Thursday, January 14, 2016

From Build and Protect Your Online Reputation – Getting Started

Have a Plan to Protect Your Online Reputation

To protect your online reputation, you first need to know what your reputation is. You need to know what is currently being said and read about your company online. You’ll want to know from the start what hurdles you are facing in building a positive online reputation. Make notes of everything. The good, the bad, and the ugly. This is your starting point.

Then you will need an actionable plan that you can commit to. Without a plan you are leaving your reputation in the hands of anybody with internet access.

Do you really want to trust any person who can find a Wi-Fi signal with your precious online reputation?

Are you prepared to handle unsatisfied customers, respond to negative reviews, or silence damaging social media chatter?

You need a plan that helps you dominate search engine results, monitors your online presence, manages your reviews, and creates positive content and links for your business. You can use the guidelines in “Reputation Marketing in 5 Steps” to help you get started in creating a plan that lets you leverage your positive online reputation to grow your business. And there are areas you can focus on that will ensure that people can easily find you online and will want to do business with you.

Manage Your Business Listings

Both people and search engines use your online business listings to find you (online and offline) and verify that you are a legitimate business. Search engines use business listings to deliver accurate business information to their users. Ensuring accurate and consistent information is contained in your business listings gives your business the edge over your competition by helping you rank higher in the local search results that attract new customers.

Business Listing Stats

People use business listings to get your phone number and address information to find the businesses closest to them providing the specific products and services they are looking for. Missing, duplicate, incomplete, or inconsistent will inevitably hurt your business and that is why it is so crucial that your business listings be monitored and managed. Read “The What, Why and How of Business Listings” to get a better understanding of what business listings are, how they work, and how you can automate the management of this crucial aspect of your online identity.

Have a Blog and Publish Quality Content Consistently

Consistent, and properly search engine optimized, blogging ensures that content, images, and web pages you create and control occupy the valuable space at the top of search engine results for your name and your business. If you don’t love to write, don’t have the time to write, or the budget to outsource your content creation, this may be the hardest thing on the list. But it is one of the best ways to control what is being seen and read about you online.

Check out the blog post How to Blog to Protect Your Online Reputation. You’ll get the run down on the multitude of benefits and tips on blogging in a way that attracts traffic to your website and your location. Here’s the short version of what you need to know:

  • Set up your blog, which is probably already a part of your website even if you don’t use it.
  • Consider your audience, and think like your ideal site visitor, when creating your content.
  • Plan out the development of relevant and authentic content that supports your brand.
  • Post content to your blog consistently. One or two times a week at least to start.
  • Search engine optimize each blog post to include headers, tags, url’s, and images.

beginner blog SEO checklist

Online Review Management – Solicit, Respond, Post, and Promote

Customers research online before making purchases:

  • Online search engines are now a more trusted source for general news and information (64 percent) than traditional media (62 percent).  2015 Edelman Trust Barometer

Customers trust online reviews to guide their buying decisions:

  • 92% of consumers now read online reviews (vs. 88% in 2014)
  • 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just 1-3 reviews (vs. 29% in 2014)
  • Star rating is #1 factor used by consumers to judge a business
  • 44% say a review must be written within 1 month to be relevant
  • Only 13% of consumers consider using a business that has a 1 or 2 star rating
  • 68% say positive reviews make them trust a local business more (vs. 72% in 2014)
  • Consumers are becoming more concerned about fake reviews BrightLocal 2015 Local Consumer Review Survey

The facts are clear. Properly posted and promoted online customer reviews drive new business to your door more effectively than almost every other marketing activity.

The same way you control your social media presence, you’ll want to claim your profiles on the major review and local listing sites. These profiles also show up high on search engine results, so it is vital that you are in control of how these profiles are filled out. Yelp, Google My Business, Angie’s List and similar sites let you claim and fill out your profile with ease.

Most review sites have a simple verification process for businesses to claim their profiles. But that is not always the case. For example, Yelp even allows customers to create a profile for your business if you haven’t done so yet and they want to leave a review. That is a lot of extra steps to leave a simple “I loved it” comment so a committed disgruntled customer is more like to create a profile for a business that has not yet claimed their Yelp profile. Don’t let that happen!

Once you have established your profiles, you’ll need to work on getting real customer reviews posted on the sites that matter most to your customers. You’ll want to develop a system, with a dedicated manager, that works at acquiring feedback, works with customers who are less than very satisfied and pushes five-star reviews to the review profiles you have set up.

Just one more thing for you to add to your business owner To Do list, right?

Luckily, review management is one of the business operations you can easily automate with effective reputation management services. With the right software it can be as “simple as set it up and forget it” to give every customer the opportunity to give you feedback or link directly to your review site profiles with just one click to leave a review. Honestly, you’ll wonder why something so useful as automated customer reviews management, when customer reviews are so vital to the success of your business, doesn’t come with your business license.

Create All of Your Social Media Profiles

If you have never Google’d yourself, take a minute and do it now. (I’ll be here waiting when you are done.) Now do the same with your business name. (Go ahead.) What you will usually see for those people and businesses who have yet to build a strong web presence (with business listings and content) is that social media profiles show up high in search engine results.

Google Search Social ProfilesThere are three really good reasons to claim and establish your social media profiles immediately on the social networks your customers frequent:

  1. A healthy social media presence is a great marketing tool that lets you promote your brand and your content, while creating relationships with your customers where they spend the most time online.
  2. Social media profiles rank high in specific personal name and business name search engine results. If you have little else online that you have created, you can control a lot of what page one is showing about you.
  3. Profile names are first come, first serve with social networks. Someone could claim your name and your business name, so grab yours as soon as possible. Best case scenario they never use the profile. Worst case scenario THEY manage a profile pretending to be your business and murder your reputation.

Learning how to leverage social media to grow your business is a broad and lengthy topic we won’t touch on here. There are dozens of amazing resources out there to learn social media marketing. I strongly suggest you check out an article by one of the most trusted leaders in digital marketing, HubSpot: How to Learn Social Media Marketing: 41 Resources for Beginners.

What you need to do right now is claim your personal name and business name on all the major social media networks (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn). Also claim and optimize your profiles on the social media networks important to your industry (for example: Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, SnapChat, and Vine). Fill out your profile entirely and make sure you include your website, physical address, and logo/photo. Make a commitment to learn how to grow your business with social media marketing.

Get Started Building and Protecting Your Online Reputation

You’ve put blood, sweat, and tears (or at least a considerable amount of time and money) into your business. Don’t jeopardize all you’ve invested by neglecting to build and maintain a positive online presence. Unfortunately, online perception is now more important to the health of your business than in-store reality. You still need to sell a great product, and provide exceptional customer service. There is no doubt that is a winning combination for any business. But you must also make sure that the good work you are doing for your customers is reflected online.

Use the Local Score grader below to search the most important business listings and customer review sites so you know where your business’s online presence is shining bright and where you can implement a plan for improvements today.

What’s Your Local Score?

Enter any business name and zip code and see how you show up on directories.

Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

The post Build and Protect Your Online Reputation – Getting Started appeared first on Reputation Loop.

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The post Build and Protect Your Online Reputation – Getting Started appeared first on RepPilot.

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