They say first impressions are last impressions. But how true is that? How much time do visitors to your site take, for example, to form an initial opinion?
Way less than two seconds—according to research conducted by the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
The research goes on to say that this initial opinion is further cemented in only 26 more seconds.
And that’s it: in less than a minute, a potential visitor to your website has formed a concrete opinion of your business. And opinions are hard to change.
What your visitors think of you and your business matters significantly, since it directly affects several SEO-related factors—most notably:
- Traffic to your website. If your web page doesn’t have attractive/useful meta titles/meta descriptions, even if you show up on Google’s top ranks (which is unlikely in this case), people might never click through to the page.
- Conversions. Let’s say a visitor does click on your webpage, but doesn’t find it good enough to want to do business with you. They won’t interact with your website, which results in a low CTR.
- Accelerated bounce rates. The sooner a visitor gets disgruntled, the quicker their departure from your website.
- Bad business. At the end of the day, if your webpage is discouraging people from engaging with your business, it’s bad for business.
There could be a plethora of reasons behind your poor web performance. Improving your online presence is reliant on you improving your online reputation, and that’s where reputation management services come in.
Identifying the Problem: Do You Need Online Reputation Management Services?
Performing an SEO audit is the first step in identifying whether or not you need reputation management services. You already know something is wrong if you’ve noticed a dip in conversions and purchases.
An SEO audit will tell you if page visits and other particulars have also taken a hit—and whether these issues stem from a slow website or some other, more sinister reason.
Here’s the simplest way to find out whether or not you’re being maligned by some pick thank on the internet: Google yourself.
If something like this shows up:
You know you’re in big trouble. This could happen for a number of reasons:
- A rival business is trying to one-up you by filling online forums with fake, negative reviews
- A shady customer is trying to make you pay by indirectly blackmailing you with fake reviews
- You’ve messed up with a customer by delivering the wrong product, or a customer service rep was curt, leading to them starting a social media smear campaign—it happens more often than you’d think
Whatever the cause, once you discover that there’s a reputation ruination ring roaring on the internet, there’s only one course of action: swift reparations.
Acting Quickly: Taking a Stand
Brand reputation is a major part of your business model and success. Look at Amazon, for example. One of the biggest businesses in the world, people were swift to boycott Amazon when rumors of employee exploitation started surfacing.
Of course, their CEO is worth $130 billion. It’s a mega-company, right up there with Apple, Microsoft, and Google. The dent that Amazon suffered due to a few thousand people boycotting their products or services didn’t do much financial damage. But it did do the one thing that even mega-corporations are affected by: it smeared its reputation. Like Hester Prynne, Amazon will now wear an invisible scarlet letter around its neck forever.
And while something like this doesn’t permanently scar a giant like Amazon—it will hurt your small business, especially if you operate in a small locality. In particular, you’re looking at:
- Lost organic traffic, which sends you straight down the Google rankings abyss.
- Lost paid search clicks. No matter how much money you’re pumping into the enterprise with ads, negative press is negative press.
- Additional costs due to the need for more advertising on social media forums.
- Lower profits
- A lost reputation, which is hard to reclaim.
But your future also depends on reclaiming it.
Reputation Management Fundamentals: Monitoring, Addressing, Mitigating
Reputation management is a long, exhausting process that can take a toll on you. Remember to be patient and keep your final goal in mind. That being said, read on:
Now that you know about the smear campaign against you, be alert for any new attacks; be active on all social media channels, aggressively confront issues, make note of websites or forums where you’re being maligned, and whether or not there’s a specific account behind this. Whether or not you want to take legal action for libel and slander is your decision entirely.
Keeping an eye on what people are saying about you is crucial—because that’s how you’ll know what issues you need to address.
Which brings us to…
If there are certain customers badmouthing you on review websites (such as Yelp or Trip advisor), reach out to them and offer to look into the issue. Tell them you’re working on it. Make sure this interaction is public—for onlookers to see that you’re a responsive, responsible, and reliable business.
If you’re seeing these comments turn up on social media, respond to them publicly before asking for a DM. If the issue that the customer has is genuine, address it, and make the announcement public.
Now, whether or not you’ve addressed the negative information/fake reviews concerning your services/products, here’s the thing: the negative information will remain on the internet. The person who posted it initially might take their post down if it was an individual issue on social media—but smear campaigns live on, because that’s the purpose of their existence.
Your job is to mitigate the damage. In particular, we suggest:
- Creating and boosting positive search results to neutralize or overpower negative entries. Make sure these positive search results are high-ranking on SERPs. Design them to be eye-catching.
- Offer compensation or a legal notice in a bid to get a negative post taken down—but make sure its legal to do so.
- Aggressively create and push up positive content to drown out negative noise. If a negative post is showing up on Page 1 of Google, you want it down on Page 3. For this, you’ll have to flood the SERP with tons of good, optimized content.
- Identify which keywords appear to repeat in all the negative posts and push for positive ranks for those relevant keywords.