The Small Business Guide to Online Reputation Management Services

Reddit user SpookymusPrime ordered takeout from his local Chipotle. When he reached the bottom of his burrito bowl, he found an unpleasant surprise waiting for him.

A screw in his food. 

He shared his story online in the Chipotle subreddit and asked for advice. From a business standpoint, this is a really embarrassing mistake. From a reputation management point-of-view, it’s a disaster. 

If you owned a restaurant, could you recover from this? Do you have online reputation management services and a strategy for situations like this?  

What is online reputation management?

As the name suggests, reputation management is:

Influencing and managing an individual or organization’s reputation. It’s a systematic attempt to shape, influence, or change public perception.

This definition doesn’t really explain the topic as deeply, so let’s go back to the beginning. If we’re going to get a true sense of online reputation management—what it is and who it’s for—we need to ask a very different question. 

What is a brand? 

Marty Neumeier is the best-selling author of The Brand Gap (and eight other books on branding). According to Marty, branding is a concept that is completely misunderstood. Here’s what he has to say about branding.

“Your brand is not your logo. It’s not a promise, corporate identity system, product, or service. It’s the gut feeling people have about your product, service, or company.”

Take a look:

Your brand is your reputation.

Here’s the thing about your reputation: It has two parts, one more important than the other. 

  • Character: This is who you are. Are you a fiercely loyal company like REI that champions its customers? Or are you a company like Theranos selling snake oil and stealing money from hopeful investors?  
  • Perception: Who customers think you are. This perception is what the market—customers, suppliers, partners, and investors, believe about your business. It’s different for every individual and important to cultivate. 

Here’s why this matters. 

Perception eventually aligns with character. 

From 2009 to 2011, Toyota vehicles had issues with sudden unintended acceleration. A 2009 Lexus ES 350 was rented to California Highway Patrol officer Mark Saylor. Saylor, his wife, daughter, and brother-in-law were driving on the highway when their car accelerated out of control and crashed into a barrier. The accident killed everyone in the vehicle.

It was a tragedy, one investors weren’t sure Toyota would recover from. 

But they did. How? 

Toyota went out of their way to address the problem. They: 

  • Cooperated fully with the NHTSA investigation
  • Issued seven full recalls for more than 10 million vehicles
  • Changed the internal design of their vehicles, ensuring a “10 millimeters (0.39 in) difference between a fully depressed gas pedal and the floor”
  • Shared data showing that the vehicle’s event data recorders showed no application of the brake pedal

They made some missteps. 

However, the general consensus is that Toyota is still a trustworthy and reliable company. There’s still some debate about whether Toyota did the right thing and whether it truly accepted responsibility. This is actually a very good thing.


There’s no debate about the character of The Weinstein Company, Theranos, Enron, or Bernie Madoff. No amount of reputation management can fix these character issues.   

Why you need online reputation management to counter customer skepticism

Can you be trusted? 

It’s a question customers want answered. Customers look for signals online indicating that you’ll provide them with the care, guidance, and protection they need. They look for indicators showing that you’ve achieved the results you’re promising. 

They use a variety of channels, including: 

  • Online reviews
  • Video reviews and testimonials
  • Social media reviews
  • Reviews on forums and message boards
  • Case studies
  • Blog post reviews and editorials
  • JV Partnerships

Here’s why you need reputation management. 

  1. Review content increases online visibility: A strong review portfolio and Google business profile increase search visibility, rankings, and traffic. It’s much easier to attract customers when character and perception align.
    • The number one ranking factor is a Google business profile, which accounts for 25.12% of local rankings. 
    • Link signals are listed at 16.53% 
    • Reviews account for 15.44% 
    • On-page signals account for 13.82% 
    • Citations are listed at 10.82% 
  2. Reviews amplify social proof: Consumers rely on customer reviews as a form of social proof. 
    • 88% of buyers are influenced in their buying decisions by reviews
    • 66% of Americans trust an anonymous online review more than they trust a recommendation from an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend
    • 74.6% of people have looked online to find out about a doctor, a dentist, or medical care
    • 48% of consumers only pay attention to reviews written within the past two weeks
    • 57% of buyers expect a business to have more than 11 reviews
    • 49.7% of consumers need to see a 4-star rating or higher to consider a business.
  3. Reviews boost conversion rates: A complete and updated review portfolio filled with 3 to 5-star reviews boosts conversions—a consistent increase in opt-ins, clicks, calls, and DMs
    • The purchase likelihood for a product with five reviews is 270% compared to a product with zero reviews 
    • With “Near me” searches in Google, a star rating increase of just 0.1 could increase the conversion rates of a business location by 25%
    • Brands that move their Google business profile’s rating from 3.5 to 3.7 stars experience conversion growth of 120%
    • High-quality online reviews correlate to a 2% boost in conversion rate for pay-per-click campaigns
    • A 30% reply rate is the minimum response rate needed to boost conversion rates and surpass competitors
  4. Reviews increase revenue: A Womply survey found that brands with a star rating between 3.5 and 4.5 stars earn more annually than any other ratings. For example, brands with a 4 to 4.5-star rating earn 28% more revenue. Unsurprisingly, a five-star-rated business earns less revenue than 1 to 1.5-star businesses.

According to Northwestern’s Spiegel Center, customers see many five-star ratings as too good to be true. They also see reviews below three stars as indicators of untrustworthiness. Reviews have a greater impact on big ticket (e.g., Realtors), high-priced (e.g., furniture), and high-consideration items (e.g., weight loss). Online reviews impact traffic and purchase decisions across various industries and products. 

A strong online reputation leads to more visibility, traffic, conversions, and revenue. 

Wait a minute. 

I know online reputation management technically leads to more conversions, but what about the ROI? How do you calculate the ROI of online reputation management services? 

Calculating the ROI of online reputation management services


The formula you use to calculate your return will vary depending on the metrics you’re using. Here are a few examples to show you what I mean. 


  • To calculate your conversion rate: Y = X / T  or [conversion rate = converted leads / total leads]
  • Calculating ROAS: Y = V / S  or [Return on ad spend = Revenue / marketing cost]
  • Calculating ROI:  Y = (E S) / S or [ROI = (Revenue earned total marketing expense) / total marketing expense]


These formulas can be used to assess the value of your campaigns. The best part is their flexibility. They give you an accurate snapshot of your ROI, whether you’re an agency managing a client’s reputation or managing your own reputation in-house. 


How do you choose online reputation management services?


If you’re running a small business and you’re vetting agencies, you’ll want to choose an agency with a strong background in search. Some agencies lean towards the PR or journalism side of things. That can be useful, but you really need an agency that uses search as the backbone for its reputation management services. 

Your agency should be able to provide you with the following: 

  • Current benchmarks (e.g., current situation, activities, management, etc.)
  • A 30, 60, 90-day action plan outlining your campaign
  • An outline listing expectations on both sides
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • How they’ll achieve your goals and objectives
  • Important campaign metrics and KPIs
  • The state of your reputation portfolio (e.g., reviews, testimonials, case studies, etc.)

Your agency should also define its delivery model. You can choose from a variety of delivery models.

  • Managed services: Full-service reputation management. Your agency manages all aspects of your campaign, from A to Z
  • Managed to self-service: Full-service initially, transitioning to self-service after major goals are met
  • Self-service: A do-it-yourself option for clients who prefer more control or have a limited budget
  • Self-service to managed services: This option can be used creatively. (a.) An upsell for hesitant clients who prefer to start with self-service (b.) A loss leader that agencies use to sell more profitable services

What if you’re an agency selling online reputation management services? The same details I’ve mentioned above apply here. On the agency side, you’ll want to define the specifics outlining the kind of client you’re looking for; here’s a shortlist you can use to get started. 

Verticals (e.g., retail, outdoor) Revenue ($1M - $10M) Margins (30% minimum)
Delivery model (ecommerce, SaaS) Payment model (one-time, subscription Value model (e.g., price, service, speed)
Location (Pure-Play, Bricks & Clicks) Need (Urgent, 1-6 mo., 12+ mo.) Customers (i.e., B2C, B2B)

These firmographics are crucial. 

As an agency, they define your ad targeting. These details show you where to find prospects, how to pitch these companies, and what you’ll need to show them to sell your online reputation management services. 

It’s simple matchmaking. 

Online Reputation Management is matchmaking

As I mentioned, your reputation is all about aligning your character (who you are) and customer perception (who they think you are). It only works one way; your organization has the right morals, values, and culture—good character.

Perception always aligns with character eventually. 

Customers need to know they can trust you. They’re looking for relationship signals indicating that you’ll provide them with the care, guidance, and protection they need. They want to see that you’ve helped other customers achieve the results you’re promising.

Most importantly, they want to see how you handle your mistakes. Reputation management is your chance to show character over perception.

Can you be trusted? 

It’s a question reputation management can answer for your customers.

GatherUp makes trustworthy customer experiences the backbone of your business. We’ll help you build a continuous cycle of happy customers and powerful reviews to help you capture your next customer.


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