Definition: Reputation management (RM) describes proactive and reactive business efforts to influence consumer perception of a brand. Online reputation management applies these practices to search engine results, focusing on branded queries. All retailers — whether online, offline, or both — can benefit by staying abreast of their online reputation and seeking to intervene where possible.

Why online reputation matters

Reputation management has always been an important business practice, but has been completely reshaped by the internet. According to a 2012 survey, 70% of consumers trust online product reviews and opinion-posts, while only 58% trust statements about a brand found on the brand's own website. That puts online businesses at a disadvantage if negative reviews and assessments of their brand gain traction in Google searches — regardless of their truth or merit. Customers who are extremely pleased or grossly dissatisfied can directly impact the public perception of a brand. Online reputation management acknowledges the importance of what consumers can find out about you and looks at what a business can and can't control.

Proactive steps to improve online reputation

The first step to online reputation management is knowing what's out there. Identify important brand queries for your business such as "[brand] review" and set up Google alerts to monitor any major changes. This can include newly-published articles, reviews, and merchant listing websites.

But monitoring your reputation is just the first step. To exert as much control as possible over online reputation, consider the following tactics:

  • Request that false information be removed, particularly from reputable sources. For particularly bad offenses, consider submitting legal take-down requests when libel has occurred. Also put out online press releases at authoritative websites that clear the air regarding false criticisms.
  • Encourage online reviews and customer testimonials about your products. A 2015 study found that 85% of consumers read such reviews, that 71% trust businesses more after reading positive reviews, and that 65% prefer brands with a large number of positive online reviews.
  • Be "transparent" to increase customer confidence and encourage conversions. Don't be overly concerned about bad reviews on your brand because customers expect to encounter at least some negative reviews - when none exist they may lose trust in the review site. In such cases they may suspect that reviews have been artificially manufactured or unfairly censored.
  • Know when to respond to negative reviews. Delete "fake" reviews that are part of a slander campaign all emanating from the same account/IP address. Delete information that is factually inaccurate when the inaccuracies are likely to alarm potential customers. Protect your site visitors from impolite, vulgar or obscene language and/or images by publishing and enforcing a review policy at your site. However, leave a placeholder and a reason for removal after deleting any reviews.


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