According to research, 93% of users say that online reviews have had an impact on their buying decisions. Nearly half of all internet users post online reviews on third-party review sites each month. 81% of consumers use Google to evaluate a business.
So, can your online reputation affect your bottom line?
Absolutely... and this is how.
Why your brand's online reputation matters
Your brand's reputation is crucial to the success of your business... and your online reputation can affect the success of your business, in more ways than just losing customers.
Of course, negative reviews will negatively affect your potential customer base. Poor customer feedback in the public domain will act as a catalyst for potential customers to take their business elsewhere. Whereas positive reviews and feedback will encourage new business.
The impact of negative feedback for a brand online is irrefutable.
The customer experience now begins before you even know it. Consumers will do everything they can to find out as much as possible about a business online before they'll even consider parting with their money.
And this is just third-party reviews. When you factor in social media and online news, you're presented with a whole other element of risk around brand reputation management.
Negative social media sentiment and media coverage are just as damaging to brand image and a business's reputation. Moz reports that businesses can risk losing as much as 22% of their customers, from just one negative line article.
If they find three articles, this goes up to 59%. If four or more are found... then you're likely to lose 70% of your potential customers.
Reputation Management: a hiring risk
A negative online reputation can impact your potential customer base. Which in turn will impact your revenue streams and bottom line.
But, there's another risk to your bottom line. When a negative reputation seeps into your hiring process.
With the rise in popularity of sites such as GlassDoor, potential candidates can read online reviews that will greatly inform whether they want to come and work for you.
A string of negative reviews here can be hugely damaging to your ability to hire and retain talent.
Firstly, you might find that you are spending more on advertising roles because your online reputation is damaging that engagement. Harvard Business Review states that a company with a bad reputation spends 10% more per hire.
Those that you do hire may also not be the ideal candidate, because the ideal candidate has been swayed by what they've read online. This means you might be putting more cost into on-the-job training, to bring a candidate up to where you need them to be. This can really start to snowball and affect productivity and efficiency.
You've then got the issue of keeping hold of those people. The greater the turnover, the greater the negative impact on your online reputation. It's a vicious cycle.
But it's more than just a cycle, businesses that are toiling through this, but are refusing to consider online reputation management strategy are going through a huge sunk cost fallacy.
Online Reputation Management: tips and tactics
There are reputation management strategies and tactics you can put in place to begin to tackle reputation management.
This is the starting line of your reputation management journey. A brand audit of your entire online presence; including media, social media, review sites, negative search results, will be hugely valuable as it will inform your entire strategy moving forward.
These may be hard to stomach at times, but its crucial that you understand and recognise what people are saying as well as have the willingness to act on it.
But, don't just keep your brand audit all about the negative. Comb for positive customer reviews and positive representations of your brand presence. This will give you a good baseline as to what your audiences expect from you.
Monitor brand mentions
Having a constant eye on your brand mentions is important to online reputation management in real-time.
Tools, such as Meltwater aggregate all brand mentions across all manner of platforms and present this information back to you. Allowing you to deal with issues in a positive and timely manner.
Without this, you run the risk of issues and crises forming without your knowing.
Be responsive to negative reviews
Responding to negativity looks better than just leaving it unanswered.
If a person sees a negative review or comment, their perception of the business can change, for the better, if they then see a direct response from the business in question.
By positively responding, be it asking for further feedback on how you could improve, apologising for a bad customer experience, social media comments or reacting in a constructive manner to a negative review from a former team member, it tells the person reading that comment, that as a business you care about your reputation and that you are taking positive action to constantly improve.
This is particularly important if your online reputation is affecting your hiring and staff retention capabilities.
You may want to ask employees to leave positive reviews. But this needs to be handled with great care, otherwise, it can look disingenuous and further compound a negative situation.
Creating a culture of employee advocacy, whereby giving voice and power to your eams to effect positive change is the best approach here. Though it is by no means a 'quick solution' this is the kind of strategy that you need to be constantly working at.
Invest in SEO
Not all SEO strategies are made equal.
When it comes to implementing SEO for online reputation management, rather than focus on lots of different ranking keywords, you're going to want to focus on a smaller number of keywords that are related to your reputation management issues.
Creating strong and authoritative content on your own site, as well as building backlinks with authoritative and trustworthy sources will help your SEO efforts.
Being active and positive on social media can also impact your SEO. So can claiming control of third-party pages such as TrustPilot and Google My Business.
Online reputation management is now part and parcel of the PR toolkit. So consider how you can engage with public relations experts to implement strategies across earned media, social media, SEO and brand reputation to really unify and harmonise your strategies.