For consumers that make decisions online, credibility is everything. According to a recent study, 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more. Additionally, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. With the many ways customers can report negative reviews online, online reputation management is imperative for businesses today.

Angry customers are inevitable and the hope for any company is to fix that problem directly with the customer quickly and the satisfaction of both. But when you are unaware of the issue or it isn’t resolved, the customer may want to warn others or vent about the incident publicly. The internet allows them to do this with a never-ending, always-watching audience.

One bad review can put a huge damper on your brand. While a reputation can be damaged overnight, it can take much longer to repair. Brand trust and reputation repair seems to go hand in hand with great SEO, so here are our basic tips for improving and managing your online reputation:

Online Reputation Management Key #1: The Simple SEO Fix

In order to improve your online reputation, one of the first steps should be some basic SEO. Optimizing the search results by improving the rankings of positive content while displacing the rankings of the negative content, is a good place to start. A searcher may not always click on a bad review link, but simply seeing the headline can turn away potential customers. SEO can help to prevent this.

A good start for increasing the ranking of positive content is to add your name to any and all of it. Make sure your name is in the title tag and URL of positive pages. When it comes to search engine algorithms, these steps are important for local SEO optimization, and allow for search engines to easily find that content when your company name is searched.

Online Reputation Management Key #2: Responding to Negativity

There is a lot of advice floating around on how to deal with negative comments. It is important to know when to respond and when to keep quiet. Although, not everyone agrees, many professionals advise not to respond publicly because the response can expand the distribution of the negative comments. On the other hand, just as many professionals sit on the opposite side of the fence and state that  replying publicly is best, as you can use the situation to create a positive outcome publicly.

If the comments are on your own blog or social sites, deleting them is common — but not, in our opinion, always the best choice. If a user discovers you’ve deleted their complaint, it will very likely create a tidal wave of backlash. For some platforms, such as fast-paced social sites like Facebook and Twitter, the negative comment will bury itself simply as more posts and updates push it off the page.

The same can apply to blogs. Posting more content will push the negative comments down and out of view. However, these results will forever live on Google, but new, fresh content will be what the majority of viewers see.

In our opinion, we side with the team that says public conflict resolution is often the best route. If other users see that you are actively trying to fix someones issue or resolve their complaint, we believe that this will actually increase your brand trust. But then, of course, we are just one side of the fence — both strategies have legitimacy.

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Online Reputation Management Key #3: Be Proactive

When it comes to online reputation management, it is essential that you are on top of what people are saying about your business — the good, the bad, the neutral. Start by setting up a Google Alert for your business name. There are also online reputation management tools that are available for a monthly fee, but really the most important thing is that you are actively tracking your company.

One thing to remember, however, is that the more you search for these negative results the more reinforcement you may be giving it, expanding its ranking power. If you need to keep track of content on a negative page, copy the URL and navigate directly to the site rather than using Google to search it.  Also, avoid searching for your company name and negative sounding terms together, as searching these too often can create an autocomplete term or related search term on Google. This is definitely NOT what you want.

Online Reputation Management Key #4: Promote

Promoting your business with a successful SEO strategy on your website, social media, blog, etc. can help you stay high in the SERPs and help keep you fresh in peoples minds. People love to be engaged. Whatever the medium that best fits your buyer persona, use it and use it frequently. This steady deluge of postive, interesting, engagement will not only push negative interactions quickly out of view, but it will also help you rank better in Google, generate more leads and customers, and ultimately, rule your industry in the SERPS.

Another vital aspect of promotion is positive reviews. It is a great idea to ask current or past customers that were happy with your product or service to give your business an honest review. When these customers do leave positive reviews or comments, reply to it with a thank you post. This will make your customers feel important and engaged, can increase the credibility of the review and ultimately, the credibility of your company.

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Online Reputation Management Key #5: Monitor progress

A great and super simple way to monitor your progress is to start by taking screenshots of your currents search results in Google and Bing. Then as you monitor your new results, you can compare them with the originals. (Or if you have a software that tracks your rankings, use that instead.)

Be aware that search engines often personalize your results based on what they believe you want to see, as well as your location and search history. Because of this, you may not see the same results as others. Most web browsers have a private browsing or “incognito” option. Use these private windows to check your progress without your personalization altering the results.

Overall, a continued SEO plan and proactive reputation management should keep you from any major fallouts. This isn’t a one-time project and should be continually improved upon. If you feel your business isn’t up to the task or needs more help, consider hiring an SEO firm like ours to take over this important task.

Don’t take any risks, stay on top of your online presence — we promise it will be worth it.

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