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16 May 2022 • Guides

Online reputation guide: Definition, operation, and best management tips

Online reputation guide: Definition, operation, and best management tips

Let’s start with some numbers...74% of consumers search on Google before buying products and services. Of these searches, 64% of them are about reviews and ratings from other internet users who’ve made the same purchase.

And while 90% of consumers trust their friends the most when it comes to recommendations, 78% of them are still willing to trust the opinions of complete strangers. In other words, your company’s online reputation is very important! It’s nowadays an essential element in the purchasing process of internet users, which sometimes proves to be a trigger, or in contrast, a real constraint.

What is digital identity or online reputation?

What is the definition of online reputation? Online reputation, or e-reputation, refers to the image that one conveys or that one undergoes on the web. It can concern a brand as much as a specific product, an individual, or a company.

Present on many media such as search engines, social networks, opinion platforms, etc., it’s become one of the essential elements that influences the purchasing decisions of shoppers all around the world. This explains the choice of a large number of professionals to turn to a dedicated agency...

Definition of online reputation

The definition is simple: online reputation refers to the reputation that a company, a brand or a product has on the internet. More concretely, it is the image that an entity sends back on the Web, whether it is a positive or negative representation.

Online reputation: a central issue for professionals and companies

Online reputation can have a significant impact on a brand. Its stakes are multiple and are located at different levels. Online reputation isn’t only played out on search engines (which can influence a company’s SEO strategy), but also on social networks and social content or online review platforms. It also has a direct impact on local SEO.

That’s why, in order to control your online image and maximize user trust, it’s essential to work on all these channels, from SEO to social media, including the optimization of your homepage, etc. What’s more, there are also many players that can impact your image. It’s therefore necessary to remain permanently vigilant and have a global vision of who is talking about you and by which means. Mastering your brand image allows you, in the long term, to gain customers online and to increase your visibility on the internet.

On the other hand, having a bad reputation on the web can literally make your sales drop, or even send you straight to the closure of your company. And this can happen very quickly! Brand image is the result of a very long process. However, it can be ruined in only a few hours!

To put it simply, a positive online reputation can increase the number of your customers and your revenue. It’s the guarantee of a flourishing business. On the other hand, a negative online reputation is a particularly penalizing phenomenon. In our modern world, you can’t ignore this parameter!

How is an online reputation built?

An online reputation is a major element that is built step by step and that needs to be worked on. So let me give you some tips to help you improve your e-reputation...

Actors that will play a role in your online reputation

As we've seen, many actors are likely to influence your reputation on the web, in a positive or negative way.

In order to leave nothing to chance, it’s essential to regularly audit your online reputation and to constantly monitor this subject. This is how you can help avoid crisis situations. To do so, it’s necessary to distinguish the four main actors likely to influence your e-reputation:

  • Your customers: they have a determining role in the online reputation of brands and companies. First of all, they don't hesitate to talk about their experience on social networks and therefore actively participate in digital word-of-mouth. They share a lot of information and leave reviews on Google. To this day, they are considered the masters of the game in terms of internet notoriety. What’s more, with the advent of smartphones, everything is moving even faster. Internet users just have to get out their cell phones to leave a heated review, immediately creating a buzz or, in contrast, a real controversy.
  • Your employees: according to a study conducted by the Université libre de Bruxelles, 84% of company crises are linked to an internal problem. In other words, the employees themselves are likely to damage your image, to cause a bad buzz, and this for many reasons. All it takes is one bad marketing message or one piece of incorrect information to ruin an entire reputation! To preserve your popularity on the web, your company must be irreproachable, and this must first and foremost go through the quality work of your employees. Therefore, be very vigilant about contentious or unfortunate content posted on the internet.
  • The media: being quoted in the media is an excellent way to be listed in the top results of search engines like Google. If it’s a positive reference to your company, it’s a very good opportunity! On the other hand, if the media decides to take aim at your business, it can create a major crisis within your company in record time. Note that influencers are considered as media and that they have an increasingly important role. They’re very well followed and can have a considerable impact on your online image. Don’t hesitate to include them in your ecommerce marketing strategy.
  • Your competitors: finally, your competitors are also actors that can harm your image on the internet. Many of them don’t hesitate to publish false reviews on Google or unfounded criticisms on forums to sully the image of their main rivals... This is called defamatory content! Even though this practice is criminally reprehensible, it’s nevertheless likely to seriously harm your company.

Channels to monitor for your online reputation

All the opinions expressed about your company on the internet can be diffused via different channels:

  • Reviews on your site (such as Trusted Reviews): your customers can choose to leave you a direct testimonial. This is probably one of the most observed elements by prospects. As such, positive reviews boost the buying act. They reassure internet users and reinforce their decision. Bad reviews, on the other hand, have exactly the opposite impact. Today, every good marketer considers these testimonials to be almost more important than ecommerce advertising online.
  • Social networks: on average, each internet user uses 8.4 social media platforms. It’s no wonder then that being active on multiple social networks is one of the top ecommerce tips! Social media is one of the main channels to boost your image, or to see it destroyed. This growing connectivity tends to increase little by little the power of influence of internet users. That's why the e-reputation of a company is also played out on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! Moreover, it’s also through these social networks that brands can exchange with their users. This contributes greatly to the online reputation.
  • Search engines: Google is currently the most used search engine in the world. Many internet users use it to search for information about a brand, a company, or a product. In this context, Google always manages to offer users the results it deems most relevant. Among the many parameters taken into account, customer reviews have a significant impact. Working on your SEO for Google is essential to increase your visibility on the internet. In this sense, this search engine is a key vector contributing to the online reputation of a company. Taking care of your image, offering relevant content, frequently updating your website, or establishing an editorial line are all elements taken into account by Google. Moreover, it’s also the Google My Business tool that allows internet users to leave reviews for businesses. It’s a great tool to create a buzz, or a bad buzz!
  • Online review sites: because internet users have a very important role to play in buyers’ decisions, there are also more and more online review platforms, such as Tripadvisor or Trivago. The number of potential buyers who visit these sites is also increasing. The comments made on these sites have a decisive role in your image on the web. It’s therefore essential to keep an eye on these pages and to counter any negative comments and false reviews as soon as possible.
  • Forums and comments: because word-of-mouth works wonders in real life, it’s also very present on the web, especially through forums. These sites involve creating exchanges between internet users. Most of the time, one person asks a question. Other users answer and make suggestions. If many people recommend your company, this is an excellent promotional channel. On the other hand, if your brand is mentioned in quite a few negative comments, it can be a real disaster!

Neglecting your online reputation: risks and consequences

With the increasing use of the internet, it’s no longer possible to ignore your e-reputation. The image that one sends back on the web is a condition of success and can represent a true opportunity. Nevertheless, it’s also a constant danger. This is why it’s absolutely imperative to control your online reputation.

Neglecting your image on the internet for too long can have disastrous consequences. Without attention, it’s not uncommon to see companies stop their activity completely. Sometimes this is the result of real negative comments. However, it can also be a matter of defamatory comments, which can be even more distressing...

On the internet, everything goes fast, and the impact of an e-reputation is felt very quickly. A simple article in the media can sometimes be enough to destroy your company, or, in contrast, make your sales explode!

If you don’t want to convey a negative brand image on the web and scare away your potential customers, you can’t neglect your online reputation. Ignoring it or reacting too late can make you lose legitimacy very quickly. This can have a direct impact on your customers but also on your contracts with all your partners. Finally, let’s not forget: all comments are good to have. Feedback can also be a way to improve your service.

How can you define and measure your online reputation?

Online reputation is not an obscure notion. Today, there are tangible tools that allow you to measure the image you project on the internet.

Determine your important KPIs

To measure your e-reputation, it’s necessary to define the most important KPIs for your brand. The term KPI is an acronym of “key performance indicator.” To know which KPIs to follow, it’s also important to prioritize the channels on which you want to be vigilant. You can’t monitor the entire web: you must absolutely concentrate your efforts on the aspects that you consider essential.

For example, if your company has a strong presence on social networks, these should be the channels to monitor. Your priority KPI could be the number of mentions of your brand on social media.

However, if you’re more attentive to your SEO, monitor your position on Google as well as your average review score on Google My Business, and use customer reviews to your advantage.

The loss of followers on social networks, the number of unsubscribes from a newsletter, the presence of fewer good reviews, the decrease of your sales, etc. are all elements to monitor and are all alerts that should worry you.

Follow the channels in real time

As we’ve seen, everything happens very quickly on the internet. It can take just a few days to destroy a reputation. That’s why it’s essential that you follow your priority channels in real time.

Don’t hesitate to set up a permanent watch, whether it’s on review sites, forums, or social networks. There are now a lot of tools to receive notifications as soon as a comment about you appears on the web.

Propose satisfaction forms for your customers to complete

Being proactive towards your customers can also be a great thing. In other words, don’t wait for your buyers to leave a review about your company, at the risk of it being negative. For example, schedule newsletters to get feedback from your buyers after each order.

In addition, clearly display your contact information on your site, so that people can contact you in case of a problem. Paying attention can avoid many crisis situations! Always encourage discussion and show empathy. To prevent a negative e-reputation, nothing is more effective than knowing how to question yourself.

How do you manage and improve your online reputation?

It’s undeniable: no one can perfectly control their e-reputation! It’s far too vast an element. Nevertheless, it’s possible to improve and manage it effectively.

Monitor your online reputation

The first thing to do in order to control the image that you send to the internet is to monitor your e-reputation. To do this, you need to set up a permanent information watch. In this sense, I strongly advise you to map out all the places and content on which internet users are likely to talk about you. This can be social networks, video platforms, blogs, forums, etc.

Once listed, you just need to place all these channels in order of importance. How do you do it? It’s all about logic! If you have an Instagram page followed by 2,000 people, it’ll inevitably have much more importance than a forum where 2 or 3 people mention your name.

To monitor your e-reputation, you’ll have to regularly go to the places where people talk about you, to read the comments about you. All information related to your company or your products are good to have and are areas for improvement.

However, don’t be alarmed by every negative comment either. Today, punchlines are very common on the internet, and this concerns all brands! Instead, make sure you have a content strategy in place to properly and diplomatically respond to the most negative references. Furthermore, avoid systematically copying and pasting the same answer. Your customers should feel unique, and this also contributes to your e-reputation.

Of course, this entire process requires a considerable amount of time. This is why many business owners choose to hire a community manager. Their role is to manage your online reputation. To do so, they can help you analyze your customers’ feelings, send satisfaction surveys, schedule regular follow-ups to improve your strategy, identify more relevant ways of collecting information, etc.

Use tools to manage your online reputation

To help you improve your online reputation, there are many tools available. Some of them are free, and others are not:

  • Free tools: Google Alerts is a very easy-to-use tool that allows you to receive alerts as soon as your company’s name is mentioned somewhere on the internet. Netvibes, on the other hand, is much more efficient. It’s an RSS feed reader, able to follow the news on certain chosen keywords or certain expressions or certain websites in real time. However, these tools are often far from being sufficient to completely improve your popularity on the internet.
  • Paid tools: to obtain much better results, there are paid tools to monitor your e-reputation. Their subscription fees vary based on their performance. Some of them allow you to obtain very precise monitoring! For example, Mention.net is considered to be one of the most efficient tools on the market for monitoring your online reputation. Although it exists in a free version, its paid interface is much more complete. This tool allows you to monitor the pages of your fans on all networks and whenever a site mentions your company’s name. Hootsuite, in contrast, specializes in social media. It not only allows you to see what is said on Facebook or Twitter about you, but also allows you to respond directly to your customers. It combines performance and ease of use.

Protect your online reputation

If you want to protect your online reputation, you should know that the law is in your favor. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes a paragraph specifically about reputation. This also applies to your image on the internet. According to Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. [...].” This law is therefore the basis for any possible challenge, in order to take action if you feel that you are a victim of defamation on the internet.

To protect yourself, you must set up a permanent watch on the web to know what is being said about your company. This is essential to anticipate possible crises. At the same time, don’t forget to work on your presence on social networks and to respond to all comments about you, whether they’re good or bad. This simple gesture is often enough to avoid the worst. What’s more, in case of a negative review, responding often mitigates the degrading impact on your company.

Although it’s possible to ask for the deletion of a negative review when it’s defamatory, for the others, it’s always better to answer them rather than simply delete them. In any case, try to remain courteous and avoid any divisive speech on social networks. Make sure you respect your colleagues and your hierarchy. Take the time to respond in a calm manner and avoid “heated” interactions. Finally, to prevent such extremes, aim to offer quality products and services and to be transparent with your customers.

If you don’t feel capable of taking on such a workload, you should know that there are also communication professionals whose role is to manage your online image.

How do you manage reviews on the internet?

Your digital identity is largely determined by the reviews you post online. Users who have already purchased from your ecommerce site are often used to giving their opinion directly on online platforms. However, when a person wasn’t completely satisfied with their purchase, their comment can be detrimental to your business.

To regain control of your online reputation, you need to know how to respond properly to the least flattering reviews. Of course, receiving a negative review is always a bit hard to take. However, even though the review may seem unfair and unfounded, it’s important to never get angry or respond in anger. Generally, an aggressive response does even more damage than the bad comment itself. You therefore must keep your cool!

How do you deal with customer reviews, whether they’re good or bad? Use these levers as an asset for your business.

Respond to positive reviews and use them in your marketing strategy

Positive reviews, whether related to your brand or to your products and services, are a good way to promote your business on different channels, online or offline.

They’re sources of information but also sources of reassurance for potential future buyers who discover your ecommerce site.

When a positive comment is published, try to answer it simply by thanking the person who appreciated their experience but also by adding a detail so that the user can come back to shop at your ecommerce site: a special promotion, free shipping, a new collection online...

Once you’ve collected several good reviews on the internet, don’t hesitate to use them in your marketing campaign, on social networks, even in your newsletters sent later to your subscribers, in order to continue to build loyalty in your customer database or to entice those who haven’t yet experienced shopping on your ecommerce site.

In your SEO strategy, good reviews can play a role for your brand: if you run a physical store, you likely have a Google My Business listing.

Thanks to the many positive reviews posted on the platform, your establishment will be able to move up more easily in the search results of internet users who want to find an establishment like yours.

Moreover, the higher your rating will be, the more your brand image could be reinvigorated and thus attract many new customers to trust you.

Respond to negative reviews with hindsight and professionalism

Product quality, service efficiency, team management, schedule management, customer service, etc. Online, all the parameters of your business will be scrutinized by customers and users. As a merchant, you must be irreproachable regarding your entire business.

Beyond ensuring an optimal level, your brand’s reputation is at stake: the unhappy buyer will find any way to criticize your company if it’s not performing at all levels.

So, when you receive a negative comment on the internet, don’t respond immediately: this aggressive management of online comments can seriously damage your brand image if you get carried away.

Once you’ve taken a step back from the situation and analyzed the sticking points, you can start writing your response.

Keep in mind one important element in managing this crisis communication: the customer is still king.

In response to a negative comment, you don’t really have the right to incriminate the dissatisfied customer, unless you’re in a real dispute with them.

To be able to respond to this type of comment, always be very polite and courteous by keeping all the marks of politeness and benevolence.

Then, you will recognize the shortcomings of your services or products before trying to find a solution with the dissatisfied customer either by offering him an exceptional promotion, or by offering him a gift to redeem you, or by trying to work with him on improving this point of friction.

The more your management of the negative comment will be mastered, the more your brand image will be boosted and your reputation will benefit.

Finally, don’t hesitate to contact the author of a negative review in private, to possibly find a solution, but above all to apologize. Knowing how to question yourself is a true quality. Respond to criticism in a constructive manner and make your efforts known to your customers. In all cases, remain humble and responsive, and don’t hesitate to make positive changes.

If you have difficulty managing your online messages or if you need to reclaim your online reputation, specialized agencies exist and can help you.

Communication agency, crisis communication: these experts of digital identity will be able to take a look at your problem and manage your brand image with the objective of returning to normal. Through efficient community management and marketing levers well mastered over time, these specialized agencies will be able to help you restore your online reputation.

How do you deal with any “fake reviews” you discover?

Social networks, review sites, content on platforms such as forums, etc. The digital world has done wonders for corporate branding and information sharing but has also opened the door to some less positive actions.

Some establishments suffer from “fake reviews” on the internet: some competitors or malicious users add bad reviews to tarnish a company’s brand image.

This can be through reviews on Google but also on a social network like Facebook or Instagram, with the aim of damaging the business of the targeted company.

If you’re a victim of fake reviews, know how to respond to them tactfully and professionally like a normal negative review. There’s no need to get angry: it could backfire on you and your business.

If you notice that some reviews are offensive, don’t hesitate to refer to the charter of the site on which it was posted. Generally, the sites clearly stipulate that it’s forbidden to make this type of comment. In this case, simply report the comment and request its removal.

However, if this type of experience is recurrent on platforms vis-à-vis your business, be aware that this can be prosecuted as harassment. You can then turn to the institutions to be able to sue the person who is trying to tarnish your digital identity.

Take back control of your online reputation

Today, it’s inevitable to consider the e-reputation of a company on the internet, whether you’re a consumer or a professional.

It’s impossible to avoid it: social networks and other review sites are windows to make your online store known. With the use of the smartphone which has become universal, online reputation is a central issue in companies’ communication strategies.

The same goes for a person: each internet user is truly their own brand. With their profiles and accounts, on Facebook, on Instagram, on LinkedIn, etc., a reputation can be made or broken directly on the internet, and this with a few clicks.

Not monitoring your name on Google, for example, or not taking the comments left by users on your social network profiles into account would be a serious mistake and could be detrimental to any company or individual.

That’s why for any ecommerce business, it’s important to be demanding and attentive to what’s said about you on the internet. Specialized agencies can help you throughout the life of your ecommerce adventure.

By setting up software like Google Alerts, you’ll be able to know what’s happening on the web regarding your brand in real time. As soon as your company name is mentioned, you’ll be able to benefit from an alert directly on your email address to consult the opinion or the comment left around your company.

To put it simply, it’s possible to improve your reputation on the Internet by adopting a few good practices: don't hesitate to present your establishment in a professional way, produce quality content, add photos that represent your establishment and your seriousness, use monitoring devices to react quickly, adopt consistent communication, take into account negative reviews to improve yourself...

Whatever the protocol you choose to use, the most important thing is to take care of your online reputation. As 96% of consumers are sensitive to the reputation of a brand or a product on the web, try to do the same!

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