In this age where everything is online and the internet is forever, obviously managing your online reputation is very important. Yet, a common misconception is that online reputation is solely about handling negative reviews, while in truth, it’s much more than that.
With that being said, in this guide, we will discuss the ins and outs of online reputation management: how to measure your current state, how to manage negative reviews, and how to optimize your reputation.
Without further ado, let us begin with the first one.
I. Important online reputation indicators
Before we can optimize online reputation, we should first measure the current state of our reputation.
A common misconception is that measuring online reputation is solely about tracking negative reviews, but that’s just one aspect of the whole picture. Here are the important indicators you should measure:
Let’s start with the obvious. Reviews from major review sites like Google Maps, Yelp!, Amazon, and other sites according to your niche are very strong indicators.
The thing is, tracking all the reviews will be more difficult as your brand grows. You can use various tools like Google Alert to help in this aspect.
2. Conversion metrics
When you have a positive reputation, you will get more conversions. So, conversion metrics can also be a good online reputation indicator. You can especially track these metrics:
- Cost per conversion: If your conversion cost is high, the worse your current reputation is.
- Number of referral traffic: lower referral traffic generally means negative online reputation.
- Bounce and exit rate: high bounce and exit rate can be a signal of damaged online reputation.
- Interaction per visit: check how your audience is interacting with your site.
- Value per visit: the total number of visits divided by total generated value. If the generated value is low when the traffic is high, it might be caused by a bad reputation.
- Number of returning visitors: if you have a low number of returning visitors, you might have an online reputation issue
You can use the free Google Analytics to measure these metrics, as well as other similar tools.
3. Social Monitoring
You should check various important social media metrics to track, and you might want to check out this guide by Sprout Social to help you. Here are some important ones:
- Followers growth
- Engagement rate
- Number of shares
You can use the built-in analytics/insights offered by all major social media platforms to check these metrics. You can also use other tools like Google Analytics, Followerwonk or Buffer among others.
II. Managing Negative Press and Reviews
A core aspect of online reputation management is preventing negative reviews from keep coming. Obviously, we can’t totally prevent these negative reviews, but we will need to minimize them as well as promoting the positive ones.
First, there are three different types of negative press:
- The ones coming from valid customers with valid, objective complaints
- The ones coming from valid customers, but the reason is not valid, including cases with misunderstanding
- Those coming from people who have never bought from you. This type usually comes with malicious intent.
If the negative press or review is not coming from a valid customer, and especially when there’s clear negative intent, you can ask the review site to remove them if you have sufficient proofs. If necessary, you might want to pursue legal actions to show that you are serious about your reputation.
For valid, objective reviews, here are a few principles in handling them:
- Remember that the customers are always right, in this case. Address these negative reviews as fast as possible, and as polite as possible.
- Don’t give promises you can’t deliver. If you don’t have the solution at the moment, say so.
- Most valid negative reviews have at least an underlying issue causing it. Fix this issue first, or else, these negative reviews will keep coming.
For example, if most of these negative reviews are about a certain fault in your product or a missing feature, address this issue as soon as possible. You can always learn from case studies of brands like Samsung and Johnson & Johnson here.
III. Optimizing Your Reputation
As mentioned, online reputation management is more than just managing negative press. Here, we will cover four different areas to optimize, to improve your online reputation:
1. Branded Keywords
The first thing we’ll all do when we want to check someone’s or a company’s reputation is a quick Google search.
When you do a Google search of your brand name (or your name), the topmost result should be your website, or one of your social media profiles.
If your website is not the top result, there are several different possible causes:
- Your brand name is too generic (not unique)
- Your site is not yet indexed by the search engines
- You don’t have any backlinks
- You are currently penalized by Google
For your social media profiles, here are the key areas to optimize:
- Make sure you include as many relevant information on your profiles and always be appropriate (including your posts)
- Link to your website from these profiles, and vice versa
- Link to these social media profiles from other sites (online directories, forums, and so on).
- Make sure these profiles are active. You can use social media automation tools like Buffer or Hootsuite here
Yet, what if the top results are not from you? If they are positive, generally you don’t have to worry. But what if they are negative? Well, keep reading.
2. Dealing with negative content
There a few things you can do to deal with these negative content pieces:
- Contact these sites. This approach is possible if, for example, the content is addressing old issues you have fixed. If necessary, offer to update their content
- If this content is clearly malicious, you might want to pursue legal actions
- “Bury” this negative content by promoting the positive ones to rank higher:
- Develop this content yourself, but this won’t be very effective as reviews from third-party sources are more relevant for the audience
- Guest posting and utilize content marketing to target keywords and optimize this post, SEO-wise
- Give backlinks to positive third-party reviews from these guest posts
To reiterate, online reputation management is not about eliminating negative reviews and press, especially when the negative reviews are valid. On the other hand, online reputation management is managing how your brand is represented online.
Managing business reviews is not a one-off thing, but rather an ongoing process because Google always updates its search results. So, make sure to always monitor the state of your online reputation and re-optimize.