By: Katie Shore Jul 25/2019

It’s no secret that small, local businesses don’t have the same advertising capabilities as large-scale corporations. However, there are actions that every small business should take within their marketing strategy to maintain their reputation online. This is commonly known as reputation management.

As a small business, it is especially important that customers searching for your brand are seeing the very best of what you have to offer. Regardless of the budget or time that you have at your disposal, special care should always be taken to maintain a positive brand image. Three of the easiest ways to practice reputation management as a small business is by 1) curating online reviews, 2) posting regularly on social media, and 3) implementing an effective SEO strategy.

Online Reviews

Social proof – the evidence of others having a positive experience with a product, service or brand – is one of the most important factors of someone’s purchase decision. One of the most common ways that potential customers look for social proof online is by reading reviews.

According to Hubspot, most people read at least 10 reviews before they decide that they can trust a local business. In other words, having a strategic approach to collecting and responding to customer reviews is important in creating trust with people who may never have heard of you before. At Snaptech, we recommend the following best practices for your online reviews:

Create a Google My Business profile

Making sure that you have an up-to-date Google My Business profile is the best way to have your positive testimonials visible on the Google Search results page. Your Google My Business profile will appear in local search results when people search for you or something similar to your service offering.

Your average rating out of five stars, as well as some excerpts from your Google reviews, will appear on the page, as well as a link for people to read all of your reviews. Having a properly-updated Google My Business profile makes this social proof easy to find, so potential customers can evaluate for themselves whether or not you are a company that they can trust.

Ask your customers to review you on Google

A great way to start bringing in positive reviews is by asking some of your most loyal customers to leave you a review on your Google My Business profile. There are many easy ways to do this. Some common ways of asking include:

  • If you interact with some customers on a regular basis, you can ask them in person;
  • If you send follow-up emails or have a newsletter, you can include a link to your Google review and ask for reviews; or
  • Asking for reviews on your social media channels.

It can feel a bit awkward asking for reviews. However, if your customers are happy, they will want you to succeed and want to share how good your small business is. Just a few great reviews can make a big impact.

Respond to customer reviews (good and bad!)

So, you’ve received a bad review from a dissatisfied customer. Don’t worry – this doesn’t mean that your reputation is totally ruined. However, it will reflect poorly on you if you don’t respond to a bad review or worse, pick a fight with the reviewer. By acknowledging a customer’s negative experience, you’re actually showing prospective customers that you are transparent and take their opinion seriously.

When responding to a negative review, it is always important to thank the customer for taking the time to leave feedback and apologize for their experience. Acknowledge their critiques and talk about what you will do to address this in the future. See this review as a learning experience and take any feedback as an indicator as to what not to do in future interactions with all clients.

Remember to respond to positive reviews as well – the more communication you have with these loyal customers, the better. Make sure that you are responding in a timely manner. It would seem artificial if you started responding to all of your reviews from three years ago today.

Google is not the only place that you can receive reviews; remember to check websites like Yelp, review websites that are specific to your industry, and social media sites.

Social Media

While some platforms like Facebook do have reviews, managing your reputation through social media is bigger than that. People often use social media as a way of discovering and researching new businesses. This is why maintaining active profiles is a great indicator of who you are and what your brand can offer someone. For a person completely unfamiliar with you, an active social media presence indicates that your business is running and that you are making the effort to communicate with your customers.

Social media fundamentally changed communication as we know it by being an interactive medium in which everyone has a voice. This is why it is important to approach social media as a conversation and not a static advertising method. Respond to customer comments and ask compelling questions at the end of each post. This will serve as further social proof that your brand is worth interacting with.

Make sure that you know who your audience is and which social media platforms they are using. If all of your customers are fervent Instagram users, posting daily on Twitter isn’t going to help anything. Post the kind of content that your ideal customers will find interesting on the platforms where they are most likely to interact with you; don’t waste your time curating a profile that the right people will never see.

SEO Strategy

So you’re curating your customer reviews and you’re making posts on social media that are starting conversations. People see this, and they’re loving it. However, with a quick Google search, they can’t seem to find your website. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll keep clicking through the search results until they finally find you on page 3; they’re probably going to go to one of your competitors instead.

This is why SEO is an extremely important component of reputation management. As a small business, you need to be easily found through organic search. Taking SEO seriously when launching and maintaining your website will put your brand on the first page of Google and mitigates the risk of having possible negative feedback take the forefront instead.

Aside from having technical SEO implemented on your website, another great way to build up your search ranking is by creating excellent content for your website. This provides more opportunities to rank for different keywords as well as signalling to Google that you are a reliable source of information. Much like social media, you need to make sure that you are creating content for the right customers.

It is also important to keep an eye on your competitor’s SEO efforts. Are they targeting the same keywords as you? How are they trying to speak to their customers? What can you do to differentiate yourself? Having SEO at the top of your mind while doing reputation management ensures that your competition will have less of a chance of ranking higher than you in search engine results pages.

Ready to start managing your reputation?

When running a small business, you often end up wearing a lot of hats and it can be hard to prioritize between what you can do for your business and what you should be doing for your business. If a full-scale marketing strategy isn’t in the cards for you, practicing reputation management will prove to your current and potential customers that your business is open and that their voice matters to you.

However, reputation management still takes time. Snaptech Marketing can help your business with anything from a simple reputation management strategy to an innovative digital marketing campaign. Interested? Give us a call at 604-677-5237to learn how we can begin helping your small business.