It’s a sad reality that the Internet is full of misleading information and untruths.
When these untruths involve your small business, your online reputation can suffer – which usually translates into lost sales. Sites like Rip-Off Report do not vet the information they are fed. This makes it incredibly easy for unscrupulous competitors and spiteful individuals to leave false information that can ruin your company’s reputation.
What’s worse than a ruined online reputation?
Many of these sites will charge you money to defend yourself. So while it’s free to leave a negative review, it can cost you money to respond to it. It’s very easy for a disgruntled ex-employee or unscrupulous competitor to ruin your company in just minutes – at no cost or consequence to them!
What Research Shows
Research conducted by Bright Locals indicates that about 80% of the surveyed consumers trust online reviews. This means that having no online reviews, or having only negative reviews, can drive your prospects straight into the waiting arms of your competitors.
So how do you ensure that your brand is a positive one among the online community?
Four Steps to Protecting Your Online Reputation
There are four easy steps that you can take to not only building a positive reputation online, but to protecting the reputation you build.
- Set Up Profiles on Social Media
- Build Links
- Online Reviews
- Google My Business
Create profiles on all of the major social media sites – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. And once you’ve built your profile, make sure that you update it regularly. Having a stagnant social media presence can be as damaging as having no presence at all.
Update your profile pages at least once a week. Respond to posted questions about your small business every day. And if you receive negative comments – don’t delete them. Instead, use negative comments as an opportunity to provide exceptional customer service.
An easy way to build links is to guest post on other sites. Make sure you include a link to one or more of your social media profiles whenever posting.
Link building costs you nothing but a small amount of time. This makes it the perfect solution for the small business owner who has little liquid capital. And if you don’t have the time to guest post, assign the task to one of your employees. This method not only combats negative reviews – it can also help your profiles get more hits.
Studies have shown that people are more likely to leave a negative review when they’ve had a bad experience, than leave a positive review for a good experience. Give your customers an incentive to leave positive reviews, and make it easy for them to do so.
Often simply asking for feedback is all that it takes. You may also choose to offer discounts as an encouragement for customers to leave positive reviews on the sites that you point them to.
Whatever tactic you use, don’t let negative reviews be the only thing people see when they search for your company online. Be proactive in your approach to combating negative reviews. This is the only way that you can ensure your company has a positive online reputation.
Google My Business
Google My Business allows you total control of your small business listing across all of Google’s features from a single platform. This streamlines the process of controlling your brand and your reputation. One of the best uses that you have of Google My Business is the posting of images, videos and virtual tours. Let your prospects see what you have to offer – without them needing to set foot in your store.
Google My Business also allows small business owners to engage with their audiences. You can both monitor and respond to reviews that your customers (or people posing as customers) leave on the Web.
Before you sit down to respond to any negative reviews, commit to not to responding emotionally.
Any comments that you make in response to any type of review should be nothing less than positive. You can’t please all of the people all of the time – and small percentage of customers can be downright unpleasant and unreasonable.
Negative reviews are to be expected – it’s how you handle those reviews which will speak volumes about your business to others.
Some Facts About Online Reviews
- On average a consumer consults 11 online reviews before they make a purchasing decision.
- Negative reviews can help your business. 68% of consumers are more trusting of reviews that are a mixture of positive and negative than those that are all positive.
- Bad reviews that are based on fact provide a learning opportunity for you and your employees.
- Responding to reviews shows potential customers that you care about exceptional customer service.
How To Handle Negative Reviews & Protect Your Reputation
As a small business owner, your reputation means everything. When your online reputation is good, you not only beat out your direct competitors – you can also win business from your larger competitors.
It’s essential that you handle reviews properly.
Here are four tips for handling negative reviews in a way that will leave a positive impression in the minds of your potential customers.
- Always be professional! Show that you care about your customers – and that you’re prepared to solve the problem.
- Actions Speak! Show your customer that you are ready and willing to solve the problem. Phone calls, emails or even a certified letter in response to the negative review speaks volumes.
- Handle it yourself! Do not delegate the task of handling negative reviews to an employee.
- Document it! When you are responding to a negative review, be sure to not only tell your side of the story in a professional way, but detail the steps you took to try to remedy the problem.
The small business owner’s goal online should be to build a strong reputation. When you follow the above advice, you are sure to not only build your reputation but to protect it. After all, your reputation is the lifeblood of your small business.