Everything You Need to Know About Online Reputation Management for Small Businesses




What exactly is Online Reputation Management (ORM)? Well, there is no solid definition of this term but I'd like to call it the online version of public relations.

The easiest and quickest way for most people to get to know a small business is through the internet. It's almost like magic when you open a browser and do some research about almost anything. You can become aware of what's good and bad about a person, an experience, and a business very quickly.

People aren't just visiting company websites any longer either. They are looking at directory sites, review sites, and social media for additional information. One bad comment or review can turn potential customers away from your business and you won't even know it.

If you own a small business, keeping an eye on what is being said about your business online needs to be part of your marketing strategy. Ignoring what is being said about your business online isn't going to make it go away, so you mine as well take control where you can and manage your online reputation.

“Our reputation is more important than the last hundred million dollars.” - Rupert Murdoch

Online reputation management means controlling your online image to protect the growth and success of your business. It's how you "bury the body" in terms of negative comments, reviews, materials, and feedback people can find about your business online.

Whether you like it or not, people will talk about your business. Sometimes, a single negative review can define how you do business and ultimately destroy what you built altogether. Isn't that scary?

Well, it doesn't have to be. You will never please everyone and taking an active role in your reputation online will help negate the impact of negative reviews and highlight the positive.

In the rest of this article, I am going to give you all the tools you need to start managing your online reputation.

Why is Online Reputation Management Important?

1. It affects consumer buying decisions and SALES

Take a look at some of the key findings from the 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey conducted by BrightLocal.

  • 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day
  • 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more
  • 49% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business
Online reputation management is very important. In this day and age, it should be priority #1. Consumers depend on online reviews when making a purchase. Existing customers read current reviews before buying stuff online. In other words, ORM can increase or decrease sales and buyers.

2. Word of mouth now travels as FAST as lightning

I hate to break the news to you, but the internet spreads news faster than wildfire. It's like riding a bullet train without knowing when it stops. Social media platforms are great examples of how word of mouth can become lethal to small businesses. Look no further than the hot water United got into last year (2017) for removing a passenger from a plane.

Customers can leave your business a 5-star or a 1-star rating depending on a lot of factors like customer service, product quality, delivery, response time and sometimes, their boredom. It's incredibly easy to share their experience with the rest of the world in a few clicks. Remember that word of mouth is very trusted so it is really important to monitor your online reputation consistently.

3. Your online reputation will stay FOREVER

We might not live for a hundred years but our reputation surely will. The internet has evolved into a public archive of all things, living and non-living, both known and unknown to man. What does this mean for your business? Simple, you are what people say you are and it will be challenging to change it.

Even if what a customer says isn't true or is only half the story. Simple comments like "Scam!" and "Don't buy!" will change how customers look at you and your business.  It's sad, but it's true. Once someone posts a comment about your business, what's done is done. The only way you can highlight or counteract comments about your business is proactively managing your online reputation.

4. It's a chance to make things RIGHT

Were you ever given a chance to make things right? How did it feel? What are the things you did to correct your mistakes?

Online reputation management can turn around the negative perceptions of the public towards your business.

Negative feedback can be constructive in a way that gives you an opportunity to improve your products and services. Hearing bad comments about your business is tough, but it is a way to listen to customers and create healthy conversations you can use to improve your business.

Now I am going to start getting into the nitty-gritty of online reputation management.

The image below is a great visual of the different parts of online reputation management we are going to cover. You've got online reputation monitoring and online reviews. Where the two intersect is online reputation management.

Different Parts of Online Reputation Management

An Introduction to Online Reviews

1. What Are Online Reviews?

Online reviews are mostly written by customers that are intended to influence small business owners and potential clients. They are left on websites which eventually appear on search engines like Google and Bing.

You must have both high-quality reviews/ratings and a lot of reviews to succeed. Your reviews can play a huge role in a potential customer's decision-making process.

Here's an example from a Google search for "Colorado construction companies".

Colorado Construction Company Google 3 Pack Sample

Having a 5-star review rating means nothing if you only have a couple of reviews. You must have a decent quantity of reviews in order for people to feel your rating is credible.

Which one of these 3 companies would you contact first? I think most people would reach out to the company in the middle with a 4.9 rating from 59 reviews. Their other two competitors in this search aren't even close! The top listing is out with a 2.5 rating from 10 reviews and the bottom one has a 5-star rating but there are only two reviews.

Want to know how to grow your business with the help of online reviews? This resource about online reviews will help.

2. Where Do People Leave Online Reviews?

There are two main types of online reviews: social media and review sites. Let's look at both in a little more detail.

Social Media Reviews

Social media reviews are left on social media sites like Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

Social media is one of the two main places you will find reviews online. Some social media reviews will actually show rating levels, but they can also be something as simple as a customer leaving a comment on your page or posting a status update with a #yourbusinessname.

Not only do you want to monitor your social media pages for activity and engagement, you want to monitor social media for mentions of your brand.

Review Sites

A review site is a website where reviews can be posted about people, businesses, products, or services. I have listed a few examples of some of the top review sites you should check out.

You'll notice some crossover with social media sites as well.

3. How Do You Proactively Get Online Reviews?

The way to get more online reviews is to put a system in place to consistently ask for reviews. I know this seems way too simple, but most small businesses don't ask for reviews which is why they get very few or none at all.

You can certainly do this manually, but it's much more difficult to scale and a lot easier to have things fall through the cracks. Fortunately, there are ways to automate review requests (check out some options in the list of tools near the end of the article).

No matter how you choose to do it, requesting reviews must become part of your sales and customer service processes. I would highly recommend automating your feedback process. It will save you and your customers time and it makes the process a lot easier. 


Get the outside eyes and feedback you need to get on the right path with your marketing.

Gain clarity and understanding. You'll leave your discovery call knowing where to focus your marketing efforts right now to get the best return on your investment.

Monitoring Your Online Reputation

Brand monitoring is defined as following online conversations about your company, product, or service by monitoring keywords relevant to your business. It’s also known as social media listening or web monitoring.

Proactively monitoring online conversations about your business gives you a real-time view of your online presence. You will know what is being said and where things are being said so you can proactively participate in the conversations.

You can also learn a lot from comments like what you are doing well, what you are not doing well, why do people do business with you, and a whole lot more valuable nuggets about your business.

In the tools section below I've provided you a number of choices to help you monitor your online reputation. This is not something you want to do manually and will need to employ tools to automate and make the process easier.

Monitoring your online reputation is the second piece to the online reputation management puzzle along with online reviews. You must have both for a comprehensive reputation management strategy.

Tools To Help You With Online Reputation Management (ORM)

Online reputation management can require hours of dedication without the right tools. Fortunately, there are many online tools that can make your life easier. 

You don't need all of these tools. Pick the 1-3 that suite your needs the best and run with it. You'll be well on your way to having an awesome online reputation.

  • Grade.us is a comprehensive review management suite with monitoring capability.
  • Delighted is a fast, easy way to get actionable feedback from your customers.
  • GetFiveStars is a software service to help you get customer feedback and online reviews.
  • BirdEye is a software service to help you garner customer reviews and improve customer experience.
  • TweetDeck is a Twitter-specific tool to help you monitor and engage on the social network.
  • Hootsuite is a social media management platform that makes it easy to monitor all your social channels in one place.
  • Google Alerts is a free way to monitor specific keywords across the web.
  • Naymz is a tool that can help you track and manage your social influence. 
  • Yext is a site to go to if you want to manage your online listings on review sites like Yelp, to make sure the information posted is accurate.
  • Complaint Search Box is a website built to spot bad reviews. It is set to perform a specialized Google search on over 40 complaint sites for free. 
  • Trackur is a social media monitoring tool that alerts you whenever your brand is mentioned. 
  • Talkwalker Free Social Search and Alerts is a free tool for real-time social media search.
  • ReviewTrackers is a great tool for keeping track of your customer reviews across more than 80 sites.
  • ReviewPush is another option for review site monitoring.

ORM: D-I-Y versus Hiring a Consultant or a Team

There are three things you should consider when managing your online reputation:

  • Money
  • Time
  • Expertise

My intention with this article is to provide you with the expertise to manage your ORM yourself if you so choose. But, you must ask yourself if you have the time to gain the expertise and employe ORM in your business.

If the answer is yes, then have it. If the answer is no, then you've got to ask yourself if you can afford to pay an expert to handle it for you.

As a small business owner, you are incredibly busy and can't handle everything yourself. Hiring someone will free up time and allow you to focus on other areas of your business.

If you choose to hire someone, make sure you ask the right questions to properly qualify the provider or consultant.

Online reputation management is both a science and an art. It may take time for you to master the ins and outs of this online strategy, but it will absolutely be worth every penny you invest and the effort you put into it.

In the end, your goal is to build a solid online reputation that communicates a strong brand and a place people love doing business with. Your business will reap rewards year after year for the effort you put into online reputation management.

Did you find this helpful? Feel free to comment below and share.

Need more lead generation tips? Check out our entire Ultimate Guide to Lead Generation.


Get the outside eyes and feedback you need to get on the right path with your marketing.

Gain clarity and understanding. You'll leave your discovery call knowing where to focus your marketing efforts right now to get the best return on your investment.

Header image courtesy of Jumpstory.

About the author, Tim Fitzpatrick

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