Online reputation management is mission-critical for brands looking to control their narrative, improve search rankings and manage crises in the digital age. This comprehensive guide will explore what effective online reputation management entails, why it‘s invaluable for modern brands, and tips to build a strategy that protects and promotes your brand‘s image.
What is Online Reputation Management and Why It Matters
Online reputation management (ORM) refers to the process of monitoring, maintaining and improving an individual‘s or brand‘s reputation across the internet through targeted promotion, crisis management, and suppression of negative content.
Why Invest in ORM?
Here are some key benefits of making online reputation management a priority:
- Influences Up To 90% of Purchase Decisions – According to surveys by BrightLocal and SurveyMonkey, over 80% of consumers read online reviews before choosing a local business. Positive online reputation and reviews are critical for converting prospects.
- Boosts Organic Reach & Lowers Acquisition Costs – Brands with stronger online sentiment and authority see higher organic traffic and lower cost per acquisition. Existing customers are also more likely to trust and purchase again. This directly impacts revenue and marketing costs.
- Drives More Qualified Leads – A reputable brand is seen as more trustworthy by potential customers. Visitor-to-lead conversion rates improve as a result. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 66% of consumers view branded content from influential companies as more trustworthy.
- Enhances Employer Branding – Glassdoor reports that 75% of job seekers evaluate an employer‘s brand before applying for openings. Online reputation influences top talent recruitment.
- Faster Recovery From PR Crises – According to Weber Shandwick, 44% of consumers would lose trust in a brand forever following a crisis. Proactive online reputation management allows brands to mitigate damage through swift, transparent communication.
Given the tangible benefits, online reputation management should be a top priority for marketing leaders. Allocating resources to monitoring systems, high-quality content creation, crisis preparedness and reviews management ensures long-term health of the brand.
What Does ORM Entail?
Comprehensive online reputation management incorporates four key elements:
1. Listening & Monitoring
This first step involves tracking brand mentions across the web to gain actionable insights. This includes:
- Social media listening – Monitoring keywords and participating in discussions on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and niche communities. Popular tools include Mention, Hootsuite, Sprout Social and BuzzSumo.
- Review site tracking – Monitoring ratings and comments on Yelp, Google Business Profile, Facebook, industry forums and more. Software like Podium and Birdeye collects and analyzes reviews.
- Web monitoring – Google Alerts, Talkwalker, Meltwater and other tools send alerts when keywords are mentioned on news sites, blogs, directories and other domains.
- Surveys & interviews – Speaking directly with customers, employees and partners provides qualitative insights.
Continuous listening across channels provides visibility into pain points, customer service issues, emerging crises, competitor activity and more.
2. Responding & Engaging
When negative sentiments or misconceptions surface online, prompt and empathetic responses are critical. Tactics include:
- Personally responding to all negative reviews and DMs, and resolving issues quickly. This demonstrates responsiveness.
- Providing additional context and your side of the story if comments are factually incorrect. Transparency builds trust.
- Reporting verifiably fake or abusive reviews for removal. 36% of consumers suspect competitors of leaving fake negative reviews.
- Pushing down negative search results by regularly creating positive owned content.
- Admitting mistakes, constructively reassuring dissatisfied customers and taking decisive action. This transforms critics into advocates.
3. Promoting & Optimizing
Regularly create and distribute owned, earned and paid content that positions your brand as an authority. Tactics include:
- Owned media – Blogs, newsletters, website pages, videos and other branded assets should prominently feature recent wins, achievements, human interest stories, leader perspectives and community initiatives. Most consumers actively seek out this content.
- Influencer engagement – 82% of consumers are more likely to trust content shared by influencers and experts vs brands. Loan products to micro-influencers, sponsor content, arrange brand ambassadorships and quote industry experts.
- PR and events – Press releases, speaking opportunities, community events and local sponsorships allow sharing of achievements.
- Reviews and testimonials – Tools like Yotpo facilitate collecting and prominently displaying social proof on site. Satisfied customers provide UGC.
- Paid advertising – Occasional ads promote positive content to new audiences. Retarget those who view negatively-skewed articles.
4. Crisis Management
Despite best efforts, major brand scandals can still occur. Have protocols in place to:
- Acknowledge issues immediately with an apology and accountability. Avoid defensive stance.
- Share decisive action plans to prevent repeat crises and learn from mistakes.
- Provide regular, transparent updates until issues are resolved. Hire experienced crisis PR experts if needed.
- According to a Weber Shandwick survey, 44% of consumers would lose trust in a brand forever following a crisis. The goal is to mitigate damage through quick, consistent communication and demonstrable corrective action.
With the right strategies across listening, responding, promoting and crisis readiness, brands can influence how they are perceived across digital channels. Let‘s look at proven ways to execute an effective ORM program.
How To Manage Your Brand‘s Online Reputation
Here are some best practices any brand can apply:
Monitor Mentions and Listen
- Set up Google Alerts for brand names, executive names, important keywords, and variants. Monitor search results, news and blogs.
- Track social media discussions with tools like BuzzSumo and Social Searcher for broad listening, and Mention and Hootsuite for social engagement.
- Install review widgets onsite to stay updated on review site ratings and comments. Podium, Yotpo and Synup provide tracking.
- Conduct quarterly customer surveys and user interviews for qualitative feedback.
- Search brand names on Amazon to monitor product reviews and seller ratings.
- Check NPS benchmarks on Credo and Retently to compare against competitors.
- Monitor local search rankings on Google Maps, directories and review sites to improve visibility.
Respond & Engage
- Have a simple customer service review response template to efficiently address common complaints like shipping delays, defective products etc. Individualize each response.
- Verify suspicious negative reviewers by checking their purchase history, IP address and whether accounts were recently created. Report fake reviews for removal.
- Update listings and profiles on directories, forums and sites like Glassdoor where users contribute brand information. Take control of your narrative.
- Use Google Posts to directly correct inaccurate information that appears in search results.
- Share positive milestones like awards won, new products launched, CSR initiatives and more via press releases and social media. This builds authentic brand equity.
Promote Your Story
- Build relationships with micro-influencers and loyal brand advocates to create UGC and sponsored content that resonates with their audience.
- According to BrightLocal, 97% of customers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion. Proactively encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp and industry websites.
- Repurpose positive customer testimonials as social proof across the site and in ads. Video and image testimonials perform exceptionally well.
- Optimize on-site content for target keywords, concise messaging, updated leadership profiles and recent news posts that build authority. Feature prominent calls-to-action.
- Create and distribute regular email newsletters that highlight company, product and community achievements. Prominently display the signup form online.
- Conduct press outreach with compelling story angles when launching new products, publishing research reports, expanding locations and more. Media coverage builds credibility.
- Monitor competitors‘ strategies on organic content, social media, paid advertising etc. to identify gaps and opportunities.
Be Ready for Crises
- Designate crisis response teams and protocols for timely decision making and internal alignment. Practice crisis simulations.
- Draft template press releases to have initial reactive statements ready for major incidents like lawsuits, leadership scandals, data breaches etc.
- Proactively share company values and positive culture with employees. Glassdoor ratings directly impact applicant perception.
- Issue swift public statements acknowledging issues, assuming accountability and outlining corrective actions being taken. Keep communicating transparently.
- Hire external PR experts experienced in reputation damage control if the situation warrants it. 24/7 monitoring helps contain virality.
By being proactive across these areas, brands can monitor conversations at scale, consistently promote positive narratives and mitigate inevitable crises. While online reputation management requires ongoing investment, the long-term dividends for brand equity make it one of the shrewdest business strategies today.
Here are some noteworthy statistics that underscore why online reputation management should be a priority:
- According to Podium‘s State of Online Reviews report, 97% of consumers now read online reviews before making purchasing decisions.
- SoftwareAdvice found just 3 negative online reviews can deter 69% of prospective customers. Counteracting negative sentiment is vital.
- Local SEO company Moz reports that online reviews and local mentions now influence over 29% of Google‘s local search ranking algorithm. Positive reputation improves visibility.
- According to a BrightLocal consumer survey, 86% of consumers will hesitate to purchase from a business with just one bad review. The stakes are high.
- Search Engine Journal shared data indicating businesses can expect over a 15% increase in organic traffic within a few months of starting reputation management activities. The payoff is tangible.
Key Challenges in Online Reputation Management
Common obstacles faced in ORM include:
Volume of Conversations
With over 600,000 comments shared on blogs and over 500 million tweets sent per day, tracking every mention across the web is impossible without automation. Social listening and web monitoring tools are essential for brand tracking at scale.
Biased or Fake Reviews
Fake negative reviews from trolls or competitors aim to drag down ratings and credibility. According to Harvard Business Review, between 1% to 16% of online reviews can be fake. The best recourse is verifying suspicious reviewers and reporting fakes. Setting up review verification processes and moderating UGC deters abuse.
Scandals related to leadership missteps, lawsuits, data breaches or controversial internal actions can threaten brand reputation overnight. Proactive communication and not shying away from responsibility are key to mitigating long-term damage.
Black hat tactics like publishing libelous information, sabotaging events or campaigns, and leaving fake reviews are not unheard of. Maintaining positive brand equity allows recovering from such temporary attacks. Legal recourse is an option for extreme defamation.
Many brands lack the time, budget and in-house expertise to tackle online reputation management comprehensively. Starting small and layering on capabilities over time is recommended. Outsourcing to specialist agencies also overcomes resourcing barriers.
Despite inevitable challenges, consistency is key to effective ORM. Ongoing monitoring, producing high-quality content, responding empathetically to feedback and actively listening to consumers will strengthen brand sentiment across channels.
In today‘s digitally-driven world, actively managing your brand‘s online reputation has become imperative to build trust, improve visibility, attract talent and drive revenue.
With consumers relying extensively on reviews and online information, brands cannot afford negative sentiment or misleading information damaging their credibility. Proactively monitoring the web, optimizing positive owned content, engaging customers and employing crisis management protocols allows brands to craft an authoritative and consistent public image.
Online reputation management does require substantial investment. However, protecting brand equity delivers outsized dividends in the form of increased conversions, lower acquisition costs, brand loyalty and demand for premium pricing. For long-term competitive advantage, reputation management deserves to be at the core of every marketing strategy moving forward.