The success or failure of a business relies on many things. Having a good product or service, the value delivered to consumers relative to the price charged, the bottom line all factor heavily in this equation. But no matter what, the most important thing to a business is the customer ratings and reviews. Since the internet is essentially accessible from anywhere, customers can make their feelings about any business widely known online practically instantly. Online reputation management can seem like quite a daunting task to undertake, but it doesn’t have to be overly difficult. Following a few simple steps will get you well on your way to a good online reputation.
Before you do anything else, the first thing you need to take care of is establishing a set of metrics. Where does your online reputation currently stand? What are people saying or seeing about your company? Do a Google search on your company name (while not logged into Google) and note the number and position of negative search results on the first page. This will be your first metric; making the entire first page of search results either positive or neutral is your long-term goal.
Second, browse to relevant review sites for your product or service-Google Maps or Places, Yelp, and Facebook are excellent places to start-and note the ratio of positive to negative reviews. Your short term goal should be to increase this ratio as much as possible.
Now that you have your metrics defined, it’s time to start working on your reputation management for the Internet. Set up relevant keywords on Google alerts and forward them to a central RSS feed. From now on, someone will need to keep on top of that RSS feed throughout the day, noting how often negative mentions come in compared to how often positive ones do. Furthermore, each negative mention must be addressed quickly, fairly, and positively. This may sound like a lot of work, but unless your volume of complaints is large, it won’t be as difficult as you imagine it to be. Plus, the sheer power of this method is astounding; doing this step will help your reputation significantly.
Surprisingly, the amount of goodwill garnered by resolving online complaints in a timely manner far exceeds what you would get if no complaint were issued in the first place. Every time you resolve a complaint before anyone else responds to it, you will be effectively turning a negative online experience into a positive one. No other activity you do online will so dramatically improve your online reputation at such a low cost.
Once you’re in the habit of picking this easy fruit, the next step is to work on your first page Google search results. You can crowd out unwanted results by signing your business up for online services that have high PageRank (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia); these new results will rank highly and push negative results to the second page. If this isn’t enough, however, it might be time to turn to a professional reputation agency. They understand this issue and can handle problems that you have trouble dealing with and solving.