In 2023, your business’s reputation is synonymous with your business’s online reputation. Nearly 80% of interactions with businesses new to consumers begin online, so how you present yourself online, and how others talk about you, matters.
While you can’t control what others say about your business, managing your online reputation can give you a greater say in the overall narrative, as well as safeguard your reputation in the wake of a PR crisis.
In this article, I will define reputation management, what makes an effective reputation management strategy, why reputation management for businesses matters, and what you can do to best present your business online.
What is reputation management?
Reputation management, or online reputation management (ORM), refers to the combination of strategies a business implements to impact and improve its online narrative, or the overall perception of the business.
An effective online reputation management strategy aims to ensure that:
- your business is findable in search engines
- the results for branded keywords (usually your business name) are representative of your brand and positive in nature
- negative results about your business (such as reviews, social media comments, or news articles) do not rank prominently for branded keywords.
Generally, an ORM strategy consists of building and maintaining a strong online presence for your business online, as well as putting a plan in place to respond to negative coverage. This includes creating a website and social media presence for your business, developing a content strategy, seeking earned media opportunities, monitoring online conversations around your business and industry, and developing a response plan if your industry or business receives negative news coverage, reviews, or social media posts.
Is ORM the same as SEO?
SEO (search engine optimization) and ORM are intertwined, though the overarching goals of each strategy can differ. The goal of a strictly SEO strategy is to rank one property, usually a business’s website, for a broad keyword or keywords that prospective customers may use to find your business offerings (think ranking a coffee brand’s website for the term “best coffee”). SEO keywords are generally competitive, as multiple companies try to rank for the same keywords.
The goal of an ORM strategy is to rank several properties for a branded keyword. Though these keywords are generally less competitive due to their specificity, the trade-off is that, instead of targeting one property, you are targeting multiple online assets to increase the prominence of positive and owned properties over negative or unrelated properties (these results would be for a coffee brand’s name, instead of more broad terms).
Both SEO and ORM have to do with how you appear in search results and influencing these results. The goal of ORM, in many ways, is the inverse of SEO, but many SEO strategies can be used in an ORM campaign.
Why does the reputation of your business matter?
In 2023, how your business appears online can have significant impacts on customer retention and acquisition, investor relationships and funding, growth opportunities, and the overall success of your business. A reputation study conducted by Deloitte identified brand reputation as the highest strategic risk area for a company, over other key factors such as economic trends, business models, and competition. A study out of the University of Pennsylvania found that “negative information hurts…negative reviews, messages, or rumors hurt product evaluations and reduce purchase likelihood and sales.”
In a study conducted by TrustPilot, a positive online reputation outranked every other factor that influences whether or not a consumer will frequent a business, including quality of product, affordability, and helpful customer service. With 97% of people looking online to learn more about a business, how your business looks online has a serious influence on consumer perceptions.
But what constitutes a bad reputation? While it may be hard to define, bad reputations are one of those things that, when you see it, you know it. And so do consumers – 90% report not frequenting a business with a bad reputation.
Just one article can have a tangible and severe impact; businesses with only one negative article ranking online risk losing up to 22% of prospective customers.
It gets worse. Businesses with four or more negative articles ranking in search results risk losing up to 70% of prospective customers – and a bad reputation doesn’t only affect prospective customers. 87% of consumers report that they will reverse a purchase decision after reading negative news or reviews about a business online.
It’s not all bad. While the impact of a negative online reputation is difficult to ignore, a positive reputation can be great for your business. 95% of consumers report trusting a business with a positive online reputation, and nearly 90% of consumers report staying loyal to a business that shares their values. What’s more, a good reputation can protect your business: negative news can be less influential to those familiar with a featured business.
With so much at stake, and so much to gain, managing your business’s reputation should be at the center of your corporate strategy.
Online Reputation Management for Businesses
When you start talking about online reputation, it sounds like a lot of bad news. The reality is that every business will get some kind of negative feedback online at some point – a bad review, either from a dissatisfied customer or disgruntled employee, getting swept into a negative article, or a misstep that becomes a greater story. Hits to your reputation aren’t about if, but when – and how you position your business and respond can make a huge difference.
This is why reputation management for businesses is so important. A reputation management strategy allows your business to have a say – and, thus, an impact – on the narrative around your own business. The goal is not to remove other opinions but to give you the opportunity to represent your business in the online conversations that arise around it.
There are a lot of strategies that can help you build, manage, and protect your online reputation:
Get Familiar with Your Online Reputation
The first step in managing your business’s online reputation is to identify what that reputation is. Search for your business in an incognito browser with a cleared cache in order to get the most accurate results.
Take note of what you see. Does your business appear? If you don’t see results for your business when searching your business name, you will need to understand why your business isn’t ranking.
If the results are for your business, consider what you’re seeing. Where does your website rank? What about your social media profiles? Do other businesses rank? Do you see a local pack? What third-party results rank for your business? Does any news coverage rank for your business? Is it positive, neutral, or negative?
An audit of what ranks for your business, and where it ranks, will give you insight into what profiles you need to create, topics you need to cover, and what the current online narrative looks like. Remember that it isn’t just about what ranks, but where – the top three results receive over 75% of clicks, and with new updates like continuous scroll, results on page two may be more visible to users than they used to be.
Build a Strong Online Presence
Once you’ve gotten a sense of where you’re starting, you’ll need to begin to build a solid online presence. The most prominent owned assets are your website and your social media profiles.
To ensure your website presents your business well, you will need to optimize it for search engines as well as users. For search engines, consider more technical aspects of SEO, such as page speed, page structure, etc. For users, consider information your audience will look for on your site, about your business, your employees, and your products.
For social media, you will want to secure any profiles on relevant social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, YouTube, etc. Even if you are not ready to use them, securing the profile – and the username – for when the time comes will save you some headaches later on.
And Maintain it
Creating an online presence is just the beginning. Online assets that are not up-to-date or inconsistently active can actually be a deterrent to users looking to engage with your business. Any profiles that you are not using regularly can be set to private until you have a posting schedule set up. Create a content calendar prior to posting blog content to ensure that you are updating regularly, and remember that quality is more important than quantity.
If you are leveraging social media, be sure to maintain similar branding for your business across platforms, as presenting consistency across your owned assets can increase revenue by nearly up to 25%.
Use Content to Provide Value to Your Audience
A vital aspect of building a strong online presence is to identify your audience and what questions they have, so you can provide answers. I say it all the time: content is king in SEO. But it also has a huge impact on your reputation – useful, informative content can build your authority and trustworthiness with users, and expand your audience and customer base.
Whether it’s blog content, website copy, product pages, etc., identify what your audience wants to know and develop high-quality, well-organized, unique content to answer those questions. Questions can come from customer surveys, commonly asked questions to customer support, knowledge gaps in your industry, and terms that bring people to your website. To learn more about what creates quality content, read here.
Content can also help give your business more exposure, visibility, and variety in search results. Read our article about earned media to learn more about leveraging these opportunities for your business.
Leverage Reviews (Even the Bad Ones)
In 2023, online reviews are one of the most important factors for your business’s online reputation. 87% of consumers report reading reviews to learn more about a business, and nearly 80% report trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family.
96% of consumers report reading a business’s response to reviews when researching the company, and 89% of consumers are “highly” or “fairly” likely to use a business that responds to all of its reviews – plus, Google has even confirmed that responses to reviews can have a positive impact on your business’s SEO.
If you receive negative reviews (everyone does!), having a response strategy can work to your advantage, as a well-thought-out, timely response to a bad review can turn a negative into a positive.
Stay Aware of Online Conversations
Reviews aren’t the only conversations about your business you’ll want to be up-to-date on. Any news regarding your business or industry is worth staying aware of. This can guide your content, your social media posts, and what not to say in the wake of sensitive events.
To keep track of current online conversations, utilize tools such as Google Alerts and social media listening so nothing slips past you. Pay attention to news about your competitors as well; competitor results can give you insight into content topics, profiles, and earned media opportunities that you may not have used yourself, as well as what can lead to negative coverage.
Know When You Need Professional Help
On occasion, reputation management for your business will need professional intervention. If you are unsure if an online reputation management firm is right for you, ask yourself:
- Does my business have the capacity or experience to develop and execute a reputation management strategy?
- Is my business experiencing negative press, or a reputation crisis?
If your business is experiencing substantial negative feedback online, a reputation crisis, or is unable to carry out a reputation management strategy, an ORM firm can help. Status Labs can help assess your online reputation, opportunities for improvement, and develop and execute a custom ORM plan to help your business put its best foot forward.
If you are unsure of where to start, or an ORM firm is the best option for you, schedule a free consultation with Status Labs to start the process.