Online Reputation Management Tips for Small Businesses
Posted on July 1, 2012 by Guest Blogger
Your business is a very small fish – plankton even – in the gigantic ocean of the Internet. But you can be sure that if negative information and poor reviews get out about your business, your potential customers will have homing beacons to find it. You simply can’t afford not to manage the online reputation of your small business, so here are some tips.
Remember that It Starts Offline
The most important thing to remember about your online reputation is that it doesn’t come out of thin air – it comes directly from the experiences that people have with your business offline. It’s true that a competitor can post a fake complaint, but the majority of the time you’re dealing with real customers. Because of this, your first and foremost effort to maintain a good online reputation is to maintain good relationships with your customers, put out good products, give good services, and in general do whatever you can to make your customers happy. Happy customers don’t post bad reviews, but the unhappy ones might, so don’t let them walk away angry.
Stay in the Loop
It might go without saying, but you can’t manage your online reputation if you have no idea what’s being said about you. You have to stay in the loop if you have any hopes of nipping bad buzz in the bud. Depending on the size of your small business, this could be accomplished in a few different ways – from creating simple Google Alerts on your company name, or hiring an outside company to monitor things for you. No matter how you do it, you absolutely must stay on top of things and check your name frequently. Go ahead, Google yourself every day, and don’t feel bad about it.
Know When to Respond
If a bad review crops up about your business, you have to know what to do about it. In most cases, if you think or know that it’s a legitimate complaint, it’s a good idea to respond both publically and privately to it. You can only do this if you’re going to at least offer an apology. What you do beyond that is up to you, but offering to remedy the problem or issue a refund makes you look like the good guy, too. Don’t, however, respond if you’re going to be aggressive, and don’t ever accuse a reviewer of being fake (even if you think or know they are) because that won’t reflect well on you.
When someone Googles your business, they likely won’t ever go past the second page of results, and they’ll hardly ever go beyond the third. That’s why it’s so important to focus on what comes up in those first pages. You can’t control it, of course, but you can help to promote yourself with excellent SEO on your website. If you’re clueless, hire an expert to teach you the basics. Producing good, original content works, too, so start a blog or contribute to other websites related to your field. Finally, make sure you claim all your listings on sites like Google Places, and maintain a page on all major social networks.
Jerry Smith is a small business owner who likes to write when he has time. He enjoys giving advice to other small business owners about asking customers for a review.