Online Reputation – Don’t Forget to Manage Your Review Responses

Reputation management has a lot of similarities to online marketing, but it doesn’t stop there. Building a professional website, writing blog articles, and running an advertisement campaign are all important aspects of ORM. Yet beyond this, companies need a structured plan for building lasting relationships through online customer interaction.

Reviews Are Important

At ReputationDefender, we assist clients with generating and ranking positive content, but unfortunately, a few negative reviews can quickly undo all your hard work. Today’s customers are looking for more than brand generated content. They also want to see what kind of experience past customers have had. Studies have shown that 90 percent of customers read online reviews before trying a business for the first time, while 88 percent will trust these reviews the same as an in-person or word-of-mouth recommendation. This can translate directly into profits; businesses that receive predominately positive reviews see a 31 percent increase over those that don’t, while just one negative review can cost a company about 30 customers.

It’s Hard to Control What People Say

It’s hard to control who writes reviews on the internet, which can leave business leaders feeling somewhat helpless. Customers who’ve had a very memorable experience, either positive or negative, are more likely to take to the internet to express their feelings, and since many people tend to notice negative experiences more often than positive ones, online reviews don’t often represent a good cross-section of a business’s customers.

You can change this, as we mentioned in an earlier post, by generating more reviews. If every customer writes an honest critique, you’ll likely get a lot of positive comments (assuming the business is doing a good job overall) as well as a few pointers about where to improve. But even with the best review campaign, the majority of people visiting the site will still be there to read what others say, not to contribute.

Company Responses Make a Difference

This makes it very important for businesses to participate in the conversation taking place on review sites. Responses posted directly to this page will be read by everyone. Even if you don’t change the mind of the person who originally gave your business a negative rating, you can show other customers that you take feedback seriously and are sincerely trying to do a good job. Professional responses can often make you appear the more reasonable party.

Any serious ORM campaign needs to include a strategy to manage reviews, especially the company’s responses to reviews. The wrong response can generate more negative attention than the original comment, yet the right one offers a way to undo a lot of the damage and build a better, more honest relationship with customers. Managing reviews isn’t a job to be delegated to a college intern who happens to be handy on the web. It needs to be handled by a professional, preferably someone with real experience and standing in the company.

Planning a Response Strategy

Managing reviews is just like managing other aspects of your reputation. It needs a well thought-out plan, good writing and online communication skills, and of course technical tools to avoid missing content. Your response strategy will need to answer these four questions:

  • How do you keep track of reviews? – There are a lot of review sites on the internet and even with a full-time team it’s impossible to keep track of them all. It’s easy to set up a Google Alert for the brand name and any other relevant keywords. Other software is available with more complex capabilities that will let you monitor social media sites as well.
  • Which reviews are you responding to? – Don’t just respond to negative reviews. It’s important that people who write positive feedback feel their comments are also important to you. You should aim to respond to about 99 percent of reviews, even if it’s just a simple thank you.
  • Who writes responses? – Designate a person or a team to write responses. It helps if a high ranking executive or manager responds to at least some comments so it’s obvious the entire organisation is taking part in the feedback effort. Given time constraints, it may not be possible for this person to write every response, but make sure all team members have clear instructions about the style and content expected so the responses have a similar tone.
  • How will you respond to customers who are dissatisfied? – It’s never a question of if you will get a negative review, but when. It’s important to take these comments as constructive criticism and not react defensively. Some customers may bring up real areas where the company could improve, while others may be hard to please in any circumstances. Either way, write a short polite response within a few days. Take ownership of the problem. Explain what happened, and also what action has been taken to prevent to the issue from occurring again. Compensation can be appropriate in some cases if the customer experienced a loss of time and/or money.

If you stick to your response strategy, you’ll be able to build on positive reviews and avoid sustaining too much reputational damage from negative ones.

Knowing you have the ability to dilute the effect of hurtful comments just by how you respond makes online feedback feel far less threatening.

6 Tips to Improve Customer Feedback

Does your business have a hard time attracting positive attention on the internet? If so, you’re not alone. Studies show that as many as 90 percent of customers read online reviews before buying a product or service, yet the number of people who regularly leave this kind of feedback is much lower.

What previous customers write about your company online is important. People not only read comments, they trust this content more than what you post about yourself. At ReputationDefender we assist our clients with building a positive online profile through a variety of different avenues. Ranking brand-generated material and blog articles on the SERP is extremely important, but it’s not a match for genuine testimonials from real customers.

It’s Important to Encourage Reviews

The number of people who write reviews varies a lot depending on the type of business and the amount of effort leaders put into generating feedback. The 1/9/90 Rule is a general guideline for what you are likely to see without a strong campaign: about 1 percent will comment or review products, about 9 percent will respond or share the material, while about 90 percent will read comments but not take part in the discussion.

Many companies prefer not to attract attention online for fear of generating negative comments. This is understandable since, with only about 1 percent of customers writing reviews, most are likely to be written by people who were upset or unhappy with their service. However, every company will get negative feedback at some point; the best way to deal with the problem of negativity is to get more reviews. Assuming your business gives good service, most customers will be happy to leave positive feedback, but they won’t necessarily think to unless you go out of your way to ask them.

Honest Feedback Can Be an Asset

It’s not necessary for every review to be a glowing five star rating. It fact, customers tend not to trust reviews if all of them are uniformly positive. An honest critique can actually be more helpful than a generic “Good Job” or “No Problems” since it can show target areas that need improvement, as well as give you the opportunity to respond in a public setting.

As a business owner, it is important to generate reviews and to encourage people to write useful detailed comments that let others know what to expect when they use your product or service. This is the kind of feedback that will draw people in and make them think it’s worth giving your business a try.

6 Ways to Get Useful Reviews

Asking for reviews isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Different tactics will reach different customers and attract different types of reviews, so the best strategy is to combine a number of separate strategies.

  • Ask In Person – Depending on the type of business, traditional, personal contact can be the most effective way of generating positive feedback. If you have long-term customers who are known personally to you or some of your staff, ask them if they would be interested in sharing their experiences online. You won’t get many reviews this way, but you will likely get some of your most valuable testimonials.
  • Ask via Email – This isn’t as personal, but it can be easier, especially if most of your transactions take place online. An automatic email, such as a survey or a form that is easy to fill out will help to reach more customers and remind them that their feedback is important to you. You can also choose to select customers who you believe had a positive experience and send them a more personalised email from someone they worked with.
  • Use Software – Several different types of software, such as Grade.us and BrightLocal, will assist with reputation management by sending customers directly to the review sites that are most important to you. This helps to encourage responses from people who don’t typically write reviews, as well as giving a place for customers who are unhappy to contact you and have their grievances dealt with.
  • Offer Guidelines – Don’t assume customers know what you want in a review. Write an article on your blog, or include a brief paragraph in the review request that explains how important reviews are to your company. Offer guidelines or questions that will help customers describe their experience in a useful way.
  • Give Incentives – This can help generate higher numbers of reviews, but it should be used carefully. Most review sites will accept incentives as long as there’s no requirement that the review be positive. However, it’s a good idea to check the site rules first. A monthly prize draw for review writers can be a cost-effective way to provide an incentive without any hint of buying positive reviews.
  • Employee Tips – This strategy can work well in situations where the customer works with a specific agent. Include a line in the review request specifying that the employee will receive a small tip for positive reviews that mention their name. This helps to encourage customers to write a positive review and feel good about helping others at the same time.

Start to use one or more of these tactics regularly and you’ll soon see an improvement in the volume and quality of your reviews.

Why Do I Need to Know About SEO?

With Google’s algorithmic changes aimed at putting the user experience first, page optimization has become increasingly focused on content. Manipulative black-hat techniques, such as link generation and keyword stuffing, have fallen into the background, whilst well-written content and traditional marketing techniques have become key.

Yet the latest slogan, “Content is King”, undermines the important role technical SEO still plays in ranking a page. It’s true that well-written, original content is a must for today’s algorithms, yet with everyone on the internet focused on creating quality material, expert page mark-up, crawlability and optimal load-speed, these features are also needed to rank a page high on the SERP. At Reputation Defender, we help brands to build their reputation using all aspects of SEO; from quality content creation to running technical audits that analyze how the page is performing.

A Basic SEO Checklist

SEO isn’t something companies can just ignore. A thorough SEO check-up is a necessary part of building a website, since all the time and money will be wasted if Google can’t index the page and rank it where a potential customer will see it. Even for a small website, an SEO check-list constitutes a comprehensive task. Here is a basic overview of some of the most important areas:

  • On page SEO – This includes basic attributes such as the page title, meta description, headings, keyword usage and keyword density. A sitemap will help Google and other search engines navigate and index the website, while a Robot.txt file tells bots which pages to crawl. Text to code ratio, page requests, CSS and Google analytics tags must also be analyzed.
  • Speed Test – Page load speed is an important ranking factor for Google, so SEO needs to consider HTML page size, (around 33 kb if possible) and use Gzip code compression if necessary. Pages should contain a caching mechanism to load faster; the use of flash items should be avoided if possible since this will slow the page down. A Site Loading Test also needs to perform to verify load time.
  • Server and Security – Check URL and IP canonicalization to ensure that each page has its own unique URL and IP. Analyze security issues such as directory browsing, harmful botnet access and server signatures. The website should be “on the green side” for safe browsing, otherwise it could infect customers with a virus, making them unlikely to return.
  • Mobility – To succeed on today’s internet, websites need to be optimized for mobile devices and include Social API’s for major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc).
Auditing a Site

There are many reasons why a page that seems to be well-optimized may not be ranking. It could be due to content, website traffic, incoming links or other off-page factors, but this will be impossible to prove without first checking technical aspects related to indexing and ranking. Bad URL’s, incorrect internal linking, duplicate content or Schema marking are just a few of the reasons pages could fail to rank on the SERP.

Most SEO’s use software to perform a technical audit. These programs can crawl the webpages in a similar way to Google bots and highlight the issues that could be causing a problem. These are three choices site auditors might want to consider:

  • Screaming Frog – One of the most popular programs that is easy to use and free up to 500 pages.
  • ISS SEO Toolkit – A Microsoft based program that is slightly more in-depth for those possibly with more advanced SEO training.
  • SEMrush Site Audit – A valuable tool for analyzing site changes.

Software choices often depend on personal preference as well as the size and complexity of the site.

Technical Requirements of SEO

Today’s SEO’s need a lot of different skills, so good work usually results from collaboration between different members of a team. Writers and content editors need to develop articles that will draw in clients and encourage them to browse further through the website. Marketers promote products, construct a company image and establish connections. But without technical SEO analysis all these efforts will be ineffective at promoting content and building a positive online profile.

These are just a few of the topics modern SEO needs to be familiar with to analyze a page and improve SERP ranking:

  • DOM (Document Object Model) – A structured representation of a web-page that enables it to be read by scripts and programming languages.
  • Structured Representation of Data – An organized way of representing data that relies on protocols laid out on schema.org.
  • Critical Rendering Path – The method by which a page loads and is constructed or rendered into the browser.
  • Log File Analysis – Using the record of server requests to analyze how the site is being crawled by search engine bots.
  • JavaScript Framework – A popular website program that presents challenges for crawling and SEO.
  • HTTP/2 – A new web protocol that Google has been developing. It is likely to replace HTTP/1.1 which has been in effect since 1999.
Managing SEO Needs

Company founders have a choice to go it alone and become an SEO expert as they develop their website, or to invest in professional help. Time and financial constraints often create a part, as well an entrepreneur’s natural aptitude for this kind of work. However, as the company grows, the workload will almost inevitably become too great for one person and most organizations will need to invest in a professional team with the skill set to handle all aspects of SEO. Whatever the size of the company, no one should ignore SEO. It’s a vital part of building an online reputation and establishing a credible, professional image on the web.

How to Turn Negative Reviews Into an Asset

The importance of customer generated publicity is growing all the time. According to a 2015 survey by BrightLocal, 92 percent of people use online reviews to learn more about a product or service, up from 88 percent only a year before. More and more people now base their buying decisions on comments from other customers, so it’s vital that businesses have numerous reviews left by genuine clients.

At Reputation Defender we work with companies to manage their reputation and create positive online content. There is nothing more valuable than testimony from a satisfied customer, but unfortunately not all reviews will be positive. Every business will face negative comments from a dissatisfied customer at some point, so it’s not a matter of if but when. Business leaders need to be ready with a plan in place to deal with negative publicity when it appears.

Stars are Important

Star rating is the number one factor that consumers use to judge a business, so a one or two star rating can really hurt a company that doesn’t have many reviews. On the other hand, it will be much less noticeable if there are already a high number of four or five star reviews. Surprisingly, a few unenthusiastic comments can actually help. Customers will tend to question the reliability of the reviews if each one has a solid five star rating.

Making Reviews Work for Your Company

Here are six steps to make reviews work for you company:

  1. Be proactive about customer service – Handling dissatisfied customers before they have a chance to leave a review is the most effective way of preventing negative comments. Online rants often come as a result of customers feeling ignored or overlooked, so if something occurs to disrupt normal service, or you know a customer is unhappy, make sure compensation is offered. A coupon, a discount on a future visit, or even a full refund can be worth it if it keeps the company’s reputation intact.
  2. Make it easy to leave a review – Generating a high volume of reviews is the best way to ensure a four or five star average. If you focus on excellent customer service, most people will have a positive experience and be happy to leave a testimonial, but they may not think about it unless you remind them. Send out review invitations by email, or on a receipt. Offer prizes or contests for people who leave comments. If you have regular customers, don’t be afraid to ask them directly.
  3. Set up an alert – Even with your best efforts, there will always be some negative reviews. Register for a Google Alert, so you will know right away when someone leaves a comment about your business, negative or positive. This will give you more time to read and respond to the comment before it has a chance to go viral.
  4. Respond appropriately –Mature responses show you can take constructive criticism and help to convince other readers that you’re not the one being unreasonable. Address the issue directly, apologize and explain what has been done to fix the problem. This makes readers feel you listen and are trying to improve. It’s also important to respond to positive reviews, so everyone leaving a comment knows they are appreciated.
  5. Take executive action when necessary – Responses that come from high-level management will always be more effective. Not every executive has time to respond to reviews regularly, but just a few comments a month will show feedback is taken seriously.
  6. Track your statistics – If you practice good customer service and encourage reviews, you should get four or five stars from approximately 85 percent of your customers. Many customers distrust reviews that are entirely positive, so don’t make this a goal. Welcome some negative comments, but respond appropriately and try to make sure a similar situation doesn’t occur again.

New Year’s Resolutions To Shake Up Your SEO

This year, instead of making that yearly resolution to eat better or go to the gym three times a week, consider resolving to update your SEO practices. Google tweaks its algorithms all the time and if you’re not already using the most up-to-date practices, it will get harder and harder to rank your site on a relevant SERP. At Reputation Defender, we help our clients build and maintain a positive online profile, whether they’re administrating a business website or trying to get ahead in a competitive field.

Updates to Shoot for in 2017

Following is a list of SEO update recommendations that will become even more important in 2017:

  • Switch to Secure Protocol – HTTPS has been a ranking factor for a while, however users viewing a page that has not moved over to HTTPS will soon see a pop-up warning that the site is insecure. Not the kind of thing that makes one want to browse further. A secure protocol also offers more protection from hackers and man-in-the-middle attacks, so everyone’s data will be safer.
  • Go Mobile – 2017 is the year to go mobile. Sites using Accelerated Mobile Pages (ACP) load just as easily and are just as readable on a mobile as a laptop. Google has been promoting this type of content with a lightning symbol as far back as 2014, but at this point it’s an absolute must. More and more people are accessing the internet via their smart phones and 85 percent of mobile search results are optimized in this way. If your site is not modified for ACP, you’ll be missing out on a large chunk of internet traffic.
  • Stop Mobile Pop-ups – Pop-ups are often considered a necessary evil; we know readers hate them, yet for many sites they provide valuable advertising revenue. Google will soon begin penalizing sites that load pop-ups in mobile format. According to Google, pop-ups or “interstitials” provide “a poorer experience for users”, especially “on mobile devices where the screen is smaller”. Pop-ups or stand-alone interstitials that cover content must be dismissed before entering a site or both will be targeted. This also includes interstitials that cover the top part of the page “above the fold”.
  • Optimize Tags and URLs – Most site administrators should already be doing this, but for anyone who’s not, it’s going to start mattering more. A URL and title tag should promote the site and target a key term, but now they also need to be easily readable on a mobile screen.
  • Compress Images – Load speed has always been a ranking factor, so if you’re not using compressed pictures, it’s probably already hurting your site’s ranking. However, with mobile devices being an increased, key platform this year, the impact is likely to become even more noticeable.
  • Focus on Content – Google’s algorithmic changes continue to fine-tune a formula that will select content that is interesting and useful for readers, so writing great content is still a number one priority. Improving the overall quality and effectiveness of your site now will effectively help in the long term, rather than having to learn how to trick each new algorithm in the future.