Your online reputation is so valuable and readily available that new customers will either hold off on making a decision until they see proof yours is a good company or choose another business with a better online reputation.
That’s why it is so important to build and promote an online reputation that demonstrates a high level of customer satisfaction. But to grow and protect your online reputation, you first need to know what your reputation is.
You can’t control what is being seen or said if you don’t know what is currently showing up about your company online. You must know from the start what hurdles you are facing in building a positive online reputation.
Make notes of everything.
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
This is your starting point.
Then you will need an actionable plan that you can commit to.
When you are not proactive, you are leaving your reputation in the hands of anybody with internet access. Do you really want to trust any person who can find a Wi-Fi signal with your precious online reputation?
It’s time to create an action plan that helps you dominate search engine results, monitors your online presence, manages your reviews, and creates positive content and links for your business to promote.
Use this to help you get started in creating a plan that lets you leverage your positive online reputation to grow your business. Create a strong foundation, and then you can focus on the activities that will ensure that people can easily find you online and will want to do business with you.
Run a Reputation Audit
Many reputation management services will run a reputation audit for you. But for the DIY-ers running a self-audit to dig into your online reputation will give you some idea of what customers see when they search for your business.
Here is where you Google (and Bing and Yahoo) yourself and your business name to see what shows up in search engine results.
Note where you rank in local search results, what links you own (your website, social media accounts, and business listings) and what websites mention you in the first two pages of search results.
Take it a step further and search your business name on major social media networks and review sites to see what shows up. Take note of business accounts you haven’t claimed and any activity you will want to monitor in the future.
Consistently Monitor Your Reputation
Whether you outsource your reputation management or manually check your online presence routinely, you must monitor the reviews, comments, mentions, and ratings tied to your business. Always knowing what customers will see about your business online is the only way you can take control of your online reputation.
Once you have a system in place that automates or outsources your reputation management process, the only time-consuming activity will be manually responding to the most negative and positive reviews.
Controlling earned content is near impossible, but it can be influenced and must be monitored.
• Set up Google Alerts to notify you whenever your business name or the name of notable employees shows up on the internet.
• Note negative trends during your reputation audit and make improvements where customers say they are needed.
• Designate who is responsible for managing customer reviews and have a process in place to handle negative reviews BEFORE they happen.
• Monitor social media mentions with the help of tools such as Hootesuite or HowSociable to find and notify you of mentions of your business on social media.
Claim All Online Accounts and Listings
Did you know that anyone could claim the account name you want on social media? The same way people buy up domain names hoping to sell them later for a profit, people can claim social media handles, hoping someone will want it bad enough to buy it from them.
Protect your business reputation by claiming your business name and accounts all across the web.
Build a strong social media presence on the social networks your customers use. If you don’t have the time, don’t know how, or aren’t ready to start creating all the content you need, you still need to get active at a basic level. Bare minimum, claim your business and personal names on social media sites with an image and short description.
You’ll want to take the time to fully register your business on the major sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Then consider what industry social networks your customers use and register on those as well.
Review sites are often the doorway to new customers. The same way social media sites help small businesses be found online, review and local sites provide brand links that show up high in search engine rankings, and get more eyes on positive links to your business.
Claim your profiles on sites like Google My Business, Yelp, and Angie’s List. Add your address, phone number, photos, business hours, description of your services, and categories to provide the information customers most search for and build citations for your business.
This is a necessary step for responding to reviews and comments.
Part of claiming your online properties is managing your online business listings. Search engines use business listings to deliver accurate business information such as an address, phone number, and hours to their users. Ensure all listings are accurate and consistent so as to not confuse search engines or search engine users.
SEO (yes SEO) Online Accounts and Listings
Google is the most popular search engine, but buyers use the search feature on review sites, social media, and even local business listings to find what information on businesses as well. Make sure you are search engine optimizing your accounts on the networks to show up at the top of search results for not only your business name but your type of business and location.
Optimize your Google My Business account and Facebook Pages and direct reviewers to your page. An overwhelming majority of internet searches happen on Google. Rank higher and increase visibility by giving Google all the information it needs to put your business at the top of search results. And now that people spend more time on Facebook, they are looking at business pages for reviews before they make purchases.
Optimizing and monitoring your business’ social media accounts gives you control over a large part of your online presence. Reputation management is about monitoring and controlling the conversations and mentions involving your business. To do that, you need to be where your customers are spending their time. Businesses are on LinkedIn and Twitter, millennials are on Instagram and Snapchat, and baby boomers are on Pinterest and Facebook. Regardless of what industry you are in, your customers are on social media.
Plan Online Content
Create positive online links with consistent blogging. Maintaining a blog helps to establish positive links online and builds up your web presence.
Consistently blogging quality content is important to building your online presence, but it only works if you are optimizing content for search enginges. Your blog gains authority and become more powerful the longer and more you use it, which makes them rank higher in Google over time.
By producing links that help customers find your website when they are searching the internet, also ensure that content, messages, and images you control take up valuable space at the top of search engine results pages when people search your business by name.
Schedule social media posting.
Scheduling social media posts and planning out your content ahead of time is the only effective way to leverage your social media accounts. Without a schedule, there is too much wiggle room between neglecting your social media and wasting too much time on it trying to stay connected.
If you don’t love to write, don’t have the time to write, or the budget to outsource content creation and scheduling for your social media and blog, online content may be the hardest thing on the list. But it is one of the best ways to control what is being seen and read about you online.
Stay Active Online
Online reputation management is a marathon, not a sprint. Get active online and stay consistent with your most visible online properties. When people see that you haven’t posted on your social media account in six months and your last blog post was from 0, they will wonder if you are still operating and move to the next attractive option.
If you are not consistently putting out positive content, then even a few negative comments or ratings (deserved or not) can be devastating to your online business reputation. Take control of what is being seen online by pushing out content you create on a consistent basis.
The best way to know what people think about your business is to proactively seek feedback from customers. When you know what your customers want to say about before they post online, you are able to resolve issues before they hit the web. And you can encourage happy customers to post their good reviews whichever platform matters most to you.
Have a system in place that lets customers know you want their feedback and make it super easy way for them to give it to you.
Have a plan and designated person for handling negative reviews. Address negative reviews and comments immediately. Respond with a friendly, professional tone to lessen the impact of that review and persuade future review readers.
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.
Schedule Monthly Reputation Checks
Like most small business owners and managers, you probably have your 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, so it’s crucial you schedule reputation checks at least monthly.
Hire a Reputation Management Team
When you think about the role the internet plays in the purchases you make for your own business and yourself, you have to see how influential stellar online reputation is to consumers. Proactive online reputation management is not a luxury, and when effectively executed, it could be the key to reaching the next stage for your business.
With a little more knowledge of what goes into building and maintaining a positive online reputation, you can make an informed decision on whether this necessary process is something you want to manage yourself or hire a team to provide expert reputation marketing services.
If you choose not to get involved with managing your online reputation, understand that other people WILL form your online reputation. Don’t let that happen! Take control of your online reputation now to protect the future of your business.
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