This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.
There are few marketing tools more essential than a strong online reputation management (ORM) strategy. This is because a majority of consumers now trust what they can discover online about a company as much as personal recommendations from their family and friends. As such, how much control you have over what the internet says about your business directly affects your bottom line.
Before you begin managing your business’s online reputation, however, you need to know the following pitfalls that entrepreneurs often encounter and how to avoid them.
1. Thinking your company’s online reputation will take care of itself
The first ORM mistake that business owners must avoid is probably the most common: assuming that your company doesn’t need an online reputation management strategy.
Just because your business’s reviews and search results happen to be largely positive today doesn’t mean they will be tomorrow. And if your business has a sparse, “barely there” web presence, you’re even more vulnerable. Your online reputation can change in an instant, often for reasons completely unconnected to the quality of your business.
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The more work you put into your company’s online reputation, the more control you have over what appears when consumers search for your products or services, even when negative feedback arises. Depending on where they are posted, negative press and bad reviews garner a lot of attention, from search engine algorithms and readers alike.
When you consider the fact that 98% of consumers feel that reviews are an essential resource when making purchase decisions, managing your online feedback can protect your business from the harmful effects of negative press.
2. Disregarding the importance of consistency
There are two ways that consistency is crucial to your ORM strategy: The first is maintaining a similar visual and voice branding across each of your online marketing platforms. The second is generating content on a schedule, which your audience and search engines love.
Maintaining similar branding
Failing to commit to brand consistency across social media channels and online review sites prevents your business from being immediately recognizable to target audiences and clouds the message that your brand is attempting to convey.
Consistency across online marketing channels helps your brand appear more authentic. In fact, a company’s “authenticity of content” affects whether or not 80% of people are willing to follow a brand.
In this case, “willingness to follow” translates to brand loyalty, and businesses that don’t produce consistent content in both voice and visual forms are missing an opportunity to gain consumer trust and increase their credibility.
Generating content on a schedule
The second mistake that businesses make with regard to consistency is not generating content on a schedule. If routine posts and strong online engagement lead to increased credibility among consumers, failing to maintain a consistent ORM strategy can have the exact opposite effect.
3. Mingling the personal and professional
Seventy-one percent of consumers prefer buying from companies that share their values. Therefore, company owners who choose to use their business’s online channels as a platform to voice their own social, religious, or political views run the risk of alienating portions of their existing client base and deterring new clients from choosing to use their products or services in the future.
4. Ignoring or responding aggressively to negative feedback
Just as it’s better for your business if you strictly separate your personal views and professional branding on internet marketing platforms, it’s also important to separate your professional responses to negative reviews from your personal feelings about the bad feedback. Sending angry emails to the author or posting abusive rants are both approaches likely to do more harm than good for your online reputation.
First, in doing so you give the author more ammunition for establishing a smear campaign against your company, which can ultimately do more damage than the negative review or comment could.
Secondly, the more that you engage with the negative content, the stronger and better established it becomes in your search results. This is because search engines like Google rank websites based on factors such as how often they’ve visited, how many links are directed to them, and how often new content appears. By visiting and commenting on the website or by giving the author more information about you to post, you’ll be helping others find the misleading information.
Though navigating the process of writing a response to inflammatory content can be complex and frustrating, it’s equally important that your business does not completely ignore customer feedback, whether good or bad. This is because 89% of people say a thoughtful response to a negative review improved their impression of a business. Moreover, businesses that respond to reviews average 35% more revenue.
For positive reviews, a simple “thank you” and acknowledgment of a person’s support of your company can go a long way toward building greater customer advocacy. It’s not necessary to post the same two-word “thank you” to every one-sentence review you get, but you should make a point to thank those who go out of their way to sing your praises.
For negative reviews, respond publicly to angry customers, but do so without defensiveness. Take a problem-solving attitude, acknowledging the person and offering to find a solution together.
In cases where the complaint is valid, consider privately contacting the customer to offer a discount or a free product or service as reparations, no strings attached. Never ask customers to change their reviews, or attempt to bribe them into doing so.
More often than not, a reviewer who sees you earnestly making an effort to make things right without asking for anything in return will remove the original review, or update it to make it more positive.
5. Using blackhat search engine optimization (SEO) techniques
Although many business owners are familiar with the concept of SEO and understand how it benefits them, they don’t realize that there are two ways to use it: one that can elevate a business’s online reputation and one that can harm it.
Whitehat SEOstrategies (ones that search engines recommend and respect) focus on user experiences, drawing readers to high-quality information about topics relevant to the keywords they are searching for. The only downside of whitehat SEO techniques is that they take time to work.
To achieve quicker results, some business owners turn to blackhat SEO tactics like keyword stuffing, inserting invisible text, creating doorway or redirect pages, link farming, website cloaking, and cutting and pasting content from other websites.
The unfortunate effect of these practices is twofold:
- First, your website becomes less valuable as a resource for customers, which lowers your credibility. The work you put into blackhat SEO practices is a temporary fix and ultimately a waste of time that would have been better spent on whitehat strategies.
- Second, once a search engine identifies that your business is using disreputable blackhat SEO practices, it may punish you for it by suppressing your website and taking it entirely out of search engine rankings.
6. Posting fake positive reviews
Ninety-eight percent of consumers feel that reviews are an essential resource when making purchase decisions. In light of this statistic, it’s understandable that many business owners look for ways to improve their reviews online. Unfortunately, many firms make the mistake of posting fake customer reviews to boost their star average on websites like Yelp and Google Reviews.
Influential websites like Google and Yelp have algorithms and practices in place to help weed out false customer feedback, which will make any work you put into generating fake reviews irrelevant. That time and effort will be best used if applied to earning genuine reviews from loyal customers.
Additionally, purchasing fake reviews can be as harmful as generating them yourself, as research shows that consumers are aware of the fact that companies are purchasing fake endorsements. A company that is discovered to have faked their reviews loses credibility and consumer trust, which can have a significant negative impact on your online reputation as well as your bottom line.
In addition to posting fake reviews, another related mistake that business owners often make is not actively soliciting online reviews from satisfied customers. A customer with whom your business has established a trusting, positive relationship will have a much more genuine effect on your online reputation; one that reflects the quality of the work that your company does, and holds none of the risks of posting fake reviews. Don’t miss out on the opportunity for positive press and remember to ask for feedback on specific websites when a customer seems satisfied with your services.
7. Looking for a quick-fix solution to your online reputation management issues
Some companies will offer to submit your website to thousands of search engines for a fee. Before you go for these quick-fix solutions, ask yourself if they make sense. How many search engines do you use? Probably one, maybe two. Whatever these thousands of search engines are, they’re unlikely to improve the search results for your name. Blackhat SEO and link farming just don’t work, though lots of people will take your money and tell you that they do.
The best way to boost your reputation is to create quality content and use SEO best practices to help people find it. Your goal should be to improve the quality of the internet experience, not to buy into costly online reputation management mistakes.
Think about it: Malicious or defamatory content that hurts your online reputation also decreases the usefulness of the internet. So does posting spam to try to hide it.
ReputationDefender uses time-tested and industry approved reputation management techniques to repair and strengthen the online image of individuals as well as businesses. If you’d like more information, just give us a call. We are happy to provide a free consultation based on your unique situation.