Your online reputation matters now more than ever. Customers across every industry are looking for experts and businesses online before they buy. Over 90% of customers are reading reviews before buying, testimonials are sales pages are driving more purchases, and customers are shying away from businesses with bad reputations. If you’re not sure how customers are seeing your business, now is a great time to find out. Here’s how to do an online reputation audit, step-by-step.
How to Do an Online Reputation Audit
When we think of the word “reputation” we generally think of how a person, business or group is viewed by the public and by peers. A good reputation in business ultimately equates to brand equity. Brand equity makes your business more desirable and makes your products or services more valuable. To improve your reputation and grow your brand equity, you first need to know how to do an online reputation audit, and what your reputation is actually made of.
All of the following are a part of your business reputation. We’ll talk about auditing all of these elements.
- News stories and events: from scandals to philanthropy, big events and news stories can make big impacts on your reputation.
- Awareness: If customers aren’t aware that you exist, it’s difficult to have any reputation at all.
- Customer satisfaction: Businesses that serve their customers well and consistently fulfill their needs tend to have higher reputations and better brand equity.
- Customer sentiment: Sometimes, your customers may be satisfied overall, but unhappy with other elements, such as your prices or business practices.
- Reviews and testimonials: Reviews and testimonials are the public-facing representation of customer sentiment, and statistics show that they make a big impact on your bottom line.
- Industry authority: You may be serving customers well and doing a good job, but are you knowledgeable in your field?
News and events are certainly not the only element of your business reputation, but they can be important. When positive buzz surrounds your business, customers are thinking about you in a positive light. And, of course, the opposite is also true.
The first step in your online reputation audit is to get a good picture of the big stories surrounding your business. Do a Google search on your business name as well as prominent members of your business. You’ll probably find one of the following:
- True, positive stories: This is a great start. Promote these stories in your social media and in your store, if you can.
- False, negative stories: If you know these stories aren’t true and you can prove it, contact the website owner and tell them to take down the story. If they refuse and you know this story is damaging your business, consider working with a lawyer about a libel or defamation suit.
- True, negative stories: Maybe your business or your staff has had some tough moments in the limelight. Instead of denying or making excuses, own up, make a plan for doing better, and execute it.
Now that you have a good handle on the buzz around your business, you’ll want to monitor future publicity too. Set up Google alerts on your business name or staff members, so you’ll know when you’re mentioned. Generate positive buzz by setting up events, supporting local causes, and cultivating press contacts.
Customer awareness is a key part of your reputation. If customers aren’t aware that you exist, it’s difficult to have a good or bad reputation. Assessing awareness is an important part of an online reputation audit. There are a few metrics that can give you an approximation of customer awareness around your brand. A number of reputation monitoring tools can make this process easier.
- Direct web traffic: This measures customers who are visiting your site directly, using your business name, URL, a bookmark or something similar. You’ll find this in the analytics section of your website. Google Analytics is a free and useful tool for measuring web traffic, but there are others available.
- Referral web traffic: When other websites link to yours and customers click on the links, it’s referral traffic. This is a great way to increase awareness for your business.
- Social followers and interactions: Your followers and those interacting with your social media content are aware, on some level, that you exist. Some may be loyal customers and others may be only vaguely aware.
- Social mentions: When social media users are talking about your brand, it increases awareness. However, the reason behind the buzz might not always be positive. Use social media tools to monitor your brand mentions and intervene when necessary.
Measure Customer Satisfaction
Your reputation is made from the sentiment and attitudes of both customers and non-customers. However, high customer satisfaction is a good indicator of a good reputation. Measuring your current customers’ satisfaction is one of the most important parts of an online reputation audit.
There are a number of ways to measure customer satisfaction. One of the easiest and most efficient is with a customer satisfaction survey. There are a number of customer satisfaction surveys that can help you gauge your customers’ satisfaction, including Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT).
These surveys are generally quick and easy to fill out. They usually consist of one or two questions. The first is a numeric scale asking about whether a customer would recommend your business to family and friends (NPS) or asking about their overall satisfaction (CSAT). The second question is an open-ended follow-up question asking the customer why they responded the way that they did. This will give you more in-depth information about what is affecting your customers’ satisfaction.
Measure Customer Sentiment
As previously mentioned, customer satisfaction and customer sentiment are not always directly correlated. Sometimes, customers might be satisfied overall with your products or services, but they might have other concerns or problems, such as your pricing or business practices. Or, former customers may have complaints and concerns that are affecting your reputation.
Knowing how to measure customer sentiment is an important part of knowing how to do an online reputation audit. This can be complex, since it’s difficult to quantitatively measure a person’s or group’s feelings. There are a number of strategies and tools that can help.
- In-depth customer surveys: Asking your customers more open-ended questions about specific parts of your business can help to show how they really feel.
- Outgoing customer surveys: When a customer leaves your business, it may be because they encountered a problem. Send a survey when a customer cancels a subscription or doesn’t purchase for a while. This will give you insights into problems that may be hurting your customer sentiment.
- Monitor social mentions: Sentiment about your business doesn’t always involve customers. People on social media may talk about your brand positively or negatively. Use social media monitoring tools to watch these conversations, and grade them as positive or negative.
- Measure reviews and testimonials: There are many places that a customer might provide a review. Take a look at these sites and see what customers are saying.
Assess Industry Authority
Authority and knowledge in your industry often correlates with trust. People are more likely to trust a brand that demonstrates that they know how to solve a problem. Have you shown that you are the authority in your industry? Here are a few things to consider.
- Your blog: You blog is a great way to make positive contributions to your online reputation. Find out what concerns and questions customers have, and answer them.
- Guest blogging: Share your blog posts with other bloggers. You can lend your expertise while other bloggers lend their audience.
Industry journals: If there is a respected journal, website, magazine or similar publication in your industry, try to contribute to it.
- Expert columns: Local newspapers, magazines and other publications may be looking for your expertise for a regular column.
- Informative materials: Educating your customers is a good way to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. Provide downloadable documents that can help to answer questions.
- Q&A Forums: Consumers are probably asking questions that you can answer right now. Many forums like Quora, Reddit, Stack Exchange and others allow users to submit questions and experts to answer.
A business’s reputation involves many different factors. Now that you know how to do an online reputation audit, get started at a place that makes the most sense to you. If you find that your reputation isn’t where you’d like it to be, start asking customers to submit positive reviews, share your knowledge with those that can benefit from it, and work on a strategy to generate positive buzz. With concentrated effort and careful monitoring, you can improve your online reputation and grow your brand equity.
Posted in: User Generated Content (UGC)