Reputation Management may sound like a big business process that your small business doesn’t have to worry about, but that just isn’t true. Whether you are a dentist, carpet cleaner, beauty salon, taco stand, or bed and breakfast you’ll benefit from these reputation management tips for local and small businesses.

In your industry, there may be larger businesses in your market with wider selections, lower prices, and even bigger marketing budgets, but your small business can still dominate your local market with proper reputation management.

Managing your online reviews and ratings is vital to the health and growth of your small business.

Reputation Management Tips for Local and Small Businesses

How Your Online Reputation is Built

Business reputations and word-of-mouth marketing have gone from in-person conversations to worldwide broadcasts with just a few clicks. As consumers increasingly rely on internet research to make their purchasing decisions, they also are more willing to leave reviews and comments that will help or hurt a business.

You can spend big bucks on developing your marketing message and buying advertising, but thrifty internet-savvy buyers trust customer reviews much more than any ad copy you can produce.

Knowing how to manage your online reputation and being prepared to handle any negative interactions before they influence future customers is crucial when your buyers rely heavily on reviews, ratings, and comments.

You don’t need to be a professional marketer or webmaster to create and sustain and winning reputation. You just need to know how to create a strong foundation for your online presence, and how to build a five-star reputation by gathering, monitoring, and promoting your customer reviews.

Professional Tips for Reputation Management for Local and Small Businesses

1. Provide a Great Product or Service with Stellar Customer Service

Customer reviews generally cover only two things: Product Quality/Performance and Customer Service.

We’ll assume you have a great product or service that customers would want to buy if they knew about it. (If not go back to square one and get that as good as it can profitably be.) So, let’s focus on customer service because that is something you should be continuously improving upon.

Knowing a quality customer experience is instrumental in providing excellent customer service it is necessary to get personalized feedback directly from your customers and customer-facing employees.

Learn industry best practices and implement changes where improvements are needed. Make it easy for the customer to get to know you as the business owner to build trust. And this is probably the most important – Hire and Retain Employees Who Care.

ALSO READ: Avoiding Customer Complaints – 3 Things You Should Be Doing

2. Have an Easy to Use, Mobile Optimized Website

Your website is the bright, shiny beacon that brings in new customers. Everyone (save about 9% of Americans) uses their mobile device at some point to look for information on local businesses. Having a responsive website that modifies its appearance to look good on any device is now a necessity.

Plus, Google stated that if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, they aren’t ranking it in internet search results which makes your business basically non-existent online. You can check the mobile-friendly of your website here: Google Mobile Friendly Test

User experience (also talked about at UX) is also important but often neglected. Ignoring how visitors interact with your website is a big mistake!

If your website isn’t fast loading, easy to navigate, and even easier to read people will not stay on your website long enough to get the information they were looking for. Especially not when they have hundreds of other websites one click away that provide similar the same service or product.

Making it easy for customers to use your website, find your address, or get in contact will boost your online reputation with search engines and search engine users. Design your website around the customer experience, and you’ll see an increase in both new customers and customer retention.

ALSO READ: Websites Pages that Increase Local Search Visibility

3. Claim, Manage and Promote Search Engine Business Profiles and Reviews (aka Optimizing Google My Business)

Not only do customers use search engines to find new products and providers, but they also trust the ratings and reviews that are displayed in search results to help them making their clicking decisions.

Claim and optimize your business profiles on Google My Business and Bing Places for Business. These business profiles not only help you rank higher in their respective search results, but they also give search engines users high-profile locations to leave reviews for your business that show up in search results. This is also how your business appears on maps and local listings that are highlighted on search results pages.

Does Bing Places for Business matter anymore? Not really. Google has the market on search engine use cornered but listing your business on Bing is another citation and business listing to build your online presence.

You can use your Google account to import your Google My Business account information which makes it super easy to build another listing. And you can use many of the basic tips in How to Optimize Your Google My Business to optimize your Bing Places for Business listings.

 

Importance of Reviews Online Review Monitoring

 

4. Manage Online Citations and Business Listings

Your online business listings make your business visible online to both search engines like Google and customers searching online for your address and phone number.

When your business does not have a strong online presence, search engines are pulling your information from these online business listings to verify you are a legitimate business and to provide accurate location and contact information to their search engine users.

Create and accurately fill in your business listings on trusted online directories so that your business name, address, and phone number (aka NAP) are IDENTICAL on every listing.

There are hundreds of these directories, and you can do this manually. But a better way to ensure that these essential listings are accurate, consistent and where they need to be is to automate the process with low-cost services that automate the management of your citations and business listings.

ALSO READ: The What Why and How of Business Listings and Citations

5. Claim and Optimize Relevant Social Media and Review Site Profiles

Building a healthy social media presence on the social networks your customers use is a powerful and effective marketing tactic that any small business can benefit from. But some businesses don’t have the time and know-how, or just aren’t ready to start. Basic level participation is still needed to protect your online reputation.

Protect your future social media efforts and your online reputation by claiming your business and personal names on social media sites. Use a photo or your logo and write a brief one or two sentence description. Fully register your business on the major sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Then consider what social networks impact your industry and market the most and register on those as well. Local businesses should consider county, city, and even neighborhood level networks like chambers of commerce that will connect your business name with needs in your area.

Additionally, review sites and local sites show up high in search engine results, providing more exposure for your business. Claim your profiles on high traffic sites like Google My Business, Facebook, and Angie’s List. Provide your locations, photos, business hours, description of your services, payment options and categories to give potential customers all the information they need while building citations for your business.

6. Monitor the Online Reputation of Owners, Stakeholders, and Employees Associated with Your Business

You and your employees represent your business offline and online. Behavior and commentary not suitable at work may seem less harmful online, but in fact, the opposite is true.

Once an unflattering photo is posted or a negative comment is made it lives forever on the internet and can cast a shadow on your business. Avoid ethical dilemmas, negative associations, and embarrassment by having a written and signed social media and online policy for all employees.

Keep it simple by clearly defining to do’s and don’ts, and the consequences of not following the guidelines. Also, be sure to include instructions on the use of disclaimers, copyright laws, as well as the importance of maintaining the privacy of others and the disclosure of confidential information.

7. Actively Gather Feedback and Promote Your Best Reviews

To manage your online reputation, you need to know what customers think about your business before they post reviews online. You do this by proactively seeking feedback from customers. When you know what your customers have to say about your business, you can resolve issues quickly and encourage happy customers to post their good reviews on the business profiles that matter to you most.

Getting feedback from your customers can be done in a variety of ways. You can use comment cards, email, or even chatbots on your website.

Develop a system that lets your customers know that you want their feedback and gives them an incredibly easy way to provide it. With a reputation management system like Reputation Loop, you can set up an almost hands-free system that contacts your customers via email soon after purchase to get their feedback, so you know what customers are thinking.

ALSO READ: Building Your Online Reputation with Positive Reviews

8. Prepare for Handling Negative Feedback and Reviews

Earned or not, deserved or careless malice, receiving a negative comment or review online or on social media is inevitable in a hyper-connected, largely anonymous online community that is now global.

Negative reviews and comments that show up online should be addressed immediately. Fake or false reviews should be reported to the site manager for review. Take time to plan and create a process for handling negative reviews.

If you feel they highlight actual problems with your business, take the time to respond both publicly on the review and privately with the customer through email to make it right. Owner responses allow you not only to lessen the impact of that review but also provides the opportunity to correct an issue or satisfy a dissatisfied customer.

Fast and thoughtful customer-centered responses to less-than-positive reviews show future customers that you care about their experience and value their feedback as a way to improve your business.

ALSO READ: Handling Negative Reviews By Creating a Process

 

Reputation Management Tips for Local and Small Businesses Bad Reviews

 

9. Use Blogging and Content Marketing to Create Positive Online Links

Maintaining a blog that reflects your business brand and standards helps to establish a positive online reputation. Consistent and search engine optimized blogging ensures that content, images and web pages you control occupy the valuable space of the first pages of search results when people search your business by name.

Blogging also supports your legitimacy as a respected business by establishing your expertise in your community and your industry.

ALSO READ: Protecting Your Online Reputation with a Blog

10. Research and Consistently Monitor Your Reviews and Online Presence

An effective reputation management plan starts with research and includes consistently monitoring your own online reputation.  Monitoring online reviews and social media mentions ensures you know what is being said about your business online where your next customer is hanging out.

There are online review monitoring services and tools that let you know what customers see online.  You can opt to do this yourself manually, but whether you automate or DIY, you MUST monitor your online reviews. Remember, online review monitoring allows you to be part of the conversations going on when people are making their buy decisions.

ALSO READ: Online Review Monitoring – Protect Reputation and Earn More Customers

Reputation Management Tips for Local and Small Businesses

Most small business owners and managers have their hands full just trying to get or remain profitable. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, right? But neglecting your online reputation could be devastating to the health of your business.

Following these reputation management tips for local and small businesses is a simple framework for protecting your online reputation and using it to build a stellar online presence that increases the visibility of your business.

 

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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.