It’s not difficult to hit up Google to find reviews and comments about products and services, including reivews and opinions about your business. When customers review a business, that information often shows up with your website in searches. That means it’s readily accessible to researching customers, and for many businesses, it’s the first impression of your brand a prospect will see. What do your potential clients read about you? Do you even know what’s being said about your business? This is what reputation management is all about.

What is Online Reputation?

Online reputation is self-explanatory – it’s what people say about your business online. This discussion comes in the form of customer reviews and comments and mentions on social media. Our generation of savvy shoppers now seek out reviews before making financial decisions.

A good reputation wins customer preference. This means even when a competing business offers similar products or services consumers still prefer your business based on your positive reputation. Simply having a good reputation will allow you to offer premium pricing and your business will stand a better chance at long-term value and long-term success. See more about improving the bottom line of your social media campaigns in one of our previous posts.

Where to start?

First, to build your online reputation, you need customers to review your product or service. This is often easier said than done.

Take a tactical approach. The following are strategies that can be implemented to create more online reviews and comments about your business.

1. Review Generator Campaigns. These campaigns can be the most effective approach to creating a base of customer reviews and feedback. Use direct response mail marketing approach by sending out a review generator survey, handout or email. Go the easy route by using marketing automation software that can auto-send customer reviews at a specific time or after a specific event. For example, you could send out an automated review a week after a customer has made a purchase.

2. Offer incentives. Customers need a reason to spend time on a review – give them one. Offer customers incentives, such as a discount, for writing a positive review about their experience with your business. However, it’s important on sites like Yelp not to “buy” reviews (see warning message below). Yelp allows you to offer a “Yelp Deal” for your business.

3. In-store Kiosks. Many traditional brick and mortar stores have had success with review Kiosk systems customers encounter as they are walking out of the store. An advantage to these Kiosk reviews is that positive feedback will be posted online at the review site – thus contributing to the online reputation of your business. Negative reviews will not be posted online, but instead sent to management for an opportunity to internally manage and resolve the issue.

Value of Online Review Sites

Where should you turn for online reviews? Three of the most important sites to post your reviews to in order of importance include Google+, Yelp, and Facebook. Let’s look these 3 influential platforms individually.

1. Google+ ratings and reviews produce influential effects by showing up in Google Maps, search results, and elsewhere. Give more clout to your business and receive more traffic when you have at least at 15 reviews with an overall positive outcome. Be sure that your Google+ page and profile are optimized and ready for reviews before you send anyone that way. Learn how to optimize your Google+ page in our post on local SEO tips.

Google also puts a lot of weight on your page activity, including follower size, which makes it important to  leverage your personal audience, review count, rating, and post frequency. The better your page activity and rating, the better chance your Google+ page and even specific posts will be included in top ranking spots. When you do post, make sure the first 45-50 characters of each post are keyword optimized, as these will become the title tags that show up in the search engine results.

2. Yelp has emerged as a leading resource for reviews and business reputation at the local level. All types of businesses are reviewed daily on Yelp including cardiologists, hotels, and restaurants. In fact, it was recently stated in an article that:

With over 60 million registered users and over 20 million reviews posted on the site, it’s fair to say Yelp is still the dominant force when it comes to social review sites.

Even marginal changes to your Yelp reputation can create measurable changes to your revenue. According to a Harvard study:

A one star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue.

 3. Facebook is another key player in your business’s online reputation strategy. Take advantage of your Facebook page by publishing reviews about your business and encouraging followers to review you on the site. Implement a marketing strategy that engages your customers to participate in online reviews on your Facebook and other social media accounts.

You can also have positive Yelp reviews automatically uploaded by sharing them with your Facebook page.

Other Sites for Publishing Review is a leading reputation management platform that makes it easy for your company to manage and respond to online reviews. It’s all-in-one platform for online review management, local search visibility, and social media designed for businesses.

Product companies and e-commerce stores are other excellent resources to generate positive online reviews, and even gain new followers. There are also a number of other online review sites, such as:

Online Reputation Management (ORM)

Acquiring reviews is only the first step. Once you know people are talking about your business, it’s up to you to follow up on these reviews, reply when appropriate, and intervene as needed. When a customer leaves negative feedback about your business – you need to respond quickly in order to get the review modified or deleted.

  • Managing Negative Feedback

A negative online reputation can be detrimental to your business and difficult to remedy. For this reason, the importance of ORM and actively responding to and mending negative reviews cannot be understated and should not be overlooked. Don’t ignore what customers are saying. Get to the root of the problem and correct internally to prevent future complaints.

How to handle negative comments and reviews? You’ll first want to implement a strategy and customer service guidelines for responding to bad reviews, including whether or not you will offer a consolation for the negative experience such as a gift credit for products/services. In many cases, a positive follow-up to the person who left the negative review can result in them either removing it or revising it if you are able to resolve their concerns and experience. If you’re unable to contact or resolve the review, there are still ways to remove or suppress negative feedback and improve your online reputation. Here are some actions that can be taken:

  1. Positive review campaign: Overshadow a small number of negative reviews and improve your review rating by procuring a large number of real, positive customer reviews via a positive review generation campaign.
  2. Negative link burial: Bump negative links (reviews) off the first page of Google (or at least bump it to below the fold) by creating and promoting alternate content that is optimized for the search keywords that generate the negative review result. This is much more difficult and often requires professional reputation and SEO expert help to bump negative reviews off Page 1, but in some cases can be as easy as creating and promoting a series of optimized online profiles that are related to the negative keywords. Here are two articles from Search Engine Watch and Brand Yourself with great DIY negative link burial advice.

Legal recourse may be an appropriate action if a competitor posts fake negative reviews on your listing profile. If this happens, you can file a lawsuit for libel and hold the competitor accountable for their action against your reputation.

  • Recognizing Positive Feedback

Everyone likes to be recognized for a job well done. When a customer leaves a good review, always provide positive reinforcement such as a follow-up thank you email. This step will build the customer relationship and create a greater likelihood of ongoing feedback.

Public Relations

Sending out eye-catching press releases and getting news publications to discuss your business can have a significant impact your business’s online reputation. Your relationships with local, industry-relevant journalists and publishers will impact how much recognition you receive from the public.

One positive article or even a mention from a widely-distributed blog or news publication can leave a tremendous impact on the authority of your online reputation.

Keep it Genuine

Never buy fake mentions or reviews. While these ‘’black hat’’ reputation management techniques can produce some short term ranking improvements – this will only hurt your online reputation in the long run, and savvy buyers can almost always spot a fake review, which will really harm their perception of your business.

In addition to real person detection, Google announced their newest algorithm can detect and even penalize websites for the use of fake accounts and reviews. Yelp also will delete reviews that appear fake and can even add an embarrassing message to the top of the user’s page that alerts customers to the fact that the business was caught buying reviews. One Harvard business study suggested that as much as 16% of Yelp reviews could be fake.

Fake reviews, followers or likes are simply empty relationships that will do nothing to help build your online business – only offer the potential to be flagged or penalized. Businesses in consumer-facing (B2C) industries, must maintain awareness and proactively manage their reputation online, otherwise it can spiral out of control.

Need help? Our local online reputation management (ORM) services include positive review procurement efforts to suppress negative reviews, public relations services, and reputation restoration. Give us a shout if you need some help or friendly advice!

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