How Critical Are Online Reviews to Your Small Business?

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It takes years of strategies and efforts to build a strong online reputation for your business, and only a few seconds for an online reputation to be strained. Building a strong reputation and a healthy relationship with your customers that sustains the tittle-tattle of one or two fouled reviews takes time. Earlier, building and maintaining customer relationships used to be personal, taking place primarily through face-to-face interactions. However, with the advent of the Internet and social networks, maintaining an online reputation has become complicated for most businesses.

The impact of reviews on your small business

Even if you have not strategically established an online presence for your business, your customers may be building one for you in the form of online reviews. Online reviews have the power to influence the buying decisions of your potential customers more than paid advertisements. While positive reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations can bring more customers to your door and help you build your business, negative reviews can chip away your hard-earned credibility.

Your customers are talking about your business online, and you must pay attention to what they are saying. Tracking your online reviews, and responding to positive and negative comments, will allow you to take control of your online reputation. However, for most small businesses, monitoring their online presence may be easier said than done. The challenges of running a business can make monitoring the customer reviews incredibly difficult. Because the process is time-consuming, not many business owners monitor their online presence until a problem arises. While it may seem easy to focus on resolving issues, taking a more proactive approach can help you avoid unpleasant experiences. Even though it takes time to establish and maintain your online reputation, it is worth the effort.

Monitor your online presence

According to a report, nearly 68 percent of customers feel positive customer reviews make them more likely to visit a local business.

With so many customers turning to search engines and social networks to find local businesses, it has never been more critical to monitor your online presence. Online reputation management provides you with better control over how potential and existing customers perceive your business. By creating profiles on social networks and third-party review sites, you can develop a stronger online presence and improve your ranking in relevant searches. Through regular monitoring of those profiles, and by encouraging customers to leave positive online reviews, you can attract the right customers who are searching for products and services similar to those you offered.

In order to manage your online presence, you need to discover what platforms potential and existing customers are using to discuss your business. Usually, customers use platforms such as Facebook and Yelp to share their personal experiences with brands and products. The majority of customers turn to a search engine to look for online reviews. This makes it critical for you to monitor search engine results for your business or products on a regular basis in order to understand what potential customers find when they look online for your business.

Participate in online conversations

Positive reviews can provide you with a confirmation that your business is on the right track. However, the excitement of finding positive reviews can be diminished by the discovery of unpleasant customer feedback. When faced with negative feedback, you may be tempted to ignore it and hope that nobody notices it. However, the issue may flare up when the reviewer notices your lack of response. In the eyes of the reviewer, silence on your end can carry more weight than the negative review itself.

It is important to understand that customers are not just reading reviews posted by other customers; they are also keeping an eye on how you respond to them. Taking the time to write a polite and professional response to a negative review will send the right message to the reviewer as well as to those reading it. Responding to a negative comment also provides you with the opportunity to regain control of the situation and to explain the incident. Sometimes you may be able to turn things around and win back an annoyed customer.

Build a strong online reputation for your business

According to a recent survey, unhappy customers tend to share their experience with an average of 24 people, while happy customers tell an average of 15 people.

In addition to monitoring and responding to negative reviews, another great way to strengthen your online reputation is by encouraging customers to write positive reviews. However, because customers are more likely to post an online review following an unpleasant experience, drawing in positive reviews can be a bit of a challenge. Your satisfied customers may just lack the time or motivation to share their happy experience. To overcome this challenge, you must try to make the process of leaving a review as easy as possible for your customers.

By taking responsibility for your business’ online reviews, encouraging your customers to post positive reviews and responding to reviews, you will be on your way to building trust with customers and building up a positive online reputation that can have a substantial impact on the success of your business.

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