Looking to enter into the world of online reputation management and reviews, but not sure what you’re dealing with? Read our handy guide detailing all the key information you need to know.
Online reputation management is an ongoing task that serves to create, cultivate, and maintain your brand name and its good standing online. Much like traditional reputation management, it’s all about perception.
For online reputation management, that means building a digital public image, one online review at a time, so that anyone searching for your brand finds 5-star reviews and positive customer experiences that paint your company in the best possible light.
Imagine you’re the PR for a politician or a rock star. It’s your job to keep the bad press to a minimum and grab as much positive media coverage as possible. That might mean burying stories of arrests or trashing hotel rooms by arranging a photo-op, volunteering at an animal shelter or donating toys to a kid’s hospital. Quietly leaking ‘good’ news stories such as charitable donations or work in the local community. That’s traditional reputation management.
Online reputation management differs in that you’re not courting the press or burying headlines, you’re deploying strategies to generate, improve, and respond to online reviews customers leave about your small business. Your focus will be on popular review sites like Google My Business, Yelp, Angie’s List, and others.
What does online reputation management typically involve?
- Deploying online reputation management software to easily solicit reviews from customers and distribute them to popular online review sites
- Adding review schema markup to your website
- Being proactive about asking customers to leave online reviews about your business (68% of consumers will leave a local business review when asked to do so)
- Responding to both positive and negative reviews to either thank the customer for their great feedback or address the concern
- Promoting positive reviews through multiple owned or paid channels (such as sharing on social media, posting on websites, creating banners, including in e-newsletters, paid ads, etc.)
A short history of online reputation management
Building trust and credibility has always been critical to running a successful business but until recently, they weren’t things that would form a core part of digital marketing activity. Brand image was the sole preserve of PR experts. The traditional marketing or public relations team would be tasked with building a positive brand image.
Today, online reputation management is as vital as content marketing, paid search and SEO for local businesses. As consumers have migrated to online shopping in place of traditional in-store experiences, the need for positive customer sentiment online has grown.
In our research into the growth of online consumer review sites, we discovered that the point of lift-off was 2012, with Google, Facebook and Yelp all logging tremendous growth in reviews from that year.
BrightLocal first carried out its annual local consumer review survey in 2010 and since then, we have seen a major shift in the way that consumers find and use online reviews. In our latest survey, we discovered that almost every consumer (97%) had used the internet to find a local business in the last 12 months. Online reviews are now a key part of the purchase process.
In the early days, Google allowed only critics to leave reviews, but since then, consumers have also gotten in on the act. Today, 63% of consumers have left an online review for a local business with a further 25% open to the idea of doing so.
Why are online reviews so important to local businesses?
In the old days, a disgruntled customer would have a somewhat limited audience when it came to sharing news of their negative experience—they might tell their immediate group of family and friends, but widespread dissemination of that verbal review would be extremely unlikely. Not so in the age of the internet.
More than 8 in 10 consumers now trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations—which means that as consumers, we’re all conditioned to seek out online reviews before doing business with a new company.
1. They’re everywhere
This trust has led to new review sites popping up all the time, fueling the availability of online reviews and giving consumers even more outlets for their opinions and experiences. Reviews as a format have also grown in prominence, and you’ll now see star ratings appearing alongside organic search results, in Google Local results (the local pack) and even alongside AdWords paid search ads.
Online reviews are also infiltrating social media and with Facebook now the second most popular reviews and recommendations platform in the world, you don’t even have to be proactive about soliciting reviews for consumers to share their opinions of your company.
As a business, you simply can’t hide from reviews—they will be displayed about your business online and with so much consumer faith placed in the experiences of both friends and strangers, the upshot is that online reviews can make or break a small business’ bottom line.
2. They’re a ranking factor
Research carried out in 2017 confirmed that online reviews were an important ranking factor and there was a clear correlation between volume of reviews, responses and number of negative reviews with local search results.
The LocalSEO Guide local ranking factors study concluded,
At a high level, having a keyword you are trying to rank for, and a mention of a city you are working to rank in, in reviews has a high correlation with high ranking Google My Business results.
3. Reviews can improve click-throughs from Google My Business profiles
Consumers put their faith in online reviews—87% of consumers look for 3-5 star reviews before they will use a local business. If you aren’t regularly achieving an average 3-5 star rating or aren’t actively soliciting reviews, chances are that those potential customers will look elsewhere.
Once you get your business listed in the Google Local 3-Pack, your positive reviews can actually help with the click-through rate, too:
4. Reviews act as social proof
Social media is a crucial part of the consumer purchase process. With so many business pages indexing highly in Google for the business name, it’s easy for a shopper to turn to a business’ Facebook page to find out more information. Just as they do on review platforms and search engines, Facebook reviews and recommendations act as social proof of the quality of your business.
Social commerce is also on the rise, meaning reviews on social platforms can impact on purchase decisions in other ways, too. A 2017 research report by Open Influence found that 47.7% of US social media users had made their most recent purchase from Facebook.
ViSenze research has also found Facebook to be the primary influencer on purchases made by social media users—meaning great reviews here can also have a positive impact on your small business’ bottom line.
5. You can use reviews as trust signals on your site to increase conversions
Your business’ reputation is your #1 asset. More than ever, potential customers go online to look at reviews so they can make decisions about which local businesses to patron, which products to purchase or which service to use.
With more than 8 in 10 consumers trusting online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, displaying carefully chosen 5-star reviews on your website emits a strong trust signal and validates their decision to do business with you.
Furthermore, a growing number of consumers read more than 11 reviews before they feel they can trust a business—so the easier the access to reviews you can provide on your owned media channels, the higher the likelihood of conversions.