Your online presence meets potential customers where they are before they make buying decisions, and they assess your reputation by what others are saying about you on your social media accounts, website, blog, and other digital platforms.

Managing your online reputation, therefore, is a business-critical task. To get started, consider these five activities:

  1. Find all of the places where people can post reviews besides the platforms mentioned earlier. They include Yelp, Google reviews, Next Door, and local news sites.
  2. Create search-engine alerts for keywords, such as your name or business. You’ll get a notification each time somebody searches for your keywords.
  3. Engage with customers who leave negative reviews, deserved or not. If you say you want to make things right, others who look at ratings during the decision-making process will see you are willing to work with dissatisfied customers.
  4. Consider hiring a reputation management service.
  5. Most important: Ask your good customers to rate and review their experiences with your business. Receiving positive reviews on a consistent basis also will help with local search results.

If that seems like a lot of work, consider the cost of negative reviews that can:

  • Spoil customer expectations. Regardless of the superior service you provide, people who post negative reviews will leave potential customers with a big question mark. As mentioned earlier, responding in a courteous and professional manner can soften some of the criticism.
  • Give the wrong impression. As the saying goes, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” That’s as true in the digital domain as it is in face-to-face transactions. Unaddressed negative reviews (and not thanking happy customers for leaving positive ones) can leave the wrong impression.

When responding to reviewers—or any time you post online for business—be honest, friendly, and professional. All of your online content should reflect your brand voice—the distinctive way you present your brand’s personality—and avoid talking down to the digital audience.

You’ll also want to consider archiving your digital presence. Archived information on the internet has been useful in verifying patents and proprietary information; building new sites by repurposing content on previous iterations; and tracing your business’ history. A website archive is preserved for future reference and is a snapshot of the past, captured in pdf or mp3 formats. These archives can help protect your online reputation from any legal matters, such as identity theft or false claims against the organization.

It is vital that organizations protect their online reputation and continuously monitor their online presence. This proactive approach will help keep the business looking and operating professionally.

Think of protecting your online presence as a marketing strategy that will entice more customers and increase sales when functioning well. It is a critical part of online business, and companies should not take it lightly.