“Online reputation management is key to any business, small or large,” says Zach Hoffman (pictured), founder and CEO of Exults, an online marketing company.
Truer words were never spoken. A negative review can cause potential customers to do business with your competitors instead of you. Although it’s impossible to prevent people from saying negative things about your business — even when their claims are false — there are steps you can take to minimize the damage.
The Intuit Small Business Blog recently spoke with Hoffman about how to manage your online reputation, either on your own or by hiring a marketing expert.
ISBB: How important is online reputation management for small-business owners?
Hoffman: If a potential customer searches for you and your company online and does not find positive information because people who have had questionable or bad experiences with you are setting your reputation, it could be an issue for your business.
Ideally, how many search engine pages should a business owner try to control?
It is key to control the area called “above the fold.” (The area prior to when someone scrolls down the page.) Typically, there are five results that are above the fold of the page. If possible, controlling the entire top 10 is great.
In what circumstances should a small-business owner consider managing his or her online reputation?
Small-business owners should consider being proactive about managing their online reputations. You should start before anything negative happens, because once negative information begins to appear, you’ll be in a responsive mode, which can stir panic. We recommend that businesses maintain their reputation out of the gates.
What can a professional marketer do for small-business owners that they can’t do themselves?
A pro can utilize tested tactics and strategies, as well as test new theories to enhance a reputation online. Typically, someone hires a professional due to lack of bandwidth and the ability to handle needed issues on an ongoing basis.
What tips would you give to small-business owners who want to manage their online reputations?
Register your business with local business directories on multiple sites. Claim your social media handles and post on a regular basis. Be sure to set an interval you can keep up with. Claim your Google Places profile, and populate it with as many details as possible.
An overlooked benefit of a Facebook profile is that it creates a forum for addressing concerns. It allows a place for customers to post potential issues and get them addressed without going to the search engines and outside forums and websites.