What Is Online Reputation Management and Why You Should Be Doing It

Over half of consumers research online before they buy so they can make the best decision. So it’s no wonder that the online reputations of businesses matter so much these days.

If you’re not managing your online business reputation, you’re losing an important opportunity to shape the narrative, attract new customers, and optimize the customer experience. You could even be leaving money on the table. 

Let’s discuss what reputation management is, why it’s important, and how to improve it. 

What is online reputation management?

Your online reputation is how others view your business on the internet. 

Therefore, online reputation management is the practice of paying attention to, improving, and influencing public perceptions of your brand or business. In today’s competitive landscape, it’s critically important to monitor what people say about your business and find ways to nudge the conversation in a positive direction. 

Most perceptions are formed when people do an internet search for products and services. When they run across your business in search results, they check out your business profile, customer reviews, star ratings, and other information like news stories, social media posts, and videos to help them make a decision about whether to spend their money with you. 

Public perception is further created and shaped with every customer touchpoint or interaction — which is why reputation management goes hand-in-hand with the customer experience. Whether your customers routinely have a great experience or a poor one, your online business reputation will reflect it. And since 32% of customers will walk away from a brand or business — even one they love — after a single bad experience, your reputation is always on the line. 

Reputation management involves monitoring the digital channels where your business or brand has a presence, is often mentioned, or is an active part of the conversation, including:

  • Your website, blog, and social media accounts
  • Third-party review sites, business listings, and discussion forums 
  • Social media accounts owned or managed by other businesses or individuals

And it includes, but is not limited to:

  • Requesting, managing, and responding to customer reviews
  • Maintaining an updated online business profile
  • Optimizing the customer experience
  • Listening and posting on social media
  • Advocating for your brand or business online

Why reputation management is important

When done effectively, reputation management ensures that wherever your brand or business has a presence, you’re able to convey the right messages, lead with your strengths, and demonstrate your company’s values. Making it clear what your business is about inspires new customers to take a chance and reiterates to existing customers that they’ve made a great choice in choosing you. 

Customer reviews are key to showing people who you are. Customers will usually tell it like it is, good or bad. And since around 70% of people will read between one to six reviews before making a purchase decision, ensuring that your customers are happy and willing to say so in a review is critical to raising your online profile in a positive way. 

Customer reviews and ratings don’t just convince others to give your business a try. Reviews also give you valuable insight into how you can improve your business and stay competitive. Companies that pay attention to what customers really think and are quick to adapt and make changes are better able to successfully navigate the ups and downs of the market. They have the information they need to keep customers interested and happy — whether it’s adding new products or service lines, hiring more staff, expanding customer service, or whatever it may be. 

On the other hand, if you’re not paying attention to your online reputation, you can end up hurting your business. Low star ratings, negative customer reviews that go unnoticed and unanswered, and complaints that are never addressed show the public that you don’t care about your customers or your own business reputation. By ignoring what others say about you online, you can end up losing customers and revenue to the competition. 

No matter the size of your business, online reputation management is beneficial. Big brands and companies, small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and even digital agencies that support SMBs have a lot to gain from reputation management.

5 advantages to online reputation management

If you’re wondering whether online reputation management is worth the effort, here’s a look at some of the biggest practical advantages you can gain from doing it:

1. Foster trust and credibility

Whether you’re a local specialty store that sells pet products or a multi-location restaurant franchise, a strong online reputation and a body of quality customer reviews help to build trust with your customers and increase your credibility.

Quality reviews from verified customers signal to potential customers that many people have tried and tested your products or services and deemed them worthy. Reviews provide the social proof new customers need to feel confident that your business is real and trustworthy.

2. Boost your search rankings 

When people research a product, service, or brand, they start by doing an online search. That means that your business needs to rank high in search results for people to find you. An important way to boost your search ranking is to ensure that your Google business profile is accurate and complete and features the keywords people use to find businesses like yours.

Controlling the information people see about your business, along with having a number of positive reviews, helps Google and other search engines determine that your business is legitimate and professional — i.e., your business does or provides what you claim and you have satisfied customers to back it up.

3. Increase conversions and sales

With a complete business profile, favorable customer reviews, and high star ratings, your business image can really take shape. When people like what they see, they’re more likely to convert and even to buy from you.

Recent research found that even a slight improvement in star ratings — such as 4.3 to 4.6 — produces a meaningful increase in sales. And remember that a trusted brand or business creates loyal followers and makes it easier for new customers to hop on board — both which lead to more sales and increased revenue.

4. Improve the customer experience

In business, it’s not always about the process of converting prospects to customers. Once someone has converted, delivering a great customer experience is just as important as it can make the difference between a one-time customer or a repeat one. 

Customer reviews reveal how your business is doing — not just in the products or services you sell, but in various interactions with the customer throughout the purchase journey. The more reviews you get, the more information you have about specific customer pain points or, conversely, the areas where you’re really shining. All point you in the right direction so you can take steps to improve the customer experience and do more of what you’re already doing right.

5. Grow and expand your business

Finally, thoughtful and strategic online reputation management can help your business grow and expand. That’s because by caring about your online presence and the impressions others have of you, you can make the necessary business changes and enhancements that give customers even more of a reason to love and stay loyal to your business. 

When customer loyalty increases, so does your brand awareness, because loyal customers are excited to talk about your business and recommend it to others. When your brand awareness is high, you end up attracting more customers and earning more sales — keeping the cycle going.

How to build a strong online reputation

There are a lot of ways to build a strong online reputation. But don’t assume that it’s a one-time effort. Effective online reputation management is proactive and ongoing. Let’s break it down.

1. Ask customers for reviews

Though some customers will leave a review on their own without prompting, it’s better not to wait for that to happen but to proactively ask customers for reviews instead. The more customers you ask, the more reviews you’ll get. 

You can request a review right after the purchase so the buying experience is fresh in the customer’s mind, or a few days later so they’ve had time to form an opinion about the product or service. But you don’t just have to wait for a sale. You can ask customers to leave reviews anytime by sharing a review link wherever customers might see it — such as on in-store signage, your website, or your social media accounts. 

2. Read and reply to all reviews — good or bad

Customers don’t leave reviews in the hopes they’ll be ignored. The best way to show the public that you’re listening and paying attention is to respond to every single review, regardless of sentiment. 

If a great review gets posted, acknowledge and celebrate a job well done. If you get a neutral review — the customer wasn’t thrilled but didn’t seem upset either — take the opportunity to ask how you can delight them the next time. If a bad review shows up, respond to it right away and offer to make it right with the customer. Every review is an opportunity to engage with your customers and nurture positive relationships.

3. Follow up on your promises and commitments

No business is perfect all the time. Despite your best efforts, problems can happen and customers can end up disappointed or even angry. To avoid a problem escalating into a much larger issue that can impact your business reputation, vow to resolve the problem promptly and then follow through. 

By taking care of customer complaints, you can neutralize a bad situation and even turn an angry customer into a satisfied one. When others see that you’re able to follow up on your promises, it shows that you’re dedicated to treating people right and further reinforces your trustworthiness. 

4. Display your best reviews

Google reviews are important, but displaying the positive reviews you get in other places — such as on the homepage of your website  — can help influence purchase decisions as well. When potential customers visit your site to find more information or book an appointment, they’re treated to the positive comments of others that further make your case.

Sharing positive reviews on your social media channels is another good idea, as anyone who follows you can get a better sense of the quality and credibility of your business and what they can expect if they decide to become a customer.

5. Be more visible online

Having an online presence means you need to be active online. This can involve everything from writing blogs that cover topics customers often ask about to posting regularly and engaging with your audience on social media to keeping your business profile updated and fresh by adding images and videos or a helpful FAQ section. Think about actively promoting what’s great about your brand or business whenever and wherever you can.

If you don’t have an online presence at all, or you haven’t posted in months and there’s nothing current for people to read or engage with, it’s easy for potential customers to shrug you off and go see what your competitors are doing.

What is an online reputation management strategy?

A reputation management strategy is the process and methods you can use to monitor, manage, and influence your online business reputation. Since every business is unique, strategies can vary. But an effective strategy will include a combination of proactive and reactive tactics — in other words, ways to shape the conversation and ways to respond to the conversation. 

Here’s a general framework you can use as a starting point and then adapt it to suit your particular business needs and resources:

1. Do your search homework

Search on Google for your business or brand name and take note of every instance you find. Agencies will need to do this for each of their clients — using a local SEO tool is critical here. 

This exercise will help you know how people are searching when they’re looking for businesses like yours or the products and services you sell, as well as where your business ranks on the search engine results page (SERP).

2. Survey current sentiment

Look for mentions of your business or brand in earned media, which is the media you don’t own or write for and includes entities like online publications, review sites, and social media posts. 

Also look at the comments on the social media accounts you own, which will indicate how your customers feel about your business. Take note of positive and negative sentiment. Then do the same for other businesses in your space. 

3. Analyze the information

When you’re done gathering information about sentiment, you should be able to get a good temperature read on how the public feels about your business in general and how you compare to your competitors. 

You can determine if the public overall thinks of you in a positive or negative light, and which parts of your business story need to be highlighted or reinforced to attract more customers. Once you have a good idea about your current online reputation, then you can: 

4. Prioritize customer reviews

Build a strong portfolio of quality customer reviews on Google, third-party sites, and your own website to show potential customers the kind of experience they can expect from your business. The more positive reviews and ratings that are associated with your business, the better. 

As we already discussed, it’s also critically important to respond to reviews. It shows potential customers that you value their feedback, are able to address real issues, and want to provide the best customer experience possible. Review responses are so important that over 90% of consumers are influenced to a moderate or extreme degree by owner responses to reviews.

5. Include SEO

Conduct keyword research and create keyword-rich content aimed at your target audience to improve your visibility and ranking in search results. It’s especially important to use the search terms that they use to find a business like yours. 

When you make it easier for people to find or notice your business, they can gain a much better sense of what your business stands for and the type of experience your customers are likely to have. Bottom line: your business reputation is bolstered simply by being seen.

5. Make your branding and messaging consistent

Make sure all your digital and physical channels are consistent in showing your updated business logo and branding. Maintaining a unified look-and-feel both online and offline boosts the professionalism and legitimacy of your business.

It’s also important to be consistent with your messaging, including in your business profile, mission statement, company values, product and service descriptions, review responses, and social media posts. 

6. Take a collaborative approach

Last but not least, it’s critical to align sales, marketing and communications, and customer service teams in your reputation management goals, since their work has a direct impact on the customer experience and in how your business reputation is shaped. When your teams understand what’s at stake, everyone can work together to ensure the desired outcome.

Whether you run a small local business, a multi-location business, or a digital agency, you may need help pulling everyone together, either because you’re short on internal resources or your resources are scattered in different places. With the right technology, you can make it easier for all stakeholders to engage in effective online reputation management.

How reputation management software can help

You can bolster your strategy by adopting comprehensive reputation management software that automates key processes around monitoring, customer feedback, and reporting. Choosing a platform with a white-label option helps digital agencies brand and sell reputation management services as their own to their clients for a seamless experience.

Many reputation management software solutions can specifically help you:

  • Monitor third-party review sites
  • Request and respond to reviews
  • Analyze customer sentiment
  • Send customer surveys, collect customer feedback, and capture Net Promoter Scores
  • Use AI to generate personalized review responses
  • Display positive reviews on your website and share them to your social media networks

Letting the software do the heavy lifting saves you time and reduces the need to hire more resources. This is especially useful for smaller, local businesses that operate with minimal staff but still want the benefits of robust reputation management

But no matter the size or type of your business, a software solution is your best bet for managing and enhancing your online reputation without dropping the ball in other areas of your business that require attention, such as the critically important need to focus on customer satisfaction and relationship-building. 

Take charge of your online reputation 

Your online business reputation isn’t made overnight. It’s the result of diligent listening and responding to what others have to say, and ensuring that at the end of the day your customers are satisfied. 

If you run a business, you will inevitably take some reputational hits along the way. But it’s how you get up and dust yourself off that matters the most. With an effective strategy and online reputation management platform, you can overcome the negative, highlight the positive, and tell the story about your business that you want to tell. 

To learn how GatherUp’s reputation management solution can support your business, schedule a demo



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