You can’t erase most content from the Internet.
If you haven’t been on the wrong side of this fact, consider yourself lucky. Whether it comes from regrettable images or content on social media, a comment taken out context, or a negative review of your business, millions of people have felt the wrath of the internet’s permanency. And without managing your online reputation, you could be next.
In today’s digital age, reputation management should be a priority for everyone. It’s easier than ever to search for incriminating information, or for anonymous people to leave disparaging comments in public settings. Unfortunately, a failure to control what shows up when someone searches for you can have serious implications for your business, career, and personal reputation.1, 2
Reputation management isn’t about advertising or promotion. It’s a way to influence how people perceive you or your business. The process can be time-consuming, but in the end you’ll have strengthened your personal or professional brand.
This guide will take you through some of the most effective steps to improve your online reputation. First, it will define reputation management, and explain why it’s important for small business owners, job seekers, and students. Next, it will provide tips to improving your online presence, including how to respond to negative reviews and clean up your social media profile. By the end, you’ll be equipped with the tools to fortify your online brand. Let’s get started!
Have you ever searched online for a business or someone you’re about to meet? You’re not the only one. According to Reputation X, 65 percent of online users consider the Internet their most trusted resource for information about people and businesses. Today, most personal or professional interactions begin with a simple internet search. But because of the volume of shared content and images, we have little control over what shows up in Google or Bing. Regardless of whether you search your name or business and see content you wish wasn’t visible, it’s time to invest in your online reputation!
Luckily, a proactive reputation management strategy can put you in charge. Developing a positive presence online and on social media takes several steps, but these efforts will help build your brand, and establish relationships with current and future clients.
Think back to the last time you searched online to hire a home service provider. Maybe you were looking for a plumber to fix a clogged drain or a roofer to repair weather-damaged shingles. Did you click on the first result and never look back? Probably not. Instead, like many other online users, you likely looked through several websites, read online reviews, and compared companies before making a decision.
Online reviews are an important part of today’s business culture.
74% of people consult Yelp when looking for a home service provider3
86% of people would pay more for services from a company with higher ratings and reviews3
What does this mean for a local business owner? Managing your company’s online reputation has never been more important. Your business needs a well-maintained web presence because it’s how customers compare you to the competition. It allows clients to understand what your business is all about, and has the added benefits of:
If your business is just starting out, or you are new to online reputation management, the process of getting started can seem difficult. But it’s not. There are many easy ways to get started.
Start by creating a business profile on general review sites like Yelp, Citysearch, and the Better Business Bureau. These sites host reviews of many businesses and are city-specific, so you can connect with customers in your area.
Branch out to sites that review just your field of business. For example, Houzz and Angie’s List offer reviews for home services. Avvo and Super Lawyers rate and review lawyers.
Sites like Nextdoor and City-Data bring local users together on message boards and forums. This is a great way to reach customers in your area and establish yourself as a business expert in your city. You’ll also start to see trends in what people are talking about, so you can adjust business plans to the market.
Before you begin posting online as your business, be sure to read the terms of service for each individual site. For the most part, incentivizing reviews is seen as unethical and dishonest. 5 So is blasting the competition. To develop your online reputation, rely on your business’s strengths, your loyal customer base, and your integrity. Don’t compromise your reputation with shady behavior on review sites as it is illegal and downright unethical.
Bad reviews happen, but in today’s online world, they can cripple your business if you don’t do your best to remedy the problem. Online reputation management lets businesses overcome negative reviews, learn from mistakes, and continue to thrive. Let’s take a look at a step-but-step guide for maintaining a solid online reputation.
Once you’ve strengthened your online reputation, don’t be shy about sharing your positive reviews and recommendations. There are many ways to spread the word and continue to build online credibility.
Ultimately, your online reputation reflects the quality of your product or service, and how you act in person. Make an effort to participate in your community and brand yourself as an expert.
Whether you choose to start a Meetup group for people in your industry, support local charities, speak at conferences, or anything else, working with your community will help establish a personal connection with the people who write online reviews.
Today, many college recruiting teams search online to learn about applicants. For students and job seekers of all ages, this means you should invest in your online reputation like it’s a final exam. Given the competition for admission to top-rated universities, you can’t risk an inside joke or compromising image to hurting your chances.
The same applies to job seekers, especially young employees. In April 2015, unemployment for 20-24 year-olds was 9.6%, almost double that of any older demographic. The struggling economy has forced many companies to cut training budgets and entry-level jobs, making it tougher than ever to get a foothold in the working world. A clean online reputation can make all the difference.
According to a CareerBuilder.com survey of more than 2,300 hiring managers:
Fortunately, it only takes a few steps to avoid being part of these statistics. First, search for yourself in Google or Bing. Whether you see unprofessional content from social media, or content from somebody else with your name, here are a few tips to help you better control the search results.
In many situations, you cannot remove content from the Internet, so your best strategy is to create new content that will push the questionable content off the first page of Google or Bing search results. The process can be time consuming, but if it makes the difference between accepted and rejected, it’s well worth the effort.
After reading this guide, you may be thinking the task of creating and maintaining an online reputation is too much for a small business owner. If you’ve tried and feel overwhelmed, there are many companies to do this work for you. Reputation management firms such as Reputation Defender and Integrity Defender offer plans for businesses, and usually focus on removing negative content and replacing it with more favorable information about your business. Consider the following before hiring a reputation management firm:
If you decide to handle reputation management in-house, you’ll find a variety of tools that will help make the task easier:
If you’ve never examined your online reputation before, you may have some work ahead of you. However, dictating how you’re perceived online is one of the most important things you can control. If you feel overwhelmed by the steps in this guide, take it slow. Some progress is better than none!
A reputation can make or break your brand. Local businesses are greatly affected by positive and negative reviews, and online content can have permanent professional and academic effects on individuals. In order to thrive in an increasingly digital world, you must be aware of your online reputation and take the steps to influence and maintain what people can read about you. Online reputation management takes dedication and hard work, but can make the difference in your long-term success.
During this process, remember that search engines do not change results overnight. It can take up to several months to see some of these efforts come to fruition. So the sooner you get started, the better off you’ll be!