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Tips for Building and Managing Your Online Reputation

If you want your business to be successful in today’s world, you simply can’t ignore online reputation management. It is so easy for your customers to provide feedback on your products or services, so you need to make sure you have a good handle on what they are saying and how to respond. A negative review online that doesn’t get a response can be very detrimental to your business.

I’m constantly talking about ways small businesses can improve their SEO, and in my opinion, reputation management may just be one of, if not the most, important factors involved.

By implementing a professional, ongoing reputation management strategy correctly, you’ll see an increase in web-based leads and sales.

Let’s dive into some of the basics to see what I’m talking about.

Why online reviews are important

When a person is looking for a product or service online, they want to be reassured that they’re getting the value they’re looking for and want a definitive reason to choose you over the competition. Let’s put it this way. While traditional SEO tactics get you to the top of search engine results pages, online reviews are what close the deal for you.

Online reviews are basically modern day referrals, so having numerous reviews online is a great way to stand out in your field. No matter how great your marketing efforts are, people are always going to trust what is said about your company from others than from you, so make sure the narrative others have of you is a positive one.

In fact, if you can get to the top of search engine results pages AND have 5-star reviews and comments, you’ll be golden. You’ll become the safest, most reliable, and most recognized choice – a real no-brainer for whoever crosses your path.

Managing your online reputation

It’s imperative that you have an online review strategy to encourage positive reviews and counter negative ones. Essentially, if you don’t take the time to manage your online reputation, it will manage you instead.

To create a strong offense for positive reviews, and defense for negative reviews, I’d recommend the following eight tips and tactics:

1. Never write, buy, or encourage fake reviews…major no no! Don’t be sketchy. Encourage genuine and real reviews.

2. Be smart about asking your customers for appropriate feedback.

3. Develop a feedback routine with simple instructions.

4. When asking for feedback, make sure your customer includes the product or service they used as part of the review.

5. Collect reviews on your website first and foremost. That way, if the reviews are negative, you have time to address it before it gets shown to the rest of the online world.

6. Create a custom online review funnel. Make it as easy as possible for them to review your business.

7. Always engage with the people who review, whether their comments are positive or negative. For positive comments, be sure to thank them as it may encourage them to leave additional reviews in the future.

8. Don’t panic over negative reviews. They happen. Just remember to take the high road and respond professionally.

This should go without saying, but remember that you and your employees represent your brand. Whatever anybody in your company says outside of work will still be a reflection of your brand. Be sure to set policies around this within your organization.

Why content is even king with online reviews

While bad reviews clearly aren’t good for your business, one-liner reviews aren’t so beneficial either.

Detailed reviews containing keywords that are relevant to your business are far more valuable than generic ones. See if you can get your customers to be as detailed as possible and have them describe their experience in depth and why it was so great.

Write reviews to get reviews

You can actually build your brand online by giving reviews to companies within your partner and referral networks because what helps them will, in turn, help you. Google and LinkedIn are great places for getting for getting reciprocal reviews, so start there.

The value of Google+ and Google My Business

If you’re rolling your eyes at the mention of Google+, you’re not alone. Google+ is the most underutilized and misunderstood social media platform, but it can actually be extremely powerful for your business and is the best network for improving your SEO, so if you’re not currently using both Google+ and Google My Business, it’s time you start…now.

At the end of the day, reviews attract the customer, but your website and process keep them around. If a potential customer sees great reviews but finds a weak web presence, you won’t keep them for very long. However, if your smart about your inbound marketing efforts and total online presence, and can get yourself to the top of search engine results pages along with a plethora of positive online reviews to go along with it, you’ve basically got a slam dunk and can take a seat and watch as your sales and leads start to roll in.

local business

Page One on Google Is Your New Business Card

Do a search for your name, your company name, your product or service names. Whatever you find on page one in the Google SERPs amounts to a significant collage of how your brand is seen in the wild today.

See, it doesn’t matter if your best client tells their best friend you are the most awesome thing since people started using the word awesome – Google you they will and what they find is all part of the buying process.

Controlling what people find when they search is a branch of marketing that is commonly referred to today as reputation management.

Some folks limit the field to reviews, but it’s much larger than that.

Consider this encyclopedia description: Reputation management is the practice of attempting to shape public perception of a person or organization by influencing online information about that entity.

Reputation management used to fall almost exclusively under the heading of PR. If the local newspaper decided to run an expose on your lousy customer service, then your PR firm would do what they could to make it go away. And frankly, it often did blow over.

Today, however, everyone is the local newspaper and what they publish lives on a permanent record of how you’ve wronged them – accurate or not.

And unfortunately, Hell have no fury like a customer scorned. Google your favorite brand and add the word “sucks” in your search. So Apple + sucks. What you’ll find no matter the brand is at least a handful of sites dedicated to letting you know what this means.

It’s simply a reality in the digital world. But, it’s not just that people have the ability to rate, review and otherwise expose companies that don’t live up to their promises, finding and using these reviews has become a part of the buying behavior.

A recent BrightLocal survey found that 88% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. That’s right the review from a total stranger carries as much sway as a personal recommendation.

New rules apply

In a world where everyone is a publisher, brands must adhere to a handful of rules when it comes to customer interaction. (By the way, these have always applied, we just can’t get away with not following them anymore.)

Keep your promises

Okay, this has always been a very good idea, but today, if you don’t, it’s over. If you ship late, don’t honor your guarantee, or simply don’t respond to customer requests, you can bet it will make headlines somewhere.

Be transparent

I know this term is very overused, but when people can and do publish what they experience, it makes the need to be open and honest about what happened, what’s next, and what you’ve learned part of the deal.

Respond publicly

Turn to Twitter, and you’ll see plenty of organizations using the tool as a customer service platform. You may save one customer with a direct and brilliant reply, but you will likely positively impact many others paying attention as well. (Actually, the best way to get help with your Google My Business profile is via GoogleMyBusiness on Twitter.)GoogleMyBusiness on Twitter.)

LLBean reviews

Here LLBean hosts reviews on their site and responds to negative reviews in a way that limits the negative impact.

Address criticism

Some people are just never happy, but some people make a useful and valid point when they level criticism on a brand. Pay attention to what people are saying, invite feedback at every turn, and join the conversation.

Learn from your mistakes

One of the often overlooked positives in making mistakes or hearing critical reviews is that they are an opportunity to get better. Pick up a copy of Jay Baer’s Hug Your Haters for some serious tips on playing by these new rules to win.

The best defense

Cliché as it may be to state – when it comes to reputation and review management, the best defense is a good offense.

Inevitably most business let a customer or two down and must suffer the blows of a negative review. Or worse – the unwarranted attacks of a former employee or competitor’s scheme.

If you wait to take action after the fact, your job will be much tougher. If, however, you proactively claim real estate, nurture relationships and recruit positive coverage, you’ll be well shielded from the negative if it should arise.

A word about negative reviews

Negative reviews hurt, they feel kind of personal. I get 90% glowing reviews on my books, but the 1 or 2 negative reviews always seem to get under my skin. It’s human nature.

When and if you get some negative coverage, particularly in the form of a scathing review from a past customer, relax and go to work on limiting the damage.

First and foremost make an honest assessment. Is there anything you could have done better, is this a one-time freak case, do you have a side of the story to share.

But, most of all, don’t throw gas on the fire with an aggressive response.

Here are some things to consider about purely negative reviews and what you can do about them. Both Google and Yelp give you the ability to flag any review and ask that it be deleted if it meets any of the following.

Opinion vs. facts

In the US the 1st Amendment gives people the right to free speech. Anyone can express their opinion about something. What they cannot do is state facts that are not true. So, if they say the food was terrible, that’s fair game. But if they say they doubt you even have a health inspection clearance, well that they cannot do!

False information

If someone claims that you were not open when you said or that you did not offer what you advertised and this is, in fact false, you can ask to have it removed.

Conflict of interest

If the spouse or employee of a competitor posts a review to hurt your business you have the right to demonstrate that there is a clear conflict involved and the review may be considered for removal.

Hate, sexually explicit

Obviously, inappropriate is inappropriate positive or negative, and the review sites want this removed as much as anyone.

Address negative reviews head on, but don’t let them ruin your reputation. Sometimes things happen and responding to a negative review can be your chance to demonstrate what your brand is really about.

Your plan of action

The following five steps should be part of your reputation plan of action. Set some goals around reviews and results and go to work on each element consistently.

Set up alerts

Use a tool like BuzzSumo (BuzzSumo is paid vs. free Google Alerts, but I think BuzzSumo is far more effective.) to set up a series of alerts.

I create alerts for my name, my company name and the titles of my books and receive a daily any time those terms are mentioned online. In addition to capturing in the moment mentions to manage, you’ll also find some very positive opportunities to engage other bloggers and businesses.buzz alerts

buzz alertsbuzz alerts

BuzzSumo lets you monitor all mentions of your brand with daily alerts

Monitor channels

Once you’ve set up comments on your blog, a Facebook page, and Twitter profile, make sure you actively monitor each for opportunities to engage and respond. Sometimes simply acknowledging a bad review or comment can help put out the fire, but timeliness is key.

Don’t forget to check out some of the sites set up just for negative feedback like RipOffReport and Complaints Board.

Claim real estate

As stated above, go on the offense. Claim and monitor all of the profiles you can. While you may think that LinkedIn isn’t a great tool for your business, there’s a very high probability that your LinkedIn profile will rank on page one of Google for your name. Why not create as many pages as possible where you control the content?

Guess what – guest posting on other blogs and publications is a great SEO and awareness play, but it’s also an essential reputation management play. When you Google my name dozens of articles I’ve written for other sites appear in the first few pages essentially locking up lots of prime real estate.

Host feedback

If you sell products and services, you should consider giving people the ability to offer feedback on your site. This way you can see what’s being said, monitor for accuracy and respond directly. Of course, you must be transparent here as it will be pretty obvious if you simply delete negative reviews.

There’s also nothing wrong with having some fun with this too.

meatball

This sandwich shop got a lot of positive buzz by poking a little fun at the sometimes over the top negative comments businesses receive.

Get proactive

Even if you have lots of raving fans, you probably know how hard it is to get reviews in the places you need them – Google, Yelp, and industry specific review sites.

People love to express their opinion and maybe you even get lots of compliments and unsolicited emails from raving fans. So, let’s get those reviews online with a proactive review funnel.

Review funnel explained

A review funnel is simply a tool to make it much easier for your happy customers to place reviews of your business on the important review websites. But, if done effectively, it’s also a tool to help head off potential negative reviews before they happen.

Here are the elements of a review funnel

  • Invite your customers to a place on your site or a landing page where you invite reviews
  • Offer them an initial gauge where they can give a 1-5 star rating
  • Anyone that rates 3 or below stars is offered the option to tell you what you could have done better so you can address the issue immediately
  • Anyone that rates 4 or above is taken to a page featuring all of the various places they can leave a review with a link to the right page and directions for how to leave a review on that particular site

With a review funnel in place, your team can confidently invite any customer to leave a review, knowing you’ve made it as easy as possible for them to do so.

Free review scan

If you would like to take a quick look at how your reviews stack up, we’ve created a nice free tool that allows us to create a report on the status of your reviews – simply go on over the ducttapereviews.com and add your business name, zip code and phone number and we’ll create a scan of your reviews on the major review sites.

review scan

Here’s an example of what your review report looks like.

Got any great or harrowing reputation management stories – I would love to hear them if you do. Send them via our contact page.

76 34 Online Reputation Management Tools

Radically TransparentAndy Beal, co-author of Radically Transparent, stopped by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast to talk about monitoring and managing your online reputation.

People, products and companies today all have two brands – online and off. The problem with this is that the online brand may or may not sync with their offline marketing messages.

User generated media, blogs and discussion forums have changed the flow of information about your company forever.

A new emphasis on reputation management, even for the tiniest of companies, is essential.

Manage Your Identity

claimID.com – Works along with openID to verify your identity on multiple websites.

FindMeOn.com – Link all of your networks together and verify your identity so people know it’s your profile.

FreeYourID.com – Uses .name address to sign you up for sites.

Garlik.com – Searches the web looking for mentions of you that might involve identity theft.

MyOpenID.com – Use one username to verify your log in on sites that use OpenID – great for sites where you might otherwise have multiple log ins.

Spyshakers.com – Identity Management System that allows users to access their websites and passwords remotley.

TypeKey.com – Another provider of the OpenID standard.

WordPress.com – Sign up for a free account and use as OpenID

Manage Your Reputation

Naymz.com – Sign-up and invite your invite people to write reviews about you and your work.

Rapleaf.com – Look up your reputation, rate others, and they will be invited to rate you in return.

RepVine – Reference and reputation management combined.

ReputationDefender.com – A service that attempts to help you get things being said online about you removed

TrustPl.us – An online reputation service that ranks based on trust scores.

List of message board tracking services: BoardReader.com, ForumFind.com, Big-Boards.com, BoardTracker.com, iVillage, Yahoo Message Boards, MSN Money

Places to find groups to track: Yahoo Groups, AOL Groups, MSN Groups, Google Groups.

Monitor This allows you to monitor and track keywords over multiple search engines.

Keotag.com A service that allow you to search for tagged blog posts across multiple blog search engines.

Manage Your Online Profiles

Comwat.com – Put your online identities in one place to make it easier to show and find profiles

onXiam.com – This site lets you link all your online identities into one account making it easier for people to find you across the Internet.

OtherEgo.com – Another way to display you online profiles.

ProfileBuilder.com – Very function heavy profile builder that shows off the parts of your profiles you select.

ProfileMat.com – Pull all you profiles together and allow commenting on your profile mat page.

SimplifID.com – One ID for all your online profiles

SocialURL.com – Simple URL to show all your profiles

Venyo.org – Lets you add all of your online activities, including blogs and comments to one page.

Zoolit.com – A landing page to show all your social networks