January 1, 2021
The rapid expansion of e-commerce – significantly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic- has prompted more and more businesses to seek out the services of an online reputation agency.
But just exactly what these agencies do is often misunderstood – even by their customers.
So we’ll try here to answer some of the key questions you may have.
Back in the day, the role of traditional public relations (PR) agencies was relatively simple.
A comprehensive Reputation Audit provides invaluable insight into your company’s online reputation.
They spent their time building relationships with the editors of local news or, in a few high-profile cases, national outlets, and persuading them to publish positive information about the activities of their clients – while killing any negative stories that might be doing the rounds.
Online review sites and social media platforms were unknown. And dissatisfied customers had few practical remedies other than to take their future business elsewhere.
But in the internet age, your customers have immediate access to a global audience of millions. They can and will make their views widely known. And whether they’re accurate, truthful, justified, or not, what they say can have profound consequences for your business.
Industry studies, moreover, suggest that as many as 8 in 10 customers now trust online reviews at least as much as a personal recommendation. And that some 97% of customers will check out online reviews before hiring a local business.
So it’s not surprising that reviews are increasingly a ranking factor in Google search results, local results, and even paid AdWords ads. In fact, you can often now see star ratings based on reviews appearing next to each of these listings.
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All of which means that you simply can’t afford to ignore the online review sites that are growing in number almost by the day. And which are constantly giving customers and clients ever more opportunities to post details of their experiences and opinions of your products and services.
It’s also important to understand that, in the absence of any active online reputation management, what searchers can find out about your business from an internet search will be determined largely by the Google algorithm.
And this means that it’s their popularity - in other words, click-thru rates, rather than their timeliness and accuracy, that will decide which stories about your business feature high on page one of the search results.
So, long-resolved complaints, unfavorable coverage in the local press, unfounded lawsuits, and brushes with City Hall, may all come back to haunt you if you fail to take consistent action to maintain your reputation.
Online reputation management is often confused with social media monitoring and/or social media listening.
But there are key differences between the three.
Social media monitoring means identifying mentions of a particular brand in real-time or as near to it as possible, to allow the business to respond appropriately to the customer or customers concerned.
Social media listening, on the other hand, is more of an internal process by which a business will analyze and seek to improve its products and services according to how its customers’ experience is recorded on social media platforms. Listening in this way may also provide invaluable data about your competitors and the state of your industry generally.
Both monitoring and listening are essential aspects of effective online reputation management, but a good online reputation agency will offer far more.
A number of useful tools are now available that can help you monitor the mentions of your business on the major review sites and, particularly, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
The problem is that, even for the smallest of businesses, keeping up with what these tools are telling you - and responding to and rebutting any adverse comments – can be a debilitating time-suck.
That’s where the following services, provided by a quality online reputation agency, can be a huge help.
Not only will the agency put in place software, systems, and procedures to enable a rapid response to specific negative feedback, it will also identify trends and point out any underlying issues in your business that perhaps are generating a disproportionate number of poor reviews.
Depending on the type of business, a good agency will naturally devote a great deal of time to monitoring the large review sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List and Google My Business.
But it will not neglect the smaller, more specific sites. And it will also look to take control of the conversations taking place around your brand on social media; engaging with customers to encourage them to leave positive reviews.
Note, though, that no ethical agency will engage in the posting of fake reviews.
If necessary, an agency may recommend and undertake a comprehensive overhaul of your social media platforms and profiles. It may also use specialized search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to improve the rankings of your best online content.
This may, for example, be your own blog posts that have produced the most positive engagement with your customers and clients. Or it may mean the deliberate promotion of favorable third-party content.
Conversely, an effective online reputation agency will also seek to have negative content made less visible in the search results. And while it is difficult – if not entirely impossible - to have third-party content removed from the Google rankings there are ways in which it can be relegated to a much less conspicuous position.
The goal, always, is to ensure that anyone who searches for your business online gets the best possible impression of your brand
Put simply, if someone searches for your brand by name, you want to be sure that it’s you and no one else that will show in first place.
If you’re a restaurant or a hotel in a particular city, you naturally want to rank for “restaurants in [city name]”. But it’s also important to rank for the specific, long-tail searches that indicate that a potential client or customer is getting nearer to making a decision. These might include, for example, “best Chinese restaurants in [city name]”.
It’s important to realize, though that it’s unlikely that customers will book on their first visit to your website. Industry studies suggest that they will probably need several – at least 3 or 4 - before making a final decision, hence the importance of ranking high for your own brand name.
It’s also worth noting that brand name keywords tend to convert at a much higher rate – at least double – than more generic ones. But while you might think that you would rank automatically for your own business name, this is unfortunately not the case.
Knowing how valuable your branded keywords are to your business, both your direct competitors and other sites have an incentive to try and outrank you for them. And they are not scrupulous about attempting to do so.
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) it seems, are particularly notorious for this kind of ethically questionable behavior and may well include branded keywords in those they bid on for their pay-per-click ads.
And if your website gets pushed down the organic and paid results as a result, you may be losing a great deal of valuable business.
The right online reputation agency, however, will be able to help by optimizing your website for your brand keywords, co-ordinating your PPC campaigns, and promoting your social media platforms, e.g. your Facebook Page, in the search rankings.
In a word, yes.
Businesses of all types and sizes can benefit from online reputation management.
In fact, the process is arguably even more important for those smaller businesses that depend on a single product, service, or outlet. Large restaurant or hotel chains, for example, may not find their overall business too badly impacted by a bad review about just one of their outlets.
But for a sole proprietor or family-run establishment, perhaps primarily serving a local community, the effects of any negative publicity may be catastrophic.
Monitoring the reputation of these kinds of businesses, moreover, is generally simpler and less time-consuming a task than for those household name brands that are constantly in the news.
The services of an online reputation agency should therefore be affordable for even the smallest enterprises.
There’s an old saying that in time of war, a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth has got its boots on.
And it’s never been truer than in our age of immediate digital communications.
Nowadays, a rapidly shared adverse online review or social media post can be just as destructive to your online reputation as a wildfire or flash flood to your bricks and mortar operations.
So contact us here [link] to make an immediate start on protecting your business.
Our expert team is waiting to help you. Call us today to schedule your free consultation.