In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, businesses receive a nine percent increase in revenue for every star they add to their online rating and a poor Yelp rating can kill a restaurant.
That is why online reputation management has become crucial, according to Thomas Varghese, president of eBizUniverse, a digital marketing agency based in Schaumburg since 2007. Online reputation management is the practice of monitoring the internet reputation of a person, brand or business in order to promote trust and suppress negative mentions entirely – or at the least, push them lower on search engine results pages to decrease their visibility.
In today’s world, virtually everyone is online in some form or fashion including your customers (both happy and unhappy), your prospects and your competitors. Information about you and your company is out there in blogs, forums, social media and customer reviews. Even former employees can be out there commenting.
Bad reviews can hurt the big boys like Walmart – but they can KILL a small operator.
Great reviews, on the other hand, can help a business get new customers, retain existing customers, get more sales and profits, maintain a positive brand image and close more deals.
In order to maintain your online reputation, you have to remain vigilant, Varghese said. He suggests that businesses be proactive, not reactive. So they should respond to and interact with consumers online. They should also monitor online conversations about their business and create and distribute positive content about their business regularly.
For instance, they should actively seek reviews from satisfied customers in order to boost sales and conversions of others who are active online. You can do this by offering coupons, discounts and free samples to those who submit a review. You can refer your customers to your business listings on CitySearch, Yelp, Google Places, etc. You can place a call to action on your product pages and thereby ask for reviews. Or you can link your business listing profiles to your website, Varghese suggested.
But you can’t stop there if you want to succeed.
“Flood the first page of applicable search engines with positive, branded content like a well-ranked website with your brand name as the domain, articles, videos, press releases, photos, blogs, search engine optimization, tips, helpful tutorials and other useful content,” Varghese said. “You should also make sure that you are listed consistently across the many available platforms like Yahoo!, Angie’s List, bing, Google, etc. and that customer testimonials are showcased.”
Also, take advantage of social media. Set up your social profiles. Then post daily and provide users with educational content that will even help them solve problems.
Next, leverage the various video platforms like YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion. Publish your videos and optimize them by adding titles, tags and descriptions. Before long, they will start appearing on the first page of applicable Google searches.
And if you are an individual looking to manage your online reputation, don’t forget to create virtual business cards for you (and your employees) using About.me, Card.ly, MyOnePage.com or Crunchbase.com.
Once you have all of that working for you, be sure to stay engaged and active, Varghese said. Don’t just sit back and ignore your online presence. Actively monitor online conversations to see what people are saying about your business. Frequently check your blog and website for customer comments. Do a Google search for your business name and see what pops up. Check articles, blogs, forums and customer review sites to see if anyone mentions you or your firm and pay close attention to the social network sites.
Once you hear what people are saying, you can respond to both positive and negative comments. But no matter what you hear, be sure to be respectful and display a helpful, friendly demeanor. It is also important that you quickly offer a solution to any problems that arise.
Doing this builds relationships, shows people that you actually care, allows you to manage and control your brand and gives others the opportunity to see your point of view.
Ignoring what people are saying or responding emotionally to bad reviews, on the other hand, can potentially tank your business … so don’t do it! Promptly address the issues raised by your unhappy customers. But don’t argue with anyone. Know when to walk away if you can’t please an individual. But if you can make them happy, then ask politely if they would reconsider the negative reviews they posted.
If you get sidetracked and don’t check those online comments for a week or a month, only to find that negative comments and reviews popped up while you were otherwise occupied, all is not lost, according to Varghese.
He suggested that you respond by using online reputation management to drive down the negativity, create and submit a flurry of press releases, articles and videos, create a blog and submit fresh, unique content regularly and engage in social media to build a loyal following. Remember that brand optimization needs to be your main focus.
Since everyone also has a business to run and products or services to provide, no business owner can spend hours and hours searching for damaging online comments and monitoring their online reputation. So Varghese suggests relying to some extent, at least, on tools that automate these tasks like MyReviewEngine.com.
It provides service by finding and amplifying the voices of happy customers, reaches unhappy customers before they bash your business on review sites, gives you the time to handle a negative customer experience and turn it around, automates review request campaigns, uses one dashboard to monitor and manage reviews seamlessly and helps make sure that only the best reviews are projected on your website.
Thomas Varghese and eBizUniverse can be reached at www.ebizuniverse.com or by phoning (847) 592-6224.