As the marketing world continues to evolve, trends have shifted to be more about what customers say about brands, rather than what brands have to say about themselves. However, only 17 percent of U.S. companies were rated as “good” when it came to customer experience last year, and just one percent of companies were viewed as “excellent”– clearly, there’s an immediate need and opportunity for brands to focus on improving their reputation now, to see continued success in the future.
What customers choose to say in reviews, on social media, and to their peers is shaped by their experience—how they feel across each interaction with a brand. Managing that experience successfully is not only a business challenge, but a marketing challenge.
To illustrate the importance of reputation, we’ll dive into some research and findings on the many ways a person’s decision-making process is affected, and then provide a break down of how we tackle reputation management with a cross-channel marketing approach.
Why is online reputation important for my brand?
Let’s look at the education industry as an example. For universities specifically, we know that online reputation is a deciding factor when choosing a school, along with the availability of degree programs, cost, and location, and can have a big influence on the popularity of the brand.
But how are potential students discovering a school’s reputation in the first place? Most browse online with searches for “top schools” in their city or desired area, and typically turn to third-party reviews to find a different perspective outside of what information the school provides about itself. In a survey of students initially discovering schools online, we see that:
- 53% use search engines most often when researching schools
- 20% of their decisions were influenced by online ratings and reviews when researching schools
- 54% will visit the school’s website after reading positive reviews
- 32% left a school's site due to poor navigation
As research suggests, reviews can influence prospects to either continue learning about a school—reading additional reviews, visiting the site—or move on to other options. According to the numbers:
- 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business
- 59% of consumers look at two-three review sites before they make a decision about a business
- 73% of consumers think that reviews older than three months are no longer relevant
Not only are good reviews necessary to help convince users to invest in your product or service, it’s important that the reviews are up to date and “discoverable” where prospects are searching.
How can I improve my brand’s online reputation?
First impressions can definitely leave an impact on users and their relation to your brand. Luckily, there are a lot of options and opportunities to effectively manage your reputation, improving your brand’s image and overall user sentiment.
Below are a list of tactics that we use at Red Door to decrease the impact of negative reviews from appearing in search results. These efforts can be addressed and managed at various points in the customer journey and across various departments within our agency.
- Integrate on-page reviews within your website to provide ease of access.
- Collect and encourage positive reviews from current users via:
- Email programs
- Website submissions
- Social media
- Understand the keywords that are triggering negative review sites to appear, and then create content that will rank for that query. This pushes the negative results lower on the page and causes fewer people to see them. For instance, you could use a term like "Brand University reviews" and create content like:
- A page on your site called "Brand University Reviews & Testimonials: Hear from Real Students"
- A YouTube video about "Student John Doe Reviews His Experience at Brand University"
- A press release on "Brand University Reviews its Policy on Student Admissions"
- Using a variety of content types (blog posts, videos, press releases) is beneficial because it gives visitors a variety of ways to interact with your brand, and increases the variety of search results you can rank for (video search results, news search results, informational search results).
- Identify the review sites that portray your brand favorably, and attempt to make that site rank higher.
- A few extra links pointing to that page will push it up higher, and cause more users to read your favorable reviews there, instead of unfavorable reviews elsewhere.
- Create and/or build links to news stories that are positive and relevant in nature through outreach programs.
- Identify the keywords or sites that you need to appear for and:
- Speak to people seeking industry-related reviews and ratings.
- Educate on negative news about your brand/industry and highlight the positive news within your site content or on your blog.
- Develop ad copy and landing pages that address concerns in a proper light.
- Create a comprehensive strategy for listening to customers and escalating that information in a report to management and marketing teams.
- Continue to respond to inquiries and manage the community using social media to give users a positive and personal experience.
- Solicit reviews on Facebook through social content or email programs.
- Partner with a writer/blogger/current user to create content about their positive experience that will push the negative reviews deeper into Google search pages.
- Continue to use social listening alerts to monitor change or an influx in positive or negative sentiment, ensuring that you are able to act quickly and create crisis communication plans.
For any brand working to combat their reputation online, it is recommended that the user experience be at the core of the business, across all touchpoints: from the website, to phone conversations, to interactions with the brand on social media, to the helpful content they consume on the blog. Any small problem that can be identified and elevated before interfering with a customer’s experience with a brand will aid in an overall positive interaction—and better reviews.
Reputation management isn’t the responsibility of a single team member, but rather a program that can span various departments. For more marketing tips and tactics from our team, sign up for our newsletter below, or contact us directly for more information on how we can help!