When we want to learn more about any product, services, business, company or brand the first place we turn is the Internet and Google is the top search engine to do so. Every day, over one billion names are searched on Google and 77% of job recruiters are required to Google potential employees during the hiring process. While you may not have Google yourself, it’s certain that someone else has – and they are making judgments about you based on what they find. 45% of people have found something in a Google search that made them decide NOT to do business with someone. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to ensure you make a good impression when someone Google’s you and this guide is here to help. We’ll take you through the steps involved in assessing your current online reputation and what you can do to manage it.

Online Reputation Management, or ORM, is a multi-faceted concept that is aimed at creating a positive public perception of a brand, business, or person. Reputation management includes monitoring reputation, addressing any content or customer feedback that could damage the brand, and using strategies to prevent and solve problems that could damage an entity’s reputation. 

Importance Reputation Management: 

1. Impact on Buying Decisions

The lack of management of your online reputation can actually cost you your customer base. As 81% of buyers do some online research before making a purchase, the way you appear online is the make-it-or-break-it factor in their final decision. And your online reputation really a business quality check with 88% of consumers reading reviews to determine if your business is reliable enough.

2. It Is the Online Version of Word-of-mouth

85% of consumers treat online reviews as personal recommendations and trust them as much as a tip from a friend. It is a great thing if your reviews are impeccable, but what happens if there was some bump on the road and someone posted a well-grounded negative comment?

In the age of social media when news spread like wildfire, it can be an absolute bombshell. 

  • United Airlines lost over $1 billion in market value after a video of a passenger being violently forced away from an overbooked flight went viral. The video earned over a million mentions a day and over 100 million views. The CEO of United Airlines was accused of failing to deal with the situation and the lack of PR crisis management.

  • Nestlé also faced a notorious failure in reputation management when they were publicly accused by Greenpeace of harmful environmental practices. While Nestlé failed to react to the rising social media crisis, it even worsened it by asking YouTube to remove the Greenpeace video. In the aftermath, the company was forced to temporarily shut down its public page as people started posting the altered version of their Kit Kat logo all over the web.

  • 3. There Is No “Delete “Button for Negative Reviews

    It is not only the North that remembers. The Internet keeps everything, well, almost. Whatever people are saying about your business online is likely to stay online, but you actually have a chance of altering a negative opinion about your business.

    By using a proper response, you can turn an unhappy customer into a loyal fan. According to a Lee Resource study, 70% of customers who complained and got a satisfying response form the business will come back and do business again. Furthermore, Harvard Business Review published a study that revealed that customers whose complaints got handled in less than 5 minutes tend to spend more on future purchases from your business.

    4. You Can Get Valuable Feedback

    Monitoring is a critical part of managing your online reputation. You can start collecting some useful insights on customer satisfaction and feedback regarding your product or services. So before doing some polling, surveys, and going around the globe for customer feedback, you can simply pay attention to what your customers have to say about your business. 

How We Manage Your Brand’s Online Reputation 

You need a process you can put in place for successful online reputation management. Of course, the process will vary from company to company, depending on your size, your industry, and your resources. But take the eight rules we outline below as the key milestones for establishing an efficient ORM strategy. You can elaborate it or shrink it, but the key steps will remain the same.

Perform an Audit of Your Online Reputation

Brand Monitoring

Clearly, there is a way to conduct some quick audit of your brand reputation manually:

Just open up an incognito window and enter your brand name into Google search. 

Take a good look at the sites that appear on the very first page.

Identify what Google My Business-related features come up on that page and evaluate your presence there: ratings, comments, reviews, user-generated photos, etc. 

Separate the websites into the ones you control and the ones you have limited power over. With your social media accounts, they are highly manageable; with third-part listings, you can reach out to site owners and add/remove misleading bits. With a critical news piece, you can reach out to the author and try to talk to him about his dissatisfaction or convince them that they have got a wrong perception of your company or product. 

Read through the reviews on these sites and try to understand the general sentiment; this is an important step for further prioritization over the platforms that require the most urgent attention

By and large, your audit has to help you answer the following questions:

  1. What top websites within my search results do I have control over?

  2. What kinds of websites do I see appear for my brand name?

  3. Am I popular online (look at the number of mentions)?

  4. Do most visitors find my business from search engines or external sites 

  5. Is the overall sentiment for my business positive (including neutral) or negative?

Establish an Online Reputation Management Strategy

ORM Prioritization

Getting started with online reputation management can seem overwhelming. Thus, prioritization is of paramount importance, as you cannot jump on every single mention. Once your audit is complete, it should be easier for you to prioritize what you should focus on first.

Policy Definition, Guidelines & Tone of Voice

To be successful at ORM, there is some red tape you have to go through. It is crucial to establish company-wide guidelines and tone of voice when dealing with online reputation. Once again, the scope of these policy docs will vary from business to business, but the general idea will stay.

Have a Crisis Management Strategy in Place

You can never anticipate a crisis, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare for one. So, a sound crisis management strategy should always be in place as things escalate online at an unprecedented speed.

  1. Make use of brand monitoring tools as they will quickly alert you if there are any unexpected conversation peaks about your brand.

  2. Keep an eye on industry trends, as some legislation changes or the arrival of new cutting-edge technology can put your business under a lot of stress.

  3. Know where your audience is and how to most efficiently communicate with them. If a large part of your audience is more active on Twitter, choose this channel as your primary communication space; this way, you will reach a wider audience in less time. 

  4. React quickly to every negative comment or review and draft a copy of your response as quickly as possible. But make sure no one copies & pastes it in mass — at the time of a crisis, your response should look tailored to each comment and personal. 

  5. Set up a chain of command beforehand, as everyone should know what their roles are in advance, especially when your colleagues are facing a crisis and may lose their cool. 

Monitor Brand Mentions Efficiently

Being proactive in monitoring online conversations provides you with a real-time view of your online presence and gives you an opportunity for a timely reaction. However, it is not just about checking what reviews rank on Google. 

To efficiently manage and monitor brand mentions, you can use the SEMrush brand monitoring tool.

Here, you can set up a campaign to monitor the web for mentions of your brand, products, and people to make sure you always know what others are saying about you. And you can jump straight in and attempt to resolve any negative mentions or references.

How to Monitor Your Online Reviews Efficiently

Once you have entered your brand name and domain, you will be walked through the set-up process, choosing your target country, brand keywords, and will have the ability to schedule daily, weekly, or monthly email reports.

How frequently you should schedule reports very much depends on how often you are mentioned online; it is dependent upon the activity and scope of your business in many ways. 

You will be able to understand, from the dashboard and reports, the overall sentiment of brand mentions across the web (a great way to quickly understand whether people’s perception is positive, neutral, or negative), as well as to see specific mentions (both in terms of sentiment and those with highest traffic potential and estimated reach).

Dominate SERPs for Brand Searches

No successful online reputation management strategy takes place without some SEO magic. Your main job is to show up on the SERPs for your branded keywords. The best way to get there is to have a website that ranks highly. Also, focus on optimizing your official social media channels, as these sites typically appear within the top 10 for branded searches. 

Define Your Branded Keywords

A Branded keyword is a query that includes your website’s brand name or variations of it and is unique to your domain

You should identify the branded keywords with the highest impact. Quickly check the search volumes for each branded keyword to prioritize between them. Create a list of branded keywords that are your top priority.

you can just manually enter the keyword as a search query on Google (make sure you are using Incognito mode). Look through the first results page and identify the negative spots you should work on. There are a few things you can do about external reviews and platforms:

  1. If it is about Google My Business reviews, reach out to your loyal customers, and ask them to leave positive reviews to balance out the negativity and increase your rating.
  2. If there is some negative content ranking for your branded keyword, try to contact the author of that negative piece and ask them to rectify it. Of course, you have to provide well-grounded reasons as to why their criticism may be irrelevant now — maybe, you have fixed something they were unhappy about or are currently working on some improvements. 
  3. Another way to “beat” that external negative piece is to create content that would outrank it. This how-to on creating SEO-friendly content should help you with these efforts. 

Encourage Positive Reviews Online

Negative or positive, online reviews will impact your business and sales. Dimensional Research uncovered that positive online reviews affect 90% of buyers buying decisions. And 86% of users will think twice about choosing your brand if it has negative reviews. And people’s expectations about your reputation are pretty high. In fact, 49% of consumers expect a four-star rating from a business they will consider buying from them.

How to Get Your Customers to Leave a Review 

The easiest way to deal with negative reviews is to outweigh them with positive ones. So, you should also have a strategy in place to encourage customers to leave a review. This can be done on both quid pro quo basis and just in good faith. 

  1. Encourage your customers — in person is good, in email newsletters, and in your place of business with your free Google Marketing Kit.
  2. You can create a small pop-up whenever someone visits your website, asking them to leave a review. Make sure to make it as easy as possible. Provide relevant links, and always thank them at the end of the message. And try not to send them to platforms that require too much effort like requiring sign-ups, personal details, etc.
  3. Use your social media channels and find a fun way to encourage your customers to leave a review. It can be a special hashtag day for thanking your colleagues for an amazing job they’re doing, or just a fun video provoking a good vibe. 
  4. And don’t forget about the power of email signatures. Add a line about the fact that you would very much appreciate a review of your customers’ experience with your brand. And as we mentioned above, don’t forget to give them a clear direction of where they should go.
  5. Establish an incentive program, but not for Google. This is against their guidelines.

Managing Negative Online Reviews

Bad reviews have a direct impact on your business’ bottom line as they discourage your existing and potential customers from using your services or product.

How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews 

As we have already mentioned, you should already have a solid strategy in place on how you deal with negative reviews. And you know that your blacklist of trolls and haters might not be worth your time. However, you need to address bad reviews.

Improve Your Response Time

Negative comments are very time-sensitive. The earlier you address them, the less impact they convey. Using the management strategy you have in place, work on improving the speed of your replies. At the same time, don’t respond without have a plan first; avoid saying something in a hurry that will hurt you in the long run.

Apologize If You Are Wrong (with one exception)

If you are at fault, you should extend your apologies. Tell the reviewer that you have pinpointed where the problem came from and are now working on a solution. You can even ask them to actively participate and provide insights on your newly-designed solution

Public and Private Communication

We strongly encourage you to address most of the negative comments in public. This can help negate the impact of the bad review and show others that you are very responsive and approachable.

How to Push Negative Reviews Down the SERPs

Up to now, we were describing the cases when all parties were reasonable and objective in their negative feedback. Unfortunately, sometimes this is not the case. If you have exhausted all your efforts to reach some agreement with a publisher of a highly biased piece, yet that content ranks high for your branded keywords, there as a possible workaround.

In short, you need to rank a positive article, or an owned profile of your own, up above the problematic one. These reviews rank either because they are placed on a very authoritative platform or because they have backlinks to them.

Create Content that Is Always On-Brand

There is another side of online reputation management we have to mention — branding. We don’t just mean the visual aesthetics, although important as well, but the general consistency of messaging and tone of voice. 

The content your customers initially stumble upon when looking up your brand will largely shape their perception of it. So, by having a solid ORM strategy in place, you have the power to project yourself in the way you want to be seen.

So, how your content appears for your branded searches, the replies you give across review platforms, and your social media communication, they all play a part in shaping your image in the eyes of your customers. 

Choose Your Influencers Wisely

When talking about online reputation management, we cannot ignore its newest angle for many businesses, influencer marketing. This may seem like a great substitution for paid media, but you do not have the same control over the reputation as you do with ads and sponsored posts. 

Just think about the 2017 scandal with Disney’s Maker Studios and PewDiePie. Maker Studios employed one of the most famous online personalities to be a part of their promotion strategy, but humans are very unpredictable. PewDiePie provoked a huge controversy when he staged two men to hold a sign saying “Death to all Jews”. And, Disney’s entity was forced to cancel the contract with the famous and now notorious vlogger straight away. Even with a rapid response, this incident should have affected the company’s reputation.