By Rich Gorman
For small business owners, reputation defense is not just a good idea—it is utterly imperative. Think about it: There are countless small businesses out there and, thanks to the Web, your potential customers can quickly and easily locate information about any one of them. If they Google your name and don’t like what they see, it’s the simplest thing in the world for them to take their business to one of your competitors.
A bad reputation means lost sales, lost customers, lost money—your reputation is not just your business card, but your very lifeblood! The bad news is that there are many online reputation potholes that small business owners can fall into, often without fully realizing it. The good news? By knowing what these potholes are, you can successfully avoid them!
Here are five online reputation mistakes you might be making, without even realizing it!
1. The most significant mistake of them all is a simple failure to know what your online reputation even is. An online reputation management campaign always begins with monitoring. Google yourself regularly and also check what people are saying about your brand on Facebook and Twitter. Do you have negative reviews that need to be addressed? Monitoring is the only way you’ll find out!
2. Another common error is failing to control the story about your brand. When there’s a major happening at your company—whether positive or negative—you should be the one to tell the public about it, in a way that suits your purposes. A blog is one way to do this; press releases are even better.
3. Social media is a big part of reputation management, yet many small business owners neglect it. Don’t become one of them! Make sure you’ve signed up for accounts on all the major social networks and that you regularly post content to at least one or two of them! Also ensure that you don’t have an intern or someone unfamiliar with your company’s values, updating your accounts.
4. Another common mistake is failing to snatch up the best online real estate. The exact-match domain names—that is to say, your company’s name .com, .org, and .net—are going to be the listings that rank best on Google. You may not need to use all of these domains, but purchase them anyway, to keep your enemies or rivals from using them against you!
5. Finally, a common reputation management mistake is responding in haste to negative reviews. The best approach actually is typically not to respond at all. A response will only draw more attention to the negative review in question. Rather than respond to negative reviews, try to suppress them with positive content—posted to those online domains, your business blog, Facebook, Twitter, and so on!
Protecting the online reputation of an entire business is never easy. A single mistake can prove ruinous—but by knowing what the stakes are, businesses can ensure they’re doing everything they can to defend their online reputation!
Rich Gorman is an experienced veteran in both the reputation management and direct response marketing industries. He currently works at ReputationChanger.com and also operates the official blog for the Direct Response marketing industry: DirectResponse.net.