In the following blog we’ll give you describe the basics of managing your online reputation. This applies broadly to different types of small business, not just home improvement companies. The differences among verticals could be its own blog, but is sufficient to say that a key part is that each industry has their own focused directories that factor heavily in directing traffic to your site.

You probably don’t know the damage of a negative review online can have on your business. A company that actively manages their reputation may have one bad review among dozens of positive reviews and for these companies the impact is negligible.  However, for a company that’s missing the boat here risks having an online reputation jaded with the bad review because that’s all people can find! Companies with contractor directories that host reviews about your company do a formidable job getting your company reviews, good or bad, ranking well in the search results. What’s more is that big search engines love reviews and recommendations, and offer rich snippets to directory listing companies to preview with a 5 star picture along side their search results. 

Have a look at a search results for Plumbers in Boston, MA. In the first image, two business have their reviews showing up on the first page; a 3 star company and 4 star company. In the second image, further down the page, we see another company with a 2.8 rating. So regardless of whether you are trying or not, your reputation shows up online in ways you may not have anticipated. Below, we get into the 3 steps in what you can do to protect yourself and avoid the poor 2.8 star ratings.

Organic Search result for Boston Plumber

Organic Search result for Boston Plumber

Local Search result for Boston Plumber

Local Search result for Boston Plumber

1) Monitor your online presence

The first step is to know what’s showing up. You need to monitor what’s being said about you on the internet. The easiest way to figure it out is by searching for your company and check the results on the first 2-3 pages. Search for variations of business name, with and without quotes, then search your business name + reviews, and then try your business name + sucks, stinks, lousy or scam. Ok, you’ve got a glimpse of what’s happening, thats great you may want to move to step 2. However, your business reputation doesn’t stand still on the internet – how can you stay on top of things?

One common recommendation is to setup some Google Alerts with 2 or 3 key search queries that email you anytime their search engine finds new content. In practice, however, we’ve found their service to be only a little effective, it missed things, doesn’t always notify you and there’s talk that Google is going to discontinue the service. Tools such as our GetProsOnline monthly subscriptions has a monitoring service does a better job of keeping on top of your online reviews.

2) Respond Quickly

When you find bad reviews you have a couple options. Craft a reply with a quality thoughtful response. Thank them for feedback, and bring it up with staff. You may ask them to provide additional information or if there is something specific to improve. It is important to be sincere so that a) you might learn something you should improve b) your professional demeanour will be posted on the web and show up for years. How someone responds to criticisms provides clues as to how you respect the customers and is an opportunity to mitigate the impact of the bad review. 

If its a spam, false (person was never a client), slanderous, insulting, or nasty comment, you may want to content directory owner. Some places have a flag as inappropriate option. Otherwise, you may ask the website owner to remove it and as a last resort, contact host, saying there is something slanderous on their website. It may seem a bit extreme, but there are plenty of examples of internet trolls so you need to protect yourself.

3) Curate your reputation

Most importantly, and on a positive side, you want to curate your reputation. Get more good reviews and neutralize the bad reviews before they show up online. Simply put, talk to your customers; asking how did we do, or give them an online feedback forum [something we do for our monthly subscribers] and generally empower them to give you direct feedback. You can ask good clients to put something online in your preferred directories. Meanwhile, those with negative feedback are happy you’ll listen to them and it can often diffuse their anger and prevent them from putting negative reviews online.

Mark van Berkel is Founder and President of Hunch Manifest Inc. While managing business operations he also leads the team in designing semantic technology to provide personalized online presence and reputation management services. Prior to forming the company, he was consultant in enterprise software projects to companies including Panasonic, Shell, and General Electric and was an Architect for a world leading human capital management software-as-a-service. Mark holds a Bachelor of Information Systems from StFX University and did his graduate studies at University of Toronto, getting a MEng Industrial Information Engineering and an MBA, Strategy and Innovation from the Rotman School of Management. In 2006 he published a 170 page report as a researcher at the Semantic Technologies Lab at the University of Toronto and built a semantic technology prototype for SAP Research Labs. Connect with Mark on LinkedIn or Twitter. Mark is also certified in Google Analytics.