About Online Reputation Management for Large and Small Businesses
Business professionals and executives today value online reputation management. This is because they have come to know how important it is to oversee and maintain their reputations. Companies with a strong reputation more easily attract higher quantities of customers, at a lower cost of acquisition, than those that either haven’t established or maintained theirs. Consumers see brands with a well-managed reputation as a better business based on communication and integrity. Furthermore, they associate more value with their products and services because the company has shown an effort publicly to maintain it’s reputation at a granular level, that each client or customer is given a ‘fair shake’. This encourages repeat customers, long-term clients, and consumer confidence that will garner better word of mouth referrals and overall brand loyalty. All of which play a role in the overall success of any business.
Whether you’re a large corporation, a simple brick-and-mortar store, even a mom and pop local service, online reputation management can be a challenge for a business of any size. Continually writing and sending responses varying from thanks, to corrections of information, to apologies, is time-consuming. If you’re the owner of the business, it is even more difficult to add yet another task to your plate when you’re likely already stretched too thin with to-do’s. Hiring a professional is often the best route, big businesses know this, and many small businesses come to understand this over time. It’s similar with most exigent functions that a business requires. Digital marketing is often one of the items that is the best choice to outsource to a competent agency, reputation management is merely one of those functions.
According to a Forbes report, 90% of consumers check reviews and comments about a business before they buy. The reviews and reputation that a business has on merely a hadnful of places online, play such a significant role in long term success of the business. Some of these are Google, Yelp, Facebook, and TripAdvisor. These and other pages can make a big difference in your bottom line and public relationship.
A Poor Online Reputation or Damaged Brand Causes Lost Trust and Credibility
Bad or negative reviews or comments come in for multiple varying reasons. It can be because of employee performance, product quality, shipping issues, pricing confusion, even your parking lot. Businesses generally boast of their capabilities and raise consumer expectations through advertising and marketing. The problem is expectations get overblown easily. If a consumer feels the business has made empty promises, this can cause disappointment and complaints. When customers feel disappointed, they often share it online. This can not only damage the business reputation, but it’s revenue as well.
When a business is unable to follow through on their promises it will break the brand trust built up by them if it is not properly rectified. Any complaints and issues shared on social media and review sites can take a long time to overcome. It is only remedied by online reputation management, improvement of service and encouraging more positive inbound feedback from other clients.
Negative Reviews Can Lose Sales & Impact Revenue
Long before Harvard Professor Michael Luca’s well-received research on the impact of reviews and reputation on the revenue of businesses, companies across the country already had the gut instinct that their reputation influenced their leads and revenue. The professor found that so much as a 1-star dip in reputation could affect the revenue by up to 10% for a small local restaurant. These initial findings lead to further research showing the significant impact that reputation has on a business’ revenue.
From a logical standpoint with internet marketing, we can look at this from the perspective of conversion rate and optimization. When people are looking for a company to fit a need, they often look at your business before buying. If it has a poor reputation, they are less likely to convert from the stage of impression or initial traffic to a site visitor or lead. Their initial lower perception of your business will lead them to pursue other options before “settling” for a mediocre solution.
Businesses that are otherwise enjoying a booming growth could suddenly plummet after a series of bad publicity and negative feedback. Poor online reputation will damage the long-term success and goals of established businesses. This could potentially put smaller companies completely out of business.
Companies can even lose product vendors and shelf space if retailers were to see a lower return or satisfaction. Retailers then put up fewer of their products or stop buying them altogether. Thus, potential consumers will have fewer chances to buy from them. Thus, making the road to rebuilding more difficult. A good guideline for any business that is in it for the long run, is to have a plan. They also need a process for reputation management or to hire a service to handle their online reputation management.
Gradually Lose Your Online Presence
Any business that doesn’t consider online reputation management can gradually lose more than just its reputation. Search engine rankings are negatively affected by a poor reputation as well. A poor online reputation is the same as telling Google and other search engines that consumers don’t like this business. So, it might not belong on top of search results. It would be difficult to rank regardless of the other numerical statistics that may lend it ranking credibility.
If you have a company that doesn’t maintain its reputation, Google could oust your website or Google My Business listings. It could be moved down further in search results over time if you don’t improve your online reputation, particularly if your competition is doing so. On the other hand, if you have a poor reputation and begin to manage it more effectively, it could lead to large gains. You’ll likely have gained additional leads and will be converting more leads to clients, both increasing revenues and lowering your cost of acquisition. When there are negative sentiments consistently associated with a business, it will negatively influence the number of consumers clicking on the website. This is an influential factor when ranking websites on Google Search Engine Results Pages. Keeping your click-through-rate or CTR high per impression comes down to rankings, reputation, and good calls to action.
Aside from Google search rankings, a business’ ranking on review portals such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, and others would slowly also be likely to decline in the organic results. It could affect 3rd party referral leads and traffic. Every negative review and rating can drag a business down, the question is just “how far?”.
Damage Bottom Line
For many businesses, everything boils down to the bottom line. After all, they are in the market to make money and any negative review will be a hurdle in their quest to make money. According to an article from Moz.com, businesses can lose 22% of their customers because of a negative review or article appearing in their search. This means a business could lose almost a quarter of their customers just because of a single negative result. If there are 3 negative reviews popping up after a search, the potential loss increases to 59.2%.
Brand association is the deep-seated feelings of a customer towards a certain brand, product or service. Unfortunately, a negative reputation damages it. If brand association becomes negative, consumers are more likely to have a negative attitude or outlook instead of a positive one because it’s what the crowd feels.
It will take time for a business to deal with, even with proper online reputation management in place. Moreover, it will be costly because businesses will have to invest in additional advertising and marketing campaigns. They invest in more campaigns to improve or correct the negative sentiment of their online reputation. Worst of all, a damaged brand will allow the competitors to more easily move in. They will then take lead share and even clients.
Handling Negative Reviews & Poor Feedback
Whether the negative review is extreme not, it’s never a good idea to leave them alone. When other consumers see this, it could appear like the business had been ignoring the previous customers complaints.
When there’s a negative review, businesses should investigate further and attempt to rectify the issue. If a particular type of complaint appears multiple times or appears to form a pattern, then it means the business, product or service has to improve. Businesses should address the cause of these issues and help the clients affected. Most of all, businesses should consistently practice responding to reviews.
If it’s an isolated case, then it’s often easy to resolve the matter privately. It will give the two parties more freedom to discuss the issue. It will make it easier to see whether there’s a problem with the company that needs addressing. Of course, no matter what issue is, it is always good form to offer some sort of consideration, concession, or compensation that appropriately addresses or resolves it. It is a good gesture that may change their mind about the company and earn a long term client.
Given that positive reviews will improve your online reputation, it is important to have a process in place that will help your business to consistently earn more reviews. Including links to important pages in your website, emails, and other consumer facing content will help as a general practice.
As the old adage goes, “An ounce of Prevention is better than a pound of cure.” Businesses should focus a portion of their time and effort in making sure their reputation is managed before the customer even walks through the door by maintaining good business practices, competent staff, clear systems, communication with customers to ensure expectations are set and met, among other detailed steps. Do this by refining business systems, including follow-ups. Though even with the best processes and intent, things still sometimes go awry. Ensure that you’re doing your best and that you have the best there to help you when needed.
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