Why Your Online Reputation is Becoming the Only Reputation That Matters
No one is exactly sure who first shared the cautionary phrase, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” but truer words were never spoken. Whether you attribute it to Oscar Wilde, Will Rogers or Head & Shoulders, one thing is certain: the impression you make online is more important to your business than ever.
In today’s digital-centric marketplace, nothing shapes first impressions quite like online reviews.
According to research by messaging platform Podium, 93% of consumers say that online reviews have an impact on their purchase decisions. It’s easy to understand why. Reviews are everywhere, from Google to Facebook to industry-specific websites and consumer forums like Ripoff Report and Reddit. Online reviews have gradually evolved to become a trust signal. A survey by marketing software provider BrightLocal found that eight out of ten consumers now place as much confidence in online reviews as they do personal recommendations.
Not only can online reviews make or break whether someone ultimately does business with you, they also determine whether a prospect reaches out to you in the first place. A recent study by Cone Communications found that four out of five consumers have changed their mind about doing business with a company or product after reading negative reviews online.
Even if you maintain a relatively low profile online and believe your business relies primarily on word of mouth, you’re not immune from the influence of online reviews. The Better Business Bureau points out that having a limited online reputation can be just as damaging as a bad one. Their research has shown that consumers will often question a businesses’ credibility if they can’t find out enough about it online.
Over the past year, the realities of doing business during a pandemic have placed even more emphasis on the importance of a positive digital footprint. Multiple studies have demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of homebuyers begin their home search online, and continue to turn to their internet throughout the home shopping process. This behavior has only accelerated over the past year, with virtual showings, video conferences and electronic correspondence all taking a greater role in an industry that has traditionally relied on in-person contact with the consumer.
Managing your online reputation is a critical part of the overall image and reputation you demonstrate to your customers. Accordingly, it deserves as much attention as any other aspect of your marketing presentation
So where to begin?
Before you can begin to manage anything, you need to have a complete picture of your online reputation as it currently stands.
Six Step Process to Improve Online Reputation Managment
1. Run a Google Search
Most consumers are going to start by typing the name of your business into a search engine. It’s good practice to begin by doing the same. Open an incognito window in your web browser and conduct a search on your company name, principals and community to see what comes up where. As Google tends to serve up different results based on whether or not you are logged in as well as your location, incognito mode helps to remove any unintended prejudice of the search results.
2. Check the Major Social Media Sites
Search your company name, property names and brand names on the most widely used social media channels of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. Most social media sites encourage reviews and discussions which not only show up on their platforms but also appear in organic search results on the popular search engines.
3. Claim Your Online Business Listings
Make sure you’ve submitted or claimed your business on the major directories like Google My Business, Yelp, MHVillage, MHBuyersGuide and other relevant sites. Business listings and reviews often appear ahead of organic results when searching online, particularly when browsing from a mobile device. Many directory websites host online reviews which can frequently go unanswered by companies that have not claimed their listings.
4. Search Complaint Sites
Consumer experience and advocacy websites such as Ripoff Report, Complaints Board and Trustpilot rank highly in search engine results due to scores of consumer-generated content. As a result, it’s good practice to search your organization or property names for any negative comments. Advertising agency GoFish Digital maintains a handy tool that searches over 40 complaint sites at http://gofishdigital.com/complaint-search so you can identify any issues that require attention.
5. Scan Your Existing Reviews
Better than doing all the work manually, get a free summary of your online reputation score from MH.Reviews, the online reputation management platform developed by MHVillage. Type in the name of your business or community and get an instant report on how your company appears in dozens of popular review sites and directories.
6. Don’t Forget About Your Reputation as an Employer
Employment sites such as Indeed and Glassdoor are often overlooked when managing online reputation. Current and past employees as well as interview candidates can leave reviews about their experience with your company. These tend to rank highly in online search results and are not always picked up by review monitoring tools.
Once you have developed an understanding of your current online reputation, you can begin the process of analyzing the results and identifying a plan for response and ongoing management. There will be some issues that require immediate attention and other lower priority items that will be difficult, if not impossible, to address. As the old adage goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Building a positive online reputation will take time and attention to see results.
Fortunately, there are many tools you can use to monitor your reputation, encourage positive reviews, and easily respond to any negative reviews you may receive. We’ll cover more online reputation strategies and tactics on MHInsider in the months to come.
In the meantime, continue to treat everyone how you would like to be treated and focus on making those first impressions count.