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Reputation Repair - Help Guide For Small Businesses

Updated on March 1, 2013

Online reputation management has become an absolute necessity for businesses in the US and all around the globe.

No matter how big or small your company is, no matter the service or product you offer, you just have to realize that the world completely changed the moment a consumer with internet access acquired the ability to voice their opinion online with a few taps and clicks of a mouse and keyboard. The ease with which customers can post content on the internet has caused one of the greatest power shifts in business history, so that it now lies in the hands of a single consumer.

Did you know that around 80% of the U.S. population uses the Internet to research a product or service before making a buying decision?

More importantly than that, the recent polls have shown that over 70% of those who research online will be unlikely to buy from you if they find a single negative review about your business!

With the increasing popularity of online social networks like Facebook, public review sites like Yelp, and video sharing sites like YouTube, everybody has a voice these days.

The result is that even the slightest dissatisfaction of your client can become public in a matter of seconds.

The impact of a neglected online reputation...

Any negative mentions that appear on Google when someone searches your business name or information related to your business niche can be extremely detrimental to your brand’s public perception. Online reviews have become the main criterion for people when they make a purchasing decision, and if your company appears to have a number of negative reviews posted

on various social platforms, these potential consumers will always decide that they are better not to risk their investment and will take it elsewhere. That's why it should be your everyday job to stay informed of your online image and manage your reputation accordingly.

What can happen? The "Dell Hell" case

This story was coined as "Dell Hell" and it represents a vivid example of how even a big company's reputation can be compromised because of an ugly review gone viral.

It all started when frustrated customer and blogger Jeff Jarvis published a series of rants about his frustrations with the recently purchased PC, and more importantly, with Dell's customer service. He literally said this:

"I just got a new Dell laptop and paid a fortune for the four-year, in-home service. The machine is a lemon and the service is a lie. I'm having all kinds of trouble with the hardware: overheats, network doesn't work, maxes out on CPU usage. It's a complete lemon."

What happened next was that Jeff's complaints caught the attention of other customers who went on to share their own poor experiences with Dell's customer support.

The online commentary spread like wildfire, overloading Google with negative search results concerning Dell.

As a result of the online complaints explosion and the lack of immediate action from Dell, the computer industry giant experienced a serious reputation problem which resulted in a devastating loss of sales.

Get Your Reputation Under Control!

Luckily, it is possible to get your online reputation under control.

This can be achieved by implementing a dedicated, persistent monitoring of the internet and taking timely measures to suppress any negative mentions. Complaints and even slanderous mentions about your brand can be smothered, and positive reviews can be boosted.

Step 1. Monitor and take action

The first thing you should do is identify what websites

are the main influencers for your brand. Whatwebsites/blogs/forums currently have mentions of your brand, both positive and negative? These should be your main focus.

Continual online monitoring will allow you to determine which negative mentions require your immediate response.

Likewise, the positive mentions will allow you to see what

raises the most appraisal from your customers, allowing you to use it and generate more positive online feedback in the future.

It's a good idea to have one of your staff keep a record of all online mentions about your business and plan adequate actions.

Negative reviews should be addressed with a positive response in a timely manner. If you're able to catch negative mentions soon, you have a good chance to smother their harmful impact.

Step 2: Address negative reviews

Once you have identified badmentions that have the most negative effect on your reputation, you should address these as quickly as possible. While you can't make the existing negative review go away, it's a good idea to stand up and acknowledge the mention. Let the existing and potential customers know that

you’re aware of the issue and would like to address it as soon as possible. This will present you as a caring business owner and

an excellent professional. Remember, Dell's major mistake that lead to a reputation disaster was not acting swiftly on the initial complaint from a single customer.

In case you feel that a published complaint isn't a valid one, you can try to have that negative comment removed by contacting the owner of the online platform which published it.

You should make sure though that your request doesn't sound too demanding, so that the owner of the site doesn't feel pressured. Oftentimes, a genuine explanation of what really happened and how it has had a negative effect on your business can be enough to gain understanding and receive help on the other end.

Step 3: Use SEO to flood search engines with positive content

Your goal is to get as much positive information about

you as possible ranked on the first pages in all of the major search engines. This is done through using proper search engine optimization (SEO). SEO involves creating, keyword-optimizing and publishing content online in a specific way.

This step is a long-term strategy which will help you push the negative

mentions down in search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. So, when your potential customers perform online searches, they're predominantly exposed to positive information about your business.

Among the things you can do is create a keyword-optimized Google Places business listing. Also, it's a good idea to have keyword-optimized listings on popular review sites like Yelp, CitySearch, SuperPages and MerchantCircle. If you do a good job, your listings will show up high in the search engines.

One important thing I need to mention though is that you have to have a solid amount of glowing reviews on these web sites in order to get any positive results.

Step 4: Encourage online reviews from your satisfied customers.

Once you have created business listings on Google and various public review sites, you will have multiple online platforms where you can encourage your customers to visit and leave positive reviews on.

You should remember though that people are generally lazy and forgetful about these things. So, one way of getting them to actually leave a review is by offering incentives such as discounts and bonuses.

Everybody loves getting a good deal - so much for the fact that daily deal sites like Groupon are very popular nowadays. When offering a discount, you can emphasize that with the discount, you want to reward them for the time they're going to spend posting an online review, and therefore it's not a positive review incentive. This will ensure transparency while still getting the result you need.

Step 5: In-house measures to minimize negative reviews

While all the above online activities are vital for repairing and improving your online reputation, there are some measures you can implement in-house that will minimize the risks of future negative reviews.

One of the most effective ways to prevent negativity being posted on to the internet is by requesting your customers to fill out customer satisfaction surveys. While it sounds rather old-fashion and simplistic, it works very well for two major reasons. First of all, people like it when asked for their opinion. Secondly, a survey is a nice quick way to have a dissatisfied customer vent, right there on the spot, about what makes him/her unhappy. This makes a customer feel relieved, less emotional and thus will be much less likely to go online afterwards to offload his/her negativity about your business.

Treating Your Online Reputation as an Asset

Your company's online reputation may become your greatest asset, driving hundreds of new customers your way. Likewise, if not managed properly, it may quickly backfire with bad reviews spreading on discussion boards all over the internet and deterring people away from your business forever.

A common mistake a lot of companies make is neglecting their online reputation management, which results in clients passing by your doors and your revenues plummeting.

We hope that this report has given you a useful perspective on the steps you can take in order to restore and improve your online reputation while attracting new business your way.

"Because When They Trust You, They Buy From You!"

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