The way people perceive a company has a huge effect on whether they are willing to buy from that company or partner with them strategically. As George Washington once said, “It’s better to be alone than in bad company.” In the old days, reputation management was relatively easy. So long as a business was out of the newspaper and there were no picket lines, there was little else to worry about. The internet has changed all of that. Now, reputation damaging information can appear from just about anywhere. The change in media has made reputation management essential for small business owners.
The reason reputation management is so important relates to SEO. Research has shown time and time again that being at the top of search engine results is beneficial for a company. About one third of people will click on the very first listing, and in total 85 percent of users will click on a result on the first page. Allowing unfavorable content take precedent over more legitimate, authoritative pages on a company is very bad for their. According to some estimates, 94 percent of consumers do some sort of research online before they make a purchase. Even for businesses that aren’t specifically marketing online, it’s important to ensure that there is some positive content for searchers to find when they research a company or product.
The rise of user-generated content has made it all the more important for businesses to pay attention to their online reputation. One disgruntled employee or customer can single-handedly create a lot of negative content online relatively easily. Businesses now have less to fear from disreputable competitors or marketing firms creating fake negative reviews. The 2013 lawsuit from by the New York Attorney General will do more to reduce fake reviews than all the filters on review sites. All the same, the fact remains that it’s vital for businesses to monitor their online reputation to remove erroneous information, and to ensure they are producing enough content that one negative voice doesn’t distract from the other online material about the organization.
Research has shown that online reviews can be a powerful motivator for people. Business owners should also keep in mind that people pay attention to online reviews. According to studies, about 89% of people trust online reviews. In fact, 72% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. An interesting follow up statistic is that 73 percent of online shoppers say that positive reviews make them feel better about a business. Only 12 percent of shoppers say they take no notice of online reviews, and that percentage is down from 17 percent in 2012. It’s vital that positive reviews are what searchers see first.
Reputation management isn’t just for companies. It’s also important small business owners individually. Potential customers and networkers often use a search engine to research the proprietor of the businesses they are considering.
“If someone says something negative about you or something true but old and obsolete—perhaps it’s that you were fired from your last job—these things can really damage your future,” said reputation management expert Michael Fertik in an interview with Forbes. “At the same time, your digital reputation also creates significant opportunities. If you aren’t taking advantage of what your reputation could be or hanging your digital shingle the way it deserves to be hung, people aren’t seeing your best foot forward.”
A good reputation should always be one a company’s greatest assets. Low prices, celebrity endorsements, and prize giveaways can not help a business where people no longer trust the company. In the internet age, there are a lot of places where unfavorable information can lurk and companies need to be proactive in addressing these issues. Reputation management services and software can show business owners where these blights are and allow them to handle them before they can damage the business.