Online Reputation Management: Who Needs It and Why?
A business’ reputation depends on the way the people see the company, its products and services. Thankfully, measuring a company’s reputation is quite simple. It must be assumed that every client or consumer is looking up businesses online and all they need to do is go online, open any of the search engines like Google, Yahoo, etc; and conduct a web search for your name, your company’s name, or your product’s name. What are your search results?
The feedback is either:
In this case, one really does not have to do much and can pat oneself on their backs.
Just like how you searched online about your company for feedback, many other customers would search the web before they buy your product. Do you want them to read negative stories about your company, product or service in the top search results?
• Few or no results:
If you find no results about your company, it may be an indication that you are not so popular on the Internet or, you are not doing enough to optimise your SEO.
Whatever the results are, it is important for every business to build and maintain a good reputation.
The process of tracking what people say about you or your company on the internet, and based on the feedback, taking necessary actions to ensure that mostly positive feedback about your business features in the top search results, is called Online Reputation Management. In other words, it is a way of covering up the company’s negative search results by promoting its positive feedback using different Search Engine Optimization tools and techniques.
PROCESS OF ONLINE REPUTATION:
Keeping your online reputation spotless and shining can be challenging. There are many ways to manage and monitor your brands online, provided you are ready to invest substantial amount of time and effort and thus, minimize your chances of falling victim to identity theft or cybercrime.
• Assessing your online reputation:
This is done by browsing through major search engines using key words like the company’s name, product name, brand name and finding out what people are talking about you or your products. For e.g. Setting up a Google alert on your brand name.
•Identifying the type of reputation problem:
What if you find that the results are not favourable for the business? Just like how you did a web-search with your brand name, even a prospective customer or employee could conduct a web search to find out more about your business before they buy your product or accept a job offer. Hence it is important that quick actions are taken. In case you find indifferent results or no results at all, it could be a problem. It suggests that you need to start working on building your online reputation.
• Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
Search results are made to look more ‘positive’ by proactively publishing useful and positive information about the company, brand or product. Negative feedback about your company is covered up by adding more pages that highlight honest and positive reviews about your company or its products. Negative reviews and feedback can’t be deleted but they need to be attended to. You can leave a comment under particular posts asking for further information or offer to provide compensation or just apologise. It is not possible to have an entirely positive set of reviews. What matters is, how a company handles its negative reviews and feedbacks.
It takes hardly any time to tarnish the reputation and good will of any business. So every business should try and leave no stone unturned to uphold its positive image with the public.
WHO NEEDS ORM THE MOST?
Types of Business:
• Small Business & Mid-sized Business
• Large Business
Small and mid-sized businesses have a distinctive place in today’s market. They are not exposed to many of the risks that threaten the existence of large business. Most of these small businesses do not exist online, but their limited number of customers do.
Large businesses are usually well established and invest a lot of time, effort and money to ensure that all their customers and employees are satisfied. These businesses not only have their own websites, but also provide forums for customers to express their opinions about the firm or its products. Despite all the efforts, there is always a displeased customer, an angry employee or an unhealthy competitor who is ready to do anything to bring the business down.
Customers or competitors openly post their positive and negative views on public forums which affect both large and small businesses. It is important that both small and large firms deal with these negative feedbacks.
It gets more difficult for the smaller firms because in order to manage their reputation they firstly need to create one. The first step is to create a website and maintain it. It is also a good practice to try and establish yourself on popular social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
HOW DOES ORM HELP YOU?
Understand and respond to customer complaints
Cover up the negative posts
What do you want to do with the insights from the search conducted in ORM? Just cover up the negative reviews? That might not be a good idea because any news spreads like wildfire on the internet, especially the bad ones. Since the Internet has a long living memory, the negative reviews and feedback about the business will continue to stay there forever or atleast for a long time. So most of the businesses believe in addressing the problems faced by their customers.
These days even employees do a web search before they accept any job offer. By covering up negative feedback, you make sure that you do not turn away a prospective employee. This further helps in improving your credibility in the market.
Online reputation management is more crucial than certain public relation techniques like marketing and advertising.
Why is it difficult to handle online reputation management on your own?
Some companies choose to handle their online reputation management themselves but it is not very easy.
• Needs skilled marketing people:
Online reputation management can be handled only by skilled marketing people who are web savvy and are able to read and understand the data resulting from online monitoring. They should also be able to take quick and appropriate actions based on the online monitoring results.
• Time consuming:
It takes time to change the public’s perception about you or your company. It doesn’t happen overnight.
• Continuous & consistent maintenance:
By proactively creating your reputation online, your job isn’t done. In this age of public conversations, maintaining the reputation you have built is more challenging. As long as internet is there, there will be new opinions. These opinions have to be continuously tracked and necessary actions should be taken immediately.
• Lack of rules in the creation of social media:
Search engines based in different countries follow different rules. It is possible that your privacy will not be respected. You may also not be able to seek legal help in countries where you do not operate.
• Blacklisting by search engines:
Most of the companies get in to a panic mode when they discover that their online reputation has been attacked. In an effort to deal with this they end up doing things that further sabotage the reputation of the company’s website and its brand name. It is important that you do not use any shortcuts or inappropriate strategies to avoid being blacklisted by the search engines. This can be caused when one posts blog posts and articles stuffed with keywords, in an attempt to appear in top web search results. These malpractices have already been banned by search engines like Google but many companies still continue to use black-hat SEO practices.
Many people underestimate the time and effort that goes in to a continuously and consistently maintained Online Reputation Management system. It is indeed better to outsource online reputation management tasks to a company that specifically handles such work. This allows you to concentrate on your core functions.
Hence, it is important to work closely with a reputed company that continuously works towards developing new and innovative SEO tools & techniques to promote your website’s brand reputation and guard it against all possible attacks. It makes your existence in the cyber world much easier. Companies must also realise that it is never too late to start cleaning up one’s reputation online.
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