While there are several moving parts to building a stellar reputation online, I will focus on three of them I call the "beginner's guide." These are basic steps that apply to every business and help establish the four pillars of your reputation strategy: Build. Monitor. Manage. Market.
Before I get into the details, it must be stated that you have to deliver a good - if not great - product, service, or experience. In fact, you don't want to start building your online reputation until you have that piece right. The problem is that dissatisfied customers will establish your online reputation for you whether you are engaged in the process or not. That means you need to fix any business issues you have and do so quickly! For the sake of this short discussion we will assume you've got that under control and do great work.
3 Ways to Build Your Online Reputation
1. Establish Directory Listings
Before your customers can start leaving you feedback, they must have a place to write reviews. Third-party review sites provide the "neighborhood" - you just need to claim your digital "property" and commence construction.
Start with the main sites people use. Google is the foundation; claiming and optimizing your Google My Business listing establishes your footprint and this listing is the one all of the others are compared to for accuracy.
Your name, address, and phone number (NAP) needs to be exactly the same across all directory sites. Mis-matches create confusion for the search engines and can result in less online visibility. An example is Ste vs Suite vs #123. Although they are the same location they are seen as three different addresses.If Google has this wrong your first order of business is to get it corrected and you can only do this once you "own" your listing. Claiming it is a multi-step process that has changed several times so be deliberate when completing this step.
Reviews on Facebook are becoming more common. You need to establish and optimize a business Page even if you don't use Facebook in your personal life. In addition to leaving reviews for your business, people can "check in" when they are there their friends will see their patronage. Another good reason to set up your Page is you must have one to take advantage of Facebook Ads.
Yelp is another top-3 online review site you must utilize early. Since customers can create a listing for a business, it is in your best interest to take control of your presence on this site. People often think of Yelp strictly as a food / club / restaurant site but even attorneys and accountants need to claim, set up, and optimize their listing on this directory. It has 230 million sessions a month and it can have a huge effect on your reputation, not to mention driving more customers to you.
To get a list of additional key directory sites courtesy of HubSpot click here.
2. Set Up a Review-Generating System
Once you have put a system in place you can encourage customers to write a review of their experience with your business. Without a system, it will be a hit-or-miss endeavor, never producing the all of the positive results that are possible when you take control of your online reputation process.
You should not offer anything tangible in return for a review. In fact, you violate the terms and conditions of most review sites if you do. There is nothing wrong with asking for a review, however. Even financial planners, who were prevented by law from soliciting reviews from clients, have been given the green light to ask as long as they meet certain criteria in how the reviews are gathered and shared.
There are systems that automate the process of reaching out to your clients, and some will even send a gentle reminder after a set period of time. Many customers are thankful for a quick email or text reminder because they intended to leave a review but life got in the way.
These tools will also allow you to spot trends - good or bad - as soon as they develop so you can take appropriate action. You might want to reward an employee or need to fix a process. Intermittent reviews do not give you this timely view of what's happening in your business; a steady flow of reviews will provide this perspective.
3. Follow Up on Reviews
Thank customers for recognizing the good work you do. They appreciate the acknowledgment as much as you do! You should respond to negative reviews immediately, seeking to understand where the customer's dissatisfaction comes from and what you can do to resolve the issue. You may end up taking the discussion offline (and probably should), but other people are watching and will see you are paying attention and responding.
Even when a customer leaves a scathing or unfair review online you should remain calm and professional. Under no circumstances should you engage in an argument or try to "get" them, even when they are wrong. Yes, I said it - the customer is not always right. Other people reading the review can often sense someone who will never be satisfied, and if you ever become unprofessional you will lose some of them as customers too. Responding in a polite, professional manner is the only option you have.
These are just the first steps in building a strong, effective reputation management strategy. We recommend discussing this with a professional before you tackle this on your own. You will gain valuable insight that will ensure you do it right the first time.
For a free Reputation Scan of your business, click here.
Reach out to us if you have any questions about the results of your scan or for ways to improve your score and we will be glad to walk you through the opportunities you have to take control of your online reputation and use it to grow your business.