If you own, well, literally any kind of business, honestly, then you probably know what a key role a business’s online presence plays in its success.

Really, now, no matter what sort of industry your business operates in, no matter what their target demographic may be – even if it’s barely-technologically-literate octogenarians – they’ve got to have some sort of online presence. A website, some social media pages, a variety of online advertisements – preferably some combination thereof. For the modern business owner, the question of how to improve your Google Maps ranking, or get your video ads placed higher in the YouTube algorithm, need to be asked frequently. After all, half of our modern world is online – you’d be hard pressed to find a modern individual who doesn’t make use of the internet to some degree or other; and if they happen to hear the name of your company or brand, and want to find out about it, they’re pretty much guaranteed to try and do so by running online searches. And if they don’t turn up anything, well…as far as many such folks will be concerned, your company might as well not exist.

But with that highly necessary online representation comes an equally necessary responsibility: the protection of your online reputation. After all, your online presence is, these days, the greater part of your public relations; and nothing brings down business quite like bad PR.

In other words, you’ve got to be sure that, to as much of an extent as realistically possible, your online presence reflects well upon you. And here, we’re going to gather just a few tips for the best methods of business online reputation management.

1. Engage With Criticism

Here’s the thing: when you run a business, there’s going to be disgruntled customers. Yours can be the most smoothly, expertly run business in the world; there will always be that one client, or that one customer, who, legitimately or otherwise, isn’t happy with the service you provided.

And when folks are disgruntled, they usually love to let others know. And the internet provides a slick, quick, free means of doing so. So once your business even begins to take off, you can expect some less than flattering remarks to show up. Usually in the form of bad reviews, of course, or scathing social media posts – though on occasion, some particularly dedicated hater might make an entire domain or social media page about it.

And when that criticism starts to emerge, the very worst thing in the world that you can do is ignore it. Statistics show that 90% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase, and that 84% of customers believe online views when they read them. Just because you pretend that those negative reviews aren’t out there, doesn’t mean your potential customers will.

You’ve got to take the negative online opinions about your business seriously. And we’re not just talking about taking that criticism into consideration, deciding whether it’s valid and what your business can do to prevent such critique from happening again – we’re also talking about making it clear and visible that you’re taking the critique into consideration.

Someone’s Tweeted a complaint about their experience at your company? Use your company’s official Twitter account to offer them an apology for their poor experience, and a brief explanation about how you’re going to ensure that it isn’t an experience any future customers are going to have. Someone’s posted a negative review or rating on your company? Most review sites allow comments on the reviews – make an official account for your business on there, and respond to as many negative reviews as possible, offering apologies, responses to any misguided critique, and promises that all issues will be taken into proper consideration and remedied.

And do so gracefully – even if the criticism is completely unjustified, respond to it with a digital smile, keeping your polite and professional tone throughout. Getting defensive is only going to make folks feel as if the critique touched a nerve.

The point is to make sure that, whenever someone comes across some negative perspective on your business online (which will always exist, no matter what you do), they always come away also hearing your side of the story, with an impression that, even when your business doesn’t offer the very best experience that it can, it’s aware of the issues, and is ever striving to correct them.

2. Dominate The First Page of Google

If someone’s searching for your business, it’s probably going to be through Google. And unless they’re in a serious hurry, they’re going to at least glance at more than one result.

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And that’s why you really ought to be asking yourself questions like “what do people see when they Google my business listing?”, or “what does my business listing on Google look like?” That first page of Google, on the default setting, consists of ten results. In other words, assuming your business has a website or domain, there’s still nine other pages bearing your name for the curious browser to check out. And if you don’t have at least some control over those pages, well, there’s no telling what sort of impression the browser will come away with.

For that reason, you’ve got to do all you can to ensure that as many of those ten initial results as possible are under your control. Don’t just keep your business’s name to a single domain – get on the big social media sites. Create pages for your business on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest – combine that with your company’s own website, and that’s more than half the first page under your control already.

A good portion of folks who arrive on the first page of Google are potential new customers. By taking command of the first things they read about your business, you shape their initial impression of you – and that, in turn, is pretty much the deciding factor in whether or not they’ll become that new customer.

3. Networking & Third-Partying

But while maintaining official first-hand representation of your company on the major platforms is all well and good, it can only go so far. Many customers are skeptical sorts these days; and while it’s great for them to be able to get info on your business directly from the source, a great many of them aren’t just going to take your word on all the glowing things you have to say about your business – they’re going to want to get it from online.

And keeping up regular responses to the online reviews is only going to go part of the way in that regard – you need to work on building up some online representation that has a voice you can influence, whilst still offering external representation.

This is where networking comes in – it’s been a tremendous asset in entrepreneurship for years now, but it’s ever more relevant in the age of the internet.

It can, of course, take a great many forms – though in an online context, one of the most effective is sponsorship.

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As you’re likely well-aware, online personalities are, in many ways, the new celebrities. Whether we’re talking about YouTube personalities, Instagram stars, or even popular Twitter accounts, people who’ve made their fame online have millions of devoted fans who – thanks in great part to the convenience of the platform – check in on their output every single day, and hang onto their every word.

And for this reason, getting such individuals to advocate for your business can be an ideal means of lending your business’s online presence some extra legitimacy. After all, while most of your would-be customers do understand the nature of a sponsorship, they also tend to hold these online personalities in high regard. From their perspective, these online individuals would not advocate for a business or service that they know to be unreliable or untrustworthy. Seek out sponsorship deals with online personalities who you know to hold some sway over the same folks you’re seeking out as customers, and you’ve got a positive online presence outside of your business’s own domain – which, in the eyes of most, at once makes it more reliable.

Of course, you ought to be sure that you’re honest with yourself about whether this particular approach matches up with your intended target market – which may or may not overlap with the sort of demographic that holds online personalities in high regard – but if it does, and if you’ve done your research, this can be an ideal option for placating the would-be customers who just aren’t quite comfortable offering you their business until they hear that you’re reliable from someone who they trust, and who they know to be outside your inner circle.

For the modern business, a solid online reputation is as critical as a steady quarterly income. Ours is an age ruled by the internet; and if you’re to build up the sort of reliable public image that’s highly necessary to build up a solid customer base, you’ve got to do so online. It’s the place everyone does everything these days, really.



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