Online Reputation Management 101: Protecting Your Brand’s Image Published by ClearlyRated - May 2, 2023 People like to talk—about experiences, about other people, and about businesses. And they don’t always keep their thoughts to in-person conversations. People often share their ideas, opinions, and experiences online where they reach a much wider audience and this can shape your online reputation. Some favorite outlets for airing their thoughts include social media, review sites, in forums, and on blogs to name a few. If you don’t think people are talking about your business, well, you just might be an ostrich with your head in the sand. They are. And you can take the opportunity to listen, learn, and use it to your advantage. In fact, this wise and strategic behavior has a very scientific name: Online reputation management. What is Online Reputation Management? Online reputation management is more than monitoring social media, though that does have its place. Your online reputation is built on all the ways your brand appears online. This includes ratings and reviews, blog posts, your website, forums, social media (psst! This includes relevant hashtags and conversations, not just your company’s claimed profiles) and more. Together, these channels mold what your prospects and customers think of your brand. Managing your online reputation includes paying attention to what people are saying online, responding when you can, and actively asking for feedback and reviews. Why Does Your Online Reputation Matter? We’re glad you asked! Your online reputation affects your prospects’ buying decisions and your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts—for better or worse. How does online reputation affect buying decisions? Let’s say a potential customer decides to read up on your company before signing on the dotted line. After some tapping and a few clicks, they’re perusing online reviews. What will they see? The answer to that question can make or break your sale. Research shows that 86% of people shopping for B2B services read third-party online reviews prior to making buying decisions—and they give them a lot of weight. In fact, prospective clients of B2B service providers trust online ratings and reviews twice as much as they do your website when trying to determine the quality of your firm. And that’s not all. How you handle your online reputation management can even win over current unsatisfied customers who would otherwise leave your company by contract end. How? By proactively asking for and responding to feedback and reviews, you’ll get a chance to hear them out and smooth over any issues before they decide to leave you. Nearly eight in 10 people say they will forgive a company for a mistake after receiving excellent service, and a majority are more likely to feel good about companies that respond to reviews in general. << Learn more about the service recovery paradox >> Okay, what about boosting SEO? While determining which webpages to display, search engines’ algorithms give priority to validated star ratings (which typically come from online reputation management efforts). This is especially true for local search rankings. Even if ratings don’t boost your rankings, those stars are more likely to grab a user’s eye, enhance your credibility, and ultimately bring them to your website. 3 Steps to Begin Managing Your Reputation Sold on the benefits of managing your online reputation? We hope so! Now you may be wondering how to get started. We recommend these three steps. Step 1: Actively manage your brand’s presence on major rating sites To begin managing your online reputation, you must first know where to look. We recommend claiming your business profiles where possible and monitoring the following categories: Major search engines with ratings (Google, Yelp and Glassdoor) Popular job sites, like Indeed and Glassdoor) Relevant B2B rating sites, like ClearlyRated and G2 Social media, including your owned channels plus related hashtags and the comments on competitors’ pages Your website, including areas where users can leave reviews and comments A note: Your site doesn’t and shouldn’t remain static. User-generated content like reviews and ratings make it alive with fresh new content, signaling to search engines that it’s valuable online real estate users would want to visit. Step #2: Create a process for responding to reviews—both positive and negative ones. Your business likely has customer reviews whether you’ve begun to actively request them or not. But once you start a formal process, you’ll likely both increase your number of reviews and your ability to use them to your benefit. To do so, you need a clear process that includes ownership and autonomy. Once you determine who will respond to feedback, help this person set up notifications and monitor reviews. Set goals for their response time and provide prepared templates they can use as guidelines for responding to both positive and negative reviews. Finally, train your teams on a clear process to communicate feedback internally. Step #3: Ask for online reviews. Request feedback regularly on official and personal levels. Make it easy for people to review your company, and always thank them for their honest feedback. For more on the importance of online reviews, click here to listen to our webinar with ClearlyRated founders Eric Gregg and Nathan Goff as they address this very topic. BONUS STEPS: Improve Your Online Reputation To foster a stellar customer experience, take your online reputation management two steps further. Step #4: Invest in the client experience (CX). When you take feedback from your reviews and use it to improve, you’ll create a better CX which will likely result in more positive ratings. Step #5: Address issues that arise before they become negative reviews. Learn from your mistakes. As you do, consider how to better maintain open communication with your clients (hint: proactive customer survey programs are a huge help here!). This will help you identify and address issues before they manifest as a bad public review. If you are using the Net Promoter® Score metric play close attention to passives. While your passives are presumably “satisfied”, they shouldn’t be discounted altogether. They may not be outright referring your firm to others, but they’re also not exclusively loyal to your firm either. By focusing your efforts here, you could save your firm some future detractors.