Small Business, Big Image: Mastering Reputation Management

Small-business owners often feel like David facing down the giant Goliath armed with nothing more than a slingshot. But when that slingshot holds the right ammunition, Goliath had better watch out. Even in the supercompetitive online business world, a small business need not get lost in the shuffle — not if it’s crafted a suitably big image for itself. Let’s look at some things you can do to build your small business’s reputation into a force to be reckoned with.

Every business has to start somewhere in creating its online reputation — and in the internet era, that usually means starting with the company website. Once you’ve built a website that represents your brand as accurately and positively as possible, purchase your desired domain name, preferably with multiple suffixes — .com, .net. .biz, et cetera. This step will help prevent ill-wishers from grabbing up a look-alike doman and using it to undermine your reputation.

Spreading Your Social Media Wings

Now that you’ve established your brand’s online home base, it’s time to spread your influence over various social media channels. You’ll want to build out the account page in each of these channels just as carefully as you did your website’s homepage, since many customers will experience their first encounter with you through your social media. Including backlinks to your website will help you build a strong inbound marketing campaign and raise your overall brand footprint.

Maintain a regular posting schedule to populate your social media channels and blog page with a steady stream of fresh, relevant, positive content. You’ll reinforce your reputation both as a helpful resource and as a thought leader in your industry.

Putting Your Business on the (Online) Map

The major search engines need to know your site exists. In addition to building the necessary organic SEO into your online content, create a site map and submit that site map for indexing. It may take a while for Google to notice your presence, so the sooner you can get indexed, the better.

Even an online site needs a physical location on file for optimal SEO. Google My Business is a free, simple, powerful tool for putting your business on Google Maps and helping your site climb the search rankings. Add as much contact information as you reasonably can for best results.

Managing Your Reviews

You should always ask for reviews on your social media pages, especially on channels such as Yelp that revolve around such reviews. Note that asking for reviews is very different from soliciting reviews in exchange for money or posting fake reviews — unethical practices that savvy viewers will see through.

While you can and should spotlight positive reviews, you should also demonstrate your acceptance of negative reviews. Respond promptly, apologetically, and in a positive tone instead of getting combative or defensive. Viewers will be impressed by your honesty and ability to take criticism, especially if you promise to evaluate and fix the problem instead of just expressing remorse over it.

Making Connections

A small business can give its online reputation a big boost by reaching out and connecting with other businesses, its customers, and its community. Use the power of numbers by networking with like-minded organizations, both inside and outside your vertical, to disseminate the good word about your brand. Answer customers’ questions, ask for their input, and promote an atmosphere of interaction. Align your brand with public charities and other forms of community support so you can demonstrate your commitment to your values.

We’ve touched on just a few of the most important steps you can take to secure a sterling online reputation for your small business. You can get additional tips and explore the subject in more detail by checking out the Status Labs’ blog, a leading SEO and online reputation management services provider. Once you have the proper strategies in place, your small business’s reputation could indeed make a very big mark in the world.