Should You Consider Online Reputation Management Services for Your Business?

For a price, online reputation management services promise to clean up your act online. But should you spring for this service? The answer may surprise you.

What is Online Reputation Management and How Does it Work?

With potential customers increasingly turning to social media to research products and services and ultimately make purchasing decisions, bad reviews or complaints that turn up online can mean lost revenue. Reputation management services promise to highlight positive content while burying any negative comments, reviews, and online press deep in the search results.

Most reputation services work by tracking what is being written about a client online and then using an assortment of SEO techniques to promote all the flattering stuff. Some take this process a step further by actively creating their own positive content, including reviews, blog posts, and social media “events”. Whatever the approach, the goal is to use all this positive content to push damaging references off the first pages of the search results. This has become all the more important now that online search and social media are getting more and more interconnected.

The biggest downside is that these services don’t come cheap, with many companies charging anywhere from a few hundred to $1,000 dollars a month.

Why You Might Want to Consider Using Online Reputation Management

Whether you like it or not, with sites like Yelp, Angies List, and Zagat, consumer forums, and the prevalence of social media, your business’ online reputation is constantly subject to change without your input. This is not something you should take lightly nor just brush aside. According to Nielsen’s often quoted Global Online Consumer Survey, 90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people that they know, with 70% trusting the opinions posted online by unknown users. Moreover, there are several studies that show the effects negative online references can have on sales. Here is one on the effects of negative reviews on purchasing decisions, and here is another on the effect of a one-star rating decrease.

In other words, a business’ online reputation hangs in a delicate balance. Add outdated legal issues, agitated customer or employee forum posts, over the top reviews, unfair reporting and some dirty smear tactics from a competitor, and you could stand to lose a lot more than just sales; you’d be risking your good name as well. Still want to ignore what is being said about your business online?

If you’ve never really monitored your online presence and you’re wondering what’s out there, this company is offering a free online reputation review.

How Not to Use Online Reputation Management

Before I go any further, I want to point out that there is a right way and a wrong way to use online reputation management. It almost goes without saying that a business’ first priority when facing any kind of negative feedback from customers, employees, or business partners, etc. is to make an honest attempt to address the problem. You’ll have much more to gain by taking this approach. Using online reputation management services to merely do a “cover-up” without any intention of fixing the problem(s) will only backfire in the long run. It reminds me of the time Bank of America began buying up hundreds of negative domains in an attempt to stifle criticism. It only drew even more attention to the troubled bank.

If however, you’ve made that attempt to fix a mistake, yet the Internet-based fallout remains or you’ve been the victim of undeserved attack, then online reputation management could help.

How a Frugal Entrepreneur Can Use These Services

As I mentioned above, many of these online reputation management companies will charge an arm and a leg for their work. Much of the tactics they use, you can probably do yourself. For example, you should make it a point to do some basic reputation management- i.e. set up Google Alerts to tell you when someone mentions your company online, keep an eye on consumer reviews on popular online review sites, and monitor your social media mentions.

But a lot depends on the size and scope of your business, as well as the amount and severity of the negative content floating around. This has to be taken into consideration especially since all of this monitoring and damage control can tie up a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money that could be better used towards running and growing your business. As with any other paid service, you need to do some research to see if it will truly be worth it.

Whatever you do, though, don’t ignore what is happening online. These days, you just can’t afford to lose a good online reputation.