Has your client ever asked you a question like, “How can I get rid of this negative review?” or “I visited my Yelp profile and it says I have a 2-star rating. I didn’t even know I was on Yelp!” This might be a good time to talk about reputation management.
Local businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of online reviews. Digital marketers have stressed the importance of monitoring and maintaining these sites for years, but busy business owners often find it difficult to claim and monitor listings across multiple review sites online.
That’s where offering reputation management as a service can come in handy. It’s a win-win situation for both digital marketers and business owners. Professional reputation management meets several goals for a business owner:
- Consistently monitoring reviews across multiple channels
- Providing a polished and professional “voice” for the brand
- Familiarity with the terms of service for various sites
Common sites like Google, Bing, and Yelp top the list when people first think of online reviews. But reviews are also available on Facebook and retail websites. Hyperlocal sites based on a business’ location might also be found, such as those provided by local chambers of commerce or media outlets.
And specialty review sites are all over the web — such as those for lawyers, medical professionals, hotels, etc.
With a plethora of review sites floating around cyberspace, it’s easy to see why clients will find reputation management service confusing and overwhelming. So let’s take a closer look at the benefits this service has for your clients and what it takes to offer this type of service as a web professional..
Navigating the labyrinth of review sites
Call the digital universe what you will. But I’ve found that potential clients seek out reputation management based on one of two things:
- Past experiences with a negative review
- Their own personal knowledge of the digital world
For clients who feel less “tech-savy,” the world of online reviews feels like trudging through a jungle. You know, that place that’s dark and scary and everything out there is trying to eat you alive! The goal with these types of clients is to offer guidance and navigation.
It's about turning a scary place into a new adventure — seeking out new opportunities for growth.
As hired guides, our job is to navigate this world for our clients armed with confidence, knowledge, and patience. Professionals reputation managers need to decide how much “hand-holding” they’ll provide for their clients, and be sure to spell it out in the terms of the contract agreement.
Count on one thing only... change
Search engines are big dogs in the review race. The first thing I hear from potential clients is usually, “I did a search for my business and found a bad review on Google.” But depending on the nature of the business and the country that it serves, you could find hundreds more reviews on specialty websites.
Doctors are a great example of this. Do a web search for a doctor under their name. You're certain to find reviews within the search engine. But looking through the organic search results, you’ll find places like healthgrades.com or webmd.com with even more reviews.
Performing an online presence of audit for your client is the first step in discovering opportunities and shortfalls in their online reputation.
It’s also important to stay on top of new sites that roll onto the playing field. And then, as the marketer, you’ll have to decide if the new site has enough influence or staying power for you to pay attention. Digital change is constant and your clients trust you to help them choose what sites to belong to or ignore.
Wait... ignore some sites?
I know, I said a forbidden word from the online world: “ignore.” But the truth is, there are so many niche review websites out there that you may find checking and monitoring these sites more trouble than they are worth. After all, time is money. Keeping your profile up to date on each and every site takes time.
And in addition to reviews, some of these sites offer lead generation and messaging to potential clients.
For example, maybe you’ll find that responding to quote requests via a home improvement niche site isn’t generating quality leads and quality reviews. Take a look at your time ROI and if you need to, don’t be afraid to cut bait.
Tools for reputation management
It should also be noted that there are many third-party review monitoring softwares that can help you keep track of reviews across several sites and for multiple clients. This software works to automatically check for new reviews and notify your client on your behalf.
Pay close attention to how often reviews are checked by the software.
Most software only checks for new reviews overnight. Some clients want to know about negative reviews right away. If you intend to offer clients notifications, you’ll need to decide how often to check for reviews and develop a good system for doing so.
Keeping the voice of the brand
Professional reputation management is more than just monitoring reviews. Many sites allow you to respond back to a customer. This brings an important element of customer service into play.
SMB owners can sometimes have a knee-jerk reaction in responding to reviews. And who can blame them? Receiving a negative review can feel like a slap in the face for a small business owner.
It’s hard not to take it personally.
Using professional reputation management provides a buffer. It’s like having a well-trained customer service representative in your corner. And anyone who’s ever worked with the public knows the value of a top-notch customer service agent!
We know that the customer is not always right, but responding to a negative review in a negative manner only makes the business itself look unprofessional. Keep your answers short and sweet. Even if the customer is, dare I say it, “wrong.”
When working with clients, it’s important from the start to develop both a voice and a policy for responding to reviews.
Does the client want to be notified about all reviews, positive and negative? Would they prefer to write their own responses? Who is your point of contact should a review get posted with serious accusations?
Any reviews that violate privacy, HR policies, or other serious matters may need to be discussed quickly with your client.
Knowing terms of service for various sites
Every review website has it’s own unique set rules. Terms of service vary greatly and can carry significant weight if they are violated. For example, Yelp prohibits businesses from soliciting reviews from customers (Yelp TOS Section 1.B.ii) Google has a policy against review-gating, a practice where 3rd party review solicitation software attempts to intercept a negative review before it is posted to Google.
Violating terms of service can result in reviews being removed, or worse. It’s important to familiarize yourself with these rules before offering reputation management services. The last thing you want to do is work on review solicitation for months only to have your account suspended!
How do I price reputation management?
Pricing: my least favorite topic. But obviously, we digital professionals need to keep the lights on. Finding the right pricing structure will come down to how much personal service your client needs.
Ultimately, like many other digital offerings, pricing structure combines both time and value.
Your client’s business type is also going to play an important role in their price. A hotel will take more time and attention than a local plumber, for two reasons
- There are more review sites for hotels
- People are more likely to leave a review for a hotel than they are their plumber
So, the volume of reviews you’ll be monitoring will be higher.
You may also consider finding a niche for this type of service. For example, if you work with only dentists, you can familiarize yourself with their niche review sites and forget about watching sites for hotels and restaurants.
Think about how much you can automate and how much customized, personal attention you’ll need to give to each client when setting your price structure.
Final thoughts on reputation management
Reputation management combines some of the most important online components required of businesses:
- Customer service
- SEO value
- Conflict resolution
- Technical setup
What makes this service so difficult for web professionals, but appealing for clients, is that each item from the above list requires a different set of skills. And it can be a challenge to incorporate full-service reputation management into your offering because of those unique skills.
Have you ever met a technical genius who couldn’t handle the most basic customer service request? Or an amazing, friendly customer service rep who has trouble turning a computer on?
Whether you’re a one-person shop or you’ve got a team, you’ll find a balance between all these important factors. Your clients will love having an online-watchdog and digital guide to help them navigate the jungle of online reviews!