What is Online Reputation Management? Everything You Need to Know for 2024

What is online reputation management

Your business works hard to keep your clients satisfied. You connect with clients one-on-one and tirelessly develop new products and features to satisfy clients’ needs.

But even with the most effective customer service, a business is bound to experience a hit to its reputation occasionally.

A customer posts a bad review for the entire internet to see. Or a less-than-flattering media story spreads far beyond what you anticipated.

When this happens, online reputation management comes in.

By actively managing your reputation, you can reduce negative customer feedback and maintain your online presence as positively as possible.

That will help you get started. We’re walking through the what, why, and how of online reputation management, including the methods you need to use for your business online.

What Is Online Reputation Management?

We all know how important online reputation is for individuals and businesses, which is influenced by the comments and reviews you receive online. Online reputation management (ORM) is when you deal with any negative or false comments and reviews or positive reviews; you actively monitor mentions of your brand on websites and social media.

The answer to the question of what Online Reputation Management is is that it primarily works by responding to negative, unhappy customer comments online and reacting to stories within the media (both social and traditional) that paint your brand in a bad light.

For example, you could release a public statement addressing the story’s content or publish a social media post.

How Is Reputation Management Different From PR?

Public relations (PR) and online reputation management have identical objectives: portraying the company in the best light. The primary difference between the two is how they achieve that objective.

PR companies work externally through advertising and coordinating media promotional efforts. It’s mostly a proactive effort to strengthen brands instead of minimizing attacks on firms (though PR companies do sometimes deal with damage control).

Online reputation management, however, is most often reactive. It includes searching for and responding to probably damaging content material from other people or companies.

Much of the work that goes into effective Online Reputation Management is handled internally by brands rather than by an external firm.

Why Do You Need to Manage Your Online Reputation?

A brand will receive numerous hits online. However, they’re usually small attacks: a negative comment right here, and a low star rating there.

None of those blows is worth a full-scale PR campaign. However, they add up quickly.

You need online reputation management services to deal with all those small fires before they cause critical damage.

Online reputation management (ORM) can be essential for maintaining transparency, which will be a significant ingredient of brand loyalty in 2024.

While there’s certainly still a spot for orchestrated PR campaigns, potential customers at this time are also searching for organic interactions with companies. They need to hear directly from companies in personalized conversations, such as a direct message or an Instagram comment.

With an online reputation management campaign, your business addresses negative comments and reviews directly and openly.

How to Manage Your Brand’s Online Reputation

For successful online reputation management, you need a process. The process will vary from company to company, depending on your size, industry, and resources.

However, consider the rules we define as the key milestones for establishing an efficient Online Reputation Management strategy. You can elaborate or shrink them, but the key steps will stay identical.

Perform an Audit of Your Current Online Reputation

Before putting any Online Reputation Management process in place, you need to conduct an in-depth online reputation audit.

An online reputation management audit mainly involves uncovering how individuals see you online and what issues you might be dealing with in challenging that view. To do this, you need to do some brand monitoring.

Brand Monitoring

There’s a method to conduct a fast audit of your brand reputation manually:

  • Open up an incognito window and enter your brand name into a Google search.
  • Take a good look at the websites that appear on the very first page.
  • Determine what Google My Business-related features appear on that page and evaluate your presence there, including rankings, feedback, reviews, user-generated pictures, etc.
  • Separate the websites into those you control and those you have limited power over. Your social media management is highly manageable; with third-party listings, you can contact website owners and add/remove misleading bits. With a critical news piece, you can reach out to the writer and try to speak to him about his dissatisfaction or convince him they have an incorrect perception of your company or product.
  • Read through the reviews on these websites and try to understand the overall sentiment; this is a crucial step for further prioritization over the platforms that require the most urgent consideration.

Your audit has to help you answer the following questions:

  1. What top websites within my search results do I’ve control over?
  2. What kinds of websites do I see appear for my brand identity?
  3. Am I widespread online?
  4. Do most visitors find my business from search engines or external websites?
  5. Is the overall sentiment for my business positive or negative?

Set up an Online Reputation Management Strategy

Now that you know the online landscape around your brand, it’s time to arrange an online reputation management strategy. However, before we discuss it, you must get your priorities straight. You can also hire an online reputation management firm to do this for you. You can find many reputation management companies that will do their best to do this for you.

Online Reputation Management Prioritization

Getting started with online reputation management can appear overwhelming. Thus, prioritization is paramount, as you can’t take advantage of every single mention online.

As soon as your audit is complete, it must be easier for you to prioritize what you need to focus on first. Try to balance out a couple of factors that should affect your decision:

  • Set up your online reputation management objectives: Whether it is about response time, it’s smart to give attention to platforms you’ve got direct access to. You can filter out your mentions inside the Brand Monitoring tool by these criteria and monitor those.
  • Define your boundaries and limitations: Review how many resources you can allocate for the Online Reputation Management project. Remember that this is an ongoing process, so be reasonable in your assessment.
  • Prioritize your Online Reputation Management by impact: Though you might feel like you need to take care of everything at once, be reasonable about the scope of the job. The effect is the most important criterion for your choice, as you must allocate your resources to the channels with the highest stakes for your business.
  • Prioritize tasks: Which tasks are important and should be addressed first? There must be a plan for dealing with important and challenging tasks. Choosing the more straightforward tasks to get done first is not always the best choice.

Policy Definition, Guidelines & Tone of Voice

To achieve success at positive Online Reputation Management, there’s some red tape you need to go through. Establishing company-wide guidelines and tone of voice is essential when dealing with important work in online reputation management. Once again, the scope of those policy docs will vary from business to business, but the basic idea will stay.

Policy Documentation

When you start your ORM project, you’ll always be alerted about a new comment, review, or other mentions. So, you will need a somewhat strict definition of what’s urgent, what can wait, who’s in charge, and the right response.

Urgent/Non-Urgent response

You need to define what kinds of reviews are most urgent for your business. If your clients are browsing through Reddit often and there is any negative information, there could be a deal-breaker for your product, so pay special attention to mentions from there.

You may also prioritize cases important to your brand and customers.

Urgent: Most cases that may harm your brand’s reputation go beyond an informal negative comment. Also, don’t forget to review the profile of the person who wrote the review; if it is somebody popular in some circles, you’ll likely anticipate some potential for virality. So, when you discover such a review, you must deal with it immediately.

Non-Urgent: A non-urgent response is okay when dealing with cases that may be resolved by a typical response (maybe a template you could have prepared in advance for typical questions and issues).

However, even when a direct response isn’t needed, define the timeframe for responding to such comments. Ensure you’re reaching out to the commentator with an acknowledgment of their concern, even when it will take some time to get back to them with a response.

Blacklist: Each business has come across trolls and pure haters who can’t be satisfied to act reasonably. So, typically, it’s just better not to issue any official response because it can only escalate the conversation and result in a more damaging impact on your business. You can begin a “blacklist” everyone can refer to when your policy docs.

Response Templates

Creating a document that includes FAQs about your brand is always a good idea. Keep all the answers inside this document so that your colleagues can use it as a general guideline for responding to opinions and comments.

Who Is in Charge?

If it is everyone’s responsibility, it’s no one’s duty. So, clearly define who’s in charge of a certain channel and try to stick with this policy. Collaborations are welcome, but everyone needs to know where their duty begins and ends.

The Tone of Voice

Establishing a certain tone of voice for replying to negative (or even positive) opinions and comments is essential. This part of the policy will vary for every brand, but be sure everyone follows those guidelines.

Typically, it’s a good suggestion to be sure you do not act like a bully and not escalate conflicts. Some conversations could be moved to DM, but even then, try to keep on with your tone of voice rules, as people can share private conversations publicly as well.

Have a Crisis Management Strategy in Place

You can never anticipate a crisis, but this doesn’t imply that you shouldn’t prepare for one. So, a sound crisis management strategy should always be in place as things escalate online at an unprecedented speed.

It is a big space to cover so we won’t go into too much depth. But, generally, there are some things you need to put together to be prepared for an ORM crisis:

  1. Use brand monitoring tools, as they may rapidly alert you if any unexpected conversation peaks about your brand.
  2. Keep an eye on business trends, as some legislation changes or the arrival of new cutting-edge technology can put your business under lots of stress.
  3. Know where your audience is and how to talk with them most efficiently. If a large part of your audience is more active on Twitter, choose this channel as your main communication space; this way, you’ll reach a wider audience in much less time.
  4. React quickly to each negative comment or review and draft a copy of your response as soon as possible. But be sure nobody copies and pastes it in mass—at the time of a crisis, your response should look tailored to every comment and personal.
  5. Please set up a chain of command beforehand, as everybody should know their roles in advance, especially when your colleagues are dealing with a crisis and may lose their cool.

Monitor Brand Mentions Efficiently

Proactively monitoring online conversations offers a real-time view of your online presence and allows you to respond well-timed. However, it’s not just about checking what reviews rank on Google.

Here, you can set up a campaign to monitor the web for mentions of your brand, products, and other people to ensure you always know what others say about you. You may also jump straight in and try to resolve any negative mentions or references.

The way to Monitor Your Online Reviews Efficiently

After entering your brand name and domain, you’ll be walked through the set-up process, choosing your target country and brand keywords. You can also schedule daily, weekly, or monthly e-mail reports.

How frequently you need to schedule reports depends on how often you’re mentioned online; it’s dependent upon the activity and scope of your business in some ways.

Once set up, the tool will return a whole host of brand-mention insights for you:

You will be able to understand, from the dashboard and reports, the overall sentiment of brand mentions throughout the web (a good way to quickly understand whether people’s perception is positive, neutral, or negative), in addition to seeing specific mentions (both when it comes to sentiment and those with highest traffic potential and estimated reach).

Dominate SERPs for Brand Searches

No successful online reputation management works without some Search engine optimization magic. Your important job is to show up on the SERPs for your branded keywords.

One of the best ways to get there is to have a highly-ranked website. Additionally, optimize your official social media accounts, as these websites usually appear within the top 10 for branded searches.

However, chances are, you won’t fill the whole space with your owned media. Here, you can review what websites to look out for to give away a positive vibe inside SERPs for your brand searches.

Define Your Branded Keywords

“A Branded keyword is a query that includes your website’s brand title or variations and is unique to your area.”

You may attempt to determine these keywords yourself, but why guess? You can use online software that can do the job for you.

You need to identify the branded keywords that have the best impact. Quickly check the search volumes for every branded keyword to prioritize between them. Create a list of branded keywords that can be your top priority.

Next, check the SERP for your top priority list and negate negative online content.

You may manually enter the keyword as a search query on Google (be sure you use Incognito mode). Look through the first results page and identify the negative spots you must work on. There are some things you can do about external reviews and platforms:

  • If it concerns Google My Business reviews, contact your loyal clients and ask them to leave positive reviews to balance the negativity and improve your rating.
  • If negative content ranks in your branded keyword, try to contact the creator of that negative piece and ask them to rectify it. You need to provide well-grounded reasons why their criticism could be irrelevant now—maybe you’ve fixed something they were unhappy about or are currently engaged in some improvements.
  • Another approach to “beat” that external negative piece is to create content that will outrank it. This how-to on creating Search engine optimization-friendly positive content should assist you with these efforts.

Encourage Positive Reviews Online

Negative or positive online reviews will affect your online business and sales. Dimensional Research uncovered that positive online reviews affect 90% of consumers’ buying choices.

And 86% of customers will think twice about selecting your brand if it has negative reviews. And people’s expectations about your brand reputation are pretty high. 49% of consumers expect a four-star rating from a business they’ll think about buying from them.

Dan Gingiss, @dgingiss:

“Don’t be afraid to ask for a review, but only after you know you’ve provided a remarkable experience. People share experiences they love and can’t stand; no one shares a so-so experience.

Find the parts of your customer journey where you know your customer is delighted, and then subtly ask (like including a social share link).”

Modern-age customers heavily rely on online reviews when making a purchase choice, but there’s also an SEO aspect to this. Your brand’s online positive reputation can impact your rankings on Google.

Google confirmed that its algorithms are wired to downrank websites that provide a poor customer experience, and negative customer reviews signify this pattern.

However, with the exponentially rising number of opportunities for customers to make their reviews public, it’s usually hard to know where to look and how to deal with negative reviews.

How to Get Your Customers to Leave a Review

The best approach to dealing with negative reviews is to outweigh them with positive ones. So, you also need to have a strategy in place to encourage customers to leave reviews. This can be achieved on a quid pro quo basis and in good faith.

  • Encourage your customers — in person is nice, in email newsletters, and in your place of business, along with your free Google Marketing Kit.
  • You’ll be able to create a small pop-up every time somebody visits your website, asking them to leave a review. Make it as simple as possible. Provide related links, and always thank them at the end of the message. Also, consider not sending them to platforms requiring too much effort, such as sign-ups, private details, etc.
  • Use your social media channels and find a fun approach to encourage your customers to leave a review. It may be a special hashtag day for thanking your colleagues for their incredible job or only a fun video provoking a perfect vibe.
  • Never forget about the power of email signatures. Add a line about how you’d appreciate a review of your customer’s experience and brand. As discussed above, don’t forget to give them a clear direction.
  • Set up an incentive program, but not for Google. That is against their guidelines.

In case you feel like you would like to provide better motivation for leaving a review, you possibly can come up with a special encouragement program. Say, per every review, a customer will get X points. After receiving Y points, they will count on a discount, a charitable donation, free publicity, or a unique piece of positive content.

Simply use your creativeness and experiment with the specifics of the program.

And don’t forget to thank each customer that leaves a positive review. After all, they’ve put in their effort and time to help your business and leave a pleasant review, so this much is expected from you in return.

Although a simple thank you need to suffice, it’s good to come up with a more personal touch to your courtesy reply. Showing your customers that you care will incentivize them to keep coming back and possibly leave more reviews!

Managing Negative Online Reputation Reviews

Bad reviews have a direct impact on your business’s bottom line as they discourage your current and potential customers from using your services or product. 

ReviewTrackers survey unveils that 94% of customers admit that a negative online review can flip them off from choosing a specific business.

Before addressing your negative reviews, make an evaluation of probably the most problematic reviews. Reviews that rank highly within the SERP are an excellent place to begin.

Quickly run through the next platforms:

  • Google My Business
  • Social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and so on.)
  • Trustpilot, Feefo, Review.io, or similar (don’t forget that some of these review sites can collect reviews even for those who don’t subscribe)

It’s important that you capture a regular snapshot of your online reviews to be able to deal with issues successfully.

Tips on how to Respond to Negative Online Reviews

As we’ve already talked about, you must already have a solid strategy in place on the way you take care of negative reviews. And you already know that your blacklist of trolls and haters won’t be worth your time. However, it is advisable to address bad reviews.

Once again, and it can’t be overstressed, ignoring negative reviews is the worst policy you may come up with. Answering such reviews showcases that you, as a brand, really care about each and every customer and go to great lengths to resolve their issues.

Based on research from RightNow, 34% of customers will remove their original bad reviews as soon as they hear back from the business.

Here are some tips about how to reply to a negative review/comment:

Improve Your Response Time

Negative comments are very time-sensitive. The sooner you deal with them, the less impact they convey. Using the management strategy you’ve got in place, work on improving the speed of your replies. At the same time, do not reply without having a plan first; keep away from saying something in a rush that can harm you in the long run.

Show Courtesy

Your reply should always begin with a simple thank you, a typical courtesy, for their positive feedback and time.

Being well-mannered will always make your brand look more appealing, especially in case you are not giving in to provocation and rudeness. This can only highlight the contrast between a nice brand and a raging critic, especially if there’s a rude review.

Apologize If You Are Wrong (with one exception)

In case you are at fault, you need to extend your apologies. Inform the reviewer that you’ve pinpointed where the issue came from and at the moment are working on a solution. You’ll be able to even ask them to actively participate and provide insights on your newly-designed solution. However, keep and mind that some apologies might lead to legal action. In case you have a possible legal issue, you possibly can still show empathy without placing the company in danger:

  • “We understand your frustration.”
  • “How can we make this better?”
  • “We want to provide better services for you; tell us what you need.”

Showing understanding and empathy will go a long way with customers.

Public and Private Communication

We strongly encourage you to address many of the negative comments in public. This may help negate the impact of the bad review and show others that you’re very responsive and approachable.

However, some reviews require more in-depth conversations which will involve some sensitive information. So, publicly mention that you’ll have to disclose some specific things that aren’t public to continue the dialog and suggest moving the dialog into private channels.

Offer a Refund/Discount

This tactic needs to be the last resort to your reputation management strategy. However, there could be a case where this strategy is the best choice there may be, especially in case your services or products are actually responsible.

With messages about refunds, it’s best to address them in private as there may be some misunderstanding from other clients who don’t understand why somebody qualifies for a discount or a refund, while they don’t.

Make Improvements to Your Service/Product

In case you spot that some complaints are recurring consistently, think about actually making changes to your business. The same complaint from multiple customers is a sign that something is wrong in your aspect. Be sure to maintain everyone posted on what measures you’re undertaking to get the problem resolved.

Your Online Reputation is a Reflection of Your Business

Online reputation management (ORM) is simply a reflection of this new “bottom-up” communication where your current and potential clients get a voice around your brand. So, Online Reputation Management is an important part of any business, digital marketing, and growth strategy for any business on the market (even the companies that aren’t yet online).

People are speaking about you and can continue to do so. Your job is to arrange a solid online reputation management strategy to navigate through all the online conversations, provide fixes here and there, and provoke positive sentiment.

We hope this guide will serve as an ideal starting point for your online reputation management efforts. Looking for help with your online reputation management? Click here to learn more about how InternetReputation.com can help you!

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