Thursday, May 11, 2017

Do You Need Online Reputation Management?

Earlier this week, NPR cited an on-going study from the Harvard Business School, which is researching the effects of minimum wage increases on San Francisco area restaurants. Preliminary data suggests that higher minimum wages increases the possibility of restaurant closure, with a caveat: "Restaurants with low or middling Yelp reviews have become more likely to go out of business. Places with high reviews have been unaffected."

At the mention of Yelp reviews, our ears perked. When we recently wrote about local SEO and how online reviews effect businesses, our blog's sponsor, Alex Stepman, of Stepman's SEO, told us about a local client who had closed shop and rebranded to escape the impact of several bad online reviews.

The client, Stepman said, sold a quality product at a good price, but was compromised by bad hires--employees, since terminated, who had offered poor customer service. Despite generally positive comments on the product, the Yelp reviews cited poor customer service as justification for the poor reviews--several of three stars and less.

As the NPR segment noted:

"Places with three and a half stars, about average, were 14 percent more likely to close after a minimum wage increase of one dollar. But restaurants with five stars, a perfect rating, weren't affected at all."

Obviously, poor customer service was likely not the only determinant factor in the closure of a majority of these San Francisco restaurants. The food was important too. But as Bon App├ętit writes:

"Some diners would argue the best food in the world won't make up for lousy service...A good dining experience is built on trust. It's the server's or host's responsibility to initiate that trust; they're the first point of contact a diner has. Conversely, great service can be enough to make up for things that go wrong in the kitchen."

What amplifies mistakes in today's business environment, of course, is the easy availability of online reviews, like Yelp's--the "novel dataset," as NPR reported, that has "economists excited about" the Harvard Business School's study.

Read: Restaurants With Low Yelp Ratings Suffer Under Higher Minimum Wages

In the restaurant industry, as many other industries, customer service and product are equally important.
[Photo Source]

Do You Need Online Reputation Management?

As we noted in our prior post on local SEO and online reviews, bad reviews must be managed, first, offline--in the day-to-day operations of a business. The three key elements of success have never changed. You must offer a quality product at a competitive price with superior customer service.

Beyond your offline performance, however, your online reputation definitely matters. The key is guaranteeing that your good performance offline matches your reputation online. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. However unfair or biased, a single bad review can have consequences.

In response to such slights, the online reputation management (ORM) industry promises to monitor and improve (or repair, when needed) the reputation of individuals and businesses online. 

There is not much data about the current size of the ORM industry. In 2013, Forbes (without citing any specific evidence) pegged the worth at $5 billion.

Meanwhile, Vendasta, which bills itself as the #1 platform for selling business solutions to local businesses, has produced a juicy infographic, "50 Shocking Stats About Online Reputation Management." Oddly, Vendasta offers no background to support its infographic (where and how the data was compiled)--a practice that seems at odds with building trust, a key factor in ORM.

Are you now worried about your own online reputation? Should you be "shocked" by ORM? More to the point, do you need a firm like Vendasta to manage your ORM?

Probably not. As MarketingLand notes, "You don’t have to break the bank to correct a reputation situation for yourself or a business. It can even be a DIY project — it isn’t rocket science!"

MarketingLand's approach is similar to the approach of Stepman's SEO, which advocates simple, timeless SEO techniques to improve (or repair) your brand's image. After all, what is SEO if not a form of reputation management?

Among MarketingLand's "9 Key Points for Cleaning Up Your Online Reputation Nightmare Via SEO," you will find the same SEO techniques advocated on this blog, too, including positive content, title tag optimization, and url optimization.

Read more: Good ContentTitle Tags and Meta Descriptions, and Search Engine Friendly URLs

Assuming you sell a good product at the right price with excellent customer service, the key of ORM is to replace any negative impressions with uniformly positive impressions via carefully crafted and optimized content.

SEO That Improves your Online Reputation with Stepman's SEO 

Stepman's SEO understands how to effectively promote websites to manage your ORM. To learn more about how Stepman's SEO combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective marketing campaigns, call: 215-900-9398.