They say reputations take years to build and minutes to ruin. History is littered with examples of fallen idols who can testify to that.
These days – when so much business and brand building is done on the web – online image is the difference between success and failure for millions of companies.
A decade ago some businesses still questioned whether they needed a decent website. Very few do now. However, nowadays a website is rarely enough.
A strong social media presence and customer reviews – which now appear directly on Google’s results pages – have become make or break for many.
And that’s just for starters so we’ve put together our seven top tips to gaining – and maintaining – a winning online reputation. Read on my friend and you’ll be as popular as the last pack of loo roll in a dodgy curry house.
1 Get reviews
Customer reviews are becoming increasingly crucial. Google’s Zagat guide – featuring a mark out of 30 – is being phased out in favour of a five-star rating system. Either way users are able to instantly compare competing businesses or products against their rivals.
No one wants to sell the fourth best fancy dress in Skegness or appear mid-table for canned meat in Fleet. So what are your options?
There’s no shame in getting in touch with satisfied customers and asking them to review your business – it can be a real help if you want to push that run-of-the-mill 3.5/5 into a gobsmacking 4.5.
But obviously if you go down this road make sure you pick your battles carefully.
Never coerce anyone into helping – aside from it being borderline immoral you are just as likely to achieve the opposite of what you were looking for.
We’ve just started helping a client of ours with his online reputation management and his company is already on the heady heights of 4.8/5 stars.
The phone has been ringing off the hook for the last few weeks. Moral of the story? Have faith: This works.
2 Own all relevant domain names
Another of our clients – who shall remain nameless – had a disgruntled customer that took the extreme step of buying a similar domain name to hers so they could post a host of aggressive comments and scare stories about her business.
Potential customers were searching for her, landing on that page and running a mile. Over a year of heartache and legal wranglings later and the problem was eventually solved but it’s impossible to tell how much damage has been done.
If our client owned the .com and other relevant domains as well as the .co.uk they would have gone a long way to combatting that problem.
3 Answer criticism promptly and fairly
If you reply to any unfavourable comments with a fair and humble response you’ve got a much better chance of winning friends and influencing people – and you might just turn a negative into a positive.
The next time someone complains online that they found a fly in your home-made jam, bite your tongue and offer them a free pot by way of an apology.
And resist the temptation to poison it – unless you are sure you’ll get away with it. To keep the legal team happy that is a joke so don’t try that at home please. Or at least if you do you didn’t hear it from us.
4 Check what’s being said about you
Take a deep breath and conduct a thorough search online for your company and products – and even yourself. Pay attention to message boards, forums and online review sites like Yelp.
You might not like everything you see when you hold the mirror up but that’s the point: You ain’t gonna get any prettier if you keep puttingyour make-up on in the dark.
It can also be helpful to know if there are any sites that visitors regularly travel to yours from and whether traffic from these sites changes over time depending on the content on them. Your analytics can help on this score.
And don’t be afraid to ask others what they make of your online presence – as long as you are convinced they’ll give you an honest answer. Being nice never helped anyone. OK, that’s not strictly true but it won’t help here.
5 Subscribe to alerts from various search engines
Set up alerts for your company’s name, your own name and the name of other key players in your business so you immediately find out what people are saying about you.
Google is the undisputed king of all search engines – with approximately 90% of UK market share – but that still leaves 10% so don’t forget about the Bings and Yahoos of this world.
6 Give your social media some TLC
Tempting as it might sound, in most instances you can’t gag your critics or supress material you don’t want to appear – just ask Barbara Streisand. But the good news is if you play your cards right you won’t need to.
Having various social media profiles that you update regularly is a great start.
This will mean that even if you can’t remove criticism you should be able to push it well and truly down a search engine’s pecking order.
7 Blog regularly
Blogs are another way for you to dominate your online real estate. Why not keep the public informed about your latest developments? If you do it in an interesting and informative way you’ll keep them coming back.
Again, each blog page will show up on search engine results so, if you play your cards right, before you know it any online criticism will be dwarfed by the right messages – messages you control.
There’s much, much more to reputation management than the above and in our experience every client has different needs but following these guidelines should be a good start at least.
It’s a brave new world out there but you can’t change the rules of the game – you’ve just got to get better at playing it.
Call us on 0207 100 4562 if you’d like a free no-holds-barred report on your company’s online reputation. Either way good luck!