Maintaining a business’ reputation is a non-stop task. You don’t need me to tell you that. However, these days it’s way more demanding than ever. In the never-stopping stream of information via Facebook, Google, and the likes, things can easily go out of hand for you. Negative information about your brand can be spread like wildfire, regardless of whether it is credible or not - and this will most likely have an impact on your revenue in no time. So, how can a business’ reputation be maintained in this climate?
I, Ofir Bar, am an investor with about 25 years of experience in worldwide markets, and a special interest in new businesses and startups. In my opinion, the internet entails many benefits for businesses: It enables you to reach your target audience anywhere, anytime. It allows you to spread the word about attractive deals that you have to offer and create a deeper connection between your brand and the client. That said, the information age can also turn against you. In this blog post, I will try to give you some tools that can help you handle your business’ reputation under these terms.
The algorithm dance
Let’s face it: When we use a search engine to seek information about a company, we seldom check the second results page. For this reason, it’s essential that when people type your business’ name in a search bar, the first results page will present information that is useful to you, as a business owner. How does Google decide which results will appear on top?
Shortly, the answer is relevance. Once a person uses it to search for information about your brand, it collects all the web pages that seem relevant to it, and organizes them according to their ‘score’. Here are some of the parameters it takes into account to calculate the ‘score’ of each webpage.
- The similarity between the words in the search bar and the words on the webpage.
- Content credibility (Is it informative? Does it appear on a reputable site?)
- ‘Buzz’ around the content - the more people read, like, or comment on the content, the higher the score it is given.
Google’s algorithm (and other search engine algorithms as well) can be your best friend, but unfortunately also your worst enemy. A bad review or article that smears you can easily find its way to the top of Google results, and that can be disastrous. Sadly, in the world we live in, bombarded with information from all over, people tend to rush to conclusions before they understand the full picture.
What’s the solution to this, you ask? Well, you can start by responding to all reviews that present you in a negative light - and even request to respond to articles about you, if they contain false and misleading information. Be transparent, and be polite. Ask an unhappy client to contact you, so you can check what is really bothering them and try to fix it. It’s super important to admit mistakes and regularly engage with your audience.
Of course, not all of the negative information about your brand online is authentic. Your competitors, for example, may post fake bad reviews about your company. In some cases, they might even upload a fake article about your company with a title such as: “Is this company reliable?” (let me help you out - the between-the-lines answer will naturally be ‘no’). It’s rather difficult to take legal action against these shenanigans, but you can still claim that the content is fake and demand its removal from the platform on which it was posted.
I also recommend you open a blog, in which you can share knowledge about your field of expertise. If the content is good, it may ‘conquer’ the top of Google search results, at expense of other, unwanted results. To handle bigger reputation issues, I would recommend contacting a digital PR agency.
All that said, business reputation is far from being only about online appearance. From my experience, the internet’s biggest advantage is also its most distinct fault: We humans don’t do well when we have so much data available. This makes us confused. However, if we get a recommendation about a service from someone we actually know, it’s likely that we’ll believe them regardless of other, contradicting opinions we read online.
That’s why it’s so important to provide good customer service. Especially today, people appraise kind and helpful customer service. There’s no replacement for it. Make your customers come back time after time - and they will be your ambassadors (without them knowing it!).
Maintaining good customer service highly relies on treating your employees well. Remember that while you actually CARE about your company, your employees - by default - may not be so ‘attached’ to it. Therefore, employees will give your clients good service only if they feel they are being treated well in the workplace. Neglecting or disregarding your workers will likely boomerang back at you, so just avoid it. Try to think of caring for your employees as a long-term investment.
Nowadays, more than ever before, business reputation faces immense challenges. The Internet is surely a great marketing tool, but it can also act as a business owner’s double-edged sword. However, with long-term thinking and some restraint, I believe that any business can overpower its weaknesses and some negative information about it on Google. As in many other aspects of life, a business’s reputation is something that is built with grit and perseverance. I truly believe that there are no shortcuts to success.