The online reputation of your business can really make or break you. Consumers are getting smarter and spending more time doing research before deciding to make a purchase or hire a service based business. The majority of this research is conducted online. If a potential client or customer finds positive reviews and information about your business, they will be much more likely to do business with you. On the other hand, if there are any negative sentiments out there about your business prospects may avoid you completely which is why it’s important for every business to control what they can of their online reputation.
The Internet allows people to share their thoughts on just about anything, and it’s largely uncensored. For businesses, this can be somewhat of a scary concept because they no longer have full control over their brand image. However, that doesn’t mean that a business has no control at all.
What a business does have full control over is its own web properties. Use your website and blog to your full advantage. Include a review page on your site and optimize it for “Company X reviews”, “Company X testimonials”, etc. This increases the chances of someone finding the information that you provide (not the information provided by others). If you’ve worked with lots of great clients in the past or have lots of happy customers, ask them for a review or testimonial. Many will be happy to do this for you.
Another way to control the online reputation of your business is to produce quality content on a regular basis and share it not only on your web property (like your blog), but also in other places across the web. Content is what establishes trust with target audience members and these links establish trust with the search engines. Link building for SEO purposes can also serve as a safety net for online reputation purposes. The more links that there are with controlled branded content, the better the chances are that it will outweigh any kind of negative sentiments should they occur. As part of a link building strategy, and to protect your brand image, it’s advisable to build profiles on many different web properties. Due to the trust factor of these sites, the profiles will rank well for a branded search.
Social media should be a part of every business’s online marketing strategy. It’s a great way to communicate with target audience members and monitor what is being said about your business or brand. Negative comments are bound to happen, but what matters is how they are handled. If you show that you care, apologize, and make good on the situation publicly people will be more likely to forget about it.
Since your online reputation is so important, it’s necessary to spend time monitoring it by checking profiles and review sites on a regular basis. Set up a Google Alert for your company name so that you can immediately check out anything new that is posted about you. It certainly takes some time, but is well worth the effort. It’s important to take action before a small issue becomes a much larger one.