Every day, there is more information on the internet about your business. Your business’ online identity is being built every day. But it’s not all on your business’ website. Reviews, social media posts, comments, news stories, listing data, photos, testimonials and more show up on a variety of websites all over the internet.
Most of the time this is a good (or great!) thing. Your business’ online identity can have a powerful impact on SEO, which helps people find your business online. Search engines use this information in a variety of ways to influence your site’s ranking in search results. The more consistent the data, the stronger the influence.
Taking Control of Your Online Identity
Inconsistent listing information, such as old phone numbers or addresses, not only can keep customers from contacting you, it may keep search engines from cross-referencing information with your business.
Taking control and cleaning up this data can be time consuming but it is possible.
Clean up Listings
Cleaning up online identity associated with directory listings requires keeping track of the sites you have direct access to as well as finding third party sites where content is published by customers or comes from data mining.
Many sites allow you to create an account to claiming a listing and update data. Some sites charge for these accounts. Some are part of networks of listing sites that offer keep the data updated across the network for a charge. But beware. Some of these services may remove the corrected information as soon as you stop paying and revert to the old data.
When tracking sites, pay attention to where sites get their information and track it back to the source. This is not always a fast process. Changes made at certain sources can take up to a year to find their way out to the internet, depending on how frequently a particular directory site updates its information. However, it will keep the bad information from continuing to spread.
Because there are so many sites, and you probably don’t have time to update all directories individually, prioritizing those that you think are most important to reach potential customers will help you strike a balance between the slow update process and the daunting task of updating all listings or paying for temporary fixes.
Online Reviews and Reputation
Review sites are popping up everywhere online. A business’ reputation is a major aspect of its online identity. From big players in social media like Facebook, search engine giants like Google, mass review sites like Yelp, and industry or community specific sites, there is no shortage of places where customers can voice their opinion of your business. Some of these sites offer the opportunity to create an account to respond to reviews. Some sites are free. Some charge fees for an account or upgraded tools. But very few of these sites give you the ability to take down bad reviews.
I don’t advocate removing negative reviews. Too many carefully cultivated 5 star reviews stand out just as much as a lot of negative experiences. But that doesn’t mean that you want to keep inaccurate or unfounded reviews. The review sites have processes for contesting a review, but they most always side with the customer and the protections of free speech.
However, if there is a false review written by a competitor, there are processes to report it. At the same time, create a procedure for responding to reviews, good and bad. This shows a higher level of customer service that will reassure customers you will address any bad experiences or problems.
The biggest tool that you can have is something that allows you to monitor review sites so that you know when they come in. Also, a tool that simplifies the response process and centralizes it so you don’t waste your time navigating all over the internet to find things will help. Use the monitoring to help manage the reviews on the sites that are important to you. Set up accounts on any that you believe are worth it.
You can cultivate your own reviews, post these to your website and push out to the review sites instead of waiting for people to post things. Build a process for engaging your customers to post more reviews and engage your brand online.
Not only is this valuable web content that will continue to build your SEO, its content that you control. There are tools that help make sharing these reviews to many of the third party sites.
New social media sites seem to pop on to the scene almost every day. Social Media is an important part of a business’ online identity. Some social media sites maintain business directories and have reputation/review features. Additionally these sites are great ways to interact with your customers in an environment they are comfortable with and invite this communication.
While you may be tempted to set up a business account everywhere that you can, it’s better to only set up accounts on social sites that you are prepared and willing to actively use. Actively posting content and engaging your audience is a key part of social media use. An empty profile page is actually worse for your business. .The only exception is if the social site treats the data as a listing and has a way to block or turn off comments and customer engagement. If a customer were to post questions or look to engage you on an account you do not actively use it could create a negative experience that leads to a bad review or lost customer.
Tools are available to help you monitor social sites and centralize the posting process to help you make the most of your time.
Knowledge is Power
The theme through all of this is the importance of knowledge in managing your time and attention to effectively and efficiently build your business’ online identity. Knowing what listing data is out there. Knowing when reviews have been posted. Knowing when social posts need your attention. Monitoring tools are really important in this process.
MS Digital Solutions has a suite of tools and services available to help you with these processes. Contact MS Digital Solutions to learn about these tools and to also review your identity and reputation needs and a discussion of the best options to effectively and efficiently meet those needs.