Online reputation management

Protecting your brand: The essentials of online reputation management 

13 MINS
Claire Sy

Information moves fast on the internet. If you’ve seen viral videos of customers expressing their vocal complaints against a business, you know exactly how difficult it is to deal with. It’s only natural that you don’t want to get caught in that crisis. 

But beyond keeping up with the complaints, getting caught up in a negative viral video can cause you to lose customers. In fact, 60% of consumers reported that they would stop shopping from a brand with a negative reputation. 

Your online reputation is more valuable than ever. Whether you’re a local business owner, a budding entrepreneur, or even an individual looking to make a good impression, monitoring your reputation is essential. 

At the end of this article, you’ll learn what online reputation management is, its benefits, and how to create the perfect reputation management strategy. We’ll also show how companies deal with negative online reviews. 

What is online reputation? 

Your online reputation includes what people find when they search for your name or your brand on the internet. It’s a collection of: 

  • online reviews 
  • social media mentions 
  • customer feedback 
  • blog posts 
  • news articles 

Most customers see this as a reflection of your character, values, and the products or services’ quality. Just like offline, your brand’s reputation can affect how people trust and perceive you. So, it’s important to make sure what’s out there about you online is positive and accurate. 

Public relations vs. online reputation management: how is it different? 

Public relations (PR) 

Public Relations (PR) is all about managing how people see a company. PR people talk to newspaper journalists and arrange events to make sure the company has a good image in both the real world and on the internet. If there’s a big issue, PR professionals are immediately on the move to fix it and keep up a strong brand reputation. 

Online reputation management (ORM) 

Online reputation management (ORM), on the other hand, focuses on watching how a brand looks online. Its main job is to make sure the brand appears high in search results, handles online reviews, and keeps a good image on the web. If there’s a problem online like negative reviews on social media, ORM experts help to fix it. 

Why does reputation management matter? 

It’s every business owner’s nightmare to have a horrible review go viral or get into a battle with an online troll that damages your brand’s online reputation. But beyond preventing the negative outcomes, there are other advantages to maintaining a good reputation online. Let’s use this section to talk about the benefits of managing your reputation. 

Builds trust with your customers 

Trust is the foundation of any successful business or personal brand. It serves as the cornerstone of successful relationships, be it with your regular customers, partners, or potential leads. When they search for you online, a positive online reputation reassures them that you are reliable and credible, enhancing their perception of your brand. 

Gives a good first impressions 

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Now that everything is found on the internet, potential customers, partners, or even employers often form their initial opinions about you, or your business based on what they find online. A well-managed online reputation, characterized by positive reviews, credible information, and engaging content, can leave a lasting and favorable first impression. 

Influences your audience 

People want brands they and their friends can trust. A study shows that 90% of customers pay more to their trusted brands. A good online reputation can help you influence people’s decisions. Positive reviews and mentions can sway potential customers, knowing you’re the perfect business for the brand. 

Creating an online reputation management strategy 

Your small business’s online presence is critical to attracting customers. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your online reputation is spotless. Monitoring your online reputation doesn’t require advanced technical skills. Here are some straightforward steps to get your reputation management strategy started. 

1. Google yourself 

Begin by searching your name or brand on search engines. Review the first few pages of results to see what information is available. These results contain a variety of information, from articles and social media posts to reviews and news articles. 

It’s vital to scan through all of these search results, not just the first page, as online reputation goes beyond the surface. Be sure to pay close attention to both the positive mentions that bolster your image and the negative ones that might require your attention. 

This initial search lets you grasp what people see when they look you up online. It lets you know what the most pressing problems are and what opportunities you can exploit. Once you have this information, you can start crafting a strategy to shape a positive online reputation. 

2. Set clear goals 

Having clear goals helps you know what to do and what success looks like. Determine what you want to achieve with your reputation management. Is it improving online reviews, addressing negative comments, or enhancing your overall image? Some other questions you want to ask may include: 

  • Who is my target audience, and what do they care about? 
  • What is the timeframe or deadline for achieving these goals? 
  • How will I measure success and progress? 
  • What resources, tools, or expertise do I need to accomplish these goals? 
  • What challenges or obstacles might I encounter, and how can I overcome them? 
  • Am I being realistic about what can be achieved within my resources and timeframe? 

Once you’ve figured it out, list your goals and focus your efforts on achieving them. 

3. Identify your audience 

Understand who your target audience is and what they care about. Once you figure that out, you can make a plan that gives them what they want. Tailor your strategy to meet their expectations and needs. 

4. Set up Google Alerts 

An easy way to keep up to date with online mentions of your business is by setting up a Google Alert for your business name, product/service name, and your name. When your business is mentioned online, you’ll get an email. You can set up the emails to arrive daily, weekly, or in real-time, depending on the volume of mentions you want to deal with. 

5. Create compelling content 

Content creation is all about making interesting stories about your brand that people enjoy. Generate high-quality, positive content about yourself or your business. This could be in the form of: 

  • blog posts 
  • social media updates 
  • press releases 
  • educational videos 
  • user-generated content 
  • behind-the-scene content 

6. Dabble in search engine optimization 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website to rank higher in search engine results, like Google. The goal is to increase organic traffic to your site, making it more accessible and attractive to users. 

It uses techniques to improve your site’s visibility, making it more likely for people to find you when they search for relevant topics or keywords. When your audience searches your business on Google, you want to be at the top of the list with your positive content instead of negative reviews. 

However, it can get a little technical. If you’re in the middle of a reputation disaster, you may be under a lot of pressure with very little time to learn all about it. That’s why it’s recommended to hire SEO professionals to take this off your list. 

7. Engage your audience in social media 

Actively engage on social media platforms where your audience is present. Depending on your business, your audience may be found on a specific platform. 

Facebook tends to attract a broad demographic, with users ranging from young adults to seniors. Instagram is especially popular among younger users, primarily millennials and Gen Z, making it a probable place to find your audience if you’re a visually appealing and lifestyle-focused brand. 

Twitter is known for its fast-paced updates and appeals to users seeking real-time information and news, making it effective if your business has an interest in current events and B2B communication. LinkedIn is a professional network that caters to a predominantly older, educated audience, which is suitable for B2B and career-related content. Finally, TikTok has gained immense popularity among Gen Z, making it ideal if your business is targeting a younger, creative audience. 

Once you figure out which social media site your audience is found, focus your efforts there. Respond to comments according to the tone and ideal medium of your platform. Share valuable content that fits your demographic’s interests. Don’t forget to be polite and friendly. 

8. Use social media listening tools 

If you use a social media management tool such as HootSuite, you’ll be able to see what people are saying on all of your social media channels in one dashboard, which makes it easier to manage. You can also use a media monitoring tool such as Mention, which monitors mentions of your business online and on social media. 

9. Check review websites 

Depending on your type of business, online ratings and reviews may be another area that you need to keep up with. You can check out these sites: 

  • Yelp 
  • TripAdvisor 
  • Trust Pilot 
  • Google Reviews 
  • Amazon Customer Reviews 

Online review sites do have tracking programs you can use to see what’s being said about your business on their site, but checking each site’s tracking every day can take up a lot of time. 

10. Encourage positive feedback 

According to statistics, 75% of customers say positive online reviews boost their trust in a brand. To encourage positive feedback, you can ask your satisfied customers to share their good experiences by leaving positive reviews. 

You might send them a friendly message or email, thanking them for their support and kindly asking if they’d be willing to write a review. Make it easy for them by providing links to review sites. Positive feedback can help balance out any negative comments and create a better overall impression of your brand. 

11. Respond appropriately 

When you come across negative comments or feedback, respond calmly and professionally. Address concerns and seek to resolve issues. Publicly demonstrating your commitment to customer satisfaction can have a positive impact. 

But sometimes, despite all of your best efforts, monitoring isn’t enough. If you see what looks like a fake review of your business by the competition, contact the review site immediately to report it. If the post is determined to be fake, or if it’s libelous, the review site should remove it or at least downgrade it if warranted. 

12. Maintain a positive online presence 

Keeping a positive online presence involves updating your social media and website regularly with fresh, high-quality content. This content can be articles, images, or news that people find interesting and valuable. 

By doing this, you can improve your online image and make sure that good information appears higher in search engine results. Think of it like cleaning your digital space – the more appealing and active it is, the more it can help move any negative content down in the search results, which is a good thing for your brand’s reputation. 

13. Create a crisis management plan 

Be prepared to address online crises promptly and professionally. Have a plan in place to manage and mitigate negative situations. Think about how to fix problems, like bad comments or negative news. Being ready for crises helps you manage and make things better when something goes wrong. 

Here’s a simplified guide to help you get started: 

  • Identify potential crises. Think about the possible online issues that could harm your reputation. These might include negative reviews, social media backlash, or a public relations disaster. 
  • Designate a crisis team. Choose a team of individuals responsible for managing crises. This might include members from PR, marketing, customer support, and legal departments. 
  • Develop response protocols. Create a set of clear, step-by-step protocols for responding to different types of crises. Define roles and responsibilities for each team member. 
  • Establish communication channels. Set up ways for your team to communicate effectively during a crisis. This might include dedicated email lists, chat groups, or project management tools. 
  • Draft pre-approved responses. Prepare templates for responses to common issues. These should be crafted to address problems professionally and positively. 
  • Gather resources. Ensure you have the resources and tools needed to address crises. This may include access to customer data, customer service software, or public relations services. 
  • Practice scenarios. Conduct drills or simulations to practice how you’d handle different types of crises. This will help your team be better prepared when a real issue arises. 
  • Establish a chain of command. Define a clear chain of command to make decisions quickly and efficiently during a crisis. 
  • Review and update regularly. Keep your crisis management strategy up to date and revisit it periodically to adjust for changes in your business or the online landscape. 

14. Look for professional help 

Consider tools and software to streamline the process, especially if you’re dealing with complex issues. You may need to turn to online reputation management services. They have the tools and know-how to help you. These professionals work to remove or counteract false or damaging information online. 

15. Be transparent and authentic 

Being transparent and authentic is like being yourself online. 88% of consumers need authenticity from brands before they decide to support them. When you’re transparent and authentic, people trust you more. Trust is essential for reputation management because it helps people see you as someone reliable. 

How other companies dealt with negative online reviews 

Companies that handle such situations effectively can often turn the negative experience into an opportunity to rebuild trust and credibility. To put what we discussed earlier into context, we’ll use real-life scenarios for dealing with bad publicity. 

These examples demonstrate the importance of swift, transparent, and customer-centric responses when dealing with negative online reviews and crises. 

United Airlines 

United Airlines faced a major online backlash after a video went viral showing a passenger being forcibly removed from an overbooked flight in 2017. The incident led to widespread negative publicity and outrage on social media. 

United Airlines swiftly responded to the crisis with CEO Oscar Munoz publicly apologizing for the incident and acknowledging the company’s responsibility. He promised to review policies and make necessary changes. The airline reached out to the affected passenger directly to settle the matter amicably, demonstrating a commitment to resolving the issue. 

United Airlines announced changes to its overbooking policy to prevent such incidents in the future. This proactive response helped United Airlines regain some public trust and mitigate the damage to its reputation. 

Domino’s Pizza 

In 2009, two Domino’s Pizza employees posted a video on YouTube showing them engaging in unsanitary activities while preparing food. The video quickly spread online, leading to a severe backlash against the pizza chain. Domino’s responded by taking several steps by releasing a video of its own featuring the CEO, Patrick Doyle, addressing the issue. Doyle acknowledged the incident and expressed his shock and disappointment. 

Furthermore, Domino’s actively monitored social media and responded to customer concerns and questions. They engaged with customers to rebuild trust. Then, the company launched an advertising campaign focused on quality and cleanliness in food preparation to reassure customers of their commitment to safety and cleanliness. Over time, Domino’s managed to rebuild its reputation through transparency and a commitment to improving food quality and safety. 

Volkswagen 

Volkswagen faced a massive scandal known as “Dieselgate” in 2015 when it was revealed that the company had intentionally manipulated emissions data in its diesel vehicles. The revelation led to a severe backlash against the automaker. 

In the aftermath, Volkswagen issued a public apology, expressing deep regret and accepting responsibility for the scandal. They initiated recalls and settlements to address the environmental impact and financial losses caused by the emissions manipulation. 

To emphasize its commitment to change, Volkswagen announced a significant shift towards electric and sustainable vehicle production to rebuild trust and repair its image as a responsible and environmentally conscious brand. Despite the scandal, Volkswagen’s efforts to address the crisis, apologize, and pivot towards sustainable practices aimed to restore its brand reputation and public trust. 

Effectively manage your online reputation 

By monitoring and actively managing your online reputation, you can protect and enhance your personal or business brand. It’s not just a reflection of who you are; it’s also a powerful tool for influencing perceptions and building trust. 

And remember, you can always seek assistance from experts. Partner with a reputation management company and Web.com’s SEO professionals. Together, we can create an effective reputation management strategy for your business. 

  • Claire Sy

    Claire is a Content Marketing Writer at Web.com. Although she’s just started her content marketing journey, she’s eager to write compelling articles while learning more about the SEO and marketing world. Growing up, Claire had always loved reading, but she started taking an interest in writing through poetry and stories. She also likes playing chess in her spare time.

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