content which discusses your commitment to excellence in customer experience if a customer then gets a disinterested staff member on your helpline. Likewise, tone and language consistency are important; it allows both current and potential customers to understand and become familiar with what you represent. You can now see that producing a guide on communication standards and training for your team, becomes essential within online reputation management.
Identify and Understand Your Online Audience
The chances are that you will have several different audiences within your online social media platforms. First of all, you’ll have those who have already had a connection with, perhaps they have been a customer, or you’ve met in person. Then there will be those who have connected with you because of the information that your company shares and those whose search has led them to you.
But there is an additional, and at times, unseen group of people. This is the audience of your audience. Every share or public comment made is likely to be seen by many other people, including those who might not have been aware of you before. Finding that a piece of information is something that your followers are keen to like and share provides you with the knowledge of what’s making the most positive impact on your online reputation management strategy.
Review Sites and Online Reputation Management
We all do it. Before we book a holiday or make a purchase, we search on Google for feedback on the company name. If we like what we see, then we hit the confirmation button. Online reviews help to guide us in making decisions on whether we can trust this particular online business.
So, when we come across something negative, then there should be no surprise that it stops us in our tracks. We mentioned earlier that we tend to look at just the first page of the Google search results before deciding. When we look at online reviews, it’s much the same situation. A couple of negative reviews on the first page and we’re now looking for an alternative business we like better.
People are generally motivated to leave reviews when they have either had a highly positive or highly negative experience with the businesses they have dealt with. That then means that one aspect of online reputation management is encouraging your customers to want to share feedback with review sites when everything has gone to plan and with you when there have been problems; that way you gain the opportunity to resolve the situation before negative reviews begin to appear on the web.
Customer Experience Impacts Online Reputations
It doesn’t matter how much time and energy you invest in online reputation management if the customer experience fails to impress. Positive content needs to supported by an authentic experience which is repeated time after time.
The search for great employees to join your business can be challenging, but these are the people who can cause tremendous damage to your approach to ORM. A sarcastic comment or a poorly considered retort on social media can mean negative reviews at best, and a full blow reputational crisis at worst that finds itself onto Google. This again comes back to how important consistency is, that you must make sure that what you discuss and present online, matches with a positive offline experience.
Managing Negativity in Online Reputation Management (ORM)
Sometimes a crisis can seem to come out of the blue. Everything was working fine, no indication that there were any problems and then suddenly the crisis erupts. Then, companies see a prolonged but steady increase of negative content and decrease in the quality of their online reputation.
Either way, a business needs to have strategies and procedures in place that can be implemented when there is a hint of an issue. Because you can be sure that once there’s a threat to an online reputation, it will gather momentum until it becomes a crisis unless you make a decision to quickly take action.
Manage Escalating Issues To Secure Online Reputation
As part of online reputation management, you’ll be monitoring conversations about your brand across a range of digital platforms. Then you’ll soon spot if there is the potential for a reputation change. Whether it’s negative content, poor reviews or problems with the customer experience, stepping in quickly is important, it can be the difference between make or break. This might mean addressing issues and encouraging customers to get in touch, allowing you to handle situations quickly.
People generally know that there are problems from time to time for every business. What becomes much more important is that people can see that resolution is reached quickly. Then you are in a position to maintain your reputation online.
Responding to an Online Reputation Management Crisis
Every business needs positive reviews as part of their approach to online reputation management (ORM). So, when negative online reviews appear, it can be a critical time for companies to manage especially as these can also be displayed in Google search results. However, do be aware that when a business only has excessively positive reviews, it can also cause suspicion.
Poor reviews generally come from two directions, genuine grievances and malicious content.
When things have gone wrong, it’s essential for a business to get to a resolution as quickly as possible. While you could encourage a customer to get in touch privately to get the details of the issue, it’s important to follow up within the online review site. This then ensures that anyone who has searched for your business will see that you have acknowledged the situation and taken action to make the situation right.
Whether it’s a competitor or a disgruntled ex-employee, malicious content can have serious consequences for companies’ online reputation. Business review websites will provide an online guide on how to report malicious content. However, time is of the essence and the longer the reviews are on the web, the greater the chance there is of a prospective client being able to see them when conducting a search.
This can be a situation where requesting the help of an online reputation management company can make sure that action is taken quickly. ORM consultants will guide you through what needs to happen and ensure that the feedback is removed before it causes damage.
Negative Search Engine Results and Your Online Reputation
When you’re coming out of a crisis, there will still be a footprint of the issues across the internet. That could be from social media posts which were shared and blogs covering the story. This then means that there needs to be an ORM process in place to tidy up the online environment.
We have already mentioned the importance of the customer seeing positive content and feedback on the first page of Google. When the search brings back negative reviews and information, then action needs to be taken to defend the business’s online reputation.
To get this to happen needs help from someone with expertise within Google algorithms and who can create a situation whereby the very best content is seen first. Where the negative search detail is potentially defamatory, then businesses and individuals may want to use the legal options open to them. In this situation, it will be essential to get help from a good online reputation management company who work with legal experts highly experienced in the online world.
Top 10 Disasters For Your Online Reputation
1. Pretending It Didn’t Happen
No-one wants to publicise issues and mistakes, but when they’ve happened, denying their existence can great an even more significant dent in your online reputation. Once information is online, it can be shared and reposted across the internet. That means that even if the original details get removed from the page, they will keep on being shared across the web.
And if you think that merely removing information will get the issue resolved, do be aware that there are sites which capture snapshots of internet pages on a regular basis. That then means that even if you change or remove information from the web, there may well be a historical record of the original data for all to see.
2. Removing Comments
There are times when you’ll need to remove ‘spammy’ comments. These might be advertising goods and services on your company pages or clickbait type articles designed to lure your followers to a different site. However, removing comments just because they’re not positive, can lead to all kinds of issues which impact your online reputation.
Deleting genuine comments will not get the conversation to end. They may be reposted or worse still, the conversation continues on another page or social media platform. Now you will not be able to respond or even be aware of the discussion taking place
3. Ignoring Comments
Sticking your head in the sand and hoping it all goes away can be tempting but it’s more likely to add fuel to the fire. This places customers and followers in a situation where’s no longer just the original issue to be annoyed about, now they’re also enraged by the lack of action. When things go wrong, as they do from time to time, it’s essential to face the comments, acknowledge issues and find a resolution, then you can move on.
4. Being Your Own Worst Enemy
We all have bad days where we tempted to type exactly what we’re feeling. However, that’s rarely going to get good outcomes for your online reputation or that of your business or brand. Here are our top three of the ways of being your own worst enemy:
Discussing various points of view and having a reasoned discussion in one thing. Being deliberately confrontational is an entirely different thing. There are times when presenting alternative perspectives can be a fantastic marketing tool to encourage customers to consider different products and brands. However, this needs to form part of a planned and well-considered marketing strategy.
The communications with your customer base, don’t always have to be about you and your brand. Sharing information from other sources or informing people of events and launches within the sector can add value to your followers. This is a fantastic opportunity to become recognised as an expert within the field.
When you’re aware of the challenges that face sectors of our society, you can ensure that you don’t offend with ill-informed terms or misplaced humour. Ignorance is no excuse in this type of situation. This means that all communications need to be carefully considered to ensure that they convey a positive message to all members of society.
5. Not Doing Your Research
Whether it’s a product name, an alliance with another person or the promotion of someone else’s services, you must to do your homework first. Ensuring that there are no negative connotations and nothing you need to worry about being connected with, means that you won’t land yourself in a situation that is damaging to your online reputation.
6. Doing The Same Thing and Expecting Different Results
If your strategy is to keep trying something in the hope that it’ll work this time, then do get ready for disappointment! Of course, you may want to try variations of the approach, but if you don’t get back the result you expected, you may need to revisit your plans or get in touch with the experts in online reputation management (ORM) for help and advice.
7. Ignoring the Influencers
Influencers are called that for a reason, their ability to influence their followers brand opinions and purchasing habits can be significant for any business. While companies can present their product’s strengths, a glowing review from someone apart from the business can have a positive impact on reputation and sales.
8. Getting Cross
Being outrageous will definitely capture your customers’ attention but probably not with the results you were looking for. Cross, angry comments provide perfect material for your competitors and social commentators to use against you and to share across the internet.
9. Lack of Clarity
When that special offer isn’t so special because you’ve missed out the part about the terms and conditions, then expect your online reputation to take a tumble. The public is quick to spot something which they find to be too good to be true. Once called out for the lack of clarity, you will then need to work out a way of restoring trust in your company and brand.
10. The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But The Truth
The internet is a busy place, and social media is full of competitors all vying for customer attention. So, there might be a strong temptation to slightly exaggerate results or information on a product’s performance. However, you can be sure that you’re going to be called out. Whether by a disgruntled ex-employee, a competitor or an eagle-eyed customer, the result is going to be the same, a direct impact on your ORM strategy.