Brands are at the mercy of their socially empowered customers.
A couple of bad reviews, a barrage of damaging tweets, or a string of criticism-fueled posts on social media are all it takes to undo a brand that took many years to build. If the business fails to act, it results in a loss of trust and credibility. Worse, the business could even lose customers.
Online reputation management is an important aspect of branding. Take this out, and a business is sure to encounter a PR crisis. For the following reasons, having a solid online reputation strategy is vitally important.
- Reviews appear in search results.
Listings and review sites can appear on the first page of local search results. Search engines use reviews as context clues on which businesses deserve greater online visibility.
- Customers value what other customers say.
In fact, 22% of customers are less likely to buy after encountering a negative review. If a business doesn't address negative feedback—or does so in an unprofessional way—they're likely to suffer backlash from customers.
- Online reputation is part of the brand experience.
A strong brand is only as good as the experience it provides. If customers find their experience lacking, this can extend to the company's identity and affect how customers perceive its brand.
- Competitors can use it against the business.
Competitors can use any potential weakness against a business to gain the upper hand and woo away customers. You don't want to give them ammo by building a bad reputation.
Managing a brand's online reputation
Reputation is the product of what you did in the past and what you're doing now. The problem is not all businesses have the time to take care of their online reputation or know where to start. This is where your expertise comes in.
As a brand manager, everything to do with improving a brand's online visibility falls into your hands. This includes monitoring brand mentions, reviews, and anything that appears when people search for your company online.
Here are some ways that you can help to maintain a brand's online reputation.
1. Follow the business's brand bible
(And if they don't have one, create it!)
It's important to have continuity of brand experience when customers go from one channel to another, and this is where a brand bible becomes handy.
A brand bible is like your agency's cheat sheet in maintaining consistency across all brand assets—from using the same colors & fonts in visuals to promoting the same message in your content.
Communication is key at this point. For instance, when you're preparing templates to use for graphic design, talk to your team first to make sure they understand the brand identity and why it's so important.
2. Claim & verify information on listing sites
What happens if a business doesn't claim its listings? It leads to a ton of missed opportunities—for both digital and physical traffic.
One of the first things customers do before visiting a store is look it up online. Surveys show that 24% of customers first call a business using the contact information they find in listings.
Getting listed on directory sites isn't only for the benefit of customers, though. This also helps search engines decide which businesses to show first. For instance, Google aggregates information from directories and review sites to provide users with the best results for their queries. This is why businesses with inaccurate or missing information are less likely to appear. If your brand is already listed in directory sites, check that the information is up to date.
3. Build local citations
Another way for search engines to validate a business is through local citations. A citation is a mention of a business (and its contact information) across the web. This can appear on directory websites, local chamber of commerce sites, business associations, and news articles or press releases.
There are two things you need to keep in mind when building citations for your client's business:
- Relevance: Citations should be relevant to the location and category of the business. However, finding hyper-local listings often requires extra work. It might help to use a white-label reputation management tool to search for highly relevant citations.
- Consistency: If a brand has a citation portfolio with inconsistent NAP (name, address & phone number), the authority of those citations can be diluted. Consistent citations are important to avoid confusion. Just like when you're claiming and verifying business listings, make sure the information on local citations is accurate.
4. Leverage customer feedback
Many businesses shy away from asking their customers to leave feedback simply because they don't know how to do it or they're afraid of what customers might say.
Getting feedback from customers shouldn't be complicated, though. Sending customers a personalized email is a quick way to encourage them to leave reviews. Other ways include adding a customer satisfaction survey to your website, talking to customer through messaging platforms, or reaching out directly.
It might seem tedious, but each positive review can turn into a valuable asset for the brand's reputation.
Pro tip: Develop a routine for monitoring and managing reviews. This way, you can stay on top of what customers are saying about your brand.
5. Reinforce your SEO strategy
Here's what I've learned from years working in the digital industry—not everyone plays fair. (Shocking, I know.) Even if you have a solid reputation strategy and adhere to Google's rules, SEO activities from malicious actors could still hit a business and cause its rankings to plummet. Worst-case scenario is when the site gets penalized because of these negative SEO attacks.
Google's algorithms have certain measures in place to prevent fake reviews, spammy links, and other malicious SEO activities. But, this doesn't mean you should be complacent. Be vigilant in monitoring review sites. If you find any suspicious links, disavow them or report them immediately.
It's time to take control...
...or leave it up to customers to spread the word.
A bad review can move fast and be as damaging as wildfire. Take a proactive approach in online reputation management and take your brand's reputation to the next level.