Here’s a fast fact for you.
About 81% of customers do online research before making a purchase or choosing a service provider.
Think about that for a second. Is there anything else you can get four out of five people to agree on? Even after 40 years, we still can’t get more than four out of five dentists to agree about sugarless gum.
It’s not just online shoppers who are doing it, either. Many people do still prefer to make that final purchase at a physical, brick-and-mortar location. But they’re also using online research to filter out what to buy, and who to buy it from.
Every day, potential customers who might have never heard of you before are looking you up online to find out if you’re legit.
So what will they find out about you?
It should be obvious that your online reputation can really make or break your business. A good online reputation gives you a strong competitive edge in your market.
Frustratingly, in the online world, treating your customers well and offering them a great product or service at a fair price isn’t always enough to ensure a good online reputation.
That’s why having a plan in place for online reputation management is so crucial. No, you may never be able to do anything to make Angry Bob happy. But you can still do a lot to shape public perception of your business so that good vibes outweigh the bad juju.
Managing Your Online Reviews
We probably don’t have to explain this to you, but if your business has a lot of positive reviews on sites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp … yeah, that’s good for your online reputation.
In fact, there’s a double benefit! Seeing a great star rating next to your business will obviously make you more appealing to a researching shopper. But Google itself also assigns more weight to well-reviewed businesses in local search rank.
In other words, get a lot of good reviews, and you won’t just look good. You’ll also appear higher on the page—maybe even in that all-important “three pack.”
Friendly tip: For more information on other ways to boost your local and organic search rank, check out our write-ups on both local search and SEO.
But there’s a fundamental problem. Most people don’t take the time to leave a review. And angry customers tend to be a lot more motivated to write one than happy customers. That can skew online perception of your company in a way that might cost your business a lot of money.
Fortunately, it’s a problem that can be overcome.
Cultivate New Reviews
There are tons of effective, actionable strategies to increase the volume of positive reviews. For example:
Ask for reviews
If you know a customer had a pleasant experience, why not ask them to write a review? You can even show them how, or give them a handout on a postcard with instructions. Remember, you shouldn’t be pushy and you can’t offer them any kind of material reward in exchange for reviews. (Google will punish you hard for that.)
Set up a review page or buttons on your website
Customers should be able to leap straight from your website to review listings on Google, social media, and other review platforms that are relevant to your business or industry.
Develop an e-mail or text message campaign
If you use a database to market to your customers (and you should!), consider creating an online review campaign. If your platform is sophisticated enough, you can make it a follow-up to a satisfactory survery. That means only happy customers get the review reminder.
Respond to Every Review
You should endeavor to always respond to every online review you receive on important platforms (Google, Facebook, Yelp, industry-specific, etc.).
If the review is negative, reach out with an olive branch (even if you stop short of admitting any specific wrongdoing). Even if the reviewer is totally out to lunch (at least in your opinion), be kind, say you’re sorry that they had a poor experience, and make a reasonable offer to discuss the matter further or “make it right.”
Here’s the thing about negative reviews—they’re actually good for your online reputation, as long as you don’t have too many and you handle them correctly.
That’s right, we said good.
In fact, studies show that businesses and products rated between 4 and 4.5 out of 5 get better sales conversion rates than those with perfect scores.
See, today’s shoppers are savvy. They know no person, business, or product is perfect. They also know that some people can’t be pleased. So if you’re still carrying a perfect 5 with a significant number of reviews on your resume, many customers will view that with suspicion rather than confidence.
Plus, people want to see what the worst-case scenario looks like. If they happen to catch an employee on a bad day, or buy a product with an unexpected technical defect, will they be left in the cold?
When you respond to every review, good things happen:
You demonstrate that you are accessible, approachable, and genuinely care about customer experience.
Future customers are more likely to leave a review, since they know they will be heard.
Customers who leave bad reviews at first may revise their original rating based on an outstanding company response to their original complaint.
Potential customers learn that, even if they get unlucky and have a bad experience, the company is willing to make it right.
Demonstrating Your Professionalism and Integrity Online
Reviews are critically important. But they aren’t the only component of online reputation management.
The way you present yourself online—on your website, on social media, and on third-party listing sites with or without reviews—says a lot about your professionalism and integrity as an individual, company, and brand.
How can you demonstrate your worthiness? Here are some concrete ways:
Do you have a consistent, attractive visual identity? Are your colors and logo fresh, exciting, and representative of your core company values? Do you project a consistent, professional tone and voice in all you rcontent and communication?
Is it attractive and easy to use? Does it answer your customers’ questions in a simple and understandable way?
Your social media.
Do you have official, branded social media channels? Do you post frequently and regularly? Do you engage with customers and respond to their questions in a timely manner?
Your third-party listings.
If a customer looks you up on Google, Bing, etc., will they just see an address and a name? Or will they be able to review images (inside, outside, products), videos, hours, descriptions of services, and other helpful information?
In addition to unsolicited reviews from the online peanut gallery, cultivate at least a few knock-out, in-depth testimonials from some of your very best customers. Post them on your website and promote them online!
These are all, of course, components that you have direct control over, unlike unsolicited reviews. You have no excuse not to make sure they’re all awesome!
To learn more about how we can help, give us a call today at (833) 622-0907.