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Businesses of all sizes have come to the quick realization that online reputation management is no longer an optional luxury or simply a nice thing to have. Understanding what consumers are saying about you online and having an effective review management plan needs to be a core element of any marketing strategy.

The voice of your consumers serves a dual purpose. First, it provides helpful insights into your goods and services to other potential customers. Second, it serves as a control point for you and the leadership of your organization to understand pain points and identify best business practices.

When you are not managing your online reputation, somebody else is. Because your online reputation has the power to make or break your business, the very first step that you must take is to learn to understand and measure the metrics most commonly found across review sites. These metrics will help you paint a picture of how your business is perceived by others, equipping you to make corrections on the fly and optimize your offering quicker than ever.

The evidence is overwhelming. A good online business reputation is your best ally when it comes to new customer acquisition, lateral growth, and your ability to increase prices as trust in your business and demand for your goods increase. A survey conducted by Dimensional Research indicated that 90 percent of those interviewed reported that positive reviews influenced their buying decisions.

Managing your online reputation correctly and proactively is within reach, even if your business is not large. A can-do attitude and small investments of time, effort, and resources have the potential to snowball into something big that can elicit positive business changes.

Four Things You Should Track, Starting Today

Overall Score: Like with everything, you need to take care of the basics. Tracking your overall rating across websites is a great stepping stone to understanding what drives your online reputation. Keep track of seasonal issues that may influence your reviews, notate promotions and other marketing activities triggering online engagement, and get to know what you should consider the norm when it comes to evaluating your online reputation. Even if in the beginning it is not by any means perfect, it will give you and other stakeholders a starting point to work from as you improve your products and services.

Ranking: More potential buyers are conducting research on review sites. In many cases, these searches are category-based. Your rank and popularity level will determine how close to the top your business is displayed when someone conducts a category query. On travel and hospitality websites such as TripAdvisor, your business receives a ranking or position based on popularity. This ranking is listed on your business profile. Ranking in the top ten for any category adds significant credibility to your business and generates a higher number of leads. 

Service Metrics: Many review websites allow customers to review service by providing a score on scales of 1 to 5 or 1 to 10. Tracking your service score can help you tackle much-needed changes quickly. While revising your product might require significant planning and renovating of your facility that is simply not in the horizon, training your staff to be kind and responsive can happen right away, with minimal investment and tremendous impact. Generally speaking, when a customer voices discontent with the service, they are not speaking about an interaction gone wrong but instead the result of an escalation to an interaction that encountered non-responsiveness. Make it your goal to provide superior service all the time to all the people. 

Consistency Across Websites: Your customers have many channels by which they can voice their opinions. One of the most frequent mistakes from small businesses is failing to engage with some review sites, while focusing their energy on one or two sites they assume are highly relevant. Be a full-picture online reputation manager, and learn to use all the horizontal data available on the Web. Make sure your overall scores are similar across websites. If this is not the case, then conduct a deep dive to understand the root of the problem, and explore the possibility of taking actions conducive toward more and better reviews on websites where you might be slacking in terms of review count or review quality.

Four Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Reputation

Take Control of Your Profile: Here is an easy but essential win. Take control of every profile, and make sure you are maximizing your brand messaging on each. Make your profiles fresh, informative, and customer-focused. Write the content around your review themes, and make sure your profile is media-rich. A well-written profile speaks volumes of your business, and can provide clarity that is not generally available via customer reviews only.

(Check out: “Top 9 Reasons to Claim Your Business Listings and Review Site Pages”)

See the Whole Picture: Maintain and track all review sites relevant to your business. Make sure your review monitoring strategy and reputation management include a functional scorecard, and use it as a key tool for decision making and long-term strategy.

Answer Reviews: Interactivity is essential in the development of a strong online reputation. Take time to engage with your customers by providing responses to reviews on all websites at all times. Use your reviews as a tool of marketing, brand broadcasting, SEO, and client remediation.

By interacting with your reviewers, you are likely to elicit loyalty from current customers and build the trust of future customers. Keep this in mind as you draft responses to your reviews. Your words are speaking to a wider audience each time you write a review, and that is a priceless opportunity. Don’t miss out. 

Use the Feedback to Improve: Non-action is your worst enemy. Study your reviews, and use negative reviews as a means to diagnose problems with your processes, products, or services. Seek to implement review management solutions aimed at tackling the most common concerns voiced by prior customers via review.

On the other hand, positive reviews should be used to reinforce and reward positive behaviors. If there is something you are currently doing that triggers superior online buzz, then find ways to maximize the opportunity by creating awareness across your staff. Find new and creative ways to make superior experiences part of your corporate culture, and something that is repeatable every time, with every guest.

Crystal Shuller

Crystal is the Director of Customer Happiness for ReviewTrackers. She's known around the office for E-mails that make everyone smile, and she has a bag of tricks and tips to help businesses solve their problems and delight their customers.

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