Traditional online marketing is on the decline for small businesses as consumers are increasingly searching for, and heavily relying on, real customer recommendations. They are now using search engine results, reviews sites, and social media to make informed decisions on where they will spend their money.

Businesses must learn to build, maintain and protect their online reputation on many fronts as marketing shifts more towards consumers putting their trust in the “word of mouth” comments and testimonials found in their online research. As the influence of peer-to-peer interactions increases, businesses have less control over the messages and information being shared about them and must put effort into reputation management.

97 Percent Consumer Research2

Gain Customers with a Proactive Approach to Online Reputation Management

Online reputation management is necessary to ensure your business shows up high in search results for your service while also being seen as professional and enticing when people search your business name. This is how you attract more customers, retain more customers and save money by avoiding ineffective advertising and fixing poor public perceptions.

The most cost-effective way to lower your risks and grow your business is to utilize a proactive approach involving review monitoring and handling negative reviews and comments, as well as creating and maintaining a stock of positive reviews and great online content that show up on the first page of online search results.

Monitor. Review monitoring, and knowing when and where your name is being mentioned is important to reputation management. Conversations about your business are rarely taking place on your website so you need to discover what is being said and where.

To find what prospective customers see about your business search the way they would – Google your name… then Yahoo it, and Bing it. Make notes of where your company is showing up most and repetitive themes in comments and reviews (good and bad). Include detailed information on which sites provide reviews of your service or product, and on sources of negative information so you can take action.

72 Percent Consumer Trust

Handle Negative Reviews. Stay ahead of the game by claiming your business on sites like Google Places, and YP.com so you have control over the business information found there by reviewers. Routinely monitor these sites and set up a process to respond to any negative reviews or comments. Comment directly on the poor reviews to reach out to the dissatisfied customer in a way that other reviewers will see.

There is usually little you can do to get negative reviews removed from websites but readers will see your compassionate response and effort to make it right – giving you an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.

Publishing and Maintaining Good Reviews and Content. Promoting positive and factual information will not only attract new customers and persuade undecided customers, but it will also push negative reviews and content further down in search results.

So what can your business do right now?

GET ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA – Create positive and professional profiles across all the major social networks, but put the most effort into maintaining only the ones that are most effective for your business and your industry. Not only does social media have the potential to expose you to billions of consumers, it puts your business name and brand under your control and improves your search engine rankings by providing your profiles as social proof of your existence in results.

69 Percent Business on SM

BLOG – Blogs get good search engine ranking because search engines like Google are always on the search for original and informative content to give searchers in their results pages. With that fact in mind, ensure you are posting quality content at least 1-2 times a week, and search engine optimizing your titles and metadata with the keywords people are searching for.

GET GREAT REVIEWS – Have a great product and amazing customer service… then make it simple to leave reviews by including links to your favorite review sites on your digital invoices or email confirmations. But don’t forget the best way to get reviews and testimonials is to simply ask your customers for them.

Online reputation management is a must. So you just need to decide if you are going to find the time to handle it yourself, delegate this responsibility to a single person or find a little bit in your budget to have a professional handle it for you.

Grow Your Business By Generating Feedback & Positive Online Reviews!

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Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.