If you have a small business, you can still win online. Here is how to use reputation management to your advantage.
The guide to small business online reputation management
Your online reputation can affect your rate of conversions. Consumers make their research before attempting to buy from a business. In fact, according to recent studies, 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses before making a purchase. 40% of those consumers only read recent reviews and trust online reviews as much as they would trust recommendations from friends. Having good reviews is essential for your business to grow. Almost 60% of consumers only consider buying if the business has a rating of more than 3 stars.
We will guide you in managing your small business online reputation system to improve your reviews and handle feedback. Online reputation management includes a combination of marketing, public relations, and SEO strategies to promote, protect and defend your online business reputation. By the end of this article, you will know how to have a solid online reputation management scheme in place for your small business.
How to Proactively Manage Your Online Reputation
The first step is to understand your current online reputation. First impressions matter. Consumers look for the following information when researching your company:
- Websites or news articles reviewing your products and giving positive feedback.
- A 4 or more-star rating from customer reviews.
- Social media profile
- Up-to-date and accurate business information (opening hours, address, contact number)
If you do not have all 4 of these, it might be the reason for losing your next potential customer.
Shockingly, the fact is that businesses risk losing up to 22% of business if potential customers find even one negative article on the first page of their search results. Apart from negative reviews, you must also watch out for old digital footprints that may be doing more harm than good. It is important to audit your social presence online and analyze which parts of it are helping and which ones are harming you. For instance, old tweets or images that are no longer relevant may be taken out of context.
You can perform this audit manually by going through search results, images, old social posts, and reviews. However, some tools can help save you the time and hassle of an arduous process.
One of these tools is BrandYourself – online reputation management that offers machine learning techniques to scrape search results and social media posts and identify any triggers. You can also set up Google Alert’s with your company’s name, key executives, and related industry terms. If any of these keywords are mentioned, you will be immediately notified.
Using Digital Tools to Understand Your Reputation Online
As much as digital tools can help monitor your online reputation, they should not replace your human employees. Online reputation management is also a form of relationship management and sometimes requires some form of personalization.
Most small businesses use only human resources to monitor their online reputation. 30% of them use a combination of human resources and digital tools.
It is best to use a combination of both methods. Use your digital tools to make sure you monitor all activity for your business to ensure you are the first to know of negative reviews. However, when it comes to interaction and improving your reputation, you also need human interaction.
Be Your Own Brand Advocate to Encourage Others to Follow
60% of small businesses do not take the time to encourage their customers to leave positive reviews. Although it is important to respond publicly to negative reviews, it is just as important to become an advocate of your brand.
Not giving importance to promoting your brand on social media can put you at a significant disadvantage. If you feel that you provided a good service and the customer is satisfied, then you should encourage them to leave you a positive review online. This will help grow your reputation.
The Top Places to Consider Regarding Reputation Management
This guide will help the management of online reputation for small business specifically. Larger companies will need to devise a different plan such as monitoring social media and slander investigations. For small businesses, it is enough to tackle the essentials:
- Search engine optimziation (SEO)
- Google My Business
- Facebook and Messenger
We will go through these in more detail the 4 essential practices you need to help you create a great online reputation.
Social Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is needed because you need your company to be in the top results when potential customers search for your business. It is important to have ownership over your online properties: your website and your social media profiles.
Starting with your website, you need to optimize your website to make it as visible as possible in the search engine results. To do this, firstly you need to ensure your website is indexed. You can use Google Search Console to do this.
- Log onto your Google account for your business
- Click Add a property and choose Website from the dropdown menu.
- Type in the website’s homepage.
- You need to verify your ownership of the website (either through your domain provider or Google Analytics)
- After verification of ownership of your website, select URL Inspection from the left-hand side menu.
- Type in the URL for your website’s homepage into the search bar.
- If you see URL is on Google, then you have confirmed it is being indexed. Otherwise, you need to click on Request Indexing and allow time for your website to be indexed.
You can repeat this process for the rest of your web pages. If you have a small website, this process will not take long. To make things simpler, you can also provide a sitemap in Search Console. This will help google find your pages easier and add them to its index.
Since your business is small, the most important task to do is indexing your website. The aim at the end of the day is to own the top results when possible customers search for your business.
Another important tip is to try to link your social media profiles in the footer of your website’s homepage. This will send a trigger to Google to endorse those pages. This endorsement will help rank your social media profiles better and allow them to appear under your website in the search results.
Google My Business
Google My Business is a free tool that allows you to connect with potential customers in Google Search and Maps. Here are the steps you need to create a business profile in Google My Business:
- Head to Google My Business website
- Click on Manage Now
- Enter your business information
It is important to complete all information necessary and the information needs to be accurate. Here are some recommendations on how to fill and update your Google My Business profile.
The more information you can provide, the better. The following information should be filled in to boost your reputation:
- Your opening hours (also include times for Sundays or public holidays)
- Products and services you offer
- A qualitative description of your business
- Your business categories
- Attributes associated with your categories
- Multimedia such as photos and videos can showcase the ambience, your team and your valued customers.
- If applicable, a link to your appointment or reservation booking interface.
- Links to your social profile.
Google My Business profile will give all the information needed without the user having to scroll through results.
By using Google My Business, you also create a portal for customers to review and rank your service on a five-star scale. Google plays a fundamental role in the online reputation management system. As mentioned earlier, most users read local reviews and only consider rankings of 4 and above. If your business page is on top of results, along with an optimized Google My Business profile, you will see a good amount of targeted traffic. This is because the users that visit your page will already know what you provide, and hence, a higher chance of converting to customers.
Facebook and Messenger
Google is not the only source from where your potential customers are discovering your business. 52% of people find out about new business through Facebook. Facebook is a great platform to increase your customer base.
You need to optimize your Facebook page to promote your business. Here are some steps you need to follow:
- Ensure you have the basic information such as name, category, address, contact number and profile picture.
- Submit your cover photo – think this carefully as it takes up most of the page screen space. It’s arguably the first impression you will make.
- Change your page template to business- Go to Edit your page and select Templates and Tabs. Then change it from standard to business. This will present your tabs to your visitors as a menu.
- Write a brief description of your business. A good recommendation is to speak about the products and services you offer rather than your story. This will help attract relevant users.
- Add multiple categories. Properly categorizing your business will help you attract the right users.
- Link your website and email address where visitors can reach you.
- Indicate the expensiveness of your products ($-$$$$). This helps users not be misled.
- Upload as much as you can videos and photos. This will increase engagement with users.
- Encourage positive reviews and make sure to respond to negative reviews (every one of them).
- Set your page up with a Facebook Messenger chatbot. This will give a 24-hour response to your customer’s queries. Some bot-building platforms are included here.
Yelp is like Google My Business in that it helps you provide information about your business and allows customers to leave their opinions. So why is it important to include? It is because a staggering 175 million unique users visit every month. Not creating a Yelp profile will decrease drastically your chances of being found by potential customers.
Here are the following steps you should take when creating a Yelp for Business account:
- Go to Yelp for Business website
- Click on Manage my free listing
- Provide as much information as you can.
- Yelp also includes some attributes that Google My Business does not have, such as whether you take reservations, or has parking, or whether you provide delivery services. Fill in these attributes depending on the category of your business.
Your Brand story and reputation management
Now that you know how to optimize your website, social media, and business profiles, let us take a look at how to create a brand story. A brand story is the narrative of your brand – the reason behind why you started your company. This will help you convey your purpose, your core values, and your motivations. Ideally, your story should spark an emotional response.
Your story should place the consumer in the narrative. Make the consumers feel they can relate to your brand. This will help you differentiate your company from your competitors.
Here are some tips to help you create a unique brand story:
Determine your company’s goal
This part of your story should focus on your origin story. Mostly, how your business idea was started and the reasons behind your motives.
Mainly consumers want to know that your company is not just about seeking profit. Here is a template to use when including your company’s story:
- Your purpose
- Your Mission statement
- Your vision
- Your core values
Understand who your potential consumers are
A story can be great, but without the right targeted users, it may not be effective at all. Your story needs to engage your audience.
You need to understand your consumer’s main problems, needs and challenges. Knowing this, together with detailed demographic information will help you understand how to convey your story. This technique is called building a buyer’s persona.
Ensure your story remains relevant through time
Make sure that your story remains relevant through time and that the service you offer still follows your story. For instance, if your goal was to sell affordable products, you cannot switch to selling high-priced luxury items.
Every action you take needs to be consistent with your brand story and vice versa. It is important to maintain the same tone and communication methods across all your platforms. A lack of consistency can do a lot of damage to your brand and impact your trustworthiness.
Three words you should remember when writing a brand story: Simple, Authentic and Personal. If your story is simple, your message will be clear and the message is not misinterpreted. By being authentic, you make sure your brand story represents who you really are. Adjusting your story to appeal to different audiences will not work. Finally, being personal helps connect with your audience’s emotions. Place your audience at the heart of your story and make them feel relatable to it.
It might seem intimidating at first to create a reputable online presence for your business. However, the process of managing your online reputation is extremely easy and achievable. By actively engaging with your customers through reviews, social media, and other communities, you can create a reputation that is well-known around your area or region.