No matter your business sector, building and maintaining a positive reputation has never been more important. Now, consumers head to search engines when they want answers and products, and in the digital age, a reputation is always going to be one of the defining aspects of your business. It often feels as if your reputation, including your online reviews, is something that is outside of your control, but there are a number of steps that you can take that will make it easier than ever to control what is being said about you. When your business reputation can help you build consumer trust and make more sales, building a better and more positive conversation about your brand is now critical.

Step One: Prioritize Discoverability

Consumers want immediacy when it comes to their questions and their spending. That means your business needs to be easy to find on Google (although you should also optimize for other search engines like Bing and DuckDuckGo). Google My Business (GMB) is a free listing option that you should always use as your first step because by taking control of your GMB listing, you get:

Be descriptive in your GMB template, as this will enhance your reputation. However, you also need to focus on your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. You want your business to be on the front page of a relevant Google search query, and the higher that you can appear on the front page the better. Your GMB listing can be very useful for improving your search engine performance and is highly visible when viewed on mobile devices.

Step Two: Use Multiple Review Platforms

It’s not just Google that consumers head to when they are looking for reviews about your company. There are multiple review sites that are of particular importance to local businesses. Depending on your sector, you need to have a presence on:

  • Yelp
  • TripAdvisor
  • Facebook
  • Niche, industry-relevant review sites
  • FourSquare

By taking more control of your online presence on these platforms, you can start to address your reviews and your reputation much more immediately. Make sure that your first impressions on these (and all) platforms are as positive and professional as possible. Use high-quality images, a well-written introduction, and content that offers value. Having a more complete and professional profile on review and social platforms can get much more consumer engagement and a higher chance of receiving reviews. Many businesses fail to capitalize on review sites, but by making your presence on them more defined, you can:

  • Respond to reviews quickly and more easily
  • Track leads
  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Keep all business information current and relevant

The key is to build an official profile on the review sites and the social media platforms that are most relevant to your brand. You want to make those profiles as complete as possible.

Step Three: Making it Simple

The easier that you make it to leave a review of your business, the more likely that you will accumulate reviews. When consumers are looking for a business to buy from, they will want to be confident about that business. Clearly, the more positive reviews that you have, the more likely that they will choose to spend their money with you. Profit generation is tied in with having a stronger and more positive reputation, so the more positive reviews that you can accumulate, the better your business will perform. One of the simplest strategies to adopt in order to gain more total reviews is star ratings. While detailed reviews will be more beneficial in the long term, using star ratings is a good first step to improving your online reputation. Of course, if you want to gather more five-star reviews, then your business needs to deliver a five-star service.

Step Four: Engagement

It’s not just those reviews that future customers are going to read. They are also going to read your responses to those reviews. That’s why engagement is such a critical component of online reputation management. Not only will those responses make you more appealing to consumers, but they can also work in your favor when it comes to search engine rankings as well. That means that you need to engage with all of your reviews, even when those reviews are negative. This can be a hard element to get right when emotions are high, but the focus should be on:

  • Addressing any inaccuracies in their review
  • Being accountable for mistakes
  • Offering ways to satisfy the consumer who had a bad experience
  • Staying authentic

It is often the case that the right response to a bad review will result in that negative review being edited to show more positives or even removed completely. That’s why engagement is such an important element of online reputation management to get right. Remember that reviews are publicly viewable and that they are always going to be visible. Your brand image will rely on how you react, respond, and engage with both positive and negative reviews, so have an updated and proactive strategy in place at all times.

Step Five: Omnichannel Monitoring

Even the most responsive strategy for gathering and monitoring your online reviews can leave you exposed to brand mentions on platforms that you have yet to use. There is a wide range of online monitoring tools available that can help ensure that every mention of your business is brought to your attention. That means that you will have a much more reflective idea of how your brand is being discussed online. Search engines use a variety of channels when it comes to evaluating your business value because they want to provide their users with only the best answers. Inconsistency is one of the fastest ways to lose the trust of audiences, so having a high-quality review listing on Yelp will be less effective or valuable if you also have a poor review rating on TripAdvisor. This can lead to mistrust and a loss of authority, and that means consumers will be more likely to head elsewhere.

The better your products and customer service are, the more likely that you will gain the positive reviews that are so crucial in the digital age. However, this is no longer enough. Now, online reputation management is a key task that needs to be strategized and managed so that it is as proactive and all-encompassing as possible. When your online reputation is so intrinsically linked to brand growth and more sales, failing to prioritize online review gathering and maintenance can leave you falling behind your competitors and losing potential profit streams.