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Manage your online reputation: Take control of your brand

In our fast-paced digital age, information is more accessible than ever before. As a business, this means actively managing your online reputation is critical. In the past, businesses were able to rely solely on traditional PR to generate a positive reputation. Today, they must contend with the reality that customers can get cues about a business from many easy-to-access sources, such as review sites and social media accounts. To manage your online reputation today, it’s important to have a robust, multi-pronged approach that ensures you have control of the brand across the internet.

Grab our white-label reputation management sales playbook to guide your sales pitch and close more reputation management clients.

That’s exactly what we’ll help you create by the end of this article. We’ll discuss the different components of an effective online reputation management strategy and provide you with guidelines for how to manage your online reputation.

What is online reputation management?

Online reputation management (ORM) consists of monitoring and shaping a business's online reputation. It overlaps partly with public relations, as they share many principles in common. Both are concerned with improving and influencing the public perception of a business, but online reputation management is—as its name implies—focused on the online aspects of a business’s reputation.

Since the internet plays such a key role in how consumers interact with businesses today, online reputation management has become a non-negotiable aspect of operating a business today. It is comprised of a variety of tactics, which we’ll discuss in detail in this article.

These include:

  • Monitoring and responding to reviews and customer feedback
  • Promoting content that conveys a positive image of your business
    Employing SEO reputation management tactics to boost content
  • Using paid media strategically
  • Engaging with customers online in a way that supports brand reputation

In short, online reputation management is the sum of all of the activities a business engages in to influence the public’s perception of its reputation.

Benefits of online reputation management

Even businesses that don’t consider themselves as primarily online businesses (such as brick-and-mortar businesses or older mom-and-pop shops) must contend with the reality that 85% of customers today regularly conduct research online before making buying decisions.

Whereas buyers in the past relied primarily on information from a few mainstream media sources and word-of-mouth recommendations from close friends and family, today’s consumer has access to reviews, testimonials, and media stories from a vastly larger pool of people. A review from someone in one part of the world can influence the buying decision of someone across the planet in just a few minutes.

Online reputation management gives agencies and the businesses they work with the tools and strategies to ensure that they can still control their brand image and earn a positive reputation.

Some of the key benefits include:

Enhanced brand perception

By managing a client’s online reputation, you can meaningfully influence the perception that customers and prospects have of the brand. Rather than letting negative reputational cues damage how they view the business, you can implement techniques that ensure people who encounter the brand are left with a positive image.

Improved trust

Having a positive online reputation isn’t just important because it feels good: a reputation is directly related to how trustworthy consumers view a business to be. If they don’t see it as particularly trustworthy, they will be less inclined to want to purchase their products or services.

An excellent reputation management strategy can convey that:

  • A business has a great product
  • The business stands by its product
  • The business is responsive and ethical
  • The business respects and values customers

Improved loyalty

An important component of any reputation management strategy is addressing feedback, including negative reviews and customer concerns. When you do this, particularly publicly (like in the review section of your client’s website), you demonstrate to customers that your client takes their concerns seriously and doesn’t take their support for granted.

This aspect of managing an online reputation helps build customer loyalty. Customers are far more likely to return as repeat customers if they see that their business is appreciated.

Increased revenue

If there’s one benefit of managing your online reputation that you take away from this article, this is it. Reputation management isn’t a vanity exercise; it can significantly impact a business’s bottom line for the better. Given the reality that 45% of consumers report having seen something online that made them decide not to support a business, the implications of reputation management for revenue become clear.

When you manage a client’s online reputation, you give more prospects the extra nudge to buy from them. Similarly, you avoid situations where someone who would have otherwise spent money with your client’s business decides not to because of something they saw online. The combined effect of this is more revenue for your client.

Competitive advantage

An overwhelming majority of consumers—86%—say that they would pay more for a product or service that has positive reviews and testimonials.

So, what does this mean in terms of competitive advantage? It means that if your client has a competitor with a similar product or service and a more competitive price point, your client can still beat them if the business has more positive reviews online. By managing their online presence and generating positive testimonials, your client can take up more of the market share in their niche by winning over customers even if they don’t have the most competitive prices.

Improved SEO rankings

Local SEO plays an important role in online reputation management. Many of the activities required to manage an online reputation will also boost SEO rankings, leading to more valuable organic traffic. This can help balance out the paid traffic a client generates from PPC, ensuring that their business can regularly generate traffic even without having to pay for it directly.

Manage your online reputation: Components of an effective ORM strategy

Managing an online reputation requires implementing a variety of techniques because an audience’s perception of a brand’s online reputation can be influenced in many different ways. In other words, the best online reputation management strategies will meet customers exactly where they are, from review sections to podcasts to their Google search results pages.

To manage an online reputation effectively, it’s important to address all four online media channels that can convey cues about a brand’s reputation to customers:

  1. Owned media
  2. Shared media
  3. Earned media
  4. Paid media

Within each of these channels, there are different activities you can conduct to manage and improve a client’s reputation. Taken together, all of these activities constitute an effective ORM strategy. Let’s take a closer look at each.

1. Owned media

Owned media channels are those that a business owns or has control over. One of the most important owned media channels is, of course, your client’s website. Some sections of the website are particularly important when it comes to reputation management, such as the product review sections and blog.

Owned media also includes other publications and communications that your client might create and disseminate, such as ebooks, infographics, and business app content.

Managing an online reputation through a client’s owned media channels includes using SEO principles to promote content, creating content that provides real value to the audience, and managing the review section to promote positive reviews and respond to all reviews productively, even the negative ones.

2. Shared media

Shared media is another term for social media. This means that any social media profiles your client has created for the business are part of the shared media channel. They have control over the content that is published on shared media, so it should, of course, be created strategically to support the promotion of a positive reputation.

On shared media, you don’t have direct control over what is said about a business, negative comments on a post, and other similar occurrences that can damage an online reputation. Effective social media reputation management requires that you have a plan in place to address all mentions, including the negative ones, quickly and professionally. How you handle low ratings, negative comments, and other potential injuries to your client’s reputation can say a lot more about the business to prospective customers than the initial negative review.

3. Earned media

This channel has a lot in common with what you probably think of when you think about traditional public relations. Earned media is content about a business generated by third parties that is earned rather than paid for. This includes uncompensated influencer content or user-generated content (UGC), mentions in online publications or blogs, and reviews and testimonials on third-party databases such as TrustPilot.

Traditional earned media includes things like mentions in print magazines and newspapers, but for the purposes of online reputation management, the focus is on online media.

Managing an online reputation on earned media involves activities like creating press releases, being a guest on podcasts, gifting, and any other activities that can generate positive, non-compensated buzz about a brand.

The paid media channel includes any content that a company pays for to get a message out about its business.

Types of paid media:

  • PPC ads
  • Paid influencer content
  • Paid blog post mentions
  • Other types of sponsored content

Since you have much more control over how a client’s business is portrayed in paid media, you can craft messages that promote a positive online reputation for their business.

Tools and strategies to manage your online reputation

Now that you are aware of the different media channels that should be addressed through your online reputation management strategy, you can start putting together a strategy. This strategy should cover every base and ensure a stellar reputation in the eyes of your client’s existing and prospective customer base. Use these online reputation management tips to create your strategy.

Conduct a reputation audit

If your client is just starting out with reputation management, it helps to first take stock of where, exactly, they stand when it comes to their business’s online reputation. This requires getting a sense of what is currently being said about the brand across the internet, in reviews, on social media sites, and wherever brand mentions may appear.

A reputation audit can help you understand how the business is currently perceived by their audience. This will allow you to identify areas that require special attention and that you should focus on first when you start implementing their online reputation management plan.

Using reputation management software is the fastest and most comprehensive way to gauge the current state of a brand’s online reputation through analysis of online reviews and mentions across the internet.

There are also some DIY reputation management strategies you can work on to audit a client’s reputation:

  1. Conduct a simple Google search to see what comes up on the first page for the brand name. Since very few Google users ever look beyond the first page, the results on page 1 will give you a pretty good idea of what most people will encounter when they Google your client’s brand.
  2. Read the reviews on your client’s website, their Google Business Profile, and any other listings they have online. If there are negative reviews, is there a common theme?
  3. Go through mentions and comments on their social media profiles.

These exercises can give you a reasonably good baseline. However, to implement an effective reputation management strategy over time, you’ll be best served by software that makes it easy to track all of this information easily. That way, you’ll be able to quickly see if your strategy is working or if you need to adjust it.

Determine your priorities

Once you’ve conducted an audit, you can move on to the next step, which is determining what should be prioritized when managing an online presence.

Let’s say that as part of the audit, you discovered two negative search results that paint your client’s business in a negative light. Worse, these results appear near the top of the search engine results page when people search for the client’s brand name on Google. This means prospective customers could be turned off when they see those search results. The client may lose the sale without a chance to prove themselves to the customer.

If you find yourself in this situation, pushing down those negative search results should be very high on your list of priorities. It may not be something you can accomplish overnight, but you should begin right away so that you can get those negative search results out of view as quickly as possible. This means that some of the first activities you’ll conduct to manage their online reputation will involve implementing SEO techniques to get other, positive search results to appear higher than the negative ones.

Alternatively, your audit might turn up some negative reviews that were previously missed. Not only will the customer who left the review feel unappreciated because your client didn’t respond, but all of the other prospective customers checking out the reviews will also get the impression that they don’t care about customer feedback. Responding to these unaddressed reviews would be a top priority in your online reputation management plan.

Some activities can be completed relatively easily, while others will take time to take effect. In these examples, responding to negative reviews would be a quick win, while employing SEO tactics to push down negative search results would be a longer-term project. Identify everything you would like to do, and create a plan that includes tackling the low-hanging fruit while also making progress toward more challenging goals.

Create guidelines

Before jumping in to tackle your reputation management priorities, it’s wise to have some internal guidelines in place. These ensure that things are done in a consistent manner that aligns with your client’s goals, regardless of who on the team is doing the work.

Your guidelines should include things like communication guidelines based on the brand’s personality, voice, and values. You might have a list of approved phrases and phrases to avoid. You might also have review response templates for situations that frequently come up. These templates can ensure that customers always receive consistent messaging even if they are dealing with different representatives. Having steps to follow in place to deal with different situations that regularly arise can also be helpful.

If your client’s business is bigger, it can help to have an internal chart that outlines who is responsible for different tasks related to managing their online reputation. This ensures the buck doesn’t get passed on important activities, since everyone will be on the same page about who owns each activity.

Create a crisis management strategy

In addition to your guidelines for managing an online reputation, take the time to create a crisis management strategy. Crises happen. The businesses that come out of these situations (mostly) unscathed tend to be those that had a plan. A plan can help you stay calm and focused while navigating a PR crisis. Much like your reputation management communication guidelines, your crisis plan should spell out the chain of responsibility, communication protocols, and useful templates.

The sooner you can get on top of a crisis, the better. To ensure that you can jump into crisis management mode ASAP when necessary, make sure to keep an eye on your client’s brand mentions, social media accounts, and other places where customer conversations may be taking place.

Implement monitoring of reviews and brand mentions

Now that you have your priorities laid out, and you have guidelines in place, you can begin to dive into the key activities involved in managing an online reputation. One of the most important components of a reputation management strategy is review and brand mention monitoring. Using review management software makes it possible to do this at scale since it would be extremely time consuming to try to manually find every review for a company’s product or service across the internet.

If your client is small or just starting out, it may be the case that you can manually check the reviews on their website and get a feel for their online reputation. However, as a business grows, there are hundreds of websites on which reviews can potentially appear. The right software makes it possible to see reviews from across the internet, as well as brand mentions outside of reviews. Thanks to AI-powered machine learning, you can also glean insights about brand sentiment that are invaluable when it comes to managing an online reputation.

Have a system for responding to all reviews

That’s right: all reviews. Responding to reviews can make a very meaningful impact on a brand’s reputation. If reviews are positive, it shows respect and appreciation to thank customers for taking the time to leave their positive comments. If reviews are negative, responding provides an opportunity to demonstrate the business’s excellent customer service accolades.

When responding to negative reviews, the faster you can get the job done, the better. Rather than giving customers the time to stew in their dissatisfaction, you should quickly make them feel heard and address their concerns.

Whether your client feels the review is justified or not, remain professional and thank the reviewer for their time and business. Acknowledge their concerns, and if appropriate, apologize and offer a solution or a way to make it up to them.

While sometimes it is appropriate to take the conversation to a private venue, always start and resolve as much as you can in public. This way, other prospective customers scrolling by can see your professionalism and care, which is a positive when it comes to managing an online reputation.

Finally, take notice of any recurring issues that come up. These could indicate that a client’s product or service needs some improvements. Negative reviews can provide valuable insights in this regard.

Use techniques to generate reviews

In order to have reviews to which you can respond, you need to be generating reviews in the first place. Having many positive, recent reviews sends a positive reputational signal to prospects, giving them more confidence in spending their money with your client’s business over a competitor.

Using a review-generation tool like Customer Voice can put this process on autopilot, regularly requesting reviews from customers on a wide variety of platforms, from your client’s website to their Google Business Profile and beyond.

Plus, if you’re regularly generating positive reviews for a client, the odd negative review will become buried among the other feedback faster.

Create content that supports your client’s goals

Whether you’re creating blog posts, publishing whitepapers, shooting TikTok videos, or posting graphics to Instagram, your content creation efforts should support your client’s goals when it comes to managing their online presence.

This includes creating content that is on-brand, useful, and honest since a surprising 80% of reputation damage comes from the hype around a product or service not matching reality.

It also means conducting keyword research to ensure blog posts and other on-site content is optimized for SEO. This can help you get more of your client’s content to appear on Google’s SERPs, making the business more discoverable and boosting their reputation in the process by exposing audiences to the high-quality content.

Manage social media accounts

Effectively managing social media accounts is a must when it comes to managing an online reputation. It’s not enough to create attractive and on-brand content; you also have to engage with the audience, answer questions, and address concerns swiftly, just as you would with online reviews.

Since staying on top of multiple social media accounts can be extremely time consuming, having a tool that makes it easy to engage with audiences on multiple different platforms from a single dashboard makes the job much easier.

On social media, it’s as important as anywhere else to remember your communication guidelines and stick to them, since many consumers encounter brands on social media first. This means social media posts and comments can be the first impression to new customers, and it’s important that they reflect your client’s brand voice.

Stay on top of SEO

This includes your on-page and technical SEO, local SEO, link building, and content creation. Having an SEO management system in place will help you manage your client’s online reputation on Google. The more optimized the content is, the higher it is likely to appear on Google’s SERPs. This means that when users search for your client’s brand name or other related keywords, they’re more likely to encounter their content, rather than potentially negative third-party search results.

While we’re on the topic of negative search results: ensure that your SEO system includes a plan for pushing down negative search results. Knowing how to do this can help you bury results that don’t do your client’s business any favors. This way, prospective customers are more likely to see content that promotes a positive online reputation for the business.

Tap into the power of influencer marketing

There’s no denying it: Influencers play an important role in marketing today. Choosing the right influencers can help your client convey a brand message and values directly to their target audience, growing their business faster than might be possible with other marketing techniques.

When choosing influencers who can help you manage a client’s online reputation in a positive direction, ensure you only work with those who are aligned with the client’s brand values and target demographic. Choose influencers who are held in very high esteem by their fans to benefit from their positive reputation indirectly.

Manage online reputation through paid media

Many overlook the power of paid media when it comes to reputation management, but it can certainly play an important role.

In your PPC campaigns, make sure to run ads for your client’s brand name and longtail keywords that include the brand name. You might be surprised to find that competitors are also bidding using the brand name. If they are also using the client’s trademarked brand name in their ad copy, this is technically illegal and you can request removal through Google.

If they are only using the brand name in the keywords they are bidding in, your best bet is to up your spend on those keywords to push them out of the space.

Use public relations practices

Generating positive buzz around your client’s brand by using traditional PR techniques such as giving interviews is a great way to manage their online reputation. Podcasts have grown tremendously in popularity over the past decade, with many garnering large audiences even for very niche subjects. Speaking on podcasts, joining webinar panels, giving interviews to online publications, and submitting press releases to appropriate syndication platforms can all be effective ways to improve an online reputation.

Frequently asked questions

What is the importance of managing online reputation?

Managing online reputation is an important activity for just about every business operating today because customers largely form their opinions about a business based on information they glean online. Having a reputation management system in place ensures that brands can project a positive image that gives customers the confidence to buy their products or services.

Who can help you to manage your online reputation?

Vendasta offers brand reputation management services and software that help agencies offer robust reputation management services to their local business clients. Whether you want to handle reputation management in house or you want to leave it to a team of white-label experts, Vendasta has the right solution for your agency’s needs.

About the Author

Solange Messier is the Content Strategy Manager at Vendasta. Solange has spent the majority of her career in content marketing helping companies improve how they connect with their prospects and customers. Her diverse background includes magazine publishing, book publishing, marketing agencies, payment processing, and tech. When she's not working, Solange can be found spending time with her family, running, and volunteering.

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