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.

A Quick Guide to Safe Online Christmas Shopping

Christmas can be a stressful time for parents trying to manage their work schedule whilst attempting to find the latest must-have gift for their child at the same time. Many busy parents take to the internet to purchase what they need quickly and easily with only a few clicks. Internet shopping has many advantages in terms of convenience, yet products found online are notoriously less safe and may not always be what they claim. Security oversights during internet shopping can allow hackers access to financial details and sensitive personal data that could ruin your reputation. If you’ve experienced reputational damage, Reputation Defender’s ORM services will help, but it is a good idea to have security measures already in place.

Christmas Safety Tips

Here are 6 important guidelines that will help to make your online Christmas shopping safe and hassle-free:

  • Research the product – Go to a store and check out the product, or watch a video that shows it in action. For electronic products, verify that the voltage fits within standard safety recommendations and has a plug adapted for the country where you live. Check that the online product is made by the original manufacturer and is not a cheap knock-off that may break easily or be unsafe.
  • Verify the site – Buy from legitimate, well-known dealers as much as possible. If you’re working with an auction site, check the seller’s record and reviews. Don’t fall for a con-scheme. If a bargain seems too good to be true, it’s likely not the real thing. If a seller claims to have a popular product that is out of stock everywhere else, it may very well be a fake or not even exist. Don’t pay more than the going price to get something that is unavailable elsewhere.
  • Check payment security – Use a credit or debit card if possible so there’s a record of the transaction and the bank can help you to dispute any irregularities. Double-check the security protocol on the site. HTTPS signifies that a site is using encryption or in some browsers the address bar may appear green. A padlock sign should also be visible on the pop-up payment window; however if the padlock is built into the page itself, it’s likely a fraud, so stay away. When buying directly from an individual seller, use a secure online service such as PayPal rather that transferring money directly into a stranger’s bank account.
  • Save receipts – Save the emailed electronic receipt or order confirmation at least until the product arrives. This will help you to dispute any problems or failed delivery.
  • Double check purchases – When the product arrives, open the box and make sure all parts are included and it is indeed what you ordered. If there’s a mistake, it is important to catch it early, rather than Christmas morning when the children will be disappointed and toys may end up being damaged before you can return them.
Beat the Rush

Online shopping is even harder if you wait until the last minute, so make sure to plan ahead. Remember, everyone is busier at Christmas. Delivery times may be extended and stock may not last as long as was anticipated. Get written confirmation that your package was shipped and track its progress so you’ll know ahead of time when to expect it.

How Can Social Media Help Business Strategy?

Social media is one of the most important, fastest growing parts of the internet. This term loosely refers to platforms and apps that allow users to create and share content, whilst at the same time participate in social networking. At first glance, social media might seem to be geared toward private individuals, but more and more businesses are finding these platforms to be a vital marketing asset.

Professional social media pages are key in any reputation management strategy. At Reputation Defender we help company brands to boost their online profile by improving search rankings and presenting a positive cohesive brand message. Official social media profiles are a target page one result, as well as a place to promote other content.

Social Media for Business

Business focused social media is all about using social channels to connect and engage with customers and build long term relationships. Of the many social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most important for focusing an initial business strategy.

The social media audience is vast. Globally, 1.55 billion people use Facebook per month; about 72 percent of all people active on the internet. Of these, 70 percent say they interact on a daily basis. By contrast, only 38 percent of Twitter users and 22 percent of LinkedIn account holders are active daily. None the less, Twitter is one of the most popular microblogging platforms with 341 million active monthly users, whilst LinkedIn is largely seen as the most official social media business directory.

Facebook

A business Facebook profile offers a chance to interact with customers on a personal level via a trusted platform. Followers will begin to see the business in the same way they view their friends. They’ll look forward to regular posts that are genuine and thoughtful.

At the same time, Facebook offers a way for new clients to find out important details about your business such as location, history and contact info. It’s important to claim your brand name as a keyword and link back to the company website through your business profile. You can also add a “Like us on Facebook” button to the company website. Facebook will offer different templates depending on the type of business to let you target the audience you want to reach.

Many Facebook features are designed to make the platform accessible and useful for business purposes. Call to action buttons introduced in 2014 offer suggestions for customer activity such as “contact us”, “book now” or “sign up.” One click will take the client straight to the desired page, so this is a very effective way of driving traffic to your website. Typical business posts can share brand-based videos, images and blog articles. A Facebook page can also be used to advertise a special offer or promote client feedback. Sponsored advertising campaigns disseminate material even more efficiently and ensures that all followers see all your posts, while Facebook Analytics will help to pinpoint your current activity level and target improvement.

Twitter

Like Facebook, Twitter can be used to interact with customers, promote material and increase awareness for your product. A business profile should promote the business name, target an important keyword and link back to the official company website. A logo and other professional images can give the account a more personal touch.

Tweets can be leveraged for business purposes by promoting a specific marketing message. Tools such as TweetDeck and Periscope allow for multimedia tweets, while the hashtag system targets a specific topic zone. Like Facebook, Twitter offers paid advertising for businesses that want to maximize the marketing aspect of their account and Twitter Analytics offers tools for analyzing strategies and measuring success.

LinkedIn

As a professional networking site, LinkedIn carries more authority than Facebook or Twitter. This platform offers the opportunity to connect with colleagues and industry leaders, recruit potential employees and gain referrals. Managers will need a personal page to set up a business profile on LinkedIn, so this is the perfect opportunity to build your own career along with the company’s reputation. A Premium Account offers enhanced opportunities for profile viewing and targeted searches.

Like Facebook and Twitter, a business profile on LinkedIn should include all the company’s details and link back to the website. LinkedIn allows several different administrators, so it’s easy to delegate account management tasks to other employees. Showcase Pages on LinkedIn lets you target additional keywords and highlight specific company products and services. You can also post job applications and send targeted email marketing.

Fine-tune Your Profiles

In contrast to traditional advertising, social media is about connecting personally with customers whilst sharing the brand message. Especially on Facebook and Twitter, it’s important to strike a balance between promotion and providing genuinely interesting content that will make people want to follow your page.

  • Keep advertising in check – Out of 7 posts, only 1 should be obviously promotional.
  • Ask questions – Find out which industry related topics interest your followers the most.
  • Post fun facts – You’ll gain authority and help clients learn more about what you do.
  • Provide valuable tips – People will keep following to learn more.
  • Offer rewards – Organize a contest or offer points for virtual check-ins at your business.

A dedicated group of social media followers is a valuable reputational asset for any business. It increases customer retention and provides a long term client base which will help to counteract negative publicity in the future.

Blogging Advice from the Experts

Online blogging is a good way for young journalists to develop their skill and gather a following of readers. However, there are some pitfalls to avoid. The chances of being sued for an internet journal with a few followers is low, but, all the same, anything published online is open to scrutiny. Even an obscure blogger is subject to the same laws as any other writer. If you go on to develop a high-profile career, someone could track down your college blog and use it to damage your reputation.

At Reputation Defender, we encourage our clients to draw attention to their brand via blog articles. However, a blogging error can cause legal issues and create a scandal – the opposite of the desired effect.

Continue reading for some of the latest advice from legal experts and industry professionals.

  • Stealing is stealing – Roni Loren is a bestselling US romance writer who keeps a regular blog. In 2014, she was sued for using a copyrighted picture from Google images. Like many bloggers, she regularly used internet images and included a disclaimer making it clear she didn’t take credit and would take the images down upon request. When contacted by the author of a copyrighted picture, she immediately removed it, but this didn’t stop her from being sued for compensation. Loren has moved past the issue and now has an impeccable search engine result page. Based on her own experience, she recommends bloggers avoid taking public images unless they clearly have a Creative Commons-license or are part of the public domain. When in doubt, use your own pictures or purchase images from stock photos.
  • Avoid defamation – Defamation and libeling is something we deal with a lot at Reputation Defender. Done with malicious intent, it can seriously damage someone’s reputation, but, just like Roni Loren, bloggers won’t necessarily be judged on their intent. Tom Felle, a former journalist and lecturer at City University in London, cautions students that they are “still subject to the defamation act when writing online”. Forceful language about a person or issue can easily cross the line and be interpreted as defamation. According to UK law, if someone sues you it will be up to you to prove that what you said was justifiable, so it’s easier to avoid making statements you can’t back up.
  • Separate factual statements from opinions – Claire de Than, Senior lecturer at City University law school points out that “bloggers often have the defense of an honest opinion” but this only applies if they “make it clear” when they are talking about real events and when they are making a personal judgement. On a professional blog, it’s best to avoid controversial issues as much as possible, but if you feel a strong need to express your feelings, phrases like “I believe,” “I think, ”or “it seems clear to me” will signal that you’re about to draw a subjective conclusion.
  • Get the facts straight – Of course, none of this will matter if you don’t get the facts right in the first place. Alex Veeneman is the managing editor of Kettlemag; an online platform that publishes the work of student writers. He tells his students, “It’s better to be right than first”. Stick to reliable sources that can be corroborated. If you break a juicy story and it turns out later to be false, this will hurt your credibility and ultimately tarnish your reputation.

If you follow this advice, you’ll find blog articles are a great way to manage your reputation and build your skill as a writer.