A growing service among marketing consultants and agencies is something called “Reputation Management.” Some of them are even entirely devoted to this singular, specialized service.
The reason for its popularity is, in addition to improving their local SEO, many businesses are looking to improve their ratings, reviews, and overall reputation.
According to a recent study, 88% of consumers trust reviews when making a purchasing decision. Also, by increasing your ratings and the replies to reviews, you can increase your clickthrough rate by 57% and your conversion rate by as much as 25%.
Reviews are not only a trust indicator but also a ranking factor. In another study, they appear to be the most prominent ranking factor in local search.
But above all, reviews increase trust and credibility. They show your responsiveness, authenticity, and social proof. Clients crave transparency and connection these days, which reviews can provide.
There are three types of online reviews:
- Local Listings such as Google My Business and Bing Places.
- Review Sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp.
- Social Media such as Facebook pages.
If you haven't claimed your profile on these local listing sites, you should. The purpose is not to directly use them as marketing channels (although, you could). It's to ensure you keep a finger on your reputation's pulse and to respond to anything unfavourable.
Here are three things you should do to help you manage your reputation.
1. Respond to Reviews
Ignoring reviews is the worst thing you can do. Both positive and negative. Google has publicly stated that replying to reviews (and doing so quickly) shows that you value your clients and you're committed to helping them.
How to respond to reviews deserves an article of its own. But for now, thanking your clients for their feedback is important — to both the client and Google.
If there's one tip I might give you, it's this: don't respond to negative reviews negatively. Leave emotions out of it. Don't be confrontational. Be kind, open, and diplomatic. Hostility, even a mere passive-aggressive tone, doesn't look good and will work against you.
For one, you will push people away from leaving any review, or anger those who might be on the fence and cause them to come to the negative reviewer's aid.
Second, legitimate reviews can only be changed by the reviewer. Hopefully, you can get them to modify their review. But a hostile approach will definitely destroy any chances of them changing their reviews to more positive ones.
Third, as a professional, laws dictate what you can say in reviews, such as HIPPA for example. Any information related to the delivery of the service cannot involve the client's specific case or their private information. So tread carefully.
2. Increase Positive Reviews
You cannot and should never influence the type of review. Doing so may cause you more damage than a negative review will. But you can and should ask for your client's feedback as often as you can.
There are three ways: inquire, include, and invite.
Ask your clients for their feedback. Conduct a survey or offer a questionnaire in which you ask them to post their responses to an online review site. Include links to your listing to make it as easy as possible to leave a review.
One way to preemptively manage negative reviews is to have their responses sent to you first, where you can address the negative ones privately, directly, and appropriately, and send links to those who submitted positive ones and invite them to post their reviews publicly.
Another way is to simply ask them to send any negative feedback to you directly instead of posting them online, so you can address their concerns faster and more efficiently. Most will oblige.
Finally, if you incentivize reviews, remember that you cannot influence the type of review. The incentive is only meant to encourage feedback and not to entice positive ones. Some industries forbid this entirely, so be careful.
Making it easier for people to leave a review will increase your chances significantly. By embedding reviews on your website, you not only show social proof but also make the reviews clickable and easy for visitors to post one.
If you have an email newsletter, include links to leave reviews, where clicking them can open directly with an online review form. Also, consider adding a link to your email signature.
Finally, don't forget “thank you” pages, purchase confirmation pages, email confirmations, and invoices. These are often the most opportune times to ask for reviews as the service is fresh and the client is (hopefully) satisfied — a feeling that degrades over time.
There are review management platforms and tools, which allow you to proactively invite and remind your clients to leave reviews. From offering suggestions and templates users can use, to the ability for users to share their reviews on their social media.
You can also post review-engaging content, success stories that incorporate your client's reviews, or periodic client spotlights where you link to their reviews.
Let's not forget good old advertising.
Some companies I know have ad campaigns for the express purpose of generating reviews. The purpose of the ad is to gather feedback, possibly via a survey, with some kind of incentive for doing so.
Just remember that you cannot ask for or influence the type of review.
3. Remove Negative Reviews
I worked with a cosmetic doctor who once had a rogue staff member. When she left, the disgruntled former employee unreservedly posted negative reviews all over the place. The content was mostly false and quite damaging.
In general, you don't want to delete negative reviews. If they are legitimate, they provide balance and authenticity. According to the same survey mentioned at the beginning, 94% say they buy from companies who respond to their reviews. Including the bad ones.
(Sometimes, your response to a negative review can create more credibility, positivity, and traction than a positive review can.)
But in the case of truly fake reviews, there are steps you can take to report them. Many of these local directories and listings sites offer ways to contact support staff, report fake reviews, provide any supporting documentation, and offer proof (if possible) that the review is fake.
This is another reason why claiming your listing is important because it makes it easier to flag and remove defamatory reviews. In the case of the disgruntled employee above for example, the review was flagged, reported, and removed within 48 hours.
Finally, some reputation management services are more advanced.
For example, they include the removal of fake search engine results, the suppression of negative content, the removal of copyright and IP violations, countermeasures to address negative content, and the identification of anonymous attackers.
Nevertheless, reviews are important.
If you're specialized and marketing to a narrow niche, you won't have many competitors to grapple with. Hopefully, your reputation (the real kind) is a positive one. But even then, online reviews will help as they add to and confirm your existing stellar reputation.
However, it's likely that you are dealing with competitors in your space. If you both show up in search results, the business with the most and highest ratings tend to pull the greatest attention, clicks, and results.