Reputation management is critical to so many aspects of a business. It’s what ultimately helps a business attract and retain loyal customers. To understand how to evaluate a business’s online reputation, you have to understand what reputation management entails and why it’s so important to local businesses.
What Is Reputation Management?
Reputation management is the practice of paying attention to, improving, and influencing public perceptions of your brand and business. The goal of reputation management is to understand how customers and prospects perceive your brand and be able to take strategic steps to improve your brand’s image. In other words, the steps to actively manage your reputation are:
- Pay attention to public perceptions of your brand and business
- Improve perceptions of your brand and business
- Influence perceptions of your brand and business
Easier said than done. However, if a business fails to actively manage its reputation, over time the business will suffer.
Why Is Reputation Management so Important?
Reputation management holds paramount importance for local businesses as it serves as a crucial bridge between their offline endeavors and the digital realm where customers increasingly make their buying decisions.
In today’s digital world, a local business’s online reputation is often the first impression potential customers encounter. Positive customer reviews, active social media engagement, and a solid online presence can set the tone for customer perceptions and drive foot traffic. Consider a quaint coffee shop that consistently receives glowing reviews on platforms like Google and Yelp. These positive testimonials can attract not only residents but also visitors who rely on online feedback to choose where to enjoy their morning brew.
On the flip side, a negative online reputation can have detrimental effects, such as deterring potential customers from even considering a visit. Imagine a local boutique receiving negative reviews due to poor customer service — this could lead to potential customers opting for a competitor with a more positive online image.
Therefore, for local businesses, reputation management serves as a pivotal tool in crafting a compelling digital identity that aligns with their offline excellence, fostering trust, loyalty, and sustained growth within the community they serve.
3 Steps to Evaluate the Online Reputation of Local Businesses
While a lot can influence your online reputation, the three most influential factors when it comes to local businesses are:
- Customer reviews and ratings
- Social media
- Search engine results
Let’s start with customer reviews and ratings and how to evaluate this factor of online reputation.
1. Analyze Customer Reviews & Ratings
Customer reviews and ratings are the first step to understand how your current customers perceive your brand and business. The goal of paying attention to reviews is to identify patterns in customer feedback that signal you need to take action to improve the customer experience.
When assessing customer reviews, focus on these areas:
- Sentiment: Gauge the overall sentiment of reviews, identifying whether they are positive, neutral, or negative.
- Review Volume and Frequency: Observe the frequency of reviews over time to track customer engagement and changes in perception.
- Common Keywords and Themes: Identify recurring keywords and themes to understand what aspects of the business are being praised or criticized.
- Specific Feedback: Pay attention to detailed feedback that offers insights into specific experiences, products, or services. For example, look for specific product mentions, staff names, or comments on functional areas (i.e. customer service, speed of service, product quality, etc.).
- Competitor Comparison: Compare reviews and ratings with those of competitors to identify strengths and weaknesses. Where your competitors lack, you may excel! And you should note that.
- User-Generated Content: Analyze user-generated content, such as photos and videos, for a more comprehensive understanding of the customer experience.
Reading through every review across every review platform may not be possible depending on the size and type of local business you’re evaluating. This is where a reputation management tool becomes essential, offering insights and data-driven analysis that empower businesses to make informed decisions.
Scale Your Reputation Management Efforts
A reputation management tool streamlines the review management process by aggregating and analyzing customer feedback from various platforms, allowing businesses to gain a holistic view of their online reputation.
2. Evaluate Social Media Presence
Social media has emerged as a pivotal element in the success of local businesses. A strong social media presence not only enhances brand visibility but also enables businesses to showcase their unique offerings, communicate their values, and respond to customer feedback in real-time.
To assess social media presence effectively, local businesses should:
- Monitor brand mentions: Monitoring brand mentions provides insights into how often and in what context their business is being discussed online. This helps gauge brand awareness and perception within the community.
- Track engagement levels: A business’s likes, comments, shares, and interactions offer a clear indication of the resonance of content and the extent to which it resonates with the target audience.
By evaluating these metrics, local businesses can refine their content strategy, identify high-performing posts, and make informed decisions to maximize the impact of their social media efforts, ultimately fostering a stronger and more enduring connection with their local customer base.
Showcase Reviews on Social Media
3. Understand the Influence of Local Search Results
The impact of search results on perceptions of a local business cannot be understated. In the digital age, search engine results can be the difference between landing a new customer or not. And such aspects of local search results (like a Google Business Profile) shape initial impressions, influencing whether a business is seen as reputable, relevant, and trustworthy within the local community.
Trying to understand local SEO strategies can quickly become overwhelming. To keep it simple, local businesses should start with this SEO data:
- Keyword Rankings: Monitor the ranking positions of relevant keywords that customers are likely to use when searching for local services or products.
- Local Pack Inclusion: Assess whether the business is featured in the local pack — a prominent section showcasing top local businesses on Google’s search results page.
- Click-Through Rates (CTR): Analyze the percentage of users who click through to the business’s website from search results, indicating the effectiveness of the meta title and description.
- Google My Business (GMB) Insights: Utilize data from the Google My Business dashboard to track views, clicks, and actions taken on the listing, such as calls and direction requests.
Each of these aspects outlined above —- reviews, social media, and SEO — go hand in hand in influencing public perceptions of a brand. For example, higher ratings and positive sentiment in reviews can boost click-through rates in search results.
By analyzing customer reviews and ratings, social media presence, and local search ranking local businesses can identify areas for improvement, celebrate their successes, and strategically tailor their offerings to better meet customer expectations.