Local Business Marketing
What You Need to Know About Managing Your Online Reputation
Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” In the internet age, these words seem more relevant than ever. It won’t necessarily take 20 years to build a reputation anymore (a smart branding and digital marketing strategy can expedite the process), but all it takes is a few poor customer reviews to set back your progress. The good news is that you have more control over managing your online reputation–even those reviews–than you think. Here’s a brief overview of managing your online reputation, encouraging positive customer reviews, and dealing with negative reviews.
Understand Why Online Reputation and Reviews are Important
When a customer wants to learn more about your business, Google is usually their first step. But do you know everything that will pop up in the search results when they type in your business name?
Ideally, your website will show up first, as well as your social media profiles, positive press mentions, and any profiles on review sites like Yelp. However, websites from competitors or blog posts from dissatisfied customers who are trying to discredit your business might also show up in search results.
When running a Google search for makeup influencer Jaclyn Hill, you’ll notice that although her website is the first result, the search results are dominated by news articles and headlines surrounding a safety issue that occurred with her product line.
While you can’t pick and choose what shows up first in Google results, there are ways to maximize the chances of the positive links making their way to the top. An agency like Pacific54 can help you implement best SEO practices to boost the pages you want customers to see, effectively lowering the ranking of pages that you want to hide.
Reviews are another major component of your online reputation. Word-of-mouth marketing is consistently ranked as one of the top influences on purchasing decisions, and 90% of consumers consult online reviews before visiting a business. While your company can control your website, social media presence, and third-party advertising, reviews are ultimately left to the customer.
Engage with Customers and Address Comments by Staying Active on Review Sites
Three of the major platforms for leaving reviews are Yelp, Google, and Facebook. On each of these, viewers can tell at a glance what a company’s average rating is out of five stars, as well as the number of people who have left a review.
Whether you have raving reviews, or could use some improvement, It’s important to know what customers are saying about your business. Replying to concerns, thanking customers for their reviews, and regularly updating your listings with new photos, deals, or events are great ways to make the most out of review sites.
Let’s take a look at each of these platforms in detail.
How Facebook Reviews Work
Facebook reviews are left on your company’s Facebook page and can be seen in the right-hand column, as shown in the picture below. The Pacific54 Facebook page has a 5-star rating, which is based on 19 reviews we have received. Notably, reviews are a small component of the overall profile page, but contribute to a more holistic picture of how your audience views your brand.
On the bottom of the left sidebar, you can click “Reviews” to read what customers have written about the business. These can be sorted by “most helpful” or “most recent.”
How Google Reviews Work
Google reviews appear on your Google My Business profile (if you haven’t already, you can follow these instructions on how to claim your Google profile). Below, you will see that Pacific54 has a rating of 4.9 stars from 23 Google reviews. If you have a local business, an agency like Pacific54 can also help you optimize your Google My Business profile to help you drive more foot traffic.
In addition, by clicking on the hyperlinked “23 Google reviews,” you will be able to see the reviews themselves, which you can sort by relevance, highest rating, lowest rating, or date.
How Yelp Reviews Work
Unlike Google and Facebook, which serve multiple purposes, Yelp exists almost exclusively for sharing reviews. Yelp is usually known for its reviews of bars and restaurants, but other businesses like medical services, salons, and home improvement companies also have a strong presence.
Yelp reviews are often the most detailed, and users can attach photos to their reviews as well. For this hair salon below, 42 people left a review for the business and it currently has a 4.5 rating. In the reviews themselves, you can also see how some reviewers shared pictures.
It’s best practice to monitor all of these review regularly. By default, you should expect to receive notifications every time someone leaves a new review for your business. Set a goal to check in at least weekly so that you value their input and so that you can address any concerns in a timely manner.
Actively engaging and responding to reviews will give customers confidence in your business, demonstrating to them that as a business owner, you are invested in your business and the satisfaction of your customers.
Encourage People to Leave Reviews for Your Business
It’s not just a high rating that matters; it’s also the number of people who leave you a review. For example, an average five-star rating from two people is not as powerful as an average 4.5-star rating from 25 people.
There are several ways to encourage your customers to leave a review. You can:
- Add it to the bottom of the receipt
- Offer an incentive
- Keep a tablet or device on location dedicated to collect reviews
- Create social media posts asking customers to leave a review
- Just ask!
Generally, the best method is to just ask! If you interact with your customers face-to-face, such as in a healthcare practice or a retail store, ask if they would be willing to leave a review.
Of course, this might not always be possible, so thankfully there are plenty of other ways to encourage customers to leave a review.
For example, you might set up an iPad in the office or store so people can leave a review on the spot. This will make it easy for users, and helps provide instant feedback while the experience is fresh in their minds.
Another method is to offer an incentive, such as a chance to enter a drawing into a raffle, if they leave a Facebook or Google review. Sometimes a little extra encouragement goes a long way, and a marketing agency like Pacific54 can help you implement a small campaign to drive your most loyal customers to review sites.
Additionally, you can incorporate messaging asking users to leave reviews in your social media posts, website CTA’s and email newsletters.
Monitor Reviews on a Regular Basis
As part of managing your online reputation, you will want to keep an eye on what everyone is saying in their reviews. Remember that it’s okay if your rating on these review sites falls short of 5 stars. In fact, research has shown that across product categories, the highest likelihood of purchase occurs when ratings fall within the 4.0 - 4.7 range.
As mentioned previously, these platforms will usually send you an email alert whenever someone leaves a review. While this is a great way to know what's happening on the platforms you’ve subscribed to, you might miss out on what people are saying about your brand elsewhere on the web. Luckily there are some tools, both free and paid, available to help you stay on top of your online reputation. Let’s go through the options.
Google Alerts (Free)
Google Alerts is a free, easy to use tool that will send you email alerts anytime your brand is mentioned online.
To get started, go to Google Alerts, sign into your Google account, and enter the search terms you want the Google Alert to track. You should start with your brand name and any variations to keep things simple.
Next, you can choose the type of results you want the alert to monitor, this includes News, Blogs, Video, Discussions, Books, or Everything!
To get the full scope of your brand mentions across the web, start with everything. You can then choose how often you want Google to notify you about your alerts. Generally once a week is a good starting point, but you can also ask for alerts as they happen if necessary.
Once you’ve set your preferences, simply create the alert and you’re done!
Social Mention (Free)
Social Mention is a dedicated online reputation monitoring platform. It currently monitors more than 80 social media sites, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. As an added benefit, Social Mention will provide you with the following information about your brand:
- Strength - The likelihood your brand is being talked about on social media
- Sentiment - The ratio of positive to negative comments
- Passion - The likelihood that people who are talking about your brand will do so repeatedly.
- Reach - A measure of the range of influence your brand has.
Social Mention is a web-based platform, to use it simply navigate to the site. They also offer an API that integrates with other applications. The tool is free to use, but there are some limitations in filtering and reporting.
SentiOne provides its users with access to both real-time and historical data around brand mentions. It provides the ability to track mentions of your brand, your active social media profiles, information about your competitors and so much more in a single dashboard.
SentiOne also offers detailed filters to help you sort out reviews, and act quickly when responding to questions or concerns.
SentiOne’s team plan starts at $299 USD per month and features unlimited keyword tracking, mention tracking and real-time monitoring. This may be a good option for medium-large sized businesses that have a substantial brand following already.
Respond Effectively to Negative Reviews or Make Things Right to Encourage a Positive Review
The drawback to reviews on platforms like Google, Facebook, and Yelp is that these are third-party sites, and you cannot control what gets published online and what doesn’t. However, you can often respond to reviews within a comments section, this is one of the most important steps in managing your online reputation. When used judiciously, this tactic emphasizes that you are listening to your audience and care about their experiences with your company. Ignoring negative reviews can make customers feel like they are not heard and in turn have a negative impression of your business.
If a customer expresses dissatisfaction with customer service through a Yelp review, you could write a sincere apology and invite them back to have a positive experience instead.
You want to be sure to always keep a positive, friendly tone. While it can be frustrating to deal with reviews that are harsh, or in some cases, simply untrue, it’s important to maintain your composure to present a professional demeanor to others who may be reading your reviews.
Below is an example of a salon that personally responded to an unhappy customer on Yelp, acknowledging their complaint and offering to redo their hair for free.
Learn How to Deal with Fake or Inflammatory Reviews
An unfortunate side effect of online reviews is that they are prone to abuse. Competitors or internet trolls could write false reviews about your company just to lower your rating or diminish your online reputation. If multiple reviews appear in a short amount of time, this could be a sign that the reviews are fake and someone is launching an attack against your company.
If you suspect a review on Google, Facebook, or Yelp is fake, you can report it to the respective platform. This isn’t a guarantee that it will be removed, but reviews that contain foul language, harassment, or a clear conflict of interest are more likely to be taken down. Make sure you review the policies for each platform before reporting a review, you can’t flag a review just because you don’t like something that was said. Here’s how you can report fake, or inaccurate reviews on each platform:
How to Flag a Review on Google
- Log into your Google My Business account
- Click on ‘Manage Reviews’ in the menu on the left.
- Find the review you’d like to flag and click More > Flag as inappropriate
How to Flag a Review on Facebook
- Login to your Facebook business page
- Navigate to ‘Reviews’ using the left menu and find the review you want to report
- Click on the icon with the “!” to report the review
- Choose the reason why you are reporting the post
How to Flag a Review on Yelp
- Login to your business Yelp account
- Navigate to the ‘Reviews’ section
- Find the review you wish to report
- Click on ‘...’ and click ‘Report Review’
Another way to counteract fake or inflammatory reviews is to encourage more positive reviews. Above all, dedicate your company to offering exemplary products and services, so that most of the reviews you receive will be positive.
Managing your online reputation doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor. Contact Pacific54 to learn more about how we can help encourage you take control of your online brand image, encourage your customers to leave reviews, and ultimately reach your sales goals.