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Customers are worried, or confused, or maybe just unsure. Either way all I know is there are six recommended plumbers servicing my area, 14 independent coffee shops within walking distance, and now Google’s telling me that if I want a loaf of bread I have to choose between two shops named Wheatly and Frank’s Artisan Nut Loaf, and that’s just today’s to do list.

It’s never been easier to find everything online, but now that it is, we have to make a choice, and like a cereal aisle with 20 identical boxes of sugary carbohydrates, it’s a neverending mental puzzle to settle on one.

There’s A Good Reason Why 88% of Searchers Trust Online Reviews

Anything that can act as a signal, that’ll tip the scales, just something to help me make my choice. That sort of information has a lot of pull in our over-saturated market. A recent article by Search Engine Land explained that. More and more people are using online reviews as a litmus test for quality. In fact, I’ll wager that it’s the second thing customers Google after discovering your business.

It Speaks To Social Proof

As a customer, the independent opinions of others speak to the quality of a business. More often than not, it also helps me to make a decision as to which deserves my cash. This is great for customers, especially since Google+ has started factoring reviews in search results. But businesses are facing a problem, as they have to hope Google is policing the reviews, otherwise the whole system is left vulnerable to abuse.

Falling Through The Cracks

After the Nanimo-based Securco Services Inc. received a nasty review, it asked Google to remove it. While Google encourages free opinions to run wild, it does have certain terms and conditions that go along with free speech. For example, reviews cannot be overly malicious or offensive.

However, when Securco received a review that labeled its workers as racist and autistic, a violation of the terms, Google refused to remove it. Even after Securco repeatedly tried to contact Google about the review, nothing happened. It was only when the CBC contacted Google that the post was taken down.

You Should Manage Your Online Reputation

Securco is just one example and hopefully a rare one, but it’s also worth remembering that Google is a search engine and not a reputation management company. Google Reviews exist to help Google establish relevancy. The better-reviewed businesses are considered more relevant, as they provide services that users appreciate, therefore other users will find that business useful. The fact that a review helps consumers is a positive externality, but I’m sure not the reason why Google invests in developing a reviewing system.

So in a world where customers are looking to reviews as a barometer and Google isn’t necessarily policing malicious reviews, it puts the burden on you to manage your online reputation.

And You Should Treat Your Reputation like Any Other SEO Component

Managing your online reputation in-house is smart, but time-consuming. There are more review sites out there than just Google+. Each of them has active users and each service offers a platform for them to talk about your business, both the good and bad.

Instead, I’d argue that you should view your online reputation as a component of your overall online strategy. There are active steps you can take to ensure that your reputation online reflects what the average customer thinks. Just like ensuring that each web page is SEO-optimized, your online reputation can be managed.

Simple steps like encouraging your existing customers to review you is a great first move, but also monitoring the different sites and responding to any negative reviews as soon as possible is another action you can take. It comes down to being proactive online. Give happy customers the incentive to review you and mitigate any negative reviews that come in.

Managing your reputation by yourself can easily turn in to a full-time gig, but when rolled into a comprehensive marketing strategy it could be seen as an extension of the monthly maintenance you already spend on things like SEO, PPC and so on. It’s another tool in the belt used to create a robust marketing strategy.

If you’d like to learn more about review marketing check out reputation marketing webpage, or if you have a specific question in mind feel free to reach out to us and someone will get back to you with a thorough response.