It used to be that word-of-mouth advertising was the goose that laid the golden egg. One satisfied customer told another who in turn told another until your business was full of happy customers all eager to spend money.
Today’s customers are just as willing to spread the news about your business, but these water-cooler conversations also take place in the digital realm where the entire world is ready to listen. This can be very good or very bad news for your business depending on how you manage and react to these reviews.
People Trust People
Consumers are using online reviews to evaluate businesses now more than ever. Google still remains the most-used source for reviews and their data shows that in 2021, 81% of consumers used online reviews to evaluate local businesses, up 18% from the previous year. Furthermore, 49% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family.1
Not surprisingly, other data support this finding that makes managing your reviews and reputation paramount. Another interesting fact is that potential customers evaluate the recency of reviews and tend to trust the most current.
What is Online Reputation Management in Digital Marketing?
Online reputation management usually consists of managing ratings and reviews across different online platforms. The actual process of managing a brand’s reputation can come in many different forms. It can involve gathering reviews, managing the review process, responding to reviews, addressing bad reviews, listening for brand mentions and other more traditional public relations services.
Why are Ratings and Reviews Important?
Managing your online reputation has many benefits. The biggest is building brand trust with your customer base. Brand trust helps influence consumers in the marketing funnel, both in the consideration and conversion phase. For example, a great review may get a new prospect to consider your brand or it may be the differentiating factor that gets a consumer to choose you over a competitor.
Check out our article on Creating a Digital Strategy with the Marketing Funnel to see how a reputation management program can fit into a larger marketing strategy.
On top of that, managing your reputation helps to increase visibility. Each platform with a strong reputation provides additional opportunities to get in front of prospects. Many search engines and platforms show a preference to brands with better ratings too. This helps increase visibility even further.
Ratings and Reviews Best Practices and Reputation Management Tips
Request Reviews to Strengthen Your Brand
Gathering reviews should be an ongoing and continuous process. A mistake we see being made is that businesses assume their customers will automatically leave a review. A major purchasing factor lies not only with your overall rating, but also includes the number of reviews received. More is better, which is why it is important to accumulate this valuable resource. This information can also provide insights into your business as seen through the lens of your customers.
Increasing the number of reviews can be accomplished in a variety of ways, most today are done online. The simplest though is to have a sign in your place of business asking for one. Businesses can also include a reminder on a receipt or a follow-up with an email or text message. You may also ask a customer to mention that they left a review when they visit your business again to receive a discount or perk that would normally be unavailable to other customers. Any way you can get one will work.
Regardless of the method selected, employee involvement is another critical component for collecting ratings and reviews. Empowering employees to identify and promote reviews at the right time and with the right customers can dramatically increase the number of positive reviews. They can also point customers toward preferred channels or methods, helping to get more reviews in the right places.
The Importance of Real Reviews and Avoiding Fake Reviews
As discussed above, brand trust is a key benefit of collecting ratings and reviews. Fake reviews can destroy that trust. If a consumer believes that they have seen a fake review, the benefits from any real reviews are lost. It is likely that these fake reviews could damage brand trust for that prospect and others they communicate with too.
To prevent prospects from thinking that reviews are fake, some less-than-perfect reviews should be allowed to go through. These reviews need to be addressed positively though. This lets customers know that you might not be perfect but you are committed to customer satisfaction. Carefully balancing a high overall rating and different review types is a critical step in reputation management.
Another type of fake review to watch for is spam reviews or malicious negative reviews. These are false reviews that might be created by a bot, a disgruntled customer or a competitor. Much like negative reviews, these need to be addressed properly to keep your brand’s reputation strong.
Where Should I Collect and Manage Ratings and Reviews?
Possible platforms to consider for reputation management include:
- Google Business Profile and other search engines
- Social media channels
- Ecommerce platforms such as Amazon
- Brand-owned assets
- Review and recommendation websites
- Listing and citation websites such as Yellow Pages
- Locally popular channels
- Industry-specific platforms
- And more
Although all these platforms can be managed, that is typically not necessary. What’s important is identifying the platforms that your potential customers are active on and where your efforts will have the biggest impact.
A Good Solution for Managing Online Reviews
The three main reasons businesses do not respond to online reviews are lack of time, lack of personnel, or lack of tools. Data shows that businesses that respond to reviews are seen as 1.7x more trustworthy than businesses that don’t (76% versus 46%)2. It is impossible to have a meaningful conversation if only one side is talking.
Online Reputation Management (ORM) or local SEO software can aid in this process and there are lots of companies that offer a tool to help. The key is to find one that works for you and what you’re trying to accomplish. Another option is to retain a public relations firm to support your efforts. This is where Callis can help. We have the right people, the right tools and the right strategies to manage your online reputation.
Reputation management programs including ratings and reviews are becoming more important as consumers rely on reviews more. They help to increase brand trust, convert more customers and improve visibility. However, it is key to follow certain best practices to increase efficiency and prevent damage to your digital presence. Stay ahead of the game and start managing reviews today. Public perception is important and now is the perfect time to use reviews to strengthen your business.
1 – Local Consumer Review Survey – Bright Local
This article was previously published on June 17, 2019 and updated on January 17, 2023.