Online Reputation Management – A Growing Concern for Small Businesses

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Nearly eight out of ten potential customers conduct online research before making a purchasing decision and are 85 percent more likely to spend their money if they are convinced by the online reviews. Businesses are aware of this reality, and many are seeking reputation management services from specialized organizations.

With many businesses falling victim to unscrupulous customer reviews, the risk of jeopardizing online reputation is a growing concern for small businesses. According to a recent survey, more than 77 percent of small-business owners acknowledge the importance of having a strong online reputation. This emerging online reputation risk is so critical to businesses that the damage ranks in the top five risks that concern small businesses.

In a world where the customer is guided by third-party review sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, small-business owners need to take control of their brand image and online reputation. More than 92 percent of customers read online reviews to learn about a business. According to Search Engine Land, almost nine in 10 customers read online reviews to decide the value of a local business. The increasing popularity of the Internet and social media networks have provided customers with more opportunities than ever to share their experiences with businesses. According to research, almost three-quarters of customers believe they will receive better service if they post their opinion about a brand on these sites.

Most businesses find dealing with negative online reviews overwhelming and defeating. Actions such as monitoring review sites, responding to online comments professionally and asking customers to post feedback can help establish a healthy online reputation. Businesses that are proactive in handling negative comments go a long way toward rectifying the damage.

Here are a few key reasons why managing online reputation is a necessity for small business:

  1. Increased sales: Most customers research products and services online before making the final buying decision. Do you know what your potential customers are searching for? You should not wait until your sales slow down. Try to stay ahead of the game with effective brand-building and monitoring strategies.
  2. Increased credibility: When a lot of existing customers are raving about you, your credibility goes up. The more credible your business is, the more leads it will attract.
  3. Setting expectations: When customers buy your products due to positive online reviews, they are optimistic for an unmatched experience. These positive online reviews can help you set quality standards for meeting the high expectations of your customers.
  4. Identifying problem areas: You can use online reviews as a tool for identifying common complaints and improvement areas. Online reviews can give insight into what your customers value about your products and how you can improve to meet their demands better.
  5. Increasing brand’s visibility: The more active you are online, the more people will see you. Updated information, new reviews, professional website and active social media networks will influence your search engine rank and visibility. The more prospects see you, the more customers you will attract.

It is a known fact that customers prefer to spend money on the brands they trust. One of the best ways to maintain a strong online reputation is to be proactive about customer service and respond quickly and professionally to online reviews. Word travels fast on the Internet, and monitoring your online reputation is essential to maintaining a positive brand image.

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