What Is Online Reputation Management?

Quick Important Update: Due to Covid-19, Google has disabled Google reviews and the ability to answer them. This started around March 23, 2020. Until Google lifts the action and allows reviews, I would recommend being very conservative in your actions on Google My Business. I will update as soon as this changes.

And, Does It Matter to Your Business?

A frequent question I get asked is, "What is online reputation management?" This is a great question. It's also one that cannot be answered in a few words. Online Reputation Management is protecting your online presence on the various pertinent platforms, such as Google reviews, Facebook reviews, the other social media platforms and review sites, and your own website. That is the most simplified definition I can come up with. But, even this doesn't begin to cover all of the bases.

The booming social media industry since 2007 has made online reputation management more important than ever for businesses. We are more connected than ever. Businesses can be dealt a severe blow that they can never recover from with a single post and then share. The propensity to go viral can do far more harm than good.

Customer Experience

Exactly What Comprises Online Reputation Management?

The various facets of online reputation management are typically comprised of: 

  1. Your business website
  2. Google Reviews of your business
  3. Facebook Reviews/ Recommendations of your business
  4. What people are saying about your business on Facebook, Instagram, and the other various social media platforms.
  5. What people are saying about your business on the various hatchet job websites like Ripoff Report, DirtyScam, ComplaintsBoard, PissedConsumer, etc.
  6. What people are saying about your business on the biggest hatchet site of them all: Yelp

Your Business Website

Business Website

This is probably one of the most obvious and yet overlooked aspect of online reputation management. First and foremost, does all of your NAP (name, address, phone numbers) match up, and is it correct? Second, has your site been updated in the last two years? You don't want your site to look like the last time it was updated was 2005. The images need to be current. Another good reason to update a site is that it can give you a reason to contact all of your past and current clients to inform them of any new products and services you may be offering.

You want to check to make sure that your site loading speed is good. This is a minor point, but you want to make sure that your site has acceptable loading speeds. You can use various tools to check this. There are two sites that I like to use that are both free. The first is GT Metrix https://gtmetrix.com/ . The second is Pingdom https://tools.pingdom.com/ .

Google also has a speed test tool Page Speed Insights https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ . I usually use Page Speed Insights to double check and verify my site loading speed.

Also, make sure that your site is free of any malware. Hackers can break into your site and steal client data, and other information that you need to keep secure. Always stay on top of your site's security.

Google Reviews of Your Business

Google Reviews

Google Reviews, that is Google Reviews that are left in your Google My Business platform are probably the most important key to your long term online reputation management strategy. There are several studies that have been done that show that Google Reviews are 85% as trustworthy as a recommendation from a trusted friend.

What this means is that your Google Review rating has a serious and definite impact on your online reputation. People trust Google Reviews. Would you take your spouse out to a special dinner at a restaurant that only has a 2.0 * rating? Of course not. Typically for your business to see the positive impact from Google reviews, you need a minimum of 30 reviews with a 4.3* rating.

Google Reviews go from a 1.0* to a 5.0 *, with 5.0 * being the best. Take a few minutes and see what is going on with companies that you do business with and your competitors. You may be surprised at the ratings they have. Have you checked to see how you Google Review rating is?

Important note: NEVER pay for Google Reviews, either from an unscrupulous review farm, or friends and family. This violates Google's terms of service and can get your business flagged, or even worse- de-indexed from the Google search engine. This can be devastating to your business.

Facebook Reviews or Recommendations:

Facebook Reviews

Facebook Reviews, or Recommendations as they are now called has had a checkered past to say the least. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the accusations of collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election greatly damaged the veracity of Facebook Reviews. I am not saying the collusion happened, but the accusations of it have greatly hurt Facebook Reviews.

After the accusations came to light, Facebook Reviews dropped to a 65% trustworthiness in consumer's eyes. Facebook Reviews had never been considered as trustworthy as Google Reviews to begin with, but social media chatter about this did major damage that has still not been recovered from.

At this point, Facebook Reviews were changed to Facebook Recommendations. This appeared to be directly related to the public opinion of Facebook's review system. After switching back and forth a few times, Facebook has appeared to settle on Facebook Recommendations.

The second event was Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's appearance on Capitol Hill to answer the collusion accusations. Did you see any of the internet memes about this? They were not flattering, and further damage was done. 

After the Capitol Hill appearance, Facebook Recommendations' trustworthiness dropped below 50%. This is catastrophic.

Despite the low trustworthiness, you still want to keep an eye on Facebook Recommendations. They also use the 1.0 * to 5.0 * rating system. You want to make sure that your rating is above 4.0 * on Facebook Recommendations.

Social Chatter:

What are people saying about your business on Facebook or Instagram? There are many social media platforms, but you need to focus on the major platforms. I call this social chatter, and believe it or not, this has an effect in your business's Google search rankings. I have personally seen this boost several local small businesses rankings.

Let me give you an example: Let's say you had your air ducts cleaned and the company did a great job. You post on Facebook about it, and even better, you take a picture and put it with your post. (Very Important Note: you are not doing this for your own company, but a company that you do not own or work for.) Then, two or three friends share that post. Google will give a small boost to that business in the search rankings.

It does not take many shares for the boost to happen. I have seen it with as few as three Facebook shares. Typically, between five and ten Facebook shares is optimal.

There are two critical errors I see many small businesses doing with social chatter:

  1. You post about your own company. This does not have an effect on your search rankings. Even if it is shared, the boost if any would be negligible.
  2. You hire a social influencer to make the post and share it. This looks phony to Google, because it is. Best case scenario, you get absolutely no boost. Worst case scenario, you are penalized by Google, even up to de-indexing of your business.

You can encourage your clients and customers to share with others about their experience, but you cannot do it for them.

Hatchet Job Sites:

Unfortunately, there are many sites out there that give anyone the chance to bash your business. I call them hatchet sites. These are websites like Ripoff Report, DirtyScam, ComplaintsBoard, PissedConsumer, etc. Anyone, not just verified clients and customers, can leave negative reviews about your company. And, in most cases, you cannot do anything to remove it.

If you happen to get mentioned on one of these sites, or another, contact the webmaster and see if the unfair negative review can be removed. In most cases the answer will be no. Or, they will want an exorbitant price to do so. I would not pay them. There are ways that you can push down those results in Google.

As a fellow business owner, do not post to those sites. Don't perpetuate these sites by giving them any attention. Take the high road.

The Biggest Hatchet Site of Them All: Yelp

yelp fraud

I have blogged before about the worst review site of all: Yelp. You can see that at my blog: Does Yelp Even Matter? https://stevedavismarketing.com/does-yelp-even-matter/

Yelp is a pay to play review platform. It has a lot of traction in California where it is based. The majority of Yelp reviews are fabricated. Unless it is a 1* review, they tend to keep those reviews up. If you buy monthly Yelp ads, they put more good reviews up, and take the negative reviews down.

I refused to pay Yelp $400 a month for ads. I had seven 5* reviews from real clients. Yelp left two of them up and said the others were not credible. I find Yelp's business practices despicable. Do a Google search and see what others are saying about Yelp. These practices have been going on since the inception of Yelp. They are not the exception, but the norm.

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