As a business owner, you need to know how to manage your online reputation. Your business’ reputation is everything. If you have a good one, people will hear and customers will come. If you have a bad one, people will hear that, too, and stay away – and worse, tell others as well. And if you have none at all, well, no one will hear about you and you’ll struggle to attract new customers.
In the online world your reputation is very much the sum of the reviews your customers leave on sites like Facebook, Google, Yelp, and the many, many niche business review sites. And these reviews are becoming more and more important.
Consumers are less and less moved by advertising and more and more influenced by recommendations from their peers. A recent study in the UK found that 8 out of 10 Millennials will not buy anything without first reading an online review.
There is also evidence to suggest that your reviews impact your SEO. Even if they don’t have a direct impact on how high you appear in search results, seeing those five little stars next to your business or product name in Google is definitely going to impact consumer decisions about whether or not to purchase from you.
So, how do you manage your online reviews and reputation?
It’s a three-step process to get started. You have to determine which review sites are important to you, ask your customers to post reviews on those sites, and manage your negative reviews.
Choosing the Review Sites That Matter to You
There are thousands of places your customers could leave a review about you. Which ones matter to you will depend on what business you’re in and where your customers go for advice. The most important sites are the ones where your business is already receiving reviews. If you’re not sure if you have any, try Googling “reviews for [your business name]” and see what comes up.
There are a few sites that are important to all businesses just because of the volume of traffic they receive:
- Google My Business
If you’re in the hospitality or entertainment industry some important ones are:
If you offer local services, look into sites like Homestars, Trustpilot, and, again, Yelp.
If you Google “reviews for” and insert your business type you’ll get a list of some of the more popular ones in your industry.
Another key place to be capturing and publishing your reviews is your own website. You want people who visit your site to see what others are saying about you. As I’ve stated earlier, this is what more and more consumers are looking for when making a buying decision, so make it easy for them to find.
Get Positive Reviews
Once you know where you’re getting reviews or identified the review sites where you want to get reviews, the next question to answer is how do you get positive reviews. Step one is to deliver a great product, service, or customer experience. Assuming you are already doing that, the next step is simple: ask for them.
You should have a process in place to ask your customers to give you a review. When you’ve made a sale, delivered a service, finished a project. Have a mechanism for asking that customer how you did. And, if the answer is positive, ask if they’d provide an online review for you.
The more specific you can be about the ask, the better the review you stand to get. A review that provides detail about their experience (and your product or service) is better than a generic “They’re great.”
There are online tools that can help you do this for a cost. But you can also manage it yourself with a short email template, a printed 3×5 card with a few questions on it, or even a phone call.
The other business advantage to asking how you did is that you’re going to find out when customers were unhappy about your product or service. This is hugely valuable. When this happens you have a chance to salvage that relationship and make things right. You can also prevent some of those unhappy customers from posting negative reviews of your company online.
Still, even with this process, you will still get negative reviews.
What to Do When You Get Negative Reviews
You will get negative reviews. It happens to everyone. The important thing is how you deal with it. Here are some tips to effectively manage those reviews so they don’t hurt your business.
Never, ever argue with the reviewer. Always take the high ground. If you get into an online debate with someone, you make the issue seem like a big deal and you, inevitably, end up looking petty. What you want to do is demonstrate that you are listening and you are a professional.
If there is merit to the complaint, acknowledge it, apologize and try to move the conversation offline. Never offer any compensation for a bad experience in your response. This will just signal to other readers that they can get free stuff if they complain. Just move the conversation offline.
If there is no merit, or you can’t do anything to make it better, simply acknowledge their feelings and move on. It will demonstrate to prospective customers that you take your customers’ feelings seriously and are a true professional.
If you take these steps towards managing your online reviews, it will form the cornerstone for how to manage your online reputation and turn it into a business advantage that your competitors just can’t compete with.