Are you paying attention to your online business reputation? If you aren’t you should be, because your customers are definitely paying attention and they are parsing through search results to find a highly rated company to do business with at this very moment. If you’re not rated highly — and your competitors are — then they’ll probably choose to do business with them. Next to your website ranking well in search results, online reviews are the second most important aspect of an online presence.

Online business reputations are made or broken on “review websites.” These are websites where both experts and customers can post reviews about businesses. Bloggers also get into the game by commenting and posting about their experience with a business on their blog. The reviewers might review a product, service, or business experience, like talking to a receptionist and then posting a scathing online review about it (yes this actually happens!).

Review website background

One of the earliest review sites that many are familiar with is Amazon lets users post reviews about products. They use the credit card information of users to identify the reviewer by their real name and tell the world who is doing the reviewing. The reviews are graded on the 1 – 5 star scale, and the most helpful reviews are given extra status by appearing on the first page of the reviews for a product. Users real names and the five star scale have helped spawn an entire online review industry. Yelp, Trip Advisor, and UrbanSpoon are just a few of the review sites in the online review world, and now even search engines are getting into the game. Google, Bing and others allow user generated reviews about businesses in their “local” search directories.

Increase visibility though review websites

Having a business listed on various review websites is actually a very important strategy to gain online visibility. If customers can’t find your business listed online then you will suffer, but if customers find your business positively reviewed in a variety of places then you will prosper. The goal of every business should be to occupy as many top 10 spots in the Google search results as possible. Having your products, services, or business reviewed in these websites can increase your chance of getting listed in search results. Preemptively strike these review sites by creating your own profile before the customer does it for you.

Dealing with negative reviews

Having a few negative reviews about your business is not the end of the world. In fact, businesses that only have positive reviews might seem like those reviews are not genuine. Online shoppers are a savvy bunch of individuals generally give some leeway to a few negative reviews. It also depends on what the review content covers because many reviewers only review a small aspect of a business. This leads the rest of the business unreviewed and perhaps won’t catch the attention of a potential customer. That said nobody likes to have negative reviews online, so in general, negative reviews should be managed as efficiently and quickly as possible by the business.

In the unfortunate event that a blogger, customer, or expert critic paints a less than favorable picture about your business you need to respond to the situation as quickly and professionally as possible. Never take an ugly tone when dealing with these types of situations because you’ll end up looking very poorly in the eyes of the people that care, potential customers. Try to contact the blogger or unhappy customer and see if you can resolve the issue. Do what you can to make wrong things right. If after you resolve the situation kindly ask them to change their mind and give you a fair and positive review.

If you can’t persuade them to switch the review to something more positive then simply leave a comment on the blog or their review website. Try to explain the situation and what you’ve done to make things right with the customer. Future customers will take that into consideration when deciding on whether or not to become a patron of your business. There’s two sides to every story so make sure you have the opportunity to tell your side of the story.

Managing an online reputation should be an ongoing and frequent activity. Check all the review sites where you’re listed to see what’s going on with your online repetition. Also check websites like Wikipedia to see if people have posted information that is either not relevant or untrue. To get started, get online and start creating your profile on as many review sites as possible and keep all of the business information the same across the board. This consistency of information will make it easier for you to be found in search engines.