The Importance of Online Reputation Management (ORM)
Editorial by Jim Miller
If you want to run a successful online business, it’s crucial to maintain a good reputation, though it’s not that easy at times.
If you provide products, certain logistics will almost certainly be out of your control and if you encounter problems your purchasers typically won’t care: All they want is a smooth transaction.
It doesn’t matter if you have an unreliable courier or your suppliers failed you, your customer bought from you, so you receive the negative feedback or review.
Nowadays, customer complaints are much more prominent online with most companies inviting comments and feedback in the hope of a positive review.
The ability to have that social networking link with other prospective buyers can prove to be a double-edged sword.
Disgruntled shoppers with genuine grievances may feel frustrated with the way a purchase was handled or the service they were given and warn others about their experience.
There may be a justification for negative reviews or feedback, while with others vindictiveness, anger, or even defamation is the root cause.
Whatever happened to create the problems you may be facing, it’s vital to protect and restore a good online brand reputation.
These steps go some way into giving you an insight into what work is required to minimise damage and protecting your brand.
Please note that this article is intended for those whose business has been affected by negative publicity. If you’d like to know more about personal reputation repair, cnet.com has some helpful advice.
Steps to Help Repair Your Online Reputation
It’s never pleasant when you find someone has said something bad about you or your business- and especially so online. Your reputation suffers to an even greater degree due to social media sharing content and the viral speed of news travelling through the internet.
If your online reputation is poor, the reality is that no amount of work on your part will completely eradicate the damage.
Angry customers may refuse to withdraw their reviews, or by the time you attempt to address their grievances, the bad news has travelled beyond your power to control it.
It helps to understand why you received the negative publicity in the first place, and before potential customers make up their own minds about you.
Above all else, stay calm about the situation: Don’t do anything without rational thought.
The best time to act is as soon as you suspect issues or problems may arise, and before your reputation is tarnished.
That isn’t always possible, so taking these steps will certainly help reduce the impact on your reputation.
Set up a strategy to deal with the different areas in which you may have your online reputation tainted.
- Respond quickly and keep your responses brief and to the point.
- Take ownership of the complaint and empathise with the reviewer.
- Offer to fix the problem and follow up on your promises.
- Never suppress negative content by attempting to hide unfortunate, though truthful comments as it’s likely to come back and haunt you later. That doesn’t preclude methods such as pushing negative reviews further down the read list cannot be utilised, as this is common practice. Deleting genuine feedback will almost certainly cause a backlash and make things worse.
- Remove results directly if Google allows and there are steps below for doing so.
- Negotiate with the source of negativity if the reviews are defamatory (this template may help)
- Use legal channels.
- Employ a third party online reputation management company for paid removal assistance.
- Dilute the impact from negativity by improving your SEO through targeted search results.
- Develop and optimise your branded content by employing a content marketer through online reputation management (ORM) or other means. When an ORM company is employed, they analyse user intent and what constitutes a positive or negative result on a website. If the positive results can be raised, ultimately the negative results will have less consequence.
- Look to optimise your existing content.
- Address any problems with your social media content.
If you want to try to do this yourself, you need to be the website owner.
- It’s possible to remove an affected page entirely (though bear in mind, there’s nothing to stop it happening to other pages later if the problems haven’t been addressed).
- Include a ‘NOINDEX’ tag to the HTML of any web page you want Google to overlook. NOINDEX instructs a search engine to ignore a page, which in effect removes it from search engines without the actual physical need
- Alter your page content so it has no relevance for the target search query.
1. Apologise to those affected
Don’t ever be too proud or too angry to apologise- even if the issue was beyond your control, and even if the review is fake.
The reason why you ought to treat everyone the same is that other readers won’t know the review is false and will take an interest in your method of reply.
Sincerity in your apology goes a long way to convince your customer that you did everything within your power to ensure a smooth sale.
Explain how things went wrong if you can, as this often persuades a buyer that the issue wasn’t your fault.
When circumstances allow, offer a discount for the purchase already placed should they either retract or follow up on their review and if you can’t do that, a reduction for any further items bought.
If the review is fake, offering a full refund does you no damage at all as they didn’t buy from you anyway!
If the review is especially damning and the review is legitimate, consider offering the product for free for a retraction.
Make your apology personal and not seem generic as this would smack of an uncaring attitude or that you are used to having to say sorry.
In any case, follow up a personal apology with one publicised based on informing other prospective customers this issue was a rare occurrence.
When an apology has been accepted, ask the customer if they would be so kind as to publicise this in the same places as they left their negative comment.
The reason being, this will add more weight to their acceptance and is more likely to convince others of your sincerity.
When all else fails, make your apology public and give the reasons for doing so. Most buyers will understand that things can go wrong, but it’s how you deal with a problem that makes the difference.
2. Learn From What Went Wrong
This is a step often missed out when looking to improve your online reputation.
There’s little point making amends with an unhappy client or customer if you perpetuate your mistakes later.
Try and put right what caused the customer complaint in the first place so this doesn’t happen again. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to make new mistakes without the old ones!
One method for trying to ascertain how effective feedback or reviews have been for you is through monitoring tools such as ‘Google Alerts’.
How Google Alerts Works
Google Alerts is a free service supplied by Google that once set up, sends emails to the subscriber to summarise any search activity around specific search terms.
It’s especially useful for obtaining information about businesses, because it can be used to know whenever a company’s name is mentioned and by whom.
With Google Alerts it’s possible to ascertain what’s being said about a person, product, company, or service throughout the web.
Used correctly, Google Alerts helps a business stay ahead of developments by being proactive about relevant topics, and also receiving information about competitors.
This free planning tool helps with identifying trends and new technologies.
How to Use Google Alerts
- For specific words, use quotation marks to surround a search word. This tells Google to look for those specific words rather than a generic list including those words.
- For specific phrases, adding quotation marks will narrow down the search to that specific phrase.
- Specific ‘Site’ Searching is utilised so the search is narrowed to one specific site. This is achieved by adding the word ‘Site:’ (without speech marks) before the search term
- The Negative keyword search. Including a minus sign (‘-’) will remove that particular search term from the search results. For example, if a search is carried out for the search term ‘web development’ and it returns too many job listings, including ‘-’ (without the speech marks)then job, would omit job from the search term.
- Write in google.com/alerts from your browser, or follow this link.
- Enter a search term for a topic you want to track.
- View a snapshot of the results below the search term.
- Press ‘Show Options’ to narrow down the alerts to a specified language or source and even a region.
- You then can specify how often, how many, and how to receive alerts.
- Select ‘Create Alert’.
3. Increase Your Positive Reviews
Assuming you’ve already been proactive about the cause of the poor reviews, another means of improving your online reputation is through press releases that are promoting positive aspects around your business.
This type of positive content strategy will help diminish negative reviews as new customers begin to talk about you in a more constructive way.
Reputation Management Campaigns
Becoming an authority in your field assists in pushing negative reviews and feedback into less significance. Guest posts from both business and individuals help build authority, as does contributing to news sites and through social media content.
Don’t miss the opportunity to ask happy customers for positive reviews. According to a review carried out by Brightlocal.com, as many as ninety-one percent of people looking to buy online regularly or occasionally read reviews.
Of those, eighty-four percent trust the reviews as much as a personal recommendation. People search for assurances before they buy so the more positive the review, the more likely they’ll make a purchase.
The added value of increasing positive reviews is that it gradually diminishes the importance of the less so flattering types.
There are basically three categories of customers in terms of reviewers; happy, unhappy, or neutral. It pays to construct a satisfaction survey to reach out to your customers. The key to happy customers is through a smooth customer journey experience through to a sale.
Surveys will highlight areas in which you are doing well and in others, where things can be improved upon.
Don’t be tempted to falsify your reviews as not only is it illegal, it is becoming easier to spot.
According to this article from Inc.com, computers are being used with a success rate of over ninety per cent.
Other tips for spotting false reviews can be found with this post from Wisebread.com.
In essence, these are,
- A lack of internet presence from the reviewer- not easily traced anywhere else.
- A lack of detail within the review- keeping it simple so the reviewer is less likely to be tripped up with false claims.
- A lack of consistency with their claims- when the review is found elsewhere it highlights different issues.
- Separate reviews were posted too quickly within the timeframe of each other.
- Photographs appearing to come from different sources are too similar.
- The reviews are too short to be believable.
- The review sounds more like an advert enticing you to buy the product.
- The reviewed company has no real online presence (for example, no website).
4. Ask Google to Remove Fake Reviews
Considering how vast the internet is, it’s not surprising that removing Google reviews is difficult and sometimes impossible.
These steps from Podium.com will take you through how to remove bad reviews from Google, but only if your complaint falls within their ranges of qualification.
5. Consider Legal Action Against Fraudulent Reviewers
This is something ultimately you may need to think about if the reviewer refuses to remove a fake review. Thankfully, often the threat is enough of an incentive as the onus is upon you to prove the inaccuracies or lies to be successful in a case of libel.
For a company whose copyright has been infringed, one of the first steps to take is to contact Google’s transparency report link to begin the process of removal from the web.
6. For Deeper Online Reputation Repair, Consider A Management Agency
An online reputation management company uses the advantages of SEO, blog posting, public relations and many other strategies to invigorate a more positive image of an affected company.
An ORM agency will study your social media marketing to ascertain the brand perception on different social media platforms, in order to determine a strategy which is more likely to show you in the ‘best light’.
It is possible to accurately gauge your current online reputation from a collation of many areas of website searches, though all of this takes a lot of time.
Be prepared for the long haul if your brand reputation monitoring has been neglected for longer than it should have.
For an independent list to some UK based reputation management companies follow this link.
The ability to pinpoint a clear definition of what reputation means is down to corporate and public perception.
As the internet began to expand, it became obvious to the larger corporate organisations that online reputation would be a major factor for successful business growth.
While some of these areas will not apply to a smaller business, the principle shows how complicated it is to completely control.
The table below is taken from the study and shows which areas are deemed to have the greatest importance in maintaining company values.
Though the percentages may have altered over the years as different aspects of business take on greater importance, this graph does express the complexity of where reputation can be affected.
The purpose of displaying this information is to highlight how difficult a task it is to repair online reputation if bad reviews or misinformation is allowed to spread across the internet.
The challenge to any online reputation management agency would be to determine which areas are harmed by fake reviews.
The labour and time it takes to repair a reputation online largely depends on the damage caused.
The steps taken to remedy the problems may not start to show any marked change for many weeks or months and this often frustrates a company who has employed an agency to carry out the repair.
When all is said and done, don’t panic about a bad review as sometimes how you handle a poor one is equally as important as one that raves about your product or service.
Being honest and transparent with your customers (and those prospective ones) is key.
Transparency via communication, accepting criticism when it’s deserved (and as we’ve established, at other times too), and publicly acknowledging your failings, go a long way in building trust.
Don’t strive for perfection as it isn’t perceived as a genuine achievement.
About the Author
Jim writes on topics related to E-Commerce and digital marketing. His work has been featured by Cognitive SEO, Neil Patel and a number of leading brands across the US and UK. He has over 17 years experience in helping Saas & E-commerce companies grow online.