The benefits of maintaining a great online reputation are increased income, improved brand awareness, and enhanced business stability.

Richard Branson once said, “All you have in business is your reputation – so it’s very important that you keep your word.” Love him or hate him, these are words from a man who has enjoyed considerable financial success.

He’s not the only one either. Jeff Bezos of Amazon has said, “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person.” And even Benjamin Franklin chimed in on the topic, saying that “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”

Think of your reputation as the cornerstone of your business. The internet plays a massive role in the perception of your brand. It’s how we shop, communicate, and make decisions. The truth is that there isn’t a difference between your “real life” reputation and your “online” reputation.

What Contributes to Your Online Reputation?

Your online reputation is determined by what can appear to be an overwhelming number of factors, but it’s a bit easier to get a handle on than you might initially believe—the fact that you’re even thinking about it puts you ahead of the game.

Some of the elements that contribute to your online reputation are:

  • Reviews. This deserves to be mentioned first because it’s the big one. We’re primarily going to be digging into reviews in this post because they can have the greatest impact on your online reputation.
  • Your website and other online assets. The quality of your website has a big effect too. How professional does it look? Can a potential customer find answers to their questions easily and quickly? Is there a simple way to contact you for support or help?
  • Social media. This is a huge topic all on its own, but they key insight to understand is that maintaining a strong social media presence is important because that’s how your customers are communicating. If your target audience is gathering somewhere, as most of them likely do on outlets like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, it makes sense to be there right alongside them.
  • News reports, articles, and blogs. Sometimes more difficult to control than other platforms (if not impossible in some cases), knowing what news writers and bloggers have to say about your brand can provide you with deeper insights.

All of these elements are important, but the one that many small- and mid-sized businesses seem to leave up to fate more often than not are reviews.

The #1 Reason to Care About Online Reviews

90% of online consumers have one thing in common.

Care to guess what it is?

On average, they read less than 10 reviews before they form an opinion about a business.

This means that before they visit your website, read more about your product, or step through the doors of your physical location—if they even get that far—they have a preconceived notion about your business, whether or not it’s accurate.

Think about the last time you bought a product or hired someone to provide a service. Unless you got a very solid word-of-mouth recommendation from someone you trust, there’s a pretty good chance you started your research the same way everyone else does: reading reviews online.

A Greater Number of Positive Reviews Protects Your Brand

Suppose for a moment that you were going to buy a book on Amazon. Like most other people, you decide to check out the reviews for the book before you make the purchase.

Let’s imagine two scenarios:

In Scenario A, the book has 7 reviews. 5 of the reviews rated the book as 1 star, claiming it was horrible, unreadable, not worth the money, etc. The other two reviews are 4 and 5 stars. In almost all cases you would immediately reconsider buying the book because you had gained a preconceived notion of its quality.

In Scenario B, the book has 100 reviews. 10 of the reviews rated the book as 1 star, again saying it was the worst piece of literary trash to ever grace their bookshelves, etc. The other reviews give it most 4 and 5 stars. You would probably still feel comfortable buying the book if you were interested in the topic.

Notice that the book in Scenario B has more negative reviews than the book in Scenario A, but your perception of its quality wasn’t affected as much as it was for the first book.

This is a phenomenon that marketers call “social proof.” If 90 people liked the book in Scenario B and only 10 didn’t, we can quickly (and often subconsciously) do the math and realize that if 90% of people liked the book, we probably will too.

The takeaway here? Get as many positive reviews as you can in order to “bury” the bad ones. No matter how scathing or belligerent, dozens or hundreds of positive reviews can mitigate the negative ones.

Taking Control of Your Online Reputation

If reviews are important, and the answer to mitigating negative reviews is to have a bunch of positive ones… then how do you get positive reviews?

You ask.

Send emails, ask in person, or hand out customer satisfaction cards. Businesses that ask for reviews can get double or triple the amount of reviews than companies who do not.

Asking specifically for “positive reviews” can get you into hot water with platforms like Yelp or Google, and despite a lot of bad advice floating around to the contrary, giving your customers incentives (such as discounts) for positive reviews can and will lead to trouble. However, strategically asking the right customers for an “honest review” is just good business practice.

If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your online reputation with a rock-solid website, social media presence, and more positive and numerous reviews, feel free to start a conversation with the team at Optemyz.

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