The state of your business's online reputation matters more today than ever. Rather than visiting businesses sight unseen, the majority of consumers in 2019 are conducting online research before deciding which businesses to spend their money with. If your business has a lot of negative reviews on sites like Yelp or Google, there is a good chance consumers will spend their money elsewhere. On the flip side, if your business has a stable of five-star reviews, you are likely to see an influx of new customers.
To get their online reputations in pristine shape, more businesses are turning to online reputation management services in 2019. Online reputation management services are designed to help you build and maintain a positive image online. First and foremost, they seek out defamatory and unflattering web content and work to drive it off the first pages of web searches, replacing it with information that shows you or your business at its best. Online reputation management companies can create a wealth of positive content such as blog posts and microsites, keep your social media feeds updated, manage your online reviews, and more. These strategies will help repair poor reputations and keep positive images on the rise.
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Because improving your online reputation depends on the type and extent of the damage and your overall goals, very few reputation management companies have a set plan or price. Most of these services have customized pricing based on which strategies and tactics you plan to put into place.
To determine pricing, most online reputation management companies start by speaking with your business about the current state of your online image and the goals you have in mind. Each service asks for your website and keywords, then conducts preliminary research to see just where your online reputation stands.
Based on all of those factors, the brand reputation management service delivers a formal proposal that outlines the strategies it thinks would benefit your business and gives you an estimate of how long it may take to see results.
All of this means that pricing can vary greatly. We found services targeted at small businesses with fees ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars a month.
Another factor in pricing is how many locations your business has. The more locations you have, the higher the costs. It is also important to note that some of these businesses have higher fees for the first month of service, since a lot of content building happens in those first weeks.
In addition to the monthly costs, consider the contract length. Since these services often don't provide immediate results, many online management companies require you to sign a long-term contract to ensure you don't leave the company after it performs all of the initial work to get your reputation on the right track, such as creating new content and building social profiles.
We found a range of contract length requirements in our research. Some of these services do not require any long-term contracts and instead work on a month-to-month basis. This allows you to walk away from the service at any time without penalty. Others require three-, six- or 12-month contracts. With those, you are locked into using the online reputation management company for the duration of the contract terms.
Since there are no set plans or pricing, there is often a lot of room for negotiations. When you receive the formal proposal, don't be afraid to try to negotiate a lower rate. These are some of the ways you can try get lower costs:
See if the company will cut your costs if you agree to pay for the length of contract upfront, rather than on a month-to-month basis.
See if it's willing to match a cheaper price of one of its competitors.
If the company doesn't require a long-term contract, see if it will lower its costs if you agree to a six-month or annual commitment
Whether or not you are able to negotiate a lower price, be sure to read all of the contract details before signing anything. Make sure there are no hidden fees or added details you didn't know about. If something doesn't seem right with the contract, don't sign it. Make sure the company answers all of your questions about the deal before agreeing to anything.
Online Reputation Management Functions
Online reputation management services have two main goals: to repair poor reputations and maintain positive ones. There are various strategies and tactics the account teams working on these campaigns use to accomplish these goals.
These are some of the different services online reputation management companies offer.
The first step most online reputation agencies perform is an analysis of the current state of your business's online image. They scour the internet for mentions of your brand. They look at the state of your website, blog postings and consumer reviews. They research both the good and bad being said about your company. They also take a close look at what comes up when searching for your brand. The goal is to have all positive content on the first pages of search results. The more negative results found at the top of the search results, the more work needs to be done.
After the analysis is complete, online reputation management companies put together a proposal outlining the strategies and tactics they think need to be done to meet your reputation goals.
One of the most common tactics is to flood the internet with positive content about your brand. The trick is to get as much content that promotes you and that you can control on that search engine's front page as possible. To this end, most online reputation companies create content such as microsites, articles, press releases or videos.
The best business reputation services concentrate on the aspects that will most help your site. For example, a travel agency specializing in honeymoons might benefit from a honeymoon-focused microsite, while a company changing management might bolster its reputation with press releases and interviews with the new CEO.
Search Engine Optimization
It's one thing to create all of this content; it's a whole other thing to make sure the search engines recognize it. Online reputation management companies make sure all of the content has the proper SEO, which includes making sure the proper keywords are mixed in with the content, the headline is correct and the metadata is perfectly optimized. Reputation management services also work with the content to build links among these venues and any articles mentioning you. Backlinks tell search engines like Google that the information is important to readers.
Online Review Management
Managing online reviews is another key component of online reputation management. Work done in this area is twofold. The first step is acquiring as many reviews as you can. These companies will help you develop strategies to reach out to your customers to encourage them to leave reviews.
The second step is to manage all of these reviews. You want to know when new reviews come in so you can respond to each accordingly. For negative reviews, you want to find ways to correct the issues that caused the customer to leave a negative review. For positive reviews, you want to thank the customer for their kind words. Quickly responding to your reviews shows others that you care about what your customers think of you. Also, analyzing trends in your reviews can help you improve your business operations.
Social Media Management
Online reputation management services can handle all of your social media. This work includes creating profiles for your brand on all of the most important social networks and keeping those profiles up to date with engaging content. They can also monitor these social networks to see what others are saying about your brand.
Should your brand run into a crisis situation or a reputation attack, online reputation management companies have PR tactics to help repair your image. These plans include writing press releases, putting out social media statements and booking interviews when necessary. All of these PR plans are designed to help stop the spreading of the negative content about your brand and start rehabilitating your image.
For an online reputation service to do its job, it has to monitor opinions expressed online. Some companies do manual searches of the common complaint websites to find out what is being said about you, with the top online reputation services going a step further to read the complaints and identify common issues. Most services employ monitoring software that they develop in-house or buy commercially. Others have computer labs for automatic searching and clicking in order to influence the ranking of websites.
Reputations are important, possibly even more so online, where anyone can make a judgment based on whatever information shows up on a web search or social media site. Online reputation management services have the tools to help repair a damaged image, build a positive one, and give you the training and help you need to continue to monitor and bolster your reputation.
While reputation can be influenced by a concentrated program, that alone may not be enough. For example, an online reputation company may do a brilliant job of promoting your good reviews, but if your business doesn't fix its customer service problems, the problem will continue to surface.
Other variables influence this as well. For example, your website may have superb SEO, but if the website complaining about you has better SEO or a great social media presence, it may rank higher than yours. Therefore, it's prudent to go into online reputation management understanding that it should be one tool among others for improving your company.
What to Expect in 2019
The faith consumers have in online reviews when deciding where to shop is growing at a rapid pace. Research has shown that more than 95 percent of consumers have searched for local business online, with 12 percent doing so every day.
What they find is playing a significant role in where they shop. A study from BrightLocal discovered that close to half of all consumers won't even consider shopping at a business that has less than four-star reviews.
With so much on the line for businesses, securing and maintaining positive reviews will be a huge task for businesses in 2019. Since securing and managing reviews can be time-consuming, expect more businesses to turn to online reputation management services for help. Many of these companies offer services to grow the number of reviews businesses have and make sure those that are posted are properly promoted and responded to.
More businesses may also start using dedicated online review management software. This software gives businesses the ability to quickly send their customers requests to leave a review and to manage all of those reviews from one platform.
In addition to keeping track of their online reviews, businesses will have to stay vigilant in 2019 in monitoring their brand mentions across the entire internet. The number of places online where people share their thoughts about brands – via reviews, blogs, websites, social media, videos, etc. – is at an all-time high. It will be imperative for businesses to know immediately when their brand is mentioned so they can react accordingly. The longer you wait to address a negative situation, the more damage it may cause.
Online Reputation Management FAQs
Q: What can an online reputation management company do for me?
A: It used to be that online reputation management was something you only needed to consider if you or your company had fallen victim to negative reviews or smear campaigns. However, consumer practices have changed over the years, and people are more likely to seek out information about a company or product, especially when they expect to do more than make a one-time purchase. It has therefore become vital that you not only show up on the first page of an online search in a positive light, but that your online reputation spans the internet, from social media to online news sources.
While internet reputation management can help salvage an unfairly tarnished reputation or enhance a good one, it can also have an underside. Our articles on reputation management explore these services and what reputation management entails. You may also want to check out our sister site's article on choosing an online reputation management service.
Q: Why should you have an online reputation management plan?
A: It is important to have an online reputation management plan so you know how to react when something negative is posted about your business on the internet. The quicker you can react to these situations, the better chance you have to mitigate it before it turns into a problem that may be beyond repair.
Your plan should include how to respond to negative reviews or what steps to take when a negative blog post about your business is published. Also, what if your business gets wrapped up in a full-blown PR crisis? You should have a plan in place to address the situation immediately.
Figuring out the best strategies to handle each of these situations is one reason why working with an online reputation management company makes sense. They have experience dealing with each of these scenarios and many more. They can help you lay out a specific plan to diminish the impact of a negative online post. In some situations, they can also help you turn a negative situation into a positive one.
The key is having a plan in place that allows you to quickly react. The longer you wait to respond in these situations, the bigger the hit your reputation will take.
Q: How important is a modern business's online reputation?
For businesses today, a positive online reputation is critical. When deciding where to spend their money, a growing number of shoppers turn first to the internet. They want to see what others are saying about your business, service and products. This is especially true for shoppers looking for businesses in their local communities. Recent research shows that more than 90 percent of consumers read local reviews to decide if a business is good or not.
Studies also show that what consumers read online ultimately impacts their decision to shop with a local business. Nearly three-quarters of consumers said positive reviews make them trust a local business more, with half saying a negative review makes them question the quality of a business.
With just how much consumers rely and trust what they read online, your online reputation can't be an afterthought. If it is, you risk consumers having a negative impression of you, which will surely lead to a decline in customers walking through your doors.
Q: How bad can a negative online reputation really be?
A: A negative online reputation can have drastic consequences. There is a good chance consumers won't even consider spending money with your business if you have a poor online image.
Star ratings are critical. Research has found that more than 85 percent of consumers won't even consider shopping at a business that doesn't have at least three stars on Google, with 48 percent saying they need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business.
Even if you feel the negative reviews you receive aren't accurate or fair, you still need to address them. If you don't, you run the risk of never being able to prove those reviews wrong, because the vast majority of shoppers will never give you the chance.
Common Online Reputation Management Questions & Answers
Have an online reputation management question of your own?
It's very important. In my industry (online advertising), it is completely normal for a business to change their name after some bad press. Now, we've had some missteps along the way as well, but we've never changed our name, and we consistently communicate that. As a result, we leveraged the tagline "If you want to succeed, you have to change the game. Not your name." We had many positive accolades for it because of how true it is of our industry.
That being said, people who are...
1.) Media outlets, editors, writers and journalists don't have to write an apology or retract the article unless the facts stated within the article aren't true. And, you've stated the facts in the article were correct.
2.) Media outlets writers, and journalists are not obligated to write a follow up article to an event they originally reported on unless the editor deems it is necessary to do so.
3.) Media outlets, writers, journalists, editors are not obligated to respond to...
Yes, they are two different things unless as another stated, you are a one-person business. I would caution you that in creating a "one-person" business where you are in fact the brand you are selling, it makes it very difficult to grow. You can not have John S. as the face of the business and handling a client, if the client is hiring Sue S. Consulting for a project. It makes it very hard for anyone else to have credibility working for you and very disappointed clients who expect the name of...
Even with the the minimal detail provided, there are a lot of moving parts in the question and the situation. In any case, for a small business owner, it is as important to have a response plan in place as it is for a major corporation or event. For Michellyn, being in a small town is an added level of complexity, since what may be news in her community wouldn't make the back pages of the paper in a large city.
Remember first, the event may be news; your response is editorial in most cases....
Your business strategy and the reason(s) why you're creating the spinoff company should answer that question for you. I doubt that's the only question you need to be asking.
Is there more value in the new company than there would be in keeping it part of the sister company? If so, why and why is that bad?
Is there less value? If so, why the spinoff - just don't do it to begin with.
Is there product/service overlap that can't be resolved by tighter niche/market focus in either company?...