A Blueprint for Improving Your Online Reputation

We’re living in what’s being called the “Reputation Economy,” where consumers trust what others say about your business more than what you advertise about yourself.

If this makes you wonder how to take back control of how customers perceive you, you aren’t alone.

Thankfully, if you run your company using good business practices and care about your customers, there are a few proven tactics to help you attract and retain happy customers, and maximize your revenue.

Below, we’ll discuss how and why online customer reviews have become more important in recent years, where your business must have a presence online, and four specific ways to improve your reputation through reviews, starting today!

How Customer Reviews Reach Far More People than Referrals

In the past, word-of-mouth referrals from trusted friends and family were the “social proof” method of new customers hearing about your business. And while referrals are an absolutely necessary part of any solid outreach strategy, it’s not enough.

With an increasing number of competitors, businesses need a more efficient way of reaching a far greater number of people with a convincing message that they should trust you with their needs.

That way is through online customer reviews on different review platforms.

Think of your referrals as a one-to-one process, whereas customer reviews are one-to-many. Referrals are a private conversation, whereas customer reviews are a public announcement. Referrals happen one time whereas customer reviews become a permanent advertisement for your business 24/7. Referrals influence only a handful of people whereas customer reviews are unlimited and could influence hundreds or thousands of people!

Review Platforms to Consider

Knowing which review platforms your business should be on is key to a well-conceived reputation marketing plan.

The first platform most people think about for reviews is Yelp, and while Yelp is still the primary review platform for many types of businesses, it’s no longer the singular go-to review resource it once was.

Google is quickly becoming one of the key platforms for reviews, because it’s the first place most people go to search for a local business.

But it’s also crucial to show up on the dozens of alternative platforms for your particular business niche, whether it’s TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, DealerRater or many others, in addition to Facebook, etc.

Let’s discuss 4 critical steps to ensure you are gathering new, positive reviews on a regular basis, and how to use them to improve your business’s online reputation.

Step 1: Ask For Reviews

Just because a customer has a good experience with you doesn’t mean they are going to leave a positive review. In fact, the most likely customer to end up leaving a review is one that happened to have an extremely negative experience.

As a result, you need to have a plan in place to encourage your customers to leave reviews.

For example, if you have an interaction with a customer who is happy with their service, you can use this to lead into an opportunity to ask for a review.

One way of doing this is to ask them to share their comments on a social media or specific review platform, allowing you to generate a positive impression without coming across as inorganic. You can also integrate requests for reviews in other forms of marketing, like email blasts or SMS.

The point is, you must ask if you want to win the reviews game with competitors that are doing the same.

Step 2: Respond to Reviews

When someone takes the time to leave a review, on any of the usual channels, it’s a good idea to have someone on your team quickly offer a response.

For a response to a positive review, it can be something as simple as thanking them for their support and for sharing how they enjoyed their experience. The purpose of this is twofold.

First, you want to be able to show your other customers that you respond promptly to consumer feedback. It’s also a great opportunity to build a dialogue with some of your customers and express appreciation.

While responding to positive reviews is important, negative reviews are what you really want to focus on. One negative review can lead to instant ramifications if it catches fire on social media or a popular review platform.

However, you can do some very effective damage control and even turn a negative into a positive with a swift response and keeping these things in mind:

  • After you see a negative response, be sure to reach out to the affected person quickly, addressing their particular experience professionally and courteously.
  • Be very careful not to come across defensively. Take the time to learn best practices for responding to a negative review.
  • Know that sometimes the bridge with that particular customer may be burned, and that’s okay.

The main purpose here is putting together a public record that you quickly try to support customers that have had a bad experience. And your response will be read along with the negative review in almost all cases.

Prospective customers are becoming very adept at discerning whether a negative review was merited vs a ticked off customer blowing off some steam, and your response can make all the difference in diffusing the effects of that review on your reputation.

Step 3: Promote Your Reviews on Social Media

Ideally, when you get a positive review or impression, you want to broadcast this to as wide an audience as possible. There’s nothing better for this than social media, but you want to do this intelligently.

When picking elements of the review to highlight in your marketing, try to focus on claims that match with what you feature in your marketing. In particular, showcase the benefits to your customer.

For example, a customer saying your product was “great”, while helpful, will not stand out as much as something like “it boosted our profits by 20%” is a tangible benefit to latch onto.

Also, you want to take a measured approach with these. Even if you have a lot of positive reviews to share, posting them to social media too often will come across as overly promotional, and may lower engagement on some of your channels.

Take into consideration your posting cadence. If your business posts frequently about a variety of subjects, then feel free to increase the number of positive review posts.

Step 4: Promote Your Reviews on Your Website

Having your business represented on major review platforms is important, but you don’t want to stop there.

Integrating review platforms directly within your website is one of the best SEO (search engine optimization) tools that you have. This allows for a steady stream of user-generated content via new reviews.

Remember, when it comes to calculating your site’s ranking, Google always favors sites with new content, particularly content that’s generated by users interacting with your business.

So, every time a customer leaves a review, your ranking has the chance to improve, therefore when potential customers are looking for businesses in your niche, your name is more likely to show up in search results.

As an added bonus, you get the benefit of having social proof for your customers right on your website.

Finally, don’t forget your homepage. Feed your best reviews to your homepage with a link to your reviews to increase your conversion rate significantly.

In terms of promoting your reviews within other marketing efforts, think about some of the effective advertising you’ve seen lately. Because it’s becoming so common, you’ve probably been seeing offline ads on TV, radio, billboards, and print ads, as well as online advertising, that promote 5 star review status, a large quantity of positive reviews, or even just one 5 star review with a name on the ad.

There’s a Reason This is Happening. It Works!

That little spark we get as a consumer from seeing third party social proof is often enough to prompt us to check out a particular business. So start promoting your positive reviews in your marketing as soon as possible!

There has never been a more crucial time to focus on building your reputation through reviews. Your competition is likely already doing so, and those who continuously dominate the review boards will attract new customers and win their business.

While you may be thinking you have enough on your plate already, consider how implementing an automated service using comprehensive technology to gather and market reviews, as well as protect and manage your reputation for you can ensure you will give you peace of mind that you are gaining the competitive edge!