Want to stay on the nice list (at least as far as your business’s online reputation is concerned)?
Even small reputation management mistakes can be difficult to bounce back from
Your business’s online reputation is one of the most important things in for your current and future success, but unfortunately, it can be an incredibly fragile thing that can easily get damaged by even the smallest mishap.
Without knowing it, you could undo months or even years of hard work, and it may take just as long to build it back up to where it was.
Staying on the “nice list,” as far as your business’s online reputation is concerned, is something that every business owner should strive for, but it can be easier said than done, especially if you’re not in the know about how damaging even small mistakes can be to your online reputation, or even what those mistakes are in the first place.
That’s why we’ve come up with this quick guide to common reputation management no-nos that can land you on the naughty list this holiday season.
5 common online reputation management mistakes that will land your business on the naughty list
Mistake #1. Failing to claim your business listings
Failing to claim your business listings is a rookie mistake that can leave people frustrated and leave negative comments about your business unchecked.
Whether you’re signed up for local directories and review sites or not, chances are high that your business has a listing on them. These listings are often automatically pulled in by algorithms, but the catch is that the information pulled about a business may not be the right information.
Businesses may move to a new location, switch their phone number or even go through a name change — all of which can get lost in translation on listing sites. Claiming your listing on these sites will give you the ability to update the information that already exists about your business.
This helps to create more cohesion for your brand across the web, and it also helps to ensure that, no matter where a prospective customer finds you — on your website, on Google, on Yelp, etc. — they won’t have to deal with inaccurate contact information, which means that they’ll actually be able to get ahold of you.
Another great reason to claim your business listings is that it gives you a greater ability to manage and respond to online reviews. Some of these sites allow you to flag or get fake or inauthentic reviews taken down, but at the very least, they all give you the ability to respond to negative reviews, which can often be a much more effective alternative to getting them taken down.
Mistake #2. Buying reviews and/or creating fake reviews
Most business owners understand how important it is to generate reviews on a regular basis, but getting their clients to actually write reviews can be awkward and challenging.
For one, every review site has its own views on asking for reviews. Some sites, like Yelp, consider asking for reviews a definite black-hat tactic, and if you’re caught incentivizing reviews, it can lead to consequences.
Other sites consider asking for reviews to be just fine, as long as you’re not bribing clients in exchange for review or dictating what the review should say or how many stars you should be given.
All of this murkiness can leave some businesses desperate for reviews but unsure of how to get them, and it can make buying reviews a very tempting prospect.
Buying reviews may seem like a quick, easy way to get ahead of the competition, but if you’re caught — and you likely will be — the consequences are probably more than you bargained for.
Purchasing fake reviews is absolutely against Google’s guidelines, and if they catch you breaking the rules, they don’t mess around. In fact, Google can take down your business listing completely, and if your business isn’t listed on Google, it may as well not exist at all.
Furthermore, buying fake reviews is illegal, and it can result in fines.
Want to learn more about the consequences of buying fake reviews? Check out our previous blog.
Mistake #3. Failing to respond to reviews
Responding to reviews is something that every business should make a point to do.
Think about how difficult it can be to get a customer to leave a review in the first place. You know how busy their schedule is — which is why you were so nervous about asking for a review in the first place — and it’s important to recognize the fact that they took a few minutes out of their busy day to write a review for you. This is especially a sacrifice during the holidays when we are all running around like a bunch of beheaded chickens.
The reviewer has a lot going on, but they still took a few minutes to give your business feedback online, and whether that feedback is negative or positive, when you take the time to respond back to them, you’re honoring that time sacrifice they’ve made for you.
You don’t necessarily have to include a whole lot in your response, and you’d be surprised at how far a simple, “Thank you for taking the time to write a review about the business!” will get you.
Another reason why responding to reviews is essential is that it can help to set the record straight about anything inaccurate or misleading in reviews, and it also helps to protect against the damage that fake reviews can cause.
It can be very difficult to get reviews taken down — even if you can prove that they’re fake — and often, a business owner’s best and only course of recourse is to set the record straight in their response.
There is one stipulation when it comes to responding to reviews — you need to do it right, especially if it’s a negative review. Calling out a review as fake or getting defensive in your response will only accomplish making you look petty and unprofessional.
The best response to a negative review will include an apology (but not necessarily an acceptance for wrongdoing in the event of a fake review), an explanation of how you’ll make it right and an invitation for the reviewer to discuss the matter further via phone or email.
If you need to, give yourself a day or two to cool off before responding to an unfair review.
Mistake #4. Attacking a competitor’s reputation online
Just as buying fake reviews to post about your business is wrong and can be extremely consequential, so is attacking a competitor’s online reputation by leaving fake reviews.
However, this is something that a lot of small businesses are tempted by. After all, they don’t have the same resources as their larger or more established rivals may have; how else are you supposed to even the playing field?
At the end of the day, attacking your competitor’s online reputation through fake reviews will only come back to bite you.
For one, fake reviews left by competitors can be easier to spot than you might think. Even if you think that you’re being sneaky and are one step ahead of everyone, chances are high that you’ll be found out.
At the very least, most businesses keep records of the clients they’ve helped, and if there is no record that they ever helped you, it could easily lead to being called out, which will, again, leave you looking petty and mean.
At the extreme end, if you’re caught leaving a fake review for a competitor, your business could end up being sued. Lawsuits are extremely expensive, not to mention an emotional nightmare. Plus, not a lot of businesses have thousands of dollars lying around to cover legal costs, and a lawsuit could easily be a small business’s undoing.
It’s important to fully understand the consequences before you make the mistake of dissing an online competitor. Instead of trying to knock the competition down a notch by attacking them online, a much better alternative is to think about things you can do to make your own online reputation stand out.
The road is longer, but ultimately, it’ll be a much more effective strategy long-term. After all, even if you were able to destroy one competitor, there will always be more, and, chances are, you don’t have the time or resources to take them all down with fake reviews.
Want to learn more about why you should refrain from attacking your competition online? Check out our previous blog.
Mistake #5. Overlooking the importance of face-to-face interactions
A lot of business owners get caught up in the “online” aspect of online reputation management and forget that a business’s online reputation is largely about the kind of face-to-face service they offer each and every day.
While it’s true that a lot of the aspects of maintaining a strong online reputation happens online — i.e. writing blogs, responding to reviews, claiming business listings, SEO (search engine optimization) — the kind of service you provide for your customers in-person is equally as important (if not more so) than your efforts online.
This is why, the first and most important part of building and maintaining a solid online reputation, is what happens day to day in your interactions with clients or customers.
Let’s face it, it really doesn’t matter how good you are at posting on social media, writing blogs or responding to reviews if you don’t have great face-to-face service to back it up. Businesses with the most impressive online reputations understand that it all starts with great customer service in-house.
Refocusing on customer service is a smart move for your business’s reputation, online and offline. Here are a few things you can do to make customer service your business’s top priority once again:
- Make sure that your employees are all properly trained, and set the right expectations as far as how you would like interactions with customers to look and you want them to behave.
- Keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to customer interactions. In other words, check-in regularly to ensure that the customer is satisfied every step of the way.
Follow up after everything is said and done. Sometimes, dissatisfied customers aren’t comfortable telling you that they’re not happy, and you won’t find out until they’ve vented their frustration online in the form of a negative review. By following up, you can help to correct issues before they become one-star reviews.
- Operate with honesty and transparency. Customers complain about all kinds of things, but no one likes to be surprised by hidden fees and other information. No one wants to feel like the wool is being pulled over their eyes, and you can help to counteract that feeling by making honesty and transparency paramount in your business. It’s better to inform customers of their options than it is to choose one for them, and that’s true even if you firmly believe that you’re choosing the option that’s in their best interest.
- Follow the Golden Rule. In other words, treat your customers like you would want to be treated yourself — with respect, dignity, honesty and straightforwardness. This is especially important if you work in an industry that regularly deals with people’s most stressful situations, like restoration, moving and funeral services. Put yourself in their shoes, and operate with empathy and compassion.
Want to learn more about the importance of great customer service for your business’s online reputation? If so, check out our previous blog!
Get on the online reputation “nice list” with Top Rated Local®!
These days, it’s essential for a business’s success to have the right kind of online reputation, and we hope that this article will help you know about some of the common online reputation management mistakes businesses commonly make, as well as the potential consequences of making those mistakes.
If you’re looking to take your business off of the naughty list this holiday season, then one of the best things you can do to get started is to get your business listed/claim your business listing on Top Rated Local. It’s easy, free and will help you better manage your online reputation from one convenient place.
Originally published 12/18/19