If you have an online business and haven’t considered how you should manage your online reputation, you are an accident waiting to happen!
The speed at which information travels online makes handling problems after they occur problematic at best, and disastrous at worst!
Studies are showing that nearly three quarters of people say they trust the information posted by total strangers online, and some 80 percent of consumers have indeed actually changed their mind about purchasing subsequent to reading a negative review online.
What this means in practical terms is that you need to be proactive when it comes to managing your online reputation, and not wait for problems to come along. Develop a plan for what happens when the occasional (let’s hope!) negative entry shows up, and how to deal with it when it does. Here are 5 methods you may want to consider:
Google Alerts used to be the go to tool for automatic notifications of brand mentions or keyword alerts however reports are suggesting the Google Alerts is dying. Talk Walker or Mention are good alternatives to create alerts for the mentions of your brand, your competitors and your top keywords. You can subscribe to them via email or RSS feeds.
A manual Google search once a month once a month wouldn’t hurt either to see what shows up. Most of the time it’ll be your web pages, social media entries, web profiles and other useful entries. This is a good way to be proactive and have some semblance of control over your online reputation. Be sure to look past the first page of search results as well, as negative items don’t often start there, but may well end up there shortly, especially if they are being read widely!
Google is getting on the bandwagon and announced on Nov 26th 13 that you can now managed reviews in Google Places for Business:
Today, we’re introducing Reviews in Google Places for Business. Now you can learn what your customers are saying about your business on Google and across the web, in one place. If you have a verified business listing, you will now see your customer ratings and reviews in the easy-to-use review inbox.
It’s very important to be seen as dealing with the dissatisfied party as soon as you can. Above all be professional, polite, ultra helpful, and try to make the problem work out to everyone’s satisfaction. That may not be in your favour, but resolving this without spreading the conflict and allowing others to join in the fray is your goal here. Remember that! Whatever you do, make sure you do not get into a virtual shouting match, as 99.99999% of the time, you will be the loser! It’s simply not worth it, so grit your teeth, no matter how wrong it is and deal with it. At the end of the day these people make up less than 1% of your business, but can affect the other 99% if given the opportunity. Don’t give it to them!!
The Queensland government has created a A step-by-step guide to managing negative online reviews and a video on the topic which does a good job taking your through practical tips on how to deal with managing your reputation online:
One easy to employ online reputation management tactic is to make sure you are using your company’s name in your SEO. Don’t go overboard with this, but where it makes sense, use it in URLs, keywords and tags. The reason this works well for you is that the more often your company name is found in titles, keywords and tags, the more Google will tend to view these pages as the authority for that particular keyword, and rank them accordingly, as opposed to a negative entry with no links or other SEO. This will help make sure those occasional negatives never get legs and crawl onto the first page.
Along the same lines, but with other benefits as well, endeavour to always be creating new content channels that bear your brands name, so as to keep the search results filled with positive and useful items about you, which not only helps reputation management but site traffic as well! Think free blogs, Web 2.0 sites, videos, social media outlets and social bookmarking sites and more. Keep posting new and exciting content to these channels after you create them so they will keep their search positions.
In this case the best defense is a good offense. Proactively ask your best customers for reviews, and even go so far as to reward them. Not only is this a marvelous source of social proof that will help sales, it will mitigate any negatives that come along.
Keeping your online reputation pristine (or at last largely unsullied!) is really up to you. Don’t leave it to chance, as you won’t like the outcome! Here is an example of the “Thank You” email one of our clients uses which increased their reviews by over 42%.
Dear valued guest,
We trust you enjoyed your recent holiday at (LOCATION) and in particular your stay at (BUSINESS NAME). (MANAGER NAMES) do our best at (BUSINESS NAME) to provide services beyond guest’s expectations. If there is anything you feel will help us in maintaining our high-quality assurance we would love to hear from you!
We would greatly appreciate if you could take a few moments to share your experience at (BUSINESS NAME) on your preferred reviews site, our direct links are below:
You can post any of your photos on our wall and tell others about the (LOCATION) experience. Alternatively, if you would like to share some holiday photos with us on our website, please send them to us via our Facebook or Flickr page!
We will ensure to keep you updated on what is happening in the (LOCATION) and the upcoming Events through our Facebook Page.
Thank you once again for your business and we look forward to seeing you again.
(MANAGEMENT NAMES) and staff
Finally, how often you are sending out your “Thank You” email can make a BIG difference. This client was sending a group email once a month (as their booking system didn’t support custom emails in the automation) and was receiving 1 or 2 new reviews per month.
This was updated to be sent on a weekly basis and they are now receiving 3 – 5 new reviews a month. The timing of your review request plays a large role in your customer’s desire to take the time to write it for you, be sure to get them while the experience is fresh in their mind!