Online Reputation Management: A Short Guide for Start-Ups
Curating a positive online reputation is no longer optional. Successful online reputation management (ORM) and SEO help achieve results through coordinating content, websites, and SERPs.
Before anybody does business with you, they’d have Googled your brand. The links and information that appear on the first few pages of Google when your brand is searched for, are what potential partners perceive you are. That’s why online reputation management is key. But especially, a positive image is important for young and small companies.
What does reputation mean for an online business?
Today, more than ever, a person’s image, the trustworthiness of a brand or the competence of a company contributes to customer acceptance. When it comes to reputation, start-ups are right at the beginning. They first have to earn the trust of their customers. This can take several years.
As the saying goes — it takes twenty years to build a good reputation and five minutes to destroy it. What it is meant by that, is that since customers and companies are extremely networked in the digital age, and communication in social networks is completely transparent, even minor disruptions to reputation can lead to customer uncertainty.
Negative opinions about a company have a deterrent effect on new customers. This is a problem for start-ups in particular, as they are not yet established on the market and have no loyal customer base that has grown over the years.
Strategically developing a strong reputation
In order for a start-up to earn a good reputation, it needs online reputation management. ORM requires ongoing monitoring of customer opinions and public opinion and should be part of a long-term process.
Three of the most important instruments of reputation management are online customer reviews, search engine optimization (SEO) and online PR — and they should be the cornerstones of every ORM strategy.
1. Online customer review management
Customers make their purchasing decisions based on reviews and ratings, among other things. This is especially true for companies that are unknown to the customer or are barely starting out. If there are negative reviews of a company or product — for example as a rating on Google — people tend to not buy.
Online review management therefore plays a major role as a marketing instrument. It means here above all, the acquisition of ratings from satisfied customers. It is important to actively address these customers and to ask them in a friendly manner for a corresponding review. If this is neglected, it is possible that despite satisfied customers, the opinion may turn out to be rather negative — after all, dissatisfied users tend to express themselves publicly rather than satisfied ones.
Customers appreciate it if feedback is also noticed by the company. A strong community usually remains loyal to a company even in times of crisis. Even the most negative comments can be opportunities to make your company look good. By dealing with negative criticism in a positive and helpful way, you can show others that you care about your customers.
2. Search Engine Optimization
People are influenced by what they read about you. This is where it is necessary to ensure positive content ranks higher for your names or brand keywords. Since highlighting your positive content alone does not guarantee that your potential customers or partners will see the most representative information, you need effective SEO to rank and feature the strengths of your brand.
An effective SEO strategy will accomplish the following areas:
- Optimize pages of your website to appear atop of SERPs and rank for target keyword phrases.
- Feature your genuine social profiles representing your company or brand name.
- Optimize company-hosted and third-party review website pages to populate when an interested person Googles “your brand name + reviews.”
- Influence search engines to highlight positive content and simultaneously push negative or irrelevant content down beyond the third or fourth page.
3. Online PR
Online PR is, in short, press and public relations work using the tools and opportunities offered by online media. The objectives are very similar to those of classic, paper-based public relations — for example, to draw attention to products, brands, companies, events and people, to reinforce opinions, to convince multipliers and target groups.
In addition to classic PR, blog entries as well as guest articles and interviews in external media can also be used here. These lead to increasingly positive results in brand-related search queries and also increase the reach and awareness of the brand.
It is therefore particularly important for start-ups as well as small companies to pursue a targeted strategy from the beginning to build and improve their own reputation. A good reputation and satisfied customers form the basis for entrepreneurial success.