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How to Take Control and Improve Your Online Reputation

In Part 2 of our online reputation series, we give you the tools you need to take control of the conversions about your business.

If you are new to the world of SEO and online marketing, you might think your company’s reputation is completely out of your hands. When so many people are just typing whatever they want into their computers, how are you supposed to stop them from writing a negative review about your business? How are you supposed to persuade them to write a good review?

If there’s one thing to be learned from our line of work here at LinkNow, it’s up to you to manage your online reputation. It is determined by how you handle every situation—good or bad.

Here are a few ways you can improve your company’s online reputation.

You Received a Negative Review. Now What?

Did you wake up to discover that a customer of yours has penned a negative review about your business? Maybe your team had a bad day and underperformed with the client. Maybe there was some misunderstanding. Maybe the client’s criticisms are unfounded and simply unfair.

In these situations, you might feel attacked and scared for your business. Your gut response might be to respond heatedly and tell this customer just how wrong they are. I mean, they’re attacking your business after all. That business is your livelihood!

We’ll tell you the same thing we tell all our clients at LinkNow: Don’t respond negatively to a negative review! Don’t lose your cool. Doing so might lead to the online equivalent of a shouting match between you and a customer. Is that something you’d want people to see when they walk through your door? Probably not.

Respond Positively to Negative Reviews

Whether they’re right or not it is always in your best interest to do two things:

  1. Publicly respond to the negative review if possible
  2. Be positive and receptive to the dissatisfied client.

Let the customer know you hear their complaints, criticisms, and concerns. When customers air grievances, they might expect a lot of things in return. While you might not be able to turn back time, you can at least let them know they’ve been heard and acknowledged. Let them know that the problem will be addressed with your staff and will not happen again.

Every business gets a negative review every now and then. If you handle it professionally and graciously, customers will chalk the issue up to a misunderstanding or isolated incident.

Ask Newcomers and Regulars for Reviews

Like we said, every business is bound to get one or two negative reviews. What helps is when there are many positive reviews on your Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook pages to make those negative reviews seem less representative of your company.

If your business has been operational since before the advent of social media, asking clients for online reviews might seem kind of strange. You might be worried that you’re being pushy. Don’t be! In the age of ‘Buy Local’, people love supporting local businesses. What better way for them to show their support than to post a glowing, thoughtful, and honest review of your business?

A Reputation Built on Reviews

Before you get customer reviews, you need an online presence. For some business owners, that is especially difficult. At LinkNow Media, we’ve helped over 10,000 small business owners spread the word about their services. Once we’ve established your online presence, you’ll have the customers you need to get those important reviews!

December Fake Review Attack Affects Hundreds of Small Businesses

Throughout the past months, we’ve been writing a lot about the ways that review platforms like Yelp and Google control fake reviews. Google, for example, began systematically deleting anonymous reviews last spring in an effort to make it more difficult for black hat SEOs to do negative SEO attacks.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite solve the problem. Although Google users can no longer post anonymously, they can still create fake profiles and use them to target the competition.

This is exactly what happened in early December, when small businesses across the U.S. and the world were suddenly bombarded with fake 4-star reviews.

Read on if you want to learn how to protect yourself from the next attack.

What We Know About The December Fake Review Attack

Although no one knows who was behind the fake review attack or what their endgame was, we do know a few things.

It appears that around 37 fake profiles were used to leave over 3 million 4-star Google reviews. When you divide it up, the average profile left around 81 000 ratings—in a matter of days. The small business owners affected by the attack were left confused and worried about their rank on Google.

After all, even though the reviews were all 4-star, many business owners speculated about whether they’d be punished for artificially inflating their rating.

Luckily, the sheer scale of the attack was enough to set Google in motion straight away. Within 5 days they had taken all (or nearly all) of the fake reviews offline. But even though the ratings returned to normal those affected still don’t have the answers they need.

Possible Motives For The Attack

After reviewing the affected businesses, it’s still unclear why they were targeted and not others. In many ways it appears to have been random. The only thing that connects all the victims together is that they were typically small businesses.

Many people asked why 4-star reviews were used for the attack rather than 1 or 2-star reviews. Perhaps it was an attempt to veil the attack in the hopes that Google would punish many of those businesses for inflating their ratings.

Although it’s pure speculation, there’s also the possibility that this was a kind of test operation—an attempt to work out a plan of action for another attack that would be subtler and on a larger scale. It’s hard to say exactly, but we’re happy it’s been taken care of.

It could’ve also been an attempt show that Google reviews are not so legitimate as they’d like them to appear. Vulnerabilities like the ones the attack made visible, serve to disrupt Google’s own trustworthiness­­—and the irony isn’t lost on us!

Why Is It Important To Understand Fake Reviews?

At LinkNow Media, reviews and ratings form a large part of our reputation management strategy. From the point of view of conversion, we know that most clients will check Google reviews before making a purchase.

The problem is not just related to conversion either. It’s also about trust. A lot of web traffic is the result of business listing website clicks. Business owners with untrustworthy reviews may experience sudden traffic drops simply due to clients opting for the competition.

It’s worth keeping in mind that Google establishes rankings with the trustworthiness of your online presence in mind. If you have fake reviews on Google (and elsewhere), you could find yourself running into problems with your rankings.

Conclusion

Keep track of who is reviewing your listings and what they are saying. Be vigilant. All the time. Every day.

If you notice suspicious activity, report it to Google. Take a look through SEO blogs to see if anyone’s talking about an attack. If you’re not sure about it or would like some advice, call LinkNow Media to speak with one of our SEO experts!

How to Get Positive Online Reviews from Your Clients on Boxing Day

There are few industries in the world that have an easy time getting positive reviews from their clients. Getting positive reviews during the busiest time of year is no exception either. Negative reviews? Sure. Some customers will leave negative reviews for the most minor of offenses—or for no offense at all. Those reviews, however, are not the kind we’re talking about.

We’re talking about honest, positive reviews. Thoughtful reviews, or just reviews that consist of the briefest of compliments. There are few companies that don’t struggle to get glowing (and unincentivized!) reviews. Even the companies who’ve never failed to provide with customers with complete satisfaction can’t seem to get a single 5-star review on their Yelp or Google listing!

At LinkNow Media, we talk with a lot of business owners. Most of them, at first, have this very same dilemma. They do great work day-in, day-out, and every customer always leaves their shop with a satisfied smile on their face—but alas, their Google and Yelp review sections are blank.

How do we help our clients get out of this slump? How can you get your clients to spread the good word about your high-quality customer service during the holiday season?

Here are a few of the suggestions LinkNow Media provides to our clients.

Ask Your Clients to Leave Reviews!

That’s right. Just ask them! Despite how hectic holiday shopping and Boxing Day sales may be, people are still imbued with the Christmas spirit. It’s the season of giving! They’re eager to reciprocate warm feelings and generosity. Any time you have a positive experience with a client in person this holiday season, just ask them to leave a little review!

You might be wondering, “Is it OK to ask for reviews?” For Google at least, the answer is 100%, “Yes!” Ask away!

Yelp, on the other hand, has made it explicitly clear that no company should incentivize clients and customers to leave reviews. What does that mean? In short, it means that your customers should be leaving reviews because they genuinely want to spread the word about the business or help you out. The same rule should apply to any other review platform as well. You should want EVERY review to be genuine and sincere, after all.

Asking in person might seem stressful or pushy, but it really isn’t. A good customer interaction should be professional, yes, but it should also be personable and good-natured. If you have a friendly rapport with your client, asking them for a review should not seem pushy.

There is no better time than the end of a sale to ask your client to leave a review. They’ll have just been helped out by you, so they’ll be eager to help your business out and spread the good word.

The “Buy Local” Campaign

Now more than ever, people love supporting local businesses. Small business owners are a valued part of any community. If your clients see your business as a community-oriented company that is “local” in spirit and practice, they’ll be more inclined to leave you a positive review.

The “Tip” Method

Another great approach for gathering more online reviews is the “tip” approach. After you’ve had a great Holiday interaction with a client let them know that if they leave a positive review mentioning the name of the person that helped them, the company will give them a tip or “holiday bonus” for their great service.

We’ve seen this method work time and time again. Many clients see it as a way of “giving back” to their service providers and local workers. And all that’s required of them is that they leave a genuine and honest review!

There are other ways to accumulate positive online reviews, but they all require one thing: Quality customer interactions! If you’re not providing your client warm, friendly, and first-rate customer service this holiday season, they’ll be more inclined to give you a lump of goal over a good review.

The Best Customer Review Sites for Your Business

The Best Customer Review Sites for Your Business

It is great if your business gets a good customer review. It means you’ve succeeded in satisfying your client’s needs, and maybe you even exceeded their expectations. Customer reviews are also great for those internet-searching clients looking to find the best businesses in their area. Many consumers rely on customer feedback to help them make decisions. 90% of consumers, in fact, will seek out customer reviews for your business for they give you a call or step in your door. Many of these consumers trust the reviews of anonymous customers as much as they trust the reviews of their own friends and family!

That’s why it is important to know which review sites to direct your energy towards, and which ones to ignore. As you can imagine, there are a variety of customer review sites at your fingertips. Some are so obvious you might overlook them, while others might surprise you. Here are a few of the best:

Google My Business Reviews

To fully utilize the power of Google, every business owner should claim their business on Google My Business. Once your business is claimed and verified, you can edit this listing and optimize it to your heart’s content—the more reflective of your business it is, the better. When someone Googles your business, this listing will be the first thing they see. The average consumer still holds Google in high esteem—and rightly so. A claimed and optimized Google listing will be enticing to reviewers, and those reviews will be the first thing potential customers see when they Google your company!

Yelp Reviews

You’ve probably heard of this one too. Yelp is one of the most popular customer review sites in the world. Every business needs to have a Yelp presence these days. On average, this platform gets about 142 million users per month. Consumers usually take those one or two negative Yelp reviews with a grain of salt, while always being more persuaded by the positive reviews. Encourage your customers to leave you a good review!

Facebook Reviews

This is a great platform for customers to communicate with you and other consumers. Everyone uses Facebook now, so if your company hasn’t utilized Facebook, we strongly advise you to do so soon. Consumers who don’t even rely on more popular customer review sites might stumble upon your business while browsing through Facebook. If you have a strong Facebook presence and your page is full of positive reviews, you’ll be a standout company in their eyes.

Reviews on Your Own Website

Yes, we can mention Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, Better Business Bureau, and many other customer review sites for your B2B and B2C company, but none of these provide you with the same control a website does. With your own website, you can publicize your best reviews, your awards, accreditation, and more. A sleek, well-designed website with glowing testimonials and customer reviews will give any consumer the assurance they need.

When Reviews Get Personal

Personal Reviews

When we talk about online reviews we often discuss businesses with multiple people at play—the owner, partners, employees, and clients walking through the door whether that be a physical one or an online one.

But what if you’re the sole-proprietor of your own small business, or a freelancer working for larger companies? Then things start to take a more personal turn on the topic of reviews. As the primary figurehead of your business, the only owner, and the only employee, it’s going to be nearly impossible to separate the actions of yourself from the work you do.

While many freelancers will not open themselves up to online review in the classic sense, if you are the owner of your own online storefront, that’s not an option you’re going to have.

When the Face Impacts the Business

Businesses like NastyGal and Lime Crime may have a multitude of employees, but they make for good case studies when it comes to showing how the face of a business can impact its sales.

NastyGal

By now, many in the retail world know the story of the rise and fall of GirlBoss Sophia Amoruso. But we’re going to point out a situation that happened before the official launch of NastyGal.com, back when NastyGal Vintage was a not-so-humble eBay store.

Marking up thrift store finds from $8 to $1,000, Amoruso started garnering the disapproval of other vintage eBay sellers. Not content to ignore them and continue on her way, she would delve into chatrooms to argue with and troll fellow sellers. The result? They banded together to get her store shut down.

Now, while this gave her the push to launch her multi-million dollar .com, it was a low point that displays how getting personal can bring you into the spotlight and ensure that simple seller jealousy turns into a personal vendetta with a lot more power behind it.

Lime Crime

As of 2015, Lime Crime was labeled “the most hated beauty company on the internet” by a multitude of online bloggers. Right from the start, the brand was founded by Doe Deere who already had popularity online through LiveJournal, which as it turned out would both help and hinder her brand.

When you’re an online personality, there’s dirt for people to dig up, and being in the blogosphere, there were a lot of people on the lookout for Deere’s first slip-up. And dirt was indeed dug up.

And, amidst news of Deere threatening legal action against a 13 year-old for photo credits, repackaging her makeup, and dressing as a Nazi for Halloween—how did Deere react? She got deeply involved in the conversation even suing multiple bloggers.

Lime Crime is a textbook case of a company face tarnishing the reputation of a good product.

In Conclusion

The message to keep in mind if you are the owner of your own small business or you work freelance for larger companies, is to remember that you are your business.
Especially in the age of the internet, people are always watching. And while that may seem creepy, it’s a good thought to keep in mind. As a business owner, you now represent that business at all times. So, try not to wear offensive Halloween costumes and sue your critics. It’s the least you can do.

Where Will Online Reviews Take You in 2018?

Online Reviews in 2018

Whether you’re just starting out online or you’ve been promoting your company on the World Wide Web for years now, there’s no denying the strength of a quality collection of online reviews.

Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List… it goes on and on. The sites that people can use to have their say about your business are endless.

Opening up your business to reviews can be scary at first, but after you settle into a routine, you take them as they come. However, if you are just starting out or you’re in a bad place with your reviews currently, your main resolution for 2018 should be to create a quality reputation for your company online.

The Stats

We’ll start off with the stats. Heading into 2018, we’ve got a few we know already.

  • 82% of Americans pay attention to the reviews of their friends and family.
  • 92% of all consumers are reading reviews.
  • 31%of consumers will spend 31% more on businesses with good reviews.

In fact, if your business has a one star rating only 5% of consumers will feel comfortable purchasing from you or using your services. That’s a pretty staggering case for staying on top of your reviews.

Collecting Reviews in the New Year

Whether you were already aware of it or not, there are good ways to get reviews, and bad ways. And while the lines of legality can be tough considering you’re on the internet, consider this: Companies paying for reviews left by fake reviewers have been sued multiple times in the past by large corporations such as Amazon. Just don’t do it.

Instead, collect your reviews direct from happy customers. If you have a storefront, put a sign at your counter telling people how they can have their say, or even include a flyer with their receipt that tells them the same. Your clients will want to be heard, so letting them know they have an outlet will do the trick.

Responding to Bad Reviews

Got a bad review? It probably doesn’t feel very good. We’ve all been there. What can you do about it? Respond as quickly as possible.

If the review is from an unreasonable client, explain your stance politely and offer restitution if possible. If you are in the wrong, admit this immediately and offer a discount or other reward. Whether these clients accept what you say or not, you are showing that you are a professional and reasonable business owner. This will go a long way for potential clients reading your negative reviews.

The worst thing you can do in the case of a negative review is ignore it. It’s not going to go away.

A Toast to Your Success

When you’ve got a top-rated business online you can truly get ready to pop that champagne and celebrate. Online reviews can be frustrating but always keep in mind that your clients are the people who keep your business going. Their input is valuable, and without them you wouldn’t be around very long!

Happy New Year, and happy reviewing!

Chaos: The World of Online Reviews

Chaos Online Reviews

The world of online reviews can be a chaotic one. So, is it really that necessary to be a part of it? For many business, they are losing interest and dropping the option for reviews altogether on websites like Facebook where this is possible.

Larger companies such as conventions find themselves inundated with reviews from false reviewers, disappointed attendees who didn’t have lofty needs met, and more. Knowing that they’re still guaranteed a large attendance, why bother leaving those pesky reviews up?

And, with mega review site Yelp itself clocking in at 57% of their reviews being one star, it’s clear that the community is not impressed. And Yelp is not the only one. There are a lot of online business owners out there who think review website aren’t doing their job when it comes to quality control.

Control Your Feedback

While it’s impossible to have full control over your online reviews, there are steps you can take to ensure your review section online is not a total disaster. It all starts with vigilance.

If you’re just starting out and have the time to man your own reviews, make sure that you set up notifications so you can see them as the roll in. If you are a larger company that gets multiple reviews in a week or even day, you’re going to need a dedicated employee for this task.

Response is everything when it comes to reviews. If you have received a negative review from a genuine client of whom you can comment on their experience and offer a solution, do it as quickly as possible. If you have received a review not left by a genuine customer, you can calmly and professionally express your side of the story.

And, the report button is your friend. Most recently, Google reviews updated their terms of service to state that ex-employees cannot leave negative reviews. If you’re dealing with those, send a report to Google straight away!

The Power is in Your Hands… Sort Of

It’s a tough fact of life that online reviews are always going to be a bit of a mess. In a world where an argument to remove a review is very much “he said she said,” it’s not easy for moderators on websites such as Yelp to make decisions in your favor.

But the power is still in your hands, and reviews are still useful to your business.

The stats still are there. Ninety-two percent of consumers in 2018 are reading online reviews when looking for local businesses and 42% of these consumers won’t use business with less than a three-star rating.

Business owners may not have complete control over the state of their reviews, but they can always do their best to represent themselves properly.

The most anyone can do is their best, so stay on top of your reviews, run your business ethically, and remember: the customer is always right. Unless they’re not really your customer and have a personal vendetta against you. 😉

Lose Your Bad Review Rep

Lose Your Bad Review Rep

We’ve all seen how important online reviews were for businesses in 2017, and know how horrifying it can be when you put your business out there hoping to hear the best, and instead receive negativity.

A shocking 97% of consumers are browsing for local businesses and reading online reviews, with these reviews impacting nearly 70% of purchasing decisions. The last thing you should be doing is sitting back, relaxing, letting the reviews flow in and focusing on other parts of your business.

However, it also needs to be said that freaking out about every bad review is not the best path to go down either. So, what do you do to regain your reputation when reviews go sour?

It’s Not So Bad

Let’s start off with another statistic: 77% of consumers don’t pay attention to reviews older than three months.

Breathing a little better now? While it is a wait period, if you’re actively monitoring your reviews, taking in constructive criticism, and responding professionally to non-constructive criticism, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to ride this out.

Negative reviews can happen for a lot of reasons. You could be dealing with a competitor sending fake reviews your way, you could have had a difficult customer who just can’t be satisfied, or you made a mistake. In all of these cases—it’s not so bad. There are ways to deal, and to recover.

Keep up Communication

If you launched your business, immediately opened it up for reviews, and then got inundated with all that comes along with launching a business, don’t be surprised if your reviews are less than kind.

Lots of us have been there—you haven’t looked in a while, and when you do, you get that sick feeling in your stomach.

First: You can’t go back. If you have yet to build your online presence and open yourself up to reviews, hold off until you’re a bit more established.

If not… get communicating! A review without a response is a missed opportunity.

You Can Improve

It’s easy as a business owner to become protective over your company and believe that it can do no wrong. But this is absolutely never the case.

As humans, we make mistakes. As humans, what one of us likes is not always what another one of us will like. You’re always going to have unhappy customers, and opening yourself up to their criticism will only make you and your business better.

This Too Shall Pass

A good mantra for anyone dealing with review stress is: “This too shall pass”.

Online reviews are important, and yes, they will be there forever. But the more time goes by, the less those few bad ones are going to matter.

And best of all, now you have a public record of just how far you’ve come!

Reviews Gone Wrong

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Back in the day the keys to success as a business were mainly providing a superior product and offering good value and service. Fast forward to today and it’s easy to see that this is no longer the case. For a business to be successful in this day and age, customer experience is going to rank the highest.

We all know the importance of online reviews and how platforms like social media can be used to rank a customer’s experience with your business. The internet is an arena for interactive feedback and while the success of your business can be based off this type of interaction, it can also be harmed.

When it comes to reviewing a business online or engaging in interactive feedback, online discussions, or comments about a company or a service, oftentimes customers or those visiting your website will base their comments on things that may be out of your control as a business owner. When reviews are posted that have nothing to do with an actual customer experience it can easily spiral out of control.

Don’t Get Personal

Reviews are meant to based on actual customer experience and not on anything else. However, we often come across those who will write negative reviews or provide not-so-flattering commentary based on personal beliefs or on the activities or personal behaviour of employees.

Such reviews are unfair, and while business owners usually seek to hire people whose values align with those of their company, the truth is that business owners cannot control what their employees do while they are not at work.

Our personal lives are hardly personal anymore with everything being shared on social media, and customers can easily see what your employees are up to when they’re not at work. If this behaviour is deemed offensive by anyone it could unfortunately adversely impact your business in the form of negative reviews or harsh commentary.

This type of review is unfair for everyone mainly because it does not reflect an actual customer experience with your business. And while a customer may be offended by the behaviour of an employee, if that behaviour did not occur while the employee was at work, and it did not affect the customer’s experience, then it really has no bearing on your business and your company should be left out of it.

Think Before You Post

The challenge comes from the blurring of personal and public and where to draw the line. Employers should make it clear that if an employee is going to engage in any questionable behaviour that it may have a negative impact on the image of the company that they work for. And while employers can’t control what their staff does on their own free time, they can encourage them to think about what they share with the public online.

Customer Experience Wins Every Time

Customer experience should still be the main benchmark of success as a business in this age of over-sharing and instant feedback. Remember to consider this before leaving a negative review about a business based on anything else. While you may not agree with something that someone does in their personal time, is it really fair to involve the company they work for?

How to Monitor Your Online Reputation

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If you’ve been paying attention to the statistics about online reputation over the past year, you’ll know just how important your online reputation is.

If not, let’s start with a couple facts:

  • 97% of consumers read online reviews.
  • 85% of them trust these reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • 73% of them trust a business more if it has positive reviews.
  • 49% will not choose a business with less than a four-star rating.
  • With that in mind, you can start creating a plan to collect and monitor reviews to build your online reputation.

    The DIY Method

    The majority of business owners who are just starting out, are going to go through a period where they try to do everything on their own. While this is a heroic effort, it can leave you burned out, stressed, and ineffective.

    However, if you’re looking for the best sites to make monitoring your own online reputation a little easier, there are options out there.

    Google Alerts

    When business owners think reviews, they think Google. Not only will Google alert you to new reviews left through your Google My Business listing, but you can set Google alerts to notify you every time new posts are made online involving keywords of your choice. Plug in your company name and you’re good to go.

    Hootsuite

    Hootsuite is the ultimate home base for monitoring all of your social media in one location. Not only can you schedule posts and engage with your clients faster than ever, but when they engage with you, you’ll see them. Best of all, Hootsuite will provide you with analytics reports for every account you have running through them!

    The Stress-Free Method

    You’ve done all the legwork involved in launching your business, and now it’s up to you to run it successfully. It’s a lot to have on one person’s shoulders. The last thing you need is to deal with aspects of your business that someone else could be managing.

    By hiring a professional web development company such as LinkNow Media, you’ll be arming yourself with a professional team of SEOs who can get your company ranking high and ensure that your reputation stays positive.

    Go Forth and Gather Reviews!

    You can’t have much of an online reputation without the reviews to back you up. While there are some big “NOs” when it comes to review gathering, it’s a fact that 68% of your clients will leave a review if asked.

    Don’t go down the rabbit hole of paying for reviews, since it can come back to bite you in the form of fines. And, don’t review your own business. Fake reviews never lead anywhere good.
    Next time you have a happy customer finish conducting their business with you, let them know you’d love to hear their feedback. Soon your company will be well on its way to being the most popular kid online!

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