Why Reputation Management Is Critical For NH Businesses
Reputation management, in its simplest form, is nothing more than controlling the spread of information about an individual, group, product or business. Public Relations is very similar to reputation management as both marketing methods involve attempting to dictate the public viewpoint of a person, place or thing. In the past, Public Relations firms typically dealt with political figures, celebrities or famous athletes but with the advent of social media, blogs, and web sites that now have the ability to quickly spread damaging information to large online audiences… managing the public perception of an individual or business has never been more important. Simply put, online reputation management is a critical component for protecting business or personal integrity.
Negative reviews, truthful or not, can be very damaging to your business
Although the Hollywood version of reputation management involves attempting to hide Paparazzi photos, bury run-ins with the law and cover-up party blunders, the average person or business will never experience that level of public scrutiny. But with a quick Google search of an individual’s full name or company brand, a treasure trove of information is unearthed. Part of appreciating why online reputation management is so important is first understanding the kind of information that Google returns in search results. One of the reasons why Google is so popular is because the general public believes that it works better than most other search engines at solving search queries. The goal of Google is to understand what the consumer is looking for and provide searchers with information that will allow them to make more educated decisions. Google’s attempt to protect consumers means that searches for products, people, and businesses often return negative results first. Negative reviews of products or content on poor customer service, even if they are years old, are often some of the first results seen. Media thrives on negativity and these are the results that web users would like to see when making an informative evaluation for hiring or visiting a business.
One of the top results that Google likes to return for business or product searches are web sites that have customer reviews. These reviews, more often than not, are negative. It requires effort to login to a Google+, MerchantCircle or a Yelp account, locate the business, select the review button and post a detailed description of your interaction with a business or product. Most people are strapped for time, consumers expect quality service all the time and the driving factor to post a review is typically a negative experience. Rarely does a customer have such a great experience that they will spend the 15 minutes necessary to post a positive review. People expect and take for granted good service because that is, after all, what they are paying for… but when things go bad, consumers will often voice their opinion in a strong way. These negative reviews may be truthful or they could even be contrived by competitors trying to hurt your business. Negative reviews need to be dealt with as they can hurt a business reputation, drop a business profile in Google search rankings and ultimately these poor reviews stay on the web for years.
There are ways to manage your brand's reputation
Online reputation management is really about Identity protection. The identity of a person, product or business is at risk with every review posted on a local business profile and each mention of a business on social media web sites. There are ways to ensure that online searchers will retrieve positive information about a business.
- With reviews on local business profiles carrying so much weight with consumer decision making and with Google ranking, it is crucial that these are continually monitored. If a poor review is posted most local profiles allow the business a single response explaining their side of the story. I have seen instances where a business has made excuses for bad service or blamed the customer but what resonates well with consumers is for a business to own the problem, apologize and correct the situation. A response from a business offering to refund the money spent, offer a free replacement of a product or discuss how the business has dealt with the employee who acted inappropriately. Most people understand that mistakes will occasionally happen but quickly dealing with the problem and providing a solution can remedy most situations.
- Encourage consumers to leave positive reviews. The best way to make sure that your business has numerous positive reviews is to ask your best customers to leave a review. Often times, a business will offer an incentive to a customer for leaving a positive review. Maybe it is $10 off their carpet cleaning bill if they leave a review or a free teeth cleaning for the next trip to the veterinarian? These extra incentives will cost a business a few dollars up front but the long term benefit of these positive reviews will far out-weigh the initial expense.
- Monitor social media to know what is being posted about your product or service. There are many software applications that can help a business manage social media postings. Google Alerts is a free service offered by Google that allows businesses to be notified by email each time their business name or personal name is mentioned online. You can set a list of keywords that when mentioned online will trigger an email notification. Google alerts works well to track mentions of your business but it can also be used to track mentions of your top competitors to see how they are marketing themselves online.
- One of the best tools for protecting business and personal identities online is to build web pages with positive information that Google will rank high. The goal is to push the negative reviews and postings off of the first page of Google and control which content a searcher will see. Each page with positive content will need to be marketed online to gain higher ranking than the poor content. It is a time consuming process but with a clever marketing strategy poor reviews can be buried.
Managing a brand's reputation isn't always about covering up bad reviews
Not all reputation management is about covering up bad reviews and web postings. Sometimes managing a reputation involves controlling the information that you would prefer customers see first before they view other content. Most business hiring for a new position will do a Google search of a top job candidate. If a candidate can manage how their job history is shown they could help themselves get the job. Maybe a press release about a successful industry project that they managed would show the candidate in a positive light or maybe the candidate received a prestigious award and there is a photo on a 3rd party web site that would be nice to have pop up high on a Google search? This information can be pushed to the top of a Google search with internet marketing.
As the web continues to grow and consumers voice their opinions about companies and products, maintaining a positive online reputation is imperative for business success.
Author: Craig Hayes
Publisher: Scribble Creative Group, LLC.