Everyone is searching for something, or someone, online. That means your brand reputation depends on what people discover when they’re searching.

Anyone can write something bad about you online. Sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Trip Advisor, and Google put every business at risk for negative content. It could be a competitor writes a negative critique of your product. Or, a grumpy customer posts a mean-spirited review of a meal.

Your online presence can influence more people than a real-world visit. If you don’t have positive content to counteract negative attacks, your online reputation suffers.

It’s not as hopeless as it sounds. It’s possible to manage how people view your business. But, you need a plan. Keep reading to learn how to protect your business against negative attacks.

Claim Your Company Brand Online

The first step is to claim your business brand online. You should control everywhere your company appears on the Internet. This includes your website, social media accounts, and business listings.

Google My Business

If you haven’t claimed your Google My Business listing, do it right now. It’s an excellent way to provide information to potential clients. Once you claim your business, Google will contact you with verification instructions.

When you’re verified, your business listing appears in local Google Search and Maps. More consumers search on their mobile devices. That means they’re looking for you while they’re in your neighborhood. If you don’t show up in local search potential customers will go somewhere else.

If you already claimed your listing, double check that everything is correct. You can add quality photos, contact information, and hours to your Google Business Listing. Include information on delivery areas, accessibility, and how long you’ve been in business.

Professional Business Directories

Register your company in all relevant industry directories, as well as your local business registry. It adds credibility. It also improves search engine results. A professional listing can diffuse negative comments, too.

Social Platforms

Your website is important, but it isn’t everything. A website is 1-3 search engine results. You need at least 10 search engine result rankings to control your online narrative.

What does that mean? It means you want your business to appear in the most trusted social media platforms. Your business should be on LinkedIN, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Fill out your profiles with essential information.

For now, establish your presence on each platform. Add any other channels that are popular with your target audience. Don’t forget to include terms relevant to your business. Add your name, industry language, common search terms, and location for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Once you establish your online identity, you need to maintain it with quality content.

Publish Quality Content

The best way to appear in search engine results is to publish what your customers want. That means every piece of content should be relevant and useful.

Update your website on a regular basis. Publish a variety of content like blogs, videos, slideshows, infographics, and product updates. Serve your customers news about your company and your industry.

Announce new content on social media to drive traffic to your website. Engage with visitors to show you’re listening. Ask and answer questions. Offer tips. Invite people to visit your business. Talk about special discounts.

When you post relevant content it improves your visibility online. Use specific keywords in your posts so your content appears at the top of Google search results.

Guest Blog Posts

Think outside your own website blog. A guest blog on another website can enhance your reputation. It’s a way to mention your brand to a new audience.

The key is to write a thoughtful blog that helps people. Don’t overload the post with links. Be genuine and provide value to build a positive reputation and brand awareness.

Pay Attention to Social Accounts

Social media is powerful. Last year, 71% of Internet users were active on social networks. That percentage will grow.

A social media profile will rank in search results. It’s also a good way to drive traffic to your website. Use your social platforms to enhance and confirm your company’s reputation. When you interact with people you grow your authority.

Be authentic in all your exchanges. People appreciate a personable reply. Make it a real conversation. Social media posts can more casual and fun. Engage your audience with questions, contests, and quizzes. Give people a reason to follow your account.

Be responsive to customer concerns and problems. Don’t wait or delay because a topic is difficult. Offer to investigate, fix, and repair problems right away to cut damage or loss to a client. This builds trust and influence with your followers.

Be Consistent

Wherever you are on the Internet, be consistent. It’s essential for a solid brand reputation.

Things move fast on the web. It’s impossible to avoid a spotlight on a public mistake. Everyone has an opinion, and now they have a place to voice it. Whether it’s a bad restaurant review or a major scandal, address it in a mature, expedient manner.

Don’t wait to respond. Communicate with customers as soon as you can. People get angry if you ignore a situation. When you supply updates it appears in search results. This provides a positive balance to the complaint.

Consider an immediate apology if something went sideways. If a customer isn’t happy with a product, offer to replace it or refund their money. If the problem is deeper than a single experience, examine the underlying cause to resolve it. Then, tell your customer you did so.

Build Your Brand Reputation with Reviews

One of the best ways to build your online reputation is to have lots of positive reviews. The only way to get good reviews is to have satisfied customers. Satisfied customers are the result of stellar service and products.

Negative reviews often come from customers frustrated by an unhappy situation. Happy customers don’t often feel compelled to leave a review on their own. You have to prompt them.

Here are a few ways to request positive reviews:

  1. Ask for a positive review immediately. If you wait days or weeks to ask for comments, the customer is less likely to respond. Make it easy for happy customers to rate your business.
  2. If your business relationship includes an email address, take advantage of it. Email a very short and polite request for feedback.
  3. Ask customers for a review at the point of sale. You could include a prompt on the receipt or provide a postcard. Put a sign in your store. Some businesses offer an incentive in exchange for a review.
  4. Ask your social media followers for a review. Provide a link, and make responding as easy as possible.

84% of people surveyed trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Invite Influencers to Join the Conversation

Figure out who the influencers are for your target audience.

They can help enhance your brand. Reach out to influencers in your industry for help. Provide samples of your product for review. Offer an incentive so influencers talk about your brand.

Have More Online Conversations

One of the best ways to connect with your audience is to listen to them online. Listen to what they say, then ask questions, and respond to their comments. Online conversations build trust and engagement that improve your reputation.

Consider a chatbot for certain basic conversations. A chatbot can handle basic comments and questions. It keeps a customer engaged when you can’t be everywhere at once.

Thank Your Customers

One of the best reputation boosters is a sincere thank you.

Tell your customers you appreciate their businesses. Say thanks with a personal note, or another extra gesture. It’s sure to create positive feelings and positive word-of-mouth reviews.

How to Respond to Bad Reviews

You can do everything right and a customer can be unhappy. A negative comment or review can affect your reputation. The trick is to respond right away to negative feedback. This shows customers you care about them.

Handled well, a positive response to a negative review can reduce damage. It can help your online reputation. First, apologize to the customer for their experience. If someone made a mistake, admit it. Provide a solution to the problem.

Be sincere, and personal. A canned response isn’t satisfying to anyone. If appropriate, ask the customer to call you so you can handle the problem offline in private.

Online Review Sites

TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other crowd-sourced websites make it easy for everyone to voice their opinion. Anonymous reviewers can be especially cruel. A nasty comment or review can spread and impact your sales revenue.

What should you do about criticism?

  • Don’t take any review personally. It’s tempting to hit back but don’t. If necessary, take an hour or so to review the situation. You must respond in a calm manner or you’ll hurt your business.
  • The best response is polite and to the point. Thank the customer for visiting your business. Give a sincere apology for their poor experience.
  • Respond to each complaint. Be diplomatic, but honest. If you don’t agree with a point, say so in a nice way.
  • Always give an explanation, not an excuse.
  • Ask if you can correct the situation. Offer a complimentary product or service.

Every negative review is a chance to win back the customer. It’s an opportunity to convince potential clients you provide the best service possible.

Trolls and Unfair Complaints

Always respond unless you feel you’re being trolled. If you think someone is targeting your business, you have a couple of options.

Set up approval controls for comments. You can do this on video sites and topic threads. On your website require approval for the comments section or don’t allow comments. In severe cases block or ban the IP address.

Monitor Your Brand Reputation

Often companies don’t know their reputation is hurt until after the damage is done. Online monitoring changes that.

Monitoring what people have to say about your business is a 24/7 job. Luckily, there are digital tools that can do the work. You can use Google Alerts to notify you of any mention of your brand name and other keywords. Each time your company is mentioned you’ll receive an email alert from Google.

Other tools monitor social media, reviews, blogs and press releases for the keywords you choose. Some offer analytics data on your target audience. Others show reviews posted online about your business and upper management.

Online tracking tools give you real-time reports on what people are saying about your brand. You can address any controversy, and shut down issues before they do any damage.

Use Web Metrics

All businesses should pay attention to analytics and web metrics. This information lets you measure how your brand content resonates with your audience.

Monitor your website to see where visitors spend their time. Study the traffic, bounce rates, on page time, click through rates and more. This data illustrates which pieces of content work, and which don’t. You’ll be able to correct any content that doesn’t perform.

Social media analytics reports reveal likes, shares, and followers. This information shows which messages reach your customers.

Don’t be afraid of web metrics. They are one of the best tools available to measure online reputation success.

Create a Formal Policy About Public Posts

Make sure everyone on your team knows the plan. Sometimes an employee can post something that reflects negatively on your brand. Have a formal written policy that explains what everyone can post about the company.

State what is and isn’t acceptable on their own profiles. Make it clear that every mention of the company is part of it’s brand image.

Have a Crisis Communication Plan

You never know what could go wrong, but you can be ready if anything does. Make a plan that outlines the action steps if something bad reflects on your company.

Choose a message and spokesperson. Include instructions that tell employees what they should or shouldn’t do.

Consult the Search Engine Marketing Experts

n the past, mistakes announced in print, radio and TV went away. But nothing disappears on the Internet. That’s why it’s essential that your online communications are strategic.

If you need advice on brand reputation, contact the marketing experts at TopSpot. Our team can polish your reputation so you connect with your customers. Call today for a free TopSpot SEM consultation.