E-commerce is all about reputation. Because your customers have no opportunity to handle the merchandise, they have to take what your website says about the products on faith. This is why reviews from other customers are so important to buyers. It's their only way to confirm the legitimacy and overall reliability of an online seller.
Nearly 90 percent of buyers check reviews before making a purchase. If your online store has a lot of negative reviews, you can be sure your sales will suffer. You may not feel it at once, but if you don't do something about it, then it will only get worse.
Reputation Management Companies
The easy solution would be to hire a reputation management company to take care of repairing your reputation. After all that's what they do, right? Unfortunately, reputation management companies are having trouble with their own online reputation. It doesn't help that many of them use illegal tactics to achieve their ends. Oftentimes, the reputation of businesses that hired such companies suffered even more after they were cited by consumer protection agencies.
Good Strategies for Reputation Repair
So what are we saying? You may have to fix your online reputation on your own, or at the very least make sure that the reputation management company you hire will only employ legitimate strategies. To do that, you need to know what those strategies are.
Keep Your Ear to the Ground
Monitor what people are saying about your brand by regularly checking Google search engine results and customer feedback, and by scanning your social networks for new comments as well. Respond to inquiries and show appreciation for positive feedback, and note any negative input that you may find. You shouldn't go into battle blind; do some reconnaissance and you'll be able to formulate an effective defense.
Focus on Content
Fixing a damaged reputation mainly requires good content. Lots of it.
Basically, you will have to do major branding overhaul, just like when you were starting out. The good thing is that you will (hopefully) have a few loyal customers to give you a boost. This is in keeping with how Google ranks websites: by looking at websites to see if they have something important or valuable to give to visitors when they type in a keyword or keyword phrase in the search.
We're not really sure how Google evaluates a site (the exact algorithm is a closely guarded secret), but we do know that websites with subject appropriate content do well in the rankings. Google also values good links within an article. You don't have to put in a link for every other word. It is more important to put a few links to authority sites that are relevant to the content.
Get Good Reviews
The best way to nullify negative reviews is to have a ton of good ones, and the only real way to do that is to give them the best buyer experience possible. It would be a mistake to try to boost your reputation by posting fake reviews. Google has a mysterious way of nosing out bogus reviews and getting caught certainly won't get you any brownie points.
You can't help it if some people post negative reviews despite your best efforts, but you can dilute their impact by having a whole lot more positive comments. You can push down negative content and reviews about your website down to page three, where only the most fastidious searchers are bound to look.
To elicit positive review, simply interact with your users. It always helps to ask nicely after a completed sale/delivery. If you have their contact info, you can send out surveys asking them to rate their experiences. There are tons of options, but the important thing is to politely ask for their feedback.
If your customer has an issue or complains about something, respond immediately, if only to let them know that you're on top of it. Let them know that you will be investigating the matter and promise to get back to them. And then — this is important — actually get back to them.
It won't always matter too much if you can't help them. It is enough that you gave them attention and made the effort to resolve it to their satisfaction. Studies show that most (95%) customers who post negative reviews will relent if you respond promptly and constructively, regardless of the eventual outcome.
Participate in Blogs and Forums
If you want to fix your reputation, you have to become neighborly. As an online retailer, you can score some positive attention by participating in relevant forums and blogs by writing guest articles, offering advice, or posting an intelligent question. This will increase your online presence naturally and in a positive way.
Keep it Fresh
Make it a daily habit to post new content on your site, on blogs, and in your social networks. Concentrate on getting likes and endorsements for your professional profile; this will be associated with your online store. This means more sites will appear in a search for you and your store. This will push down older posts down, and hopefully replace any negative mentions.
Deal with Defamatory or Libelous Posts
You don't have to take untrue or unfair comments lying down. If someone calls you a liar or a cheat on a blog, you can ask the website administrator to remove the malicious comments. You may have to jump through hoops to get it done, but as a whole, webmasters are usually willing remove malicious content from their sites. It's especially helpful if you ask politely and can prove that the comments are false. Don't wait for such comments to get around the block before you act; the sooner you get it out of public view, the better.
You have to realize that a damaged online reputation can seriously undermine all your other efforts in promotion and marketing. As an online retailer, you need to take aggressive measures to protect your reputation because it will determine whether you can continue doing business.
You can do all these on your own with the help of some free tools such as SocialMention and Rankur, but it takes a bit of time that you may or may not have. You can still consider a reputation management company to do online reputation repair for your business, as long as you can keep tight control over how they do it. You have to make sure that they provide you with an action plan that will not get you into deeper trouble.
Have you had any online reputation misadventures? How did the situation turn out? Let us know in the comments.