Internet reputation control is practically a requirement for small, local businesses online. With sites like Yelp, MerchantCircle and Angie’s List, places where your customers can go and post reviews of their experiences with you good and/or bad, it is very important to control your online reputation as well as you possibly can.

Local search sites and reviews can be a huge advantage and help small businesses be seen by local potential customers, but customer reviews play a heavy handed role in determining local search results. Not every review may be positive, but the more positive reviews the you have the better your chances are. The biggest way to control your online reputation is to be an active participant and manage it.

Reputation management basically means keeping count of what people are saying about you and your business. If you find a negative review, try to see if there is anything you can do to reach out to the customer and change their minds. At the very least, try to make sure that bad experience doesn’t repeat with another customer. Customer reviews can really tell you how smoothly your operating, how your workers are doing and how you as a business in general are holding up, you just have to listen.

Here are some tips to help with your online reputation management:

  1. Ask your customers to rate you. Since the more reviews you have the better, ask your customers to do it! Local search sites factor reviews, so it is very important to try and get many so that you may appear higher ranked on the results. Ask customers to write reviews on their favorite websites, if you have an email list use it to request customer reviews. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many customers will be happy to do this.
  2. Do not ever fake a review. Faking reviews is not the solution to getting more reviews. Getting genuine ones may take some time, but it is worth it to have the honest opinion. Fabricated reviews will always come back to haunt you.
  3. Tune in to what customers are saying. Do a search of your business and see what people are saying. There is a feature in Google Places that lets you see reviews. Google Alerts can also notify you when someone mentions your business online. Look at the reviews and comments you find, see where they are coming from and become a member to the popular sites so that you have control over your businesses page.
  4. Not everything comes up roses. Some reviews may be negative but it isn’t the end of the world. Consider negative reviews an opportunity to improve your customer’s experience.

Reviews are a great opportunity to help your business grow in the right direction. Participate in some online reputation management and you can open doors to improvement and customer satisfaction.

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