As more people look online to learn about businesses, the importance of your brand’s online reputation increases. 80% of consumers report using the internet to find out more about a business. If these prospective customers like what they see, the impacts can be huge – brands with positive online reputations experience increases in customer loyalty, wider audience reach, and can establish themselves as a leader in their industry.
Unfortunately, the same can be said for businesses with poor reputations online. The internet has provided several channels that a customer or prospective customer can be exposed to and learn more about your brand. While this can be a good thing, it also means that a poor online reputation can have major impacts. Brands with low ratings, negative search results, or even sparse online presences risk losing prospective and existing customers, which can harm the overall success of the business over time.
What’s more, it doesn’t take much to harm your reputation. Businesses risk losing up to 22% of customers with just one negative article out there. This number increases significantly the more negative news is out there, with four or more negative articles resulting in a potential loss of 70% of prospective customers.
While you can’t necessarily control what others say about your brand or business, you can control how you present yourself and how you react. With the quickly growing importance of online searches to inform purchasing decisions, managing your brand’s online reputation is not only suggested – it is vital.
Establishing an online presence that is representative of your brand will give you the opportunity to grow your business, build trust with your audience, and establish your business as a leader in your industry. What’s more, a strong online presence can give you a foundation to work from in the wake of a reputation crisis.
We’ve outlined some of the key aspects of establishing your brand online and managing your brand’s reputation to help you have a hand in your own reputation.
Establishing Your Brand Online
Brand reputation management requires an online presence. The first step is to establish your brand online. Building out a website, social profiles, and a content marketing strategy will help you define your brand’s message and purpose to prospective customers.
There are several properties, strategies, and tools that you can leverage to build your brand’s online presence, but these three are a good place to start:
- Website: every company should have a website. Your website should host any information that may be valuable to your customers – company background and overview, product information, recent news, blog posts, featured reviews or client testimonials, contact information, etc.
- Social media: while social media can be a very strong asset, consider your capabilities when creating profiles. Sparse or inactive profiles won’t help you, so only create what you can maintain, and ensure that all profiles communicate a similar brand message across platforms. Additionally, linking your social media assets to one another can promote further brand cohesion.
- Content: content plays a huge role in your brand’s reputation. Content can increase visibility, credibility, and engagement with your brand. Identifying three or four primary themes to cover in your content can help you focus your audience. All content should be informative, unique, and answer a question or educate on a topic relevant to your brand and industry.
Utilizing SEO to Improve Reach and User Experience
SEO is foundational to your brand’s online presence, as it plays a direct role in the visibility of your website in search engine results, as well as user experience once they are on your site. The impacts of poor SEO are clear – if your website doesn’t rank on the first page of search engine results, your chances of reaching your desired audience are slim. Only ~5% of users go past the first page of results and, even further, the top three results in Google earn over 75% of organic traffic. If your website is slow to load or not optimized for mobile searchers, it could be penalized in search results, or cause high bounce rates, turning people away from your business.
SEO is an expansive field, but some of basic factors to consider are the keywords you would like to rank for (and incorporating them on your site), user experience on your website (for both desktop and mobile users), and overall site health.
To learn more about how to best optimize your web assets, read our SEO guide.
Listen to Your Audience
Once you have established your brand’s presence online, you will need to stay up-to-date on what people are saying about you. After all, your reputation is made up of what people are saying about you, so the more you know, the more informed you will be on what is working and what you could stand to change.
Listening to your audience can not only give you valuable understanding about what you’re doing right (or wrong), but also show opportunities for growth in your industry or relevant topics for content. What’s more, the accessibility of the internet (and people’s opinions) can provide you with real-time insights on what your audience is thinking about your brand.
To keep up with mentions of your brand online, you can utilize social media monitoring or listening tools. For Google News, setting up Google Alerts will notify you of any mentions of your brand.
Be sure to also regularly check reviews of your brand. Reviews play a large role in whether or not someone chooses to interact with a brand – 87% of consumers report reading reviews to learn more about a business – so they can have a major impact on your brand’s overall reputation.
Responding to Customers
One of the most important aspects of managing your brand’s reputation online is how (and when) you respond. The way your brand responds to user feedback, positive or negative, can substantially impact your business’ reputation, and have a role in determining public perception of your brand’s transparency and trustworthiness.
Generally, you should respond. The nature of online communication gives your customers direct access to you, and they expect a response from you. 20% of consumers expect to receive a response to a review in just one day, with many more expecting a response in general. What’s more, 96% of consumers report reading a business’ response to reviews when researching the company. Google has even confirmed that responding to reviews can have an impact on your business’ SEO efforts.
Responses can also help you leverage negative reviews and feedback. By acknowledging and addressing a customer’s concerns and criticism, you can take more control of the narrative. Even if a customer does feel compelled to leave a negative response about your brand – and it will happen, it happens to everyone – it will reflect well on you to that customer and any others that see the interaction to see that your brand is takes these concerns seriously, as opposed to letting the negative comment linger on its own.
When it comes to writing your responses to comments and reviews, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Timeliness: as stated earlier, many consumers expect quick responses. A timely response not only indicates that you are dedicated to addressing the problem, but can also lessen the impact of the negative comment on other consumers.
- Acknowledgement: make sure to be compassionate in acknowledging the concerns raised by your customer. Do not try to redirect or bypass the complaint.
- Action: when applicable, try to offer a solution or next steps. Following through can help you rebuild trust with that specific customer, as well as indicate to others that you are dedicated to finding solutions when these problems arise.
- Personalizing: do not respond to customers online with canned responses. These are often not taken well, and can have a negative impact on the perception of your brand – 70% of users report that they would be put off if a business responded to a review with a templated or recycled response. Taking the time to respond personally will reflect well on your brand.
Although responding to comments online – good and bad – is important, it is equally important to recognize that not every comment, critique, or review requires a response. While you want to be accessible to your audience, it’s not necessary – or practical – to respond to every comment about your business.
Managing your brand’s reputation online is about controlling your own narrative. The more you can put out there to define your brand and show your audience who you are, the more of an impact you can have on public perception. There will always be negative comments – it is the internet, after all – but implementing these practices will not only help lessen the influence of these negative perspectives, but build customers’ confidence in your brand as you navigate difficult situations and show capacity to listen, learn, and grow. A strong online reputation isn’t just about handling public perception, but standing out as a business and a brand.