Online reputation for small business

By: Gerr Wilson

Many years ago, there were two executives. They did big mistake in their job. They were terminated. They joined in other company for new profession. But there co worker dug up their history. They were terminated. Their previous owner found that they were the subjects of a disparaging article from one of the world’s major news networks. In a matter of hours, the article was ranking in the search engines for the company’s name. Clients started calling inquiring about the news report, asking “are the allegations true?” They weren’t, but their reputation was damaged. When prospective customers, clients or employees are searching for you, what do they see? Is a hate site or Rip Off Report the number two listing for your name? Or, is there a news report telling the story of your incredible growth in the industry? Neither the executive, the business owner, the industry leader nor the small business were proactive in managing their online reputation. The executive’s name only appeared in legal documents from two decades ago that were now public record online. The business owner had no presence online outside of small news blurbs and people searches.
Effect of negative review on consumer fed back site.
As most consumers are aware, Yelp is based on user-generated reviews for local businesses. Getting negative reviews on Yelp can be especially bad for small businesses. The site has mechanisms in place to stop spammers from posting false reports, and to prevent business owners from creating 5-star reports for themselves. Harvard University research on Yelp shows that a 1-star difference in reviews on Yelp may result in 5% to 9% in business gained or lost. 83% of consumers say online customer reviews influence their purchase decisions. A word-of-mouth recommendation is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions.
The results of a negative online reputation may be as subtle as a user clicking on a competitor’s search result instead of yours or as damaging as an industry-wide boycott of your products and/or services. Things like, determining who is responsible for the negative reputation, if you’ll have to reposition or remove certain employees or dealing with potential losses in workforce, add further monetary, morale and growth consequences.
How to recover from online bad reputation
The best defense s to make it a practice to resolve customer support issues as soon as they occur, before a customer becomes upset enough to post a negative review. Offer a discount or a refund instead, to avoid as much as possible the risk of getting a potential negative review. If an incident is severe enough, consider reaching out to the media directly to explain the situation and if necessary, to apologize publicly to customers affected. Additionally, in a recovery situation and as a general practice, remember that just as content is king for SEO, authentic and relevant content is vital for reputation management as well. Post the articles on your own websites, but find opportunities to post “how to” articles in other locations as guest posts as well. The flipside, of course, is that happy customers can refer business to you through positive online reviews.
Reputation management agencies can do much to repair a damaged reputation on search engines by helping to remove disparaging information or helping push it further back so that it doesn’t continue to appear in the first pages of results.

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Deborah Fiorito, President of 20K Group in Houston, Texas is the latest crisis communications expert to join us at the Online Reputation Management blog.> Reputation Management

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