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Updated July 30th, 2019

Online reputation protection is a long-term strategy that requires a lot of attention. Through various ways, it fortifies your branded search landscape against future threats that could tarnish your reputation. In other words, it’s actively working to protect your company’s reputation and online identity.

In this day and age, small business owners can no longer afford to ignore what people write about them online. Consider this. 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting or buying from a business. Online reviews also impact nearly 70% of purchasing decisions. 

A positive online reputation can be a business’s greatest asset or its biggest weakness. Clients, colleagues, and employers all use search engines like Google to help make decisions, and search results can be the difference between a business’s success and failure.

How Online Reputation Works

The use of a combination of public relations tactics and advanced SEO principles  work to create positive content. This content will then push your company onto the first page of your search results. This process includes:

  • Creating and optimizing websites
  • Link building
  • Thought leadership
  • Social media management
  • Review management
  • and much more…

If your business has negative or dated search results on Google, there are a few things you can do to better your online presence. Below are 20 tips to consider for improving a business’s online reputation. 

1. Google Your Business

You might know that your business is great, and your regular customers or clients may agree, but the first step is to Google your name and get a reality check. Search the name of the business, and your name, and then scan the results on the first two pages. Look at the results through the eyes of a potential customer or employee who knows nothing about your business. What do you see?

Take notes on the good, the bad, and the ugly. Is there anything that appears about your business that can be easily fixed? If potentially damaging material exists on sites or platforms that you are able to improve, that should be your first move.

Nearly half of adults in the United States are less than pleased with their Google search results. Get ready to join the small percentage that knows what to do about unfavorable results on the first page of Google.

2. Register Your Business

Now that you know what’s there, it’s time to secure your business on sites like Google, Bing, LinkedIn and Yelp. Anywhere you can find an unclaimed profile for your business, secure it so you can turn it into an asset. When you don’t register your accounts, your business appears absent and this will raise a red flag for potential customers. If your business is already listed you need to claim and verify the business. You want to be able to respond to users who leave reviews whether they are good or bad. It shows that you care and also gives you the chance to tell your side of the story. Respond to everyone. If a person leaves a good review, thank them. If a person leaves a bad review, try and improve the situation and understand their side of the story. Be sure to be polite and respectful. 

Also, begin a search for the most common professional social media profiles in your industry and set about claiming each one. From Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and Instagram, it’s time to start claiming accounts. Even if you do not plan to immediately use the social accounts, it’s important to control the online real estate most relevant to your business. You wouldn’t want your competitors posting under the guise of your business, or even worse a disgruntled customer posting negative things about your business from an account that appears to be owned by your business.

3. Protect Your Name

You can protect yourself by claiming accounts on networking and review websites. If you haven’t already, purchase domain names with your name and your business’s name. You want to own www. [your business name here] .com and www. [your name here] .com.

If you don’t own these domain names, someone else could conceivably purchase them and misrepresent your business. This doesn’t just mean that your customers might get redirected to competition, but they could also use your own name against you. Imagine the drop in business if the first thing your customers or clients see on Google is a misleading website. The results aren’t pretty. Get ahead of the game and secure online assets that are most relevant to your business. 

4. Monitor Your Business 

Set up monitoring with Google for your name and that of your business. This will alert you whenever Google picks up something posted about you on another website, blog, or across the internet. Early notification allows you to formulate a response and launch a control strategy as soon as possible.

The sooner you know about either a positive or negative post, the sooner you’ll have to manage the situation. Even a scathing review can become a positive thing when the business replies immediately. Also, set up alerts for review sites and social media. Many of these platforms have alerts built in already so be sure to explore that option as well. 

5. Produce Positive Content

While encouraging customers to write reviews online is good, you can’t control what they write. The better option would be to turn to what you can control: Search rankings. Try posting more informative and relevant articles and content. This will take longer, but it will pay off.

One of the best ways to create positive content is to post useful tips, tricks, and ideas for your target audience in the form of free content. This may feel like giving away free advice, but what you’re actually doing is attracting positive attention. If your free content is useful, readers will share it, directing more people to your website – this improves your Google results, exposes your business to new customers and overall improves your online reputation.

In addition to publishing your own content, seek out blogs and podcasts in your field of expertise and do guest interviews or publish a contributing blog piece. This will do wonders for your search rankings and further bolster you as an expert in your field. 

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6. Make a Posting Schedule

Posting positive content is an excellent step, but for the most impact, it’ll need to go up on a regular schedule. You need to know your target audience(s) and what times they’re most often online. You’ll also need to understand the audience of the different websites you use, and what regularity of posting is optimal. For instance, you wouldn’t tweet out a long form anecdote about something you learned long ago that helped you in your business, but this would be a great post for LinkedIn. Know your platform and your audience. 

If this is all sounding like a bit much to you, you’re not alone. Reputation Management can be a full-time job and if you don’t have the time to devote to ORM, you can always hire a team of trained professionals to help get you where you need to be. 

7. Don’t Leave Fake Reviews

When business owners become aware of the impact positive and negative reviews have, they’re often tempted to leave fake reviews. After all, if you’re only speaking the truth about your products/services, what’s the harm? Though it might seem like an easy fix, the reality is that businesses attempting to manufacture reviews lose business. A business will receive red flags on certain profiles and are almost always eventually found out.

Paying for reviews will actually hurt your company’s reputation, especially where it shows up on Google Search results. This is because Google actually punishes websites that do this largely because the reviews aren’t true. They will push your website lower in results which will serve to damage your online reputation further. Trust that your customers will recognize hard work.

8. Revamp Your Company Culture

Modern businesses need a great company culture to attract quality employees that will lead you to build a great customer base. Build an inclusive culture from the ground up, and make sure that everyone – including yourself – follows it.

Start by defining your brand, and your business’s “why.” Respect the past contributions of employees and customers alike while aligning your new culture to a safe, engaging vision. Research modern company cultures, take inspiration from what fits and leave the rest. You’ll have an outstanding business environment in no time.

9. Establish Yourself as an Expert

 Establish yourself as an industry expert by publishing articles, giving talks, offering classes, produce media and otherwise define yourself as a thought leader. Research leadership and improve your credentials in your field by branching out to the network. Everything you can do to establish yourself as a respected source in your industry will benefit your business.

As you’re establishing your expert status, your search results will improve and your business should see the benefits. 

10. Get Involved with Community Events

Speaking of media attention, involvement with community events is a great way to generate positive online content about your business. For example, if your business donates time and resources to a local festival, or has a team participating in a local fundraiser marathon, you’ll likely receive a mention in articles and possibly further press coverage.

Not sure where to begin? Consider polling your customers about which community events they’d like to see you support. 

11. Respond to All Reviews

A business that responds to reviews appears caring to its customers. When a customer takes time to leave an outstanding review, say thank you! Make them feel valued, express your appreciation and make the effort to connect.

With the help of a public relations specialist, or after much careful thought/research, you can also constructively respond to negative feedback. Offer apologies, request that the customer contact you to resolve their review and otherwise work to fix whatever the problem was, whether it was perceived or real.

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12. Never Respond Emotionally

What are people saying about you? Good online reputation management is not only about reacting well to what people say about you, your brand, or your products and services, but also about whether to react at all and, if so, when. Sometimes a reaction is not necessary, and sometimes a reaction that is handled poorly can cost you millions.

On the topic of responding to negative reviews, never let your emotions come into play. It’s very easy to do – after an excellent day, for example, you might log on to see a negative review twisting an otherwise positive interaction into something terrible and inaccurate. Your first instinct may be to tell the reviewer how it really happened. Do not give into this emotional drive.

This is among the many reasons that outsourcing your reputation management is advisable. You want negative reviews to have respectful, apologetic responses that solve the problem.

Remember, some sites will allow a customer to change their review when the problem is solved. You could negate a one-star review and turn it into five-stars if it’s handled properly.

13. Generate New Reviews

When asked to leave reviews, most customers will do so happily, but don’t ask people to leave specifically positive reviews. Just asking to leave a review is enough.

You’ll never know which of your customers will leave you a stellar review until you ask. You don’t need to incentivize leaving reviews either, this can come across the wrong way. Treat each customer as a potential reviewer, and don’t be shy about asking your customers to leave a review. Make it easy for them. Have a form on right on your website or easy prominent link in your email list. 

14. Feature Positive Reviews

Business experts boast that trust is a perishable asset from customers, and that it is hard to gain. Making the public respect your business is the most important key to online reputation management.

If your business has a website (and it should), does it feature reviews on the homepage? Or does it have a feedback section? If not, you’re underutilizing your resources. Feature positive reviews that make your company shine on your website. Ask customers for permission to use their feedback and consider pairing featured reviews with your incentives for generating new reviews.

Consumers make their choices very quickly online. Feature your positive reviews as well as you can to get the most visibility and to make the best impression as quickly as possible.

15. Connect with Your Customers

In addition to asking for reviews, connect with your customers online and in person to ask what they’d like to see. Start conversations, invite advice and show your customers that their opinions matter.

Customers want to be listened to. Give them this, and they’re more likely to give your business their loyalty. Attending local events, using social media regularly, responding to feedback and inviting reviews, as previously mentioned, will all help you connect. Consider also combining customer connection with company culture. 

16. Network

Businesses that network with other businesses in their area or field have a better chance of overall success. For example, collaborating with related businesses can lead to referrals when their customers are in need of the corresponding service/product. You might also find that your services appeal to other local business owners which makes it easier to find allies.

Network whenever possible, carry business cards and present yourself well. You never know who you’re going to meet. You want to be prepared.

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17. Make a Realistic, Long-Term Plan

If you’re among those with negative or dated results on the front page of Google, it’s important to understand that you can’t change this overnight. Reputation Management is a long-term project that requires patience and planning. Google doesn’t update its results daily, social media sites don’t always handle requests immediately, and even great content takes a while to gain a digital foothold.

Make a realistic plan that details your long-term steps to fix your online reputation. Ideally, you should do this with the help of a team of ORM specialists.

18. Bring in the Experts

Speaking of making your plan with a team, bringing in the experts can be a great option for a business that’s getting its online reputation in order. You don’t want to waste your time, and you certainly don’t want to make anything worse by dividing your attention. Beginning a conversation with a reputation management expert is a step in the right direction when it comes to what other people think about your business. 

19. Remove Negative Results

Once you’ve hired your ORM specialist(s), ask them what you can do about existing negative results. Old, incorrect or falsified results can sometimes be removed if you know who to contact and how to word the request. But be very careful! As fast as you may be to delete harmful content, others may be quicker. Screenshots and internet archives can make content difficult to remove once it’s been published, especially if it goes viral. Examples range from benign comments taken out of context to mudslinging from former employees. Even controversial tweets from an executive can impact brand reputation just as much as the CEO’s Reputation.

If a company is claiming to remove negative results for you make absolutely certain that they are doing so within the guidelines of the review platform in question. It is against the law to falsify information to de-index negative articles or reviews.

20. Redesign Your Image

Your profile should reflect your company. Working with a team of reputation specialists is the perfect time to redesign your image. If there’s anything you’d like to tweak about your business’s image, now’s the time to do it. Rebranding, generating new content, changing or creating a website, claiming your profiles and otherwise making big changes could be the task that sends your company to the top of the list.

Once you’ve made adjustments, incorporate them through all of your online profiles, from your business’s main website to its Facebook page and Yelp profile. Keep your new image consistent and you’ll begin to change in the eyes of your customers.

As you fix your online reputation or secure it before something negative hits, you might notice some unexpected positive results. For example, a negative reputation costs a company 10% more per hire, and every one-star increase on Yelp can increase your annual revenue by 5% to 9%.

What Next?

Don’t feel like you have the funds to devote to ORM? Consider this: Over 80% of buyers no longer trust advertising and instead turn to online recommendations and Google searches. While no one is telling you to scrap your advertising budget, you might have more wiggle room than you think!

For example, if you divert some of your advertising budgets to reputation management, you could increase your star rating on sites like Yelp several times over, which could provide a 20%+ boost in annual revenue.

Remember, your online presence is your new business card. Your business will be judged by the front page of Google whether you like it or not, and no business can afford to ignore this. If you’re ready to take charge of your reputation online but want to focus your time on other things – delegate the task so you can focus on running your business and rest easy knowing its reputation is protected.

Status Labs is the premier digital reputation management firm, with offices in Austin, New York, Los Angeles, London and São Paulo. For more information visit StatusLabs.com or sign up for a Free Consultation.