Small Businesses: How to Manage Your Reputation Online

How to manage your online reputation

With the increasing need for analytics consulting and reputation management, I started to offer both areas as services at Creative Development Agency, and now more than half of my clients rely on that data to make marketing decisions for their businesses. 

Since I've launched Femfounder.co, I've focused the majority of the content on publicity, social media, and branding because that's where most of our readers need help. But today, I'm going to change things up a bit by talking about reputation and reputation management. 

When I studied PR and marketing at New York University, I took a course solely dedicated to reputation management, and after the first session, I was hooked. It was truly fascinating. However, all of the information that I learned in that course and that was published online and in books was solely for corporations. There was nothing for small businesses or bloggers (this was back in 2011). 

During my last semester, I spent the entire time researching and writing about reputation and reputation management for small businesses, creative entrepreneurs, and bloggers. And my final dissertation was over one hundred pages long of in-depth research, including interviews, surveys, and actionable tips that you can use in your own business or blog (which is now under contract to be turned into a book. Keep an eye out for that book - it will be released in early 2018.)

And now I'm going to share what I learned but first, let's start with what reputation is and why reputation management is critical to the growth of your small business. 

Reputation is the series of thoughts, images, and perceptions that others hold about your brand, small business, or blog. 

Reputation management is the attempt to shape the public perception of a company, brand, or person both online and offline. Not only is reputation management necessary to grow your business both online and offline, it's critical to sustain it. 

Consider this - if an angry customer leaves a negative review on Yelp.com or tells her friends about a bad experience she had with your business, then that negative attention will spread to other potential customers. 

According to a Nielson study, 66 percent of consumers said they trust online reviews when making online purchases. Additionally, consumers will tell an average of 16 people about a negative experience vs. 9 people will tell about a positive experience. 

Now, I think you see how important reputation management is to your business or blog.  

Reputation Management Tips

When you launch your small business, brand, or blog, consider developing a reputation management with these tips.

1). Search Engine Rankings

The first page of search results for your business, brand, or blog name is usually the most important on whether a user will buy from you. Those top search results need to expand beyond your website pages. Social media and review sites should be a part of those top 10 search results. 

2). Research

New companies and bloggers need to start online reputation building and management before launching publicly. You should make sure there's no negative reputation associated with the business, brand, or blog name you're thinking about using. 

3). Dealing with Negative Reviews or Comments

If your brand happens to get negative reviews or customer comments, it's not the end of the world. Search engines algorithms are always changing so it's possible to mitigate reputational harm. You'll have to publish content on higher ranking and authoritative sites to push negative reviews or customer comments off the first page of search results. 

4). Your Personal Name and Business/Blog Name

If you're a small business, you'll want to manage the reputation of both your name and your business/brand/blog name. In most cases, prospective customers research your name and your business/blog name to see if anything negative pops up. So you'll want to create a fully-optimized bio page on your website, as well as get media coverage, blog posts, or issue press releases about you and your blog to rank high in the search results for both your name and business name.

5). Social Media Strategy

You'll want to make sure you have a robust social media strategy in place. Post high-quality content frequently. Make sure you're on Twitter.comFacebook.comPinterest.comInstagram.com, and LinkedIn.com

6). Existing Customer for Reviews/Testimonials

Encourage your existing customers to leave a positive comment on a relevant review website or provide a testimonial that you can use your own website or blog. This will help increase your business/brand/blog's street credibility and social proof.   

7). Blogging

If you don't have a company blog, get one! A blog is a great way to increase your search engine rankings, website traffic, and your overall expertise and authority. A blog can also give you a forum to discuss any misconceptions or address any issues customers have with your business. 

8). Regular Monitoring and Management

Regular reputation monitoring and management are critical to the success of your business/brand/blog. Search Google, Yahoo, and Bing for both your name and your business name to make sure there's no negative commentary. But if you happen to find a negative review or comment, don't panic. See what the problem is and determine how to fix it. If it's a negative review on Yelp.com or some other review website, respond and apologize to the person for the bad experience they had and offer to fix it. Whatever you do, don't argue because you can come across as rude or unprofessional. 

Have you had issues with your reputation online? If so, what was the problem and how did you resolve it? Describe your experience in the section below.