Online reputation management is all about establishing, repairing, maintaining and monitoring information which is publicly available about an organisation, in order to position the organisation in a certain light. Every action taken in the online space as a business will impact the way a consumer perceives you and your values, thus influencing if and how they will interact with your organisation.

When browsing the web, consumers are said to look at the position of the business listing within search engine result pages (SERPs), the quality of the social media presence, layout and design of the website, quality of web content, and any user-generated content (such as online reviews) in order to make their final decision on whether to engage with that brand. Reputation management has always played an important role in business and marketing, but the vast online space provides little room to hide or margin for error. As such, we now need to consider our online reputation management.

What do your website and social media activity say about you?

Key factors to consider for online reputation management:

When it comes to online reputation, social media has been a complete game changer. Social media was initially designed for consumers to primarily communicate with one another, however very quickly businesses realised the potential for making meaningful connections with new and existing audiences through these channels. This brings a raft of new challenges, but also a wealth of opportunity. As such, this is an excellent but complex space to begin building a positive brand image and online reputation.

Building a positive online reputation via social media:

Listening to your customers is imperative, whether they are sharing positive or negative comments, and always respond promptly, as 42% of consumers expect a response on social media within the hour. Responses should always be thoughtful and tailored to the customer, carefully avoiding stock messages as these can often irritate users further (especially if in response to a negative review or complaint). In addition, organisations should remain transparent throughout and reach out to customers again after the problem has been resolved in an attempt to rebuild the relationship and trust, ultimately growing their positive online reputation.

Implementing the above will help to both satisfy customers and build on how they perceive your brand. However, in this day and age, when a crisis occurs, it rapidly moves online where poor management of social media can often cause a great deal of damage. Monitoring business mentions at all times through a social media management tool is essential (see Social Mention and Google Alerts), as is having a social media crisis management plan in place.

Social media crisis management plans are in place to prevent minor problems from becoming major problems which could impact the reputation of the business. An effective social media crisis management plan must outline who is responsible for what, each of the employee’s responsibilities, protocol to follow, i.e. setting out expectations of when customers should expect to hear from you. We'll be telling you more about social media crisis management in our blog next week.

Blogging is a fantastic tool for building your online reputation, as it effectively showcases the expertise you have in your field and earmarks you as a thought leader. Blog articles can be made up from educational pieces covering topics of interest to your target audience, news pieces outlining the latest company activities and features speculating the latest technology in the market. Content shared must be engaging and should always be optimised for search engines (whilst written for the end users) to ensure your posts can be easily located in an increasingly saturated market - a great tool to help you with this is Google’s Keyword Planner. Content should be created regularly and consistently, which will help your business build it’s online reputation and become considered as an authority in the industry.

Guest blogging also offers the opportunity to enhance the reputation of your business. When guest blogging, a business must be careful not to be too self-promotional otherwise the content could be declined by the magazine, newspaper or website it has been written for. However, focusing on sharing your expertise whilst simply mentioning the name of your business can help your guest piece show in SERPs, thus, building on your reputation of expertise in the field.

Get others speaking about you and acting as brand ambassadors:

Online reviews are a fantastic way to encourage user-generated content to support your online reputation, with an estimated 92% of users reading internet reviews and 89% trusting them. Encouraging customers to review your products / services through social media, your website or particular review engines helps to build credibility and authenticity. However, as with social media management, you must be proactive and responsive and ensure any negative reviews are dealt with swiftly and fully.

Additionally, an affiliate programme could be utilised to help build your online reputation. An affiliate programme is a relationship between two companies whereby the host pays a percentage or a flat fee for all traffic or purchase requests routed through an affiliate site. In return for payment and additional commission, smart affiliates often write reviews of products and companies i.e. restaurants, hotels, etc. Providing fresh, new and positive third-party content will help to build awareness and the reputation of the business in question.

While there are many channels and techniques to consider, the key to success in building a lasting positive online reputation is to be aware, authentic, accessible and responsive, avoiding any actions which may have a negative impact on the reputation of the business.