10 Tips for Improving Online Reputation Management

Every business upsets a customer from time to time, its just a fact of life. If this happens, the best way to resolve things is to deal with the situation before it reaches a point where a customer believes they can only get satisfaction by leaving negative reviews online about your business.  The internet has greatly reduced the space between customers and as a result word-of-mouth can now travel much quicker -and farther than ever before.

But, if you have prepared to handle online criticism of your company ahead of time, the impact of one or two complaints can be greatly reduced, and you may be better able to respond effectively and rapidly to minimize financial loss.

Proactive vs. Reactive Reputation Management Strategies

I have found that most small businesses lack a proactive approach when it comes to reputation management. Most small businesses have only a website for an online presence, which leaves them extremely susceptible to negative reviews showing up when someone searches for their company.  For established local businesses, people may frequently be searching for your by business name so having negative information rank in branded search results can directly impact your bottom line.

Proactive vs reactive online reputation management

Online reputation management and repair has been a growing segment of online marketing for some time now. Creative Click Media has worked on numerous cases of reputation repair, and it’s quite clear to me that if a business fails to invest in developing their online presence and reputation proactively, they will more than likely pay considerably more in terms of lost revenues, damage control, and correctly developing the presence they neglected.

For businesses tied closely to the identities of their owners/founders, the names of their executives may be another area of reputation that needs to be managed proactively. Some business owners desire to keep a low profile and try to avoid all forms of social media out of a desire for personal privacy. The downside to this approach is that they have built no assets around themselves leaving them an easy target for reputation damage the instant someone decides to take them down a notch.

Perhaps the only thing worse than avoiding social media is handling social media poorly. No one can damage you as seriously as you can damage yourself if you don’t lack the skills to do it right.

But, knowing how to create a great product and being able to do all the things necessary to successfully manage and run a small business doesn’t automatically make you an effective communicator in the internet space.

With these concepts in mind, here are 10 professional tips for your online reputation management.

1. Spread Out Your Internet Presence

Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ accounts are a bare minimum these days. There are dozens of other industry specific social sites that you may want to look into depending on your industry. These are particularly important in professions like law, medicine, dentistry as well as trades like construction.

For many B2B, high-tech and/or professional types of businesses, having executives and employees integrate with LinkedIn may be a valuable reputation management strategy.  Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr can be used to build an online presence for anything visual. Most businesses will also benefit from sharing videos through sites such as YouTube and Vimeo.

2. Pay Attention To Your Social Media Accounts

It’s important to build out your social media accounts and that you keep them current. Simply having a Twitter, Facebook and Google+ account/page for your business is insufficient. It is critical to develop an audience on these channels too. By continually building your social media accounts you can interact with customers and increase your influence and engagement. If you don’t do this, those accounts may not be strong enough to outrank the postings if someone begins to post negative things.

3. Grow the Online Visibility of Brands And Products

You may need to increase the web presence and social profiles for more than just your company name. If you have brand and product names beyond your company name, you likely ought to develop content to rank for those names as well. It may also be a good idea to develop websites,  social media profiles and other collateral just to claim and reserve each brand name.

4. Protect Key Players

Developing a strong social media presence for your key players is a great way to be proactive when it comes to online reputation management. As I previously stated, trying to preserve your privacy by keeping a low profile only makes it easier for someone to come along and tarnish your good reputation by writing negative things online.

In any business where the company’s identity is directly or indirectly associated with their executives,  a solid reputation management strategy is essential for ongoing success. Consumers often search by name for doctors, dentists, and lawyers (to name a few), so it is important to create collateral to rank for these individuals if they don’t already have any.

5. Google Authorship

Google Authorship helps content creators claim their intellectual property. This is primarily used in situations where a founder or owner is closely tied to the business’s identity. Since Google requires authors to be individuals the author tag must be associated with an individual Google+ profile, not with a business page.

6. Make It a Point to Blog Frequently

Blogging is great for several reasons. First and foremost it is great for your reputation because it allows you to demonstrate expertise and thought leadership in your field. If your blog posts become known as a source of answers to common problems you will find yourself with a growing list of loyal followers. Blogging is also great for local SEO because it helps with a site’s rankings on good keywords and provides content to share on social media. Adrienne Smith recently wrote an excellent in-depth article for us about why blogging is good for your business.

7. Listen to Your Customers

When responding to online complaints or bad reviews, it is important to consider that there may be common issues that need to be addressed. This is particularly true if you get frequent negative feedback about a specific thing. You should find creative ways to respond, making sure to address your customers concerns and offering reassurance to those who may be on the fence about doing business with your company.

You should always treat customers with respect and demonstrate that you value their business. This seems like a no-brainer but I have seen a number of businesses that take advantage of customers. Think about it: you could very well be driving existing or potential customers into the arms of your competitor without even knowing it. In all likelihood the extra money made by taking advantage of customers could be cancelled out or even eclipsed by business lost as a result of the numerous complaints posted online.

8. Apologize Genuinely and Make Generous Amends

To err is human. If you or your company makes a mistake it is important to own up to it and make a genuine apology to those who have been affected. A sincere apology can work wonders when it comes to diffusing a situation and can help move the process along toward fixing the relationship. Also, try to make amends in some way, unconditionally.

9. Refrain From Online Arguments

It doesn’t matter who is right or who started it – You will come across as unprofessional if you engage in online mudslinging. If you allow your emotions to take control you could end up saying and doing things that tarnish your reputation.

The best approach is to remain professional at all times and to try and take the conversation offline to try and fix the problem. Staying professional may win more customers than being “right” in an online disagreement. If you find yourself  being pulled into an online conflict you should step away from your computer until you have cooled down.

10. Invest in Online Reputation Management

Developing your reputation online requires an investment of time and money. Most small businesses are either completely ignoring proactive reputation management or they are doing it themselves, typically only becoming active when there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

I believe social media and proactive reputation management are an essential element of any marketing strategy. Additionally, if you lack experience in interacting with online communities, doing it yourself may be frustrating, time consuming or worse  – It could alienate your customers. So, make the investment — and if you don’t have the time to do it, don’t know how, or just aren’t getting the job done, hire someone to handle it for you.

Summary

By following this simple list of tips you can put your business in a stronger position if or when someone decides to write a negative comment or review. While proactive reputation management will cost you something to put in place,  it will also save you some money in the long run if the nearly-inevitable occurs. Think of it as a form of insurance. It won’t absolutely keep you from getting damaged, but it could mitigate the damage and keep it from becoming catastrophic.

It is important to be prepared for the worst: If you or your business end up being attacked with criticism online there are a number of strategies that can be implemented.

For search engine optimization it is vital to have many pieces of collateral — your website, blog, social media profiles, and more — all set up optimally to rank for your brand names. We then work to try to help those collateral pieces to outrank any negative materials.

If all else fails legal action may be taken if someone has portrayed you or your business inaccurately. One site that is well known for helping to disseminate misleading and damaging information is RipOffReport.com – and while it can be difficult and costly legal action is one way to force them to remove the information.

Local businesses are much more susceptible to online reputation attacks because they lack the deep pockets and experience that large corporations have. Being proactive when it comes to online reputation management is the best way to protect yourself from both negative statements and the financial loss that often comes as a result of them.

About
Keyword-cruncher, customer-collector and web designer extraordinaire. Adam is the Founder of Creative Click Media. If he's not in front of the computer marketing your business, he's playing with his son, Miles. Tweet him at @AdamBinder_
Showing 21 comments
  • Adrienne
    Reply

    Hey Adam,

    As you know I’m fixing to release my product and what a lot of people don’t know that this will actually be my third one. The other two I did when this particular community had no idea who I was and I was in different niches.

    I only received one complaint from my second product and I honestly think that lady just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. She was claiming she didn’t get my email with the product link yet she never checked her spam folder. She then came over to my blog and commented on a post furious with me because of this issue yet said she didn’t have my email address. She had signed up on my list to begin with and was getting those emails so why she never hit reply is beyond me. Anyway, I handled the problem as nicely as I could and even refunded her money for the product. She came back and apologize profusely to me and even wanted to pay me again for the product because it was that good. I honestly think things can be handled in this way with care and consideration because there are some people who probably are just having a bad day and you’re the one they decide to pick on.

    I have been publicly bashed as well and it happened a few years ago. A guy I had connected with on Triberr was furious with me because the tribe I joined I didn’t immediately go follow him on Twitter although the majority of the current members in that tribe who had been there for months weren’t following him. I signed up on Wednesday and on Friday be publicly bashed me in a post where the comment section was closed, he had no contact form, you couldn’t contact him on any of the social sites and it’s like he was hiding from people. Because of the reputation I was already building, plenty of people came to my rescue and not only was he kicked out of that tribe but banned from Triberr. He ended up tarnishing his reputation instead of mine.

    Those are really the only two things that have happened to me so far and neither of them were pleasant. It makes me nervous putting this product out because I know I’m going to be a larger target now so we’ll see what happens moving forward. I’m certainly not going to worry about it because that will just bring it to me instead of the opposite.

    ~Adrienne

    • Adam Binder
      Reply

      Hi Adrienne,

      You can’t please all of the people all of time as the saying goes, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. It doesn’t seem like it stops you either. I personally have never, or at least not yet been ridiculed or had anything negative written about me or my company online but I have had some clients who have been slandered pretty bad. I think a few of them have fallen victim to someone that just woke up on the wrong side of the bed as you put it. It usually isn’t so damaging if a business gets one bad review out of a large amount but it can be devastating if they have not taken the time to build their reputation online. As a business owner I am never shy about asking for reviews from satisfied customers, and I also try to solicit honest feedback so I can improve my process. If someone isn’t happy I want to find out where we went wrong so we can make it right. Thankfully, many of the review sites have followed the example set by Google and Yelp and have started to weed out fake and anonymous reviews. It’s funny how brave people become and the things they will say when they are able to conceal their identities. Hopefully as time progresses they will refine the process even further to make the system as fair as possible.

      I am interested to learn more about your product. Do you have a release date in mind? I know you have been working very hard on this so I am very excited for you 🙂

      Have great night!

      Adam

      • Adrienne
        Reply

        I agree Adam, you need to start building that reputation and getting those testimonials. I have several on my site but could always use more. Will have to be sure to start asking for more of them as I work with more people.

        I’m shooting for late September or early October. I don’t have a specific date yet, things have been moving rather slow for me. Want to wait until after summer though and make sure everyone is back into the swing of things. I’ll definitely let you know.

        • Adam Binder
          Reply

          send me a link where I can leave one. I’d be more than happy to leave a nice write up for you!

  • Neamat Tawadrous
    Reply

    Hi Adam,

    Great post indeed!!!

    Dealing With Criticism is a necessary skill to have and your professional tips are spot on. Being in the Network Marketing Industry myself and due to the many scams that use their business model, it is a fact of life to deal with it because the Network Marketing Industry is a constant source of debate.

    I ran into some people who said unkind things about my Network Marketing company when I was promoting it offline. Luckily not yet online. But being involved in this industry we need to develop the skill to deal with criticism and your tips are really spot on and a great help. And in a time where rumors can be heard around the world in minutes, it is very important that we protect our reputation by learning how to Deal With Criticism about our business when it happen.

    Thanks Adam for a great share!! Have yourself a great rest of the week.

    Be Blessed,

    Neamat

    • Adam Binder
      Reply

      Neamat,

      The internet has revolutionized the world for the better in so many ways by allowing us to make friends in far away places and by creating many new job opportunities. Unfortunately the bad side is that people can also try to harm your reputation or your wallet from anywhere also. I’m glad you enjoyed my tips.

      Have a great day Neamat!

      Adam

  • Sherman Smith
    Reply

    Hey Adam,

    Being proactive on social media is a must. It can definitely matter between having a great reputation and having a negative one. Yes you can just showcase your products/services on social media and your website with a bare profile, but what good is it going to do. You will definitely be more susceptible to negative slander.

    That’s why it’s more beneficial to have a more genuine presence online. When you’re actually out there sharing valuable information as well as interactive to your customers, then there is a strong trust that is built up and they will feel more aligned with you. It can actually get to the point where there some negative slander about you and your company that your customers won’t believe. This is definitely called loyalty!

    Thanks for sharing and I hope you’re having a great weekend!

    • Adam Binder
      Reply

      Hey Sherman,

      You couldn’t be more right about social media being a necessity. I always say there is a conversation taking place and that its better to be a part of it, than to watch it as a bystander. I hope you are having a great weekend. Thanks for stopping by Sherman.

      Adam

  • Arbaz K
    Reply

    Hey Adam,
    Since I have not yet stated working on some big online projects, but only build and manage websites, I think that they too require a strong online management.
    Mostly for small websites, active social accounts with proper following are more than enough to take them forward. And when you are present on all the blogging communities and social media sites, you increase your online presence automatically.
    Do small websites also need proper work on online presence? What do you say about it?

    • Adam Binder
      Reply

      Hey Arbaz,

      I would agree that typically active social accounts with proper following is enough for some businesses but this is not always the case. It can be harder in fields like law and medicine. I have seen clients with “small websites” get severely harmed by just a few bad comments. This is because their average client can be worth thousands of dollars, and one bad comment or review could result in several or more lost clients. I think it is just important to manage and increase online presence no matter if a business is large or small. The more positive material out there, the better protected you will be from any adverse information that may be published.

      Thank you for visiting and I hope my answer is helpful to you.

      Adam

      • Arbaz Khan
        Reply

        Thanks for the reply.
        I have never quite worked towards building an online presence and maybe that’s the reason I haven’t been able to hit it big till not, but after reading your views I am going to work on building online reputation for my websites as well as for myself.

  • Enstine Muki
    Reply

    Hey Adam,

    Did you read about the French blogger fined over review’s Google search placing @ bbc.com/news/technology-28331598

    Maybe listening to the customer like you point out in point #7 would have been a better approach 😉

  • Adam Binder
    Reply

    Hey Enstine,

    I just read the article, and yes they definitely would have benefited from listening to their customers. I find it quite outrageous that a judge actually ordered the title of the review to be changed. Why even have reviews at all if they are going to be censored, right? Thanks for reading my article and for bringing this to my attention. Have a great day!

    Adam

  • Phillip Dews
    Reply

    Hi Adam,

    My fist time landing here from Adrienne Smiths blog! First off I would like to say that I love your site buddy; really easy to read, clan and fresh with a great design. I particularly love the logo.

    You are exactly right in all f your ten tips Adam. I love this when is comes to negativity – ‘Be the bigger man, Respond don’t React’. This is something I leaned a while back as a public house manager in London!

    Responding calm’s the other party down and the problem can get alleviated quicker. I am now out that game but that is always in my mind when it comes to disgruntled clients of mine!

    Many of my clients don’t realize that just having a website is not enough and I always ask them about their social media accounts and if they want a blog. 9 out of 10 they refuse to get one made and set up thinking that the website is enough for them.

    Still all I can do is advise them.
    Power post Adam, loved reading it.

    – PD

    • Adam Binder
      Reply

      Phillip,

      I’m glad you stopped by and that you found my post useful, and thank you for the kind compliments about my site :).

      I’m glad you mentioned that you learned these people skills when working at the public house because really the skills used to deal with people in real life are very similar to the skills used online. Many people do not realize this unfortunately. You are also right about trying to guide people in the right direction in that it’s up to them to take the advice or leave it ultimately.

      Thank you for your comment Phillip. Have a great day!

      Adam

      • Phillip Dews
        Reply

        Yep Adam, you sure can learn a lot from working with the public. I am not sure where the respond/react analogy came from but I have been using it recently not only with online but in my close relationships.

        My better half can sometimes fly off the handle and get somewhat emotional at times so i tent to respond and calm down the situation. The Dews household these days is a much more karmic and calm place buddy!

        Have a great day dude.
        Manete alsius

        – PD

  • Peter
    Reply

    Adam, I’ve been online for quite some years now and I’ve seen some pretty poor customer service in my time online. The worst customer service I’ve ever seen came from a developer when dealing with an issue one of his customers had with his product. Instead of listening to the customer and trying to resolve the issue he verbally assaulted him saying that it couldn’t have been his product and it was all his fault because he didn’t know what he was doing.

    What he failed to realise was that his reaction was noted by every visitor to that post. I suppose his ego was just too big to allow him to see he was acting like an ass. He basically broke rules 7,8 and 9!

    • Adam Binder
      Reply

      Peter,

      I bet that guy realized his mistake sooner or later! Hopefully he learned to listen to his customers from the experience.

      Thanks for your comment and have a great day 🙂

      Adam

      • Peter
        Reply

        One would hope so Adam. That was a few years ago so I would hope he learned something from his bad reaction to a customer complaint. At the time though, and I monitored that post for a few days, he was quite oblivious to it all.

  • Jessica Wilson
    Reply

    As far as my point of view is concerned, online reputation is a necessity in today’s era. Without effective online reputation beholding your brand at the top in the virtual world is very tough.

  • James
    Reply

    Building online reputation is quite an important task right now as there are many competitors out there who will take advantage when you make a single mistake. I have seen website owners get harmed with just a single bad review because they didn’t have a proper reputation of their websites online.

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