Online review sites may seem like they are a dime a dozen, but business owners would be foolish to ignore them. The fact is, online review sites, such as Yelp and Angie’s List, are effectively the new form of word-of-mouth. They are massively influential in shaping consumer opinion, which means they can prove make-or-break for businesses of any kind.
Consider this. You’re running a lawn care business, but when someone Googles the name of your company, the only thing that comes up is a 1-star review from Yelp. That’s not exactly alluring to would-be clients — especially not if your rival company has five-star reviews, a big corporate website, a fancy Facebook account, and so on.
Online reviews can be utterly detrimental to businesses. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are actions that can be taken by business owners to protect their online reputation. It all starts with knowing exactly what that reputation is, exactly; a few basic reputation monitoring tips include:
- Search for the name of your company on Google, Yahoo, and Bing, at least once a week or so, just to see what’s out there.
- Log out of Google before you search; avoiding “personalized” results is key for getting the big picture.
- Set up search engines alert so that you’ll know the second any new reviews or listings emerge.
- Check your profiles on consumer review sites, such as Yelp, on a regular basis.
In addition to monitoring reputation, business owners can also take efforts to actively improve their reputation. This is largely a matter of filling the first page or two of Google with positive, brand-enhancing content — keeping those negative listings or bad reviews at bay.
- Sign up for exact-match domain names that correspond to the name of your business — so, for a company called Star Widgets, get starwidgets.com, starwidgets.net, and so forth.
- Sign up for Facebook and Twitter accounts, also using exact-match account names.
- Post content to these sites and social networks as often as you can; even something as simple as a company bio or product descriptions can be useful in keeping those pages “fresh,” and ranking well on Google.
Online review sites can prove ruinous for businesses that don’t get good notices — but by being proactive, you can ensure that the damage done is minimal.
Rich Gorman is a serial internet entrepreneur with an extensive background in direct marketing, affiliate marketing, and online reputation management. In addition, Rich operates the official blog for the Direct Response industry where he shares his thoughts on Direct Response Marketing.