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Managing Online Reviews – In this series, we’re looking at online reputation management – or the strategies that businesses use to influence the way that their brands are perceived and valued online.

A central aspect of reputation management involves managing online reviews effectively and responding to them in the correct way. So firstly, let’s remind ourselves why online reviews are so important to our brands:

Why online reviews matter to your business

  1. Online reviews build credibility and trust in the customer’s eyes.
  2. Online reviews boost your local SEO (vital for a good SERP placement for relevant searches by your target audience.)
  3. They help to provide a source of customer connection, drive word of mouth marketing and provide a vital point of reference and research for customers (with 90% of online shoppers at least skimming reviews before making a purchase.)
  4. Negative reviews flag up areas that may need attention in your business – allowing you to act fast and turn your customer’s bad experience around – in the hope of transforming them into a happy advocate for your brand.

The importance of managing every online review

Research suggests that 92% of online customers use a review to drive a purchase decision and that they look for a minimum rating of 3.3. Furthermore, just one negative, unanswered, review can be enough to put off customers and to send them directly to a competitor! So it’s vital that your business is constantly monitoring reviews about your brand, responding to reviews as needed, and stimulating positive reviews to build your base of advocates. Reviews are the new word of mouth marketing, which drives trust, credibility and those all-important conversions. So if you aren’t taking active steps to manage online reviews, you’re potentially missing out on loyal customers, positive marketing – and those vital sales!

Why you MUST respond to online reviews

The odd bad review isn’t the end of the world – customers expect to see a blend of different experiences, and will naturally question a brand that only has 100% positive feedback (particularly in the age of ‘bought’ reviews.) What is important is the way that you respond to a negative review and the overall trend towards positivity. The main takeaway for your marketing team is that they must be actively monitoring review sites and rapidly responding to any negative experiences with a positive outcome; one that other customers will see, and feel reassured by.

A 3-step guide to managing online reviews

With this in mind, follow this step by step guide to mastering online reviews for your business as part of your reputation management strategy.

1. Allocate a resource

Reputation management is often handled within the marketing team, and it’s important to identify an individual or team who will take ownership for monitoring reviews and responding to them. This might be something that you manage in-house, or something that you outsource to a specialist reputation management agency, depending on the nature of your business, your budget and so forth.

2. Use software

It’s impossible to manually track every review site on the internet! Yes, most customers use big sites such as Google, Yelp, Facebook, TrustPilot or TrustedReviews, but there are hundreds of other review sites with clout, and they all need monitoring if you’re serious about your reputation management. Luckily, the latest online review management software makes this easy to do by leveraging powerful AI technology to automatically scan review sites for any reviews of your brand. You can use this software to respond to reviews, actively manage negative reviews, track progress over time and see a better return from your reputation management efforts.

3. Always reply…

If a customer leaves a negative review, view it as an opportunity to turn things around. Firstly, apologise and be sympathetic to their situation, before adding a little positive marketing that explains how good your service usually is. Provide an offline contact name and number so that the issue can be resolved offline – and DON’T include your business name or brand in your response, for SEO reasons. Remember, if you can resolve the problem and provide a great experience, the customer is likely to go back to their original review and upgrade – something that is hugely powerful for your marketing and for word of mouth gains.

When you get a positive review, also take the time to respond to it. Thank the customer and be specific. Add your brand or business name and any relevant keywords that you can naturally include, for SEO benefits. If you have a customer campaign running, add a reference to it, such as ‘did you know that we’re running a two for one offer right now?’ or similar. And invite the customer to return for more – perhaps pointing them to a complementary product that they might like, or asking them to take advantage of your ‘refer a friend’ scheme.

These interactions help to demonstrate your business’s commitment to a great level of customer service. They also ‘humanise’ your brand and build powerful social connections online. The more that you invest in your review management – with the right automated online review software to facilitate and streamline the process – the better the business benefits that you can look forward to.