Proper online reputation management is a must in today’s ever-evolving digital world and you can very easily make or break your brand.
It’s been about 16 years since “Google” was added as a verb to the Oxford English dictionary. It was a significant addition to the lexicon, describing an activity that has come to define what’s now become the most basic method of verifying individuals, brands and organisations.
Thinking of hiring someone? Google them. Thinking of buying a product? Google it. Thinking of working with a particular company or organisation? Let’s get ‘googling’.
These days, much to Google’s chagrin, ‘googling’ someone or something now goes beyond the search engine. Our armchair investigations take us into social media platforms, review sites, and even closed systems like WhatsApp groups.
What this means for your public relations
For PR professionals, this means that reputation management goes beyond getting great earned coverage in the traditional media (although this is part of it). The implications are clear: as desktop research becomes an integral part of our decision-making process, a strong online profile is a critical pillar of a brand’s reputation.
So much so that studies by Oberlo claim that 79% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
So where do we begin?
Start with a basic audit of your online reputation and ask yourself these three questions:
- What comes up when people search for me or my brand on the web?
- What are the comments and reviews on my social media channels?
- What are third-party review sites saying about me? (think TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, etc.)
Once you’ve taken a deep dive into how you or your brand appears online, here are six key steps to improving your online reputation:
- Improve your Google ranking
According to research conducted by Reputation X, a page that ranks number one on Google generally receives 31.7% of the traffic. The search engine’s algorithm that determines the order in which search results appear is geared towards ensuring that users get the most useful results in every search.
Ensuring that your website receives a strong ranking on Google requires a long-term strategy that involves, among other things, posting fresh, relevant content regularly. This includes ensuring that the copy on your site is seeded with relevant keywords and that your content is being shared and linked to other relevant pages.
A Google Adwords strategy is also a key part of ensuring that even if organic search rankings don’t put you on top, you at least have a presence on the first page of search results.
2. Own your presence on relevant platforms
Is your business name claimed on Google and Facebook? If you’re an attraction, are you in control of your brand name on TripAdvisor? These are key hygiene factors for managing your online reputation.
Owning your Google My Business page, for instance, allows you to ensure that the information around your business is accurate and regularly updated, so potential customers can find and learn about your services without having to work too hard. It also allows you to monitor and respond to reviews of your business.
3. Monitor your online review
The statistics around the power of online reviews are quite compelling, with insights by Terakeet adding that 91% of customers are more likely to choose businesses with a five-star rating, while BrightLocal suggests that 82% of consumers are less likely to choose businesses with negative reviews. Now imagine you don’t have any reviews of your business online at all – it’s a bit like not existing.
Yes, negative reviews happen, and while you won’t be able to delete them, it is important to be seen to be responding to them. The general rule when dealing with an unhappy customer online is to try to take the conversation offline as quickly as possible and engage with the customer in a less public space.
It’s also worth noting that spam reviews have become a problem on platforms such as Facebook, and as such, spam must be reported the moment you spot it.
4. Encourage customers to give you reviews, particularly the happy ones
If you have a sales team, get them to reach out to happy customers and ask if they’d mind giving you a rating.
Getting a high number of reviews sends out a message that many people use your service, which provides a credibility boost in itself, and of course, many positive reviews can help level out any lower ratings from negative reviews.
5. Get out in the news
A proactive PR strategy to build your brand is another powerful way to manage your online reputation.
Seeding out press statements, getting quoted in mainstream news, and getting thought leadership pieces placed in mainstream publications are all ways to ensure that positive news, featuring your narrative, comes up when potential customers search for you.
6. Don’t forget the real world
It would have occurred to you by now that not all the parts of your online reputation are directly in your control, and this is not surprising. Online and offline, our reputations are determined more by what others say about us and less by what we say about ourselves. And how others feel about us is primarily determined by what we do in the real world.
It’s an obvious, but important point to note: No amount of savvy reputation management, be it online or offline, can substitute for first providing positive experiences to as many people who interact with your brand as possible.
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This article partly refers to: https://bizmag.co.za/online-reputation-management-101/