For businesses today, success is virtually impossible without establishing and maintaining a positive online reputation. What customers say about your business defines public perception. If you’ve been working hard to provide fantastic experiences for your customers, you’ll be rewarded with positive online reviews and social media comments that praise your products, services and credibility. This positive feedback doesn’t just make you feel good, it also supercharges all your other marketing initiatives. Reputation marketing is the foundation of online marketing success.
What is reputation marketing?
Put simply, reputation marketing is the intersection of reputation management and brand marketing. Think of it like this:
It makes sense, since the purpose of marketing is persuasion, and online reputation is a business’ most influential asset. Your business’ online reputation determines whether you show up in search results, it tells customers what they can expect from you, and it determines whether they choose you over a competitor.
Your online reputation is comprised of several components: search engine optimization (SEO), online reviews, and social media including social networks, blogs, news sites and discussion forums. All of these areas must be regularly maintained in order to have a strong online reputation.
The goal of brand marketing is to convey messages that resonate with customers and convince them to trust a brand. That’s why the most impactful of these online reputation factors is online reviews. Not only do reviews have a huge impact on SEO, but more importantly, customers trust reviews more than any other resource because they are unbiased, authentic experiences from real customers.
Word-of-mouth has always been powerful, but the shift to digital has only amplified its impact. It has become the primary driving force of revenue growth. We live in a hyper-connected environment where customers can easily post and share opinions about products and services with the world in just a few clicks. Expectations have risen, patience has diminished; customers expect to get exactly what they want, exactly when they want it. This has resulted in a highly competitive business environment. Businesses today are working harder than ever to turn their online reputation into their competitive advantage.
Collecting reviews on sites most important to your customers and promoting them strategically across the internet not only increases brand awareness, but it also provides helpful information for customers comparing similar products and services. Effective reputation marketing allows you to position yourself as the industry leader for prospective customers researching options online, driving more traffic to your site and more customers through your door.
Reputation marketing strategy in 8 steps
1. Claim your business on top review sites. “Top review sites” means something slightly different for each business. Google and Facebook are important for businesses of all industries, but you should also consider industry-specific sites since customers further along the path to purchase use these to compare similar businesses. A good way to figure out which sites your customer base values most is by Googling reviews for your industry and location with a query like “Oakland pediatrician reviews”. This search might reveal results on sites like RateMDs and Vitals, so you know you need to be listed here.
Make a list of your business’ most important sites, then start creating profiles on each one. Customers may have already done this for you, so begin by searching each review site to see if your business has a profile. If so, follow the site’s instructions to claim it. If not, it’s easy to set one up. If you don’t know where to begin, start with Google My Business, since this literally puts your business on the map. Learn how to claim your business on Google My Business here. Then continue on to the other important sites. Now you’re ready to start collecting new reviews.
2. Optimize your business listings. Business listings optimization has two parts. The first is ensuring your business listings are accurate and up-to-date everywhere they appear on the web, from review sites to social channels to business directories. Local listings are the third most important factor in search results, because when they all match, Google trusts that your business is legitimate. Manually checking hundreds of sites and updating inaccurate listings would be incredibly time-consuming and in some cases totally impossible. The good news is there are tools available to do this for you automatically.
The second part of business listings optimization is adding enhanced content. Every place your business is listed online is essentially a business card. It gives customers the first impression of your business and provides them with ways to contact or visit you. This means you should make all your business listings as comprehensive and engaging as you can. Add content like photos, hours of operation, directions, reviews, menus, and lists of services offered to your listings so when customers find your business, they don’t have to search any further to find all the information they need to make a purchase decision.
3. Implement an ongoing feedback collection strategy. A steady flow of new reviews on sites your customers care about fuels your entire reputation marketing strategy. Often waiting around for your customers to decide to post reviews on their own won’t produce satisfying results. To get a substantial volume of new reviews on a consistent basis, you have to encourage customers to leave feedback. This means reaching out at the right moment with the right form of communication. For a doctor or dentist, that might mean sending a text instantly after an appointment, while a lawyer might reach out an hour after a consultation and a realtor might send an email a month after selling a property.
4. Respond to feedback the right way. Even the most successful businesses can’t make everyone happy. When asking every customer for feedback, inevitably some responses will be negative. Rather than letting bad reviews bring you down, turn them into business opportunities by responding promptly and thoughtfully. There are tools available that let you convert negative reviews into support tickets and assign them to reps to ensure thorough resolution. Your goal should be to resolve problems in as few steps as possible to minimize confusion and prevent problems from slipping through the cracks. With the right review management strategy, you can transform negative reviews into positive customer interactions that not only help you retain these at-risk customers but acquire new ones by demonstrating excellent customer service.
5. Gather insights from customer feedback. Reviews are full of rich information that hard data cannot provide. Star ratings only tell the surface-level story of your business’ performance. Deep diving into your feedback with text analytics tools can help you identify trending positive and negative topics driving those star ratings so you know where to make changes to improve experience and where to replicate positive performance to keep satisfaction levels high.
6. Take action on negative feedback. Responding to unhappy customers important, but it’s just the first step. You need to walk the talk: prove to customers you hear them and make operational improvements based on their comments. Learn some best practices for responding to negative reviews here.
7. Market your awesome reputation. Promote 5-star reviews to your company website, social channels, and search engines. When promoting your great reviews, it’s important not to simply copy and paste review text to other locations across the web, but instead embed them so Google doesn’t penalize you for duplicate content. Enough positive reviews can make your business listings stand out in search results with rich snippets — these are star ratings from customer reviews that show up beside your business in organic search results. Paid search benefits from online reviews too: when you collect at least 150 reviews with a 3.5-star rating or higher, you can enable Google Seller Ratings for your Google Ads, which are the paid search equivalent to rich snippets. Google Seller Ratings are proven to increase click-through rates (CTR) by as much as 17% according to Google. Why? Because Seller Ratings show that the ad isn’t just spewing nonsense; its claims are backed by a large number of real customers.
8. Monitor your online reputation constantly. Businesses of all sizes need to pay attention to what’s being said about them online. Overlooking one bad review can cost you a spot on Google page 1, giving your competitors an opportunity to get ahead. Use a review monitoring tool to get alerts the second a review is posted about your business on any third-party site so you can respond immediately if needed and salvage your reputation.
These steps will get you on your way to an effective reputation marketing strategy, but unlike other marketing campaigns, reputation marketing is constant. Earning a 5-star average rating doesn’t mean you’ve beaten the competition. It means the competition is hot on your heels and counting on you to sit back and relax. A strong online reputation takes dedication and repetition, but it’s absolutely worth the time. The rest of your online marketing initiatives can help make you a top contender in your industry, but reputation marketing is what will define your business as a market leader.