What’s the first thing you do when you hear about a new brand? For most of us, the answer would be: make a Google search. So, whatever appears on Google, especially on its first page matters. In most of the cases, people don’t even bother to go beyond the first page. No wonder, a majority of the businesses consider Google as the new business card. So, it is crucial that the online world projects your brand in a mostly positive light. In words of the British-American businessman Chris Anderson,
“Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what Google says it is.”
While a majority of prominent brands avail online reputation management services to remould their image, not every business has the budget to do so. Even if you are a small brand, you can work proactively to shape your online reputation without requiring to choose an online reputation management service provider.
Here are some steps through which you can proactively manage your online reputation:
1) Assess your Overall Reputation
Before anything else, the first step would be to gauge your overall brand reputation. You need to find out what others are saying about you-your customers, prospects, business partners and other stakeholders. You can begin by conducting a simple Google search in your name and see what appears in the results. Alternately, you can collect their feedback through online and offline channels. Your current reputation will provide you with a base to work on.
2) Secure your Brand Name
What would happen if someone makes a Google search in your name and some other brand’s social profile or website appears in the top results? Your prospects won’t be able to connect with you.
It is, therefore, vital that you secure your brand name and own a domain name that corresponds to your brand. For instance, if your brand name is XYZ, you need to own the domain name ‘xyz.com’.
Besides the ubiquitous ‘.com’, you should target TLDs such as ‘.net’ and ‘.info’ that are increasingly getting popular. And if your budget permits, you can also acquire regional TLDs (such as .in (India) or .us (USA)) for the regions you are currently targeting.
In addition to purchasing a domain name, list your brand in local and industry business directories. You need to choose directories relevant to your business and make sure your information is listed accurately. Consistency in NAP (name, address and phone number) helps you rank better in local Google searches. Besides, most of these directories feature customer reviews. So, you get to know what others are saying about you and respond accordingly.
3) Build a Presence on Social Media
Considering the time people spend on social media, it is imperative that you build a presence on all major social media platforms. Social platforms are quite effective in online reputation management. As a matter of fact, around 74% of the users rely on social media to guide their purchases. So, be sure to create a profile on all popular social channels, be it Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest.
Maintain consistency across all your social profiles-using a similar layout, color scheme and logos is vital. Also, be consistent with respect to the content you publish on these channels. Make sure you churn out unique, valuable and compelling posts on a regular basis. You can post informative how-to guides, success stories of your brand and motivational quotes to keep users engaged. And don’t forget to add human touch to your posts. It will enhance the appeal of your brand while presenting you as a credible entity.
4) Monitor your Online Mentions
In this age of digital media, any news, positive or negative spreads like wildfire. Any negative mention of your brand can escalate into negative word-of-mouth in both the online as well as the offline space. So, keeping track of your online mentions is imperative.
The very first thing you need to do is to create Google alerts for all the relevant keywords: your brand name, your major product/services, popular industry phrases and key rivals. Google will notify you of your mentions through email, you can choose how frequently you want to receive these emails.
Besides, you can use social media monitoring tools to track your online mentions. Tools such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social help you track activity across multiple platforms and let you view all your mentions in one place. With such tools, the need to avail online reputation management services from an outside party is eliminated.
5) Manage your Reviews
What’s the first thing you do when you plan to purchase a product online? Check its online reviews, don’t you?
Online reviews are a major factor affecting your purchasing decision. In fact, around 85% of the consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. So, it’s vital that you keep a track of what kind of reviews people leave online. Let’s have a look at some major review sites:
Google My Business: Google My Business is a highly-trusted source for online reviews and a must-have for all local businesses. For local search results, Google pulls a lot of data from Google My Business.
Amazon: If you are a product-based company and have your products listed on Amazon, it’s quite likely that users will check its reviews on Amazon even if they purchase it from somewhere else. Majority of the products on Amazon have enough reviews to consider it a credible source.
Trip Advisor: Trip Advisor is used by travelers that look for places to stay or activities to do in a particular location. People can look for reviews on hotels and restaurants. If you are into travel and tourism business, this is one place you must register a presence on.
Yellow Pages: Yellow pages is among the largest business directories across the world. Here, users can find a lot of information pertaining to local businesses such as their address, contact numbers, business timings in addition to reviews. By listing your business here, you can gain reviews and create a favorable impression among prospects.
Needless to say, this isn’t a comprehensive list. So, you must check out the niche review sites related to your industry.
Encourage customers to leave positive reviews
If you deliver satisfactory service, you would like your customers to share them online. Most of the customers don’t review a product/service on their own, so you have to ask them to share feedback through email, phone or simply on the ‘Review Us’ section of your website. If your budget allows, you can offer them an incentive in the form of a gift, coupon or discount that entices them to share the review.
Manage negative reviews tactfully
Customers appreciate when they realize someone is there to hear their voice. So, if you don’t pay attention to negative reviews, you may create an unfavorable impression on your customers. It’s important to remember that each review site has their own set of rules when it comes to comment moderation, so make sure you go through terms and conditions before you start managing reviews.
The first thing you need to do is to acknowledge that you have made a mistake and apologize. Accept responsibility for your actions and work together towards a solution. Even if you find it isn’t your fault, keep calm. Don’t shift the blame on someone else.
Handle the situation with tact: talk to your customers respectfully and try to explain things in an easy-to-understand manner. Thank the reviewer for their feedback and make a promise to offer a better service next time. And most importantly, learn from your mistakes. Fix the issue that caused the bad review in the first place and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
6) Manage Google Search Results for your Brand
When someone makes a Google search for your brand, ideally your website along with your site links should be the very first result. Site links offer shortcuts to different areas of your website making it easy for the user to navigate through the most popular sections of your site.
To achieve this, you need to have an SEO-optimized website with proper site architecture. A well-optimized architecture will have all the webpages linked to each other. You can use Google Search Console to find out if your website gets indexed on Google.
Create SEO-optimized webpages and blogs to draw traffic to your site. To begin with, carry out keyword research to find out what terms people type on Google when they search for your brand. Tools such as SEM Rush, Ahrefs and Google Keyword Planner are immensely helpful in this regard. You can search for any keyword you intend to target.
Choose keywords that have a moderate amount of searches and relatively low competition and then create a quality blog post related to it. Your content should have proper headings and subheadings and should be easy to read. Monitor the performance of your website including your visits, click-through rate and bounce rate using Google Analytics.
Your online reputation is important for several reasons: a positive online image bolsters your revenue, drives more visitors to your site and builds trust with your customers. It’s therefore essential that you make an assessment of your current reputation, secure a domain name in your brand, establish a presence on all major social platforms, publish content on these regularly and track your online mentions through Google alerts and social media monitoring tools.
Create a page on all major review sites and monitor your positive and negative reviews. Build an SEO-optimized site with proper architecture. Keep a track of keywords related to your industry and post premium-quality blogs on your site regularly.
Also published on Medium.