Has anyone ever gossiped about you? You may remember wishing you could tell everyone your side, how they’re wrong. “Damage control” is common vocabulary. But what about when the comment was made online? The Internet is forever.


Online reputation management (ORM) is a marketing strategy designed to manage the way you and your company are perceived in the media. Primarily this involves drowning out bad reviews and news with the good ones to bump any negative search results off the first page. (Most consumers do not click to a second page of search engine results.)

The Importance Of Reviews

If you think this isn’t something you need to worry about, think again. Your online presence matters. Results compiled by Invesp are surprising:

  • 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business.
  • 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • Consumers are likely to spend 31 percent more on a business with “excellent” reviews.
  • 72 percent say that positive reviews make them trust a business more.
  • 92 percent of consumers say they will use a local business if it has at least a five-star rating.
  • 72 percent of consumers will take action only after reading a positive review.
  • A single negative review can cost a business about 30 customers.

It might be tempting to think that if you don’t have any bad reviews you’re in the clear, but ORM is best done preventatively. Waiting until a PR disaster strikes (which could be as minor as one bad review!) is costly and makes it harder to do. Convinced yet?

 

Preventative Measures

There are two approaches to ORM: white hat and black hat. You may have heard those terms in relation to computers and the internet already, and their application here is the same. White hats stick to agreed-upon, ethical marketing practices; black hats do not. Obviously, white hat strategies are preferable not only for ethical reasons but because their work tends to be better, longer-lasting, and doesn't compromise your integrity.

Examples abound of teeth that needed to be extracted that could have been saved by regular brushing, health issues that could have been caught with routine exams. Not just in the realm of medicine either: costly maintenance repairs that worsened over time because they went unnoticed or unaddressed. Reputation is similar.

The best rule for online reputation management is to build a good reputation offline by doing good things: make useful products, offer outstanding customer service, and continue to improve. Our clients in Calgary find that the right SEO and Marketing stragegies can help them bring these valuable achievements to the forefront. But it goes further than that: you want to build a foundation of good reviews and customer loyalty so that if (when?) a bad review happens, it won’t completely capsize your business boat.

 

Reviews

We know that the people who leave reviews are either very pleased or very displeased, so reviews can be somewhat viewed as outlying from the start. But as noted above, consumers listen. And it’s easier than ever to share an opinion, no matter how based in reality it is or isn’t. In fact, up to 20% of reviews posted to Yelp are fake. (Yelp says 25% of reviews submitted to the site don’t even end up posted for being fraudulent.) Additionally, a company must receive at least five reviews for Google to show a company as having a star rating. 

That’s why building up a legitimate, positive online presence from the start is so important. It is well known that companies with more reviews get better ranks on Google, which makes gaining reviews a key part of any SEO or online marketing strategy. If you've been following marketing best practices or working with our Calgary SEO company, you might already have this solid foundation of social proof built up!

But say it happens. An employee has an off day or a product malfunctions, and suddenly your company has been left a bad review. How do you handle it? Response is critical. 

Three Key Tips About Responding To Reviews:

  1. You should respond to most of your reviews, whether positive or negative, and you should do it no more than forty-eight hours after the comment is posted.
  2. You want the response to acknowledge whatever the customer says; they need to feel heard, but you also want to reassure onlookers that you stand by your products and services. It can be a fine balance, and grace is key.
  3. Acknowledge errors and learn to apology effectively. Don’t attack or try to discredit your customers; people can see that and will respect a company willing to accept responsibility and do better. (As long as they follow through.)

So who should be the one writing these responses? That’s where white hat ORM professionals come in.

 

ORM Professionals

The best way to counter bad press is with good press. Often ORM consists of flooding links to good news, increasing the number of positive reviews, and essentially “pushing out” the bad news, or shifting an averaged rating higher. There are several ways to do this, and some are better than others.

Hiring an online reputation management professional or public relations firm is the best first step, but it will cost you (another reason prevention beats reaction). Good ORM takes time to craft articles and responses that can stand against changing Google algorithms. “Black hat” ORM will be cheaper because it costs less to fake reviews and create links to fake sites and articles. The catch, of course, is that Google knows how this happens and it’s typically a matter of time before whatever work a black hat does is erased for being fraudulent. 

The right review management professional can also devise strategies to encourage all customers--not just ones who have had "outlier" experiences--to leave reviews. This helps paint a more accurate picture of your business, and can even give you further insight into how you can improve your products or services. 

In addition, the only way to get the Google autocomplete feature on their search bar to stop showing negative fill-ins is to drown it out with good options so that the fake ones become less relevant, and again, that takes time, energy, and talent.

REMEMBER: ORM and review management is not about "hiding" bad reviews--it's about addressing customer concerns and offering a broader view of your company. If your company deals with health issues, for instance, competing information can make it hard for consumers to find the truth about a condition. Using ORM techniques and services can help the public see the information they need amidst the noise.

 

Red Flags

Be wary of anyone who wants to charge you a recurring fee to keep the same bad press away: good ORM will be able to navigate bad press away within a few months for one older incident (although, if your company stays in the news for multiple infractions of some sort, or consistently receives highly negative reviews, even the best ORM will struggle to keep that at bay.) Someone saying upfront that they will need recurring payments to keep the same negative news story off the first page of search results could be a black hat operation who knows Google will erase their work regularly. 

 

Need Help?

If you have a business, you need an online presence. Good digital marketing encompasses a website that converts as well as strategies for social media and online reputation management. StyleLabs is an experienced digital marketing firm based in Calgary that can help you either prevent or respond to damaging news online. Contact us to discuss your options.

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