10 Steps to Protect and Manage Your Small Business Reputation Online

by Creating Change Mag
Female entrepreneur working on improving her online business presence

97% of business owners say that online business reputation management is important. However, most business owners are dissatisfied with their internet presence.  

In the eyes of consumers, your brand represents who you are. Your social proof, influence, and financial standing suffer if you don’t safeguard your reputation and brand image. 

So, how do you protect and improve your online reputation? Let’s explore the breadth of your digital footprint and help you establish a framework for managing your reputation online. 

What is online reputation?

Online or digital reputation management is the act of influencing how people perceive your company or brand online. You may develop your online business reputation using social media platforms, website content, news releases, and other remarks. External users, such as customers, media publications, and influencers then contribute to your reputation through reviews, articles, forum posts, comments, journalistic investigations, and interviews. 

What is Reputation Management?

Reputation management involves regulating how your business, products, and services are regarded and maintaining a positive brand reputation. It requires you to actively monitor mentions of your brand on the web and social media. 

This includes lifting up positive content, addressing negative comments or reviews, taking interview requests, and filing legal claims in circumstances of serious defamation. You can track brand mentions through 3rd party social listening tools, setting up Google Alerts, or conducting manual searches of your brand on a regular basis. 

Reputation management has three parts

  • Improving awareness: Whether you’re a new firm, introducing a new product/service, or branching out to a new industry or consumer base, your focus is on growing your company and brand’s reputation.
  • Maintain credibility: Once you establish a good company and brand reputation, you must take action to sustain it. Even if you have a good reputation, you must manage it continually.
  • Combating negativity: Restoring your company’s reputation is crucial. One unfavorable review or comment can damage your company’s reputation, but positive marketing and promotion can help.

Why should you maintain a positive online reputation for your business?

What do you do when you’re ready to make a purchase? You conduct research on the company, product, or service. This may include a quick web search, checking out social media accounts, or reading reviews. To put it into perspective, nearly 9 out of 10 consumers take the time to read consumer reviews, and 79% trust the reviews they read online. 

To ensure you have a positive reputation, you need to actively manage your web presence. This includes how and where you appear in search results, the amount and sentiment of online reviews, and how other sites refer to your brand.

How can you protect your business’s online reputation?

Whether you’re just starting, actively growing, or recovering you can follow the following tips to protect and manage your online business reputation.

1. Keep an eye on your reputation

Conduct regular online searches for your company to see how you appear in search engine results and be sure to read and engage with user comments. You can maintain your reputation on your own using Google Alerts, social listening software, or a review monitoring service. 

Recognize that you can’t influence everything and that some negative search results will require you to build up a positive reputation that surpasses it. If you’re worried about spending too much time managing your online presence you can always look into hiring a reputation management service to do it for you.

2. Make sure your tone on social media platforms is human

Customer testimonials and reviews are basically modern word of mouth, so be sure to encourage them. Then be sure to respond to them, even the unfavorable ones, rather than trying to hide your tracks. Remember, authenticity and transparency are crucial for building a trustworthy online reputation. 

You can’t please everyone, no matter how good you are. Keep your composure and follow up. Speak with the review’s author or respond to the critical comment. Express your regret to the author that the service’s caliber didn’t meet their needs. 

Assure them that you care about their satisfaction and consider what you can do to compensate for the unpleasant experience. Even if there are too many reviews and comments to reply to, try to at least respond to any questions posed. Even the shortest interaction shows that you’re paying attention and care about current and potential customers.

3. Write quality material that people want to read

Instead of always using a straightforward sales strategy, consider reciprocation and interact with your consumers. Establish your professional presence by writing blog posts for other websites, answering customer questions, and even providing free versions of your product or service. All of these options showcase your expertise while providing valuable resources that don’t require any sort of purchase. 

Just like customer reviews bring authenticity to the culture, value, and quality of your business—content such as this validates your knowledge of the products/services you sell. It ensures that you’re present when customers ask questions or conduct research online. 

4. Establish a strategy to fight against poor press

It is crucial to react in a balanced and well-thought-out manner to any negative web news about a business or brand. Have a strategy to deal with everything from negative reviews to debunking false information about your business. 

While this is typically done through simple online engagement, there are times when you’ll need to take things outside of a digital platform. This may include the removal of libelous, defamatory, or misleading content. In this case, it’s best to hire a professional online reputation management specialist, like Massive for example, rather than taking on the legal work yourself.

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5. Be moral

Avoiding unethical acts and behaviors is an excellent method to keep and safeguard an online reputation. While morality in business goes beyond your online presence, it can be much more difficult to monitor and contain. An unsavory news article, misguided social posts from employees, or a slew of public complaints can quickly catch fire. 

So, focus first and foremost on the culture and intent of your business. Then make sure that it’s being appropriately represented in your messaging and interactions online.

6. Avoid being tagged in photos that could harm your reputation

Social sharing is a core component of the web and provides powerful tools for virtually anyone to upload something they think is related to your business. It’s great for authenticity and public engagement, but you may not always want to be associated with the content. 

Maybe a well-intentioned friend tags you in a photo of them participating in conduct that ought to be kept off-camera. Or someone takes a very unflattering picture of your business and it starts popping up next to your Google My Business profile

There are a few things you can do to try and manage events like this. First, you can reach out directly and ask people to remove the content or tag. You can also adjust your privacy settings on certain platforms to require approval before associating with your business. Lastly, you can consistently upload your own on-brand material to keep it consistently at the top. 

7. Verify properly before posting anything

Speaking of your own content, it can become just as problematic if not managed correctly. Check whether your activity is consistent with your brand before clicking the “share” or “comment” buttons. As a general guideline, avoid posting on social media when you’re upset, and regardless of your privacy settings, avoid criticizing coworkers, business partners, or clients. 

Always spell-check your comments and posts to maintain the strength of your brand. Finally, remember that whatever you share online represents you to the world.

8. Try to achieve anchor links

An anchor link is a chunk of significant text that appears as a hyperlink on your website. Getting links to your website is generally helpful for many reasons, including SEO. The greater your reputation on Google, the more other websites connect to you, and the better your visibility. 

In addition to increasing direct traffic to your website, links give it a more trustworthy and polished appearance. You can get these organically by following some of the previous steps in this article or actively seek them out. Both methods take time, so don’t expect to see immediate results that drastically improve your online reputation.

9. Collaborate with specialists

A great way to corroborate your authority and build connections is through partnerships. It might be as straightforward as asking for a specific quote in your content or as significant as inviting the expert to attend as a guest speaker at a seminar you’ve planned. 

There are several ways to reach out to influential experts in your sector. You can leverage LinkedIn and other social networking platforms to create a professional online network, attend courses and seminars, etc. 

However, you’ll undoubtedly face several difficulties. Most of the time, you must already have a stellar corporate reputation to provide something in return to a genuinely influential business partner. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try and collaborate, but it may be best to spend more of your time early on elsewhere.

10. Improve yourself

No matter how excellent you think your company is, you should continue to strive to do better. Create goals for your business that include elevating your online reputation. Leverage customer sentiment as a metric for success and hone in on the steps outlined here that either needs the most improvement or are providing the most success.

For starters, it’s worth conducting regular audits of your online presence. Know where your logo or brand is used, look for out-of-date information, and make sure that your website includes up-to-date trademarks and establishing rules for how to utilize your brand assets. 

Managing your online reputation is an ongoing process

It’s far easier for customers to interact with companies online. This can lead to stronger relationships or complete disregard for your brand—depending on how you represent yourself. 

Remember, a customer’s positive experience builds trust in the brand and its reputation. Take the time for active review management, create educational material, partner with other authoritative sites, and make sure you take criticism to heart. Your online reputation is reflective of your brand, and you want to be sure it’s a positive experience.

AvatarLyle Solomon

Lyle Solomon has considerable litigation experience as well as substantial hands-on knowledge and expertise in legal analysis and writing. Since 2003, he has been a member of the State Bar of California. In 1998, he graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, and now serves as a principal attorney for the Oak View Law Group in Los Altos, California.

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