From negative reviews to data breaches, there are a lot of things that can damage your business’ online reputation.
Every business needs to know how to protect their online reputation.
Reputation management isn’t something that you do once and forget about. It’s something that you have to focus on every day. Staying vigilant is of the utmost importance when it comes to reputation management because there are many things that can endanger your online reputation and undo all of the hard work you’ve done over the years. Here are the biggest threats to your business’ online reputation:
- Negative reviews – While you can control what kind of service you provide and how you take care of your customers or clients, you can’t control what they say about your business online. Negative reviews can be helpful to both businesses and consumers alike when they’re honest, but they can also do a lot of damage to a business’ online reputation.
- Brand ambiguity – The last thing that a business wants is for a consumer not to be able to understand exactly what they do or what they have to offer. Brands with ambiguous names (think Apple) have the additional challenge of ensuring that their branding makes what they do clear.
- Data breaches – According to Statista, in 2018, there were 1,244 data breaches and 446.5 million records were exposed. When a customer entrusts a business with their personal and financial information, they expect that information to be protected, which is why a data breach can greatly damage a brand’s trustworthiness in the eyes of consumers.
- Unprofessional employee or CEO comments – Nothing can affect a business’ online reputation quite as much as the public comments of the employees or even the CEO. With Twitter, Facebook and the many other social media platforms out there, it’s easier than ever to air grievances and give opinions in a public way, but when you represent a business, that can lead to trouble.
These are just a few examples of the kind of things that can have a negative impact on your business’ online reputation, but you’ll be glad to know that there are also a lot of things you can do to help you protect your brand and keep it strong.
How to Protect Your Business’ Online Reputation
#1. Make customer service your top priority.
Good service is worth its weight in gold, and most people are even willing to pay more for it. When you make it your mission to provide next-level customer service, you don’t have to worry so much about negative reviews, because you’ll be a lot less likely to get them. And when a customer does have a complaint or negative feedback for your business, having finely tuned customer service skills will help you resolve the issue in the most effective possible way.
Ideally, you’ll help to provide your customers with solutions, answers and satisfaction during every part of the process. A great way to avoid negative reviews online is to make it a point to ask frequently about the customer’s experience during the process, as well as after the process is complete. You can’t read your customers’ minds, but you can ask how they feel about their experience with you and make it clear to them that you really do care.
#2. Get more reviews.
For the most part, businesses that are genuinely interested in doing a good job for their customers instead of just making a buck will mostly have positive reviews. However, mistakes happen, as does miscommunication and misunderstanding, which can all lead to a negative customer experience and a negative review. Luckily, those will likely be few and far between, and if you can generate more reviews from your happy customers, they’ll help to drown out any negative reviews you might receive. Here are a few ideas to help you generate more reviews for your business:
- Ask! – The easiest way to get reviews for your business is also the simplest way — all you have to do is ask! Unfortunately, most people won’t write reviews on their own, but the vast majority of them will write one when asked.
- Explain why it’s important – People often don’t write reviews because they don’t understand how valuable they can be for the business in question as well as for consumers doing research about which business to work with. It never hurts to educate your clients on how big of a difference writing reviews can make.
- Send out automatic review requests – Getting in the habit of asking every client to leave a review every time can be daunting, but the good news is that there are plenty of ways to automate review requests, including follow-up emails and working with a review generating company.
- Incentive reviews – This can be tricky, as incentivizing reviews can easily look like buying them, which is definitely unethical and against the rules of many review platforms. That’s why it’s important to incentivize every client to write a review, not just the happy ones, and you should never try to push for a specific star rating or for a certain kind of content.
#3. Respond to reviews promptly.
You can’t write your customers’ reviews for them, and it’s unethical and against the rules to try to persuade them to give you a certain kind of review. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re powerless. In fact, one of the most powerful ways to deal with a one-star review is not to try to get it removed or hidden, but to embrace it, learn from it and respond to it.
Although it’s important to respond to every review you get (after all, the client did take the time to write it for you and at least deserve to be thanked), there’s almost nothing more important to your online reputation than responding to negative reviews. When you respond, you’re able to share your side of the story and to demonstrate to the client (as well as any potential clients that see your response) that you are listening, that you truly care about meeting their needs and providing the very best customer experience, and that you’re willing to own up to your mistakes.
Whatever you do, don’t try to fight a negative review in your response, even if you feel that the review was fake, dishonest or unfair. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) take responsibility for a negative experience that wasn’t your fault, but your response is not the place to fight back. If you do, you’ll come across as petty and immature. The correct way to deal with situations like these is to apologize that they had a poor experience and offer to discuss the matter further personally. You should, of course, also let them know how they can get ahold of you to talk more.
The other part of responding to reviews is doing so promptly. The longer you leave a negative review just sitting there, the more credence it has and the more damage it can do to your online reputation. This doesn’t mean that you should respond to the review right away if you’re feeling defensive or upset about it; it’s always a good thing to cool off and not let your emotions take the wheel. Give yourself a minute or two to gather your thoughts and simmer your emotions, but don’t take too long to respond, or people will think that you don’t care about or aren’t paying attention to reviews.
#4. Be on alert.
When something negative is said about your business online, it won’t help matters if you don’t address it promptly. However, you can’t possibly respond or work to fix the problem if you don’t know that it exists. This is why it’s essential that businesses are on alert when it comes to online reputation. But how? It’s not as if your business is on one review site or one directory. The fact is that there are lots of places negative content about your business could be published, and the task of staying on top of all of it can seem daunting to say the least. Luckily, Top Rated Local® can help.
Top Rated Local is not a typical review platform; it’s more of an all-encompassing reputation platform. Yes, verified customers can and do write reviews on Top Rated Local itself, but it also pulls reviews in from any verified rating source a business is listed on, which could include Google, Facebook, Yelp, The Knot, etc. Additionally, Top Rated Local makes it easy to get a clear idea of a business’ overall online reputation with the Rating Score™ system.
A business’ Rating Score is calculated based on a wide range of variables, including the number of review sites the business is listed on, the number of reviews a business has, a business’ average star rating across review sites and more. The Rating Score is an excellent tool that businesses can use to gain a higher level understanding of where their reputation is at online, and it’s a great tool for consumers, too, because it helps them to choose the right business overall, not just the highest-rated business on Yelp.
Becoming a Top Rated Local business (and claiming your listing on Top Rated Local) also gives business owners several tools to help them keep track of their online reputation. These include real-time notifications when a business receives new reviews and monthly updates with information about a business’ overall online reputation.
In addition to becoming a Top Rated Local business, you can also stay on top of your online reputation by signing up for Google Alerts. With Google Alerts, you’ll be notified when your brand gets mentioned, but you can also set up notifications to help you learn what people are saying about your competitors. Furthermore, Google Alerts are free and can be sent at whatever frequency you desire, from daily to monthly.
#4. Secure your brand name.
Your brand name is arguably the most important part of your brand, but if you don’t take the proper steps, someone may end up using it against you.
If you haven’t already, it’s important that you register a website with your business name as the domain — for example, BeautifulSmilesDentistry.com. This is one of the most powerful ways that you can protect your reputation online, because it helps to prevent other people (as well as your competitors) from stealing this essential piece of real estate from you and potentially even using it against you.
Registering your business name as a domain is critical, but you shouldn’t stop there. It’s also important to secure your brand name across all of your social media platforms. The last thing that you want is for someone with malicious intent to be able to pose as your business on Twitter or Instagram, and the best way to prevent that from happening is by securing your business name on social media.
If you want to truly control the conversation surrounding your brand, you’re going to need to be able to fill up all 10 spots on page one of the SERP (search engine results pages) when your business name is googled. Your website can only take up one of those spaces, and securing your brand name across several social media sites can go a long way toward filling up the other nine spots on page one.
#5. Prioritize publishing content.
Reputation management is about controlling the conversation that’s centered around your brand, and a big part of that is determined by what ranks when your brand name or another targeted keyword is searched online. In an ideal world, securing your brand name across your website and social media profiles would be enough to ensure that you rank well for what you want to, but there’s a little more to the story than that.
The truth is that securing your brand name is just the first step to achieving SERP domination; you also have to be willing to publish content regularly on your website and social media platforms. This may look like publishing articles or blogs on your website, posting tutorials and other videos on YouTube, or even sharing behind-the-scenes images from your business on Instagram.
Another great way to control the conversation about your brand is to publish press releases regularly. Press releases are the perfect way to announce upcoming sales, events and other goings-on at your business. Plus, the more content out there that you control, the farther down in the SERP negative content about your business will rank.
The benefits of posting content regularly are many. Not only does publishing content more often help to ensure that your website and social media pages rank in the SERP, but it also helps to establish your business as an authority in your industry. As an industry expert, you have a lot of knowledge to share, and when you publish content regularly that’s informative, in-depth and helps answer questions your clients have, it helps to build trust in your brand.
Don’t wait until a crisis occurs to start managing your online reputation.
Taking a proactive approach to reputation management with the above steps is far preferable than waiting for disaster to strike. An effective crisis management strategy starts long before a crisis occurs. Waiting for a crisis to act or being reactive with your reputation management strategy is a surefire way to endanger your business’ online reputation.
If you’re ready to start taking a proactive approach to reputation management, the best way to get started is to sign up for Top Rated Local and/or claim your listing. It’s free to sign up, and you’ll enjoy a long list of benefits, including the ability to reply to reviews, a prioritized profile ranking on Google, a Top Rated Local badge that you can display on your website and more frequent updates to your Rating Score. Become a Top Rated Local business today!