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SMB owners have come to the realization that a good percentage of their traffic – both online and offline – has a direct correlation with their online reputation. Online reputation management is no longer a nice-to-have; instead it has become a key element of a sound marketing plan.

When it comes to drafting a functional plan of action to improve your online reputation, it is easy to feel defeated. Many business owners have voiced their frustration, indicating that, more often than not, they feel like they don’t have the means to influence their online trends. Because online reviews are so essential to the success or failure of a business, it is imperative that those in charge of marketing regain a sense of control and learn how to manage their marketing strategy in a way that supports increased positive online customer engagement.

(Check out: “5 Awesome Tips for Improving Customer Engagement”)

The way to tackle your online reputation is likely to evolve as trends change, as review websites rise and fall, and as consumer behavior changes. In addition to changes to the way individuals engage with your business, the messaging of your brand and business is likely to change as your brand matures. While these aspects of your strategy are highly fluid and ever changing, there are key evergreen strategies that will equip you to set the stage for sales-conducive product reviews.

Constantly Work on Snowballing 

Review volume and the speed at which your business acquires new reviews dictate your positioning in search results on review sites (like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Citysearch) as well as on search engines. Simply put: the more reviews you have, the more likely you are to show up in searches associated to keywords that drive visitors to your business and/or website, and consequently convert into customers and dollars in your pocket.

In addition to giving a business or corporation a boost when it comes to search, high review volume also benefits you with a “normalization effect” that averages out highly negative reviews. These reviews might have occurred under duress, or due to a fluke that is not reflective of the quality of goods or services normally provided by your company.

Contest False Reviews When and If Possible

Defeatism should never be part of a business marketing plan vocabulary. Instead, the goal for every organization should be to become immersed in a culture of proactivity that seeks to engage with the customer and provide sales-conducive solutions, or acceptable remedy and compensation. When these options are not possible, it is important to explore the possibility of removing or contesting a review or online engagement. Most, if not all, review sites provide companies with several avenues to resolve discrepancies and concerns associated with false or unfair reviews.

A common concern of small to medium business owners is the possibility of malicious review activity on their online profiles originating from unscrupulous local competitors. When faced with similar scenarios, consider reaching out to the host of the review and attempting to have the review removed or moderated. Google, for example, offers business owners options to remove bad reviews or at least report a negative or false review for moderation or removal.

Spur Review Engagement Offline and Online 

Many review websites provide businesses with brand-approved marketing tools designed to increase customer engagement. When companies or businesses receive offline materials, they need to make sure these items don’t go to waste or get buried in a pile of mail. Smart businesses make use of every single resource and incorporate them as much as possible. When a business has received an award like, say, a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, management needs to flaunt it and squeeze every drop of marketing juice out of it. Online, consider adding widgets that track your score, and use the tools provided by each review website to encourage new reviews from your customers.

Implementing these three simple strategies will most likely result in increased organic engagement, and eventually it might even help a company reduce its marketing spend, by leaning a bit more toward website-based review traffic instead of paid advertising.

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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