How online reputation management strengthens your brand
In the business of small businesses, reputation is everything. You know this from your own spending habits – do you really want to shop for food at your local restaurant even if it has bad reviews?
As a small business owner, you should strive to prevent potential and current customers from having to ask such questions when they come across your website, social media, reviews, and other online content. line. This is where Online Reputation Management (ORM) and third party ORM providers come in – Webimax is our number one choice in this area. Learn more below.
What is online reputation management (ORM)?
Online Reputation Management (ORM) encompasses all of the actions a small business takes to tackle negative online content while creating and improving positive internet messaging and branding. ORM often includes social media and blogging content creation, marketing and SEO, as well as efforts to claim your business’s blank profiles on website listing sites. It also involves asking customers for reviews to improve your positive online presence.
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ORM may also involve permanently removing negative content and responding appropriately to negative reviews. While negative reviews should never be removed, other negative content can be ethically removed (or at least buried in search engine results pages) as you create and grow new positive content. The result is a stronger online brand across the board.
Small businesses often outsource their ORM to a third party company, which handles all of the above tasks on your behalf. Some MNOs specialize in managing an individual’s reputation, while others work more closely with small businesses like yours. Other MNOs may work with either type of client – you’ll know they’re trustworthy if they match you with a communicative project manager who knows your field.
Notably, ORM is not the same as public relations (PR), although some ORMs do offer PR. While both share the common goal of creating a positive appearance for your business, public relations focuses more on media coverage of your business. As such, it relies more heavily on the relationships between journalists and influencers. MNOs have a broader purpose than the media and do not need as many influencing relationships (if any) to manage their tasks.
What types of businesses is ORM best suited for?
ORM is valuable for all types of businesses, although negative information generally has less of an impact on larger, more established businesses. It’s because these businesses have enough customers – especially long-standing loyal customers – that negative content typically results in less potential revenue loss. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), on the other hand, stand to lose significantly more money when negative content dominates internet searches.
For starters, most SMEs do not have as strong a base in their industries or regions as their reputable competitors. As such, negative content about an SME gives potential customers another reason to choose a competitor instead. SMEs also have less revenue, staff, and therefore time and resources to manage the ORM internally, which makes professional support all the more important.
Why are ORM and branding important for SMEs?
ORM best practices boost your SEO and thus rank you higher on search engine results pages, thereby introducing your business to more prospects. It also makes your brand appear stronger on online review list sites like Yelp and Google, where 94% of customers avoid businesses with negative reviews.
Additionally, 85% of customers research businesses online before making purchasing decisions. ORM can help get mostly, if not all, positive content about your business in front of these customers. This is because ORM focuses on more than just reviews – your social media and SEO are also part of the picture. And as customers today regard other customers’ reviews more highly than original business content, ORM is extremely important.
What are the common ORM and branding strategies?
Some of the most trusted methods you or an MNO you hire should use to manage your online reputation include the following:
- Social media monitoring. Anyone can say anything on social media, so Facebook and the like have become spaces where customers often express their truest opinions about business. It doesn’t just mean Facebook reviews – it means Instagram posts praising your products or nasty tweets about your brand.
- Respond to online reviews. When a small business responds to a positive customer review with gratitude and possibly future discounts, other customers see the brand as trustworthy and enjoyable. The same goes for a kind and understanding response to a negative review that shows a willingness to resolve the customer’s problem. And, yes, you absolutely must respond to all of your reviews online.
- Ask for additional advice. Presumably, your business appeals to its customers – if you weren’t, you could be on the verge of failure. To showcase your successes, ask your customers for reviews. You might get some negative reviews, but most should be positive – and as described above, you can use negative reviews to your advantage as well.
- SEO. Unfortunately, not all negative content about your business can be wiped off the internet, but SEO can help bury it far below positive content. Beyond that, SEO puts your business in front of more potential customers earlier in their internet searches, thereby legitimizing your brand.
- Content creation and marketing. Meaningful and targeted blogging essential to content marketing goes hand in hand with SEO and improving your reputation. These blogs, for which you must choose topics based on relevant high volume search terms, can be customized to rank higher in search engine page results. The result is greater exposure and an appearance of authority which improves your reputation.
- Profile complaint. Isn’t it frustrating to search for a business on your favorite ad site only to see an empty profile? When you first encountered this, you probably turned to a competitor instead. Don’t let this happen to your business – claim your pristine profiles through ORM and form a full and far reaching internet presence.
- Public relations. As mentioned earlier, some MNOs include public relations in their line of services. However, it is more common to hire a separate PR firm and ORM firm given each other’s goals and relationships as described above.
Should Growing Companies Hire ORM and Branding Professionals?
If all of the above seems like a lot of work for a small team like yours, that’s a fair concern – and MNOs can help. When you outsource your SEO, content marketing, social media monitoring, review management, and profile claiming, you recoup invaluable time – which is perhaps the most important resource for small businesses.
Outsourcing your ORM and branding is also a major stress reliever. Surely you have tons of other tasks to do, and finding and reading negative content about your brand takes time and can feel like a personal attack. As such, you may feel defensive or angry and less focused on your job. Letting a third party manage your ORM gives you the clarity you need to successfully manage all of your business affairs.
What to look for when hiring ORM and branding professionals
When looking for ORM and brand partners, you should look for plan flexibility, personalized reputation management, comprehensive support, and more. Options on this front include Webimax, known for its low-obligation monthly plans, live chat support, and full service management. Webimax also includes crisis management services – which not all MNOs offer – to help your business after public relations so negative it could drastically reduce your customer base.
There are also some things you need to make sure your ORM is not Make. These include:
- Invoicing additional costs. Most ORM plans offer personalized plans and prices instead of fixed, inflexible fees. This structure can be advantageous, as it allows you to scan your quote or contract for unnecessary fees. Your ORM should only charge you for the ORM and related services mentioned above – other charges indicate a business that is more interested in money than your well-being.
- Operation without transparency. While negative customer reviews should never be removed, some MNOs can still do so. However, these MNOs are unlikely to admit it – and they can only get away with it if they lack transparency. To counter this, demand extensive and regular communications and reporting from your MNO. Ideally, your ORM will also put you in touch with a project manager who is available for all your questions.
- Engage in black hat tactics. Black hat tactics encompass all illegal or unethical forms of ORM. They include fake reviews, duplicate web pages or social media profiles, SEO keyword stuffing, spam content, and targeted attacks on negative content. Our sister site Business News Daily has a detailed intro on why black hat tactics are problematic.
When looking for ORMs that tick all of these boxes, you can refer to our ORM reviews page. There you will see that Webimax is our # 1 choice for the small business MNO, given its monthly contracts, personalized advice, comprehensive support and wide range of services. Learn more via the Webimax website, then get ready to meaningfully manage – no, uplift – your brand online.