Building your online reputation can be a critical part of building a successful website.
Many people who start an online business have a hard time converting visitors to buyers precisely due to a lack of an established online reputation.
If you are at this crossroads yourself, then you have come to the right place. In this article we will share from our own personal experiences what methods we’ve found to be effective for building your online reputation.
Why Does Online Reputation Matter?
One reason it’s so important is that many prospective customers look up third party reviews before they buy products or services. They want to be sure that they’re not buying from a company that’s going to scam them or send them a bad product. If they can’t find any third party reviews, whether from customers or other online publications, they might feel concerned about buying from you.
It’s also important to build your online reputation because then you can feature third party reviews on your website. You could put them in a Testimonials or Reviews section on your site. This often automatically instills trust in customers as they navigate your website, which can have a positive impact on your conversion rates.
So if you’re getting visitors to your website but not seeing conversions, it might be time to build up your online reputation. It helps prospective customers feel safe buying from you.
Can I Build an Online Reputation if I Don’t Have Customers Yet?
The answer is yes, you can. You can even build your company’s online reputation even if you don’t have money.
It can seem almost like a paradox. How can you build your online reputation if you don’t have customers yet?
The answer is that you have to be highly focused on getting reviews and you have to know where to find them. That’s what we’re here for! It might require time and resources to make meaningful progress, but it could prove to be a major stepping stone to the eventual success of your website or business.
Steps to Building Your Online Reputation
Regardless of the type of product or service you offer, there are a number of ways you can build your online reputation. Here is a list of our favorite ways:
1. Identify Your Primary Review Platform
You want to make it easy for customers to leave a review. So first things first, you need to identify a review platform where you plan to ask customers to leave reviews.
We like Google Reviews (which you can set up by creating a profile on Google Business), mainly because every time someone does a Google search for your business, your review score will be posted right there. There are other options though, such as Yelp and Trust Pilot.
It might make sense to focus primarily on one review platform to start. This ensures your focus doesn’t get fractured trying to manage multiple review platforms.
Also, it puts all your reviews in one place, which improves your review count for any given platform. Here’s an example of what we mean by that:
Say you get five reviews, and each of the five is in a different review platform. Then on any given platform it will display just one review. But if you instead focus only on one platform, then all five of those reviews would be on the same platform, meaning it makes the review count in that platform higher than if the reviews were all spread out across platforms.
That review count is itself something that can instill trust in customers, so it’s to your advantage for that number to be high in whatever platform prospective customers are seeing. So using just one review platform improves your odds of accomplishing that.
You want to have your review platform chosen and set up from the start so that when you start to ask customers for reviews, you can give them a link of exactly where to leave the review. That makes it as easy as possible for the customer to leave a review. And the reviews are what you need to build your online reputation.
2. Offer Your Product or Service for Free
We’re not saying you should offer it for free to everyone and run yourself out of business. We’re saying that you can pick handful of people and let them try your product or service for free and tell them you’d like their feedback. Ultimately, you can’t build your online reputation unless somehow people try your product or service.
Perhaps you could ask some people you know, such as friends or family. Or perhaps you run a promotion saying you’ll pick 5 people at random from your email list to give away your product or service for free (which might help you grow your email list as an extra bonus). But regardless, you’re just trying to find a handful of people who are willing to test it out.
You have to be careful when you ask for reviews. Most third party review websites, such as Google Reviews and Yelp, say that you should not offer your product in exchange for a review. So you can’t force people to leave reviews there.
But you can make it clear up front that you’re offering your product or service for free in hopes of getting feedback, and then make it easy for them to leave a review by providing a link.
Another key thing: you can’t try to control the reviews customers give. The reviews need to be unbiased.
So even if you’re asking your brother to offer feedback about the product, it shouldn’t be a fake review that is some over-hyped nonsense. Instead, he should actually try the product or service and offer genuine feedback. This not only is what review platforms expect of you, but it’s also something that can be very helpful to you in terms of improving your product or service.
3. Have an Online Publication Review Your Product or Service
The reviews you get don’t have to solely be from individual customers. You can also get reviews from blogs, news sites, or other fellow industry websites.
In fact, we at CashBlog offer that exact service. Typically you would offer the product or service to the online publication for free so they can test it out, and then they will write an unbiased review of it.
Most times the review is a full-fledged article that gets published on their website. It often includes pictures and a detailed description of the product or service. A thorough review from an esteemed online publication can be a great way to build your online reputation.
These types of reviews can be beneficial in a number of ways. Here are some examples:
A) The article will typically show up in Google if someone searches for reviews of your company. This means any prospective customers who look up reviews of your company might see the article, which could prove to be a good thing for your conversion rates.
B) You can take quotes from the review and feature them on your website. For example, you could create a section on your website called Customer Reviews or Testimonials, and leave snippets from the review there.
C) You could create a section on your site called “As Featured In” or something similar where you feature all the publications where your website has been mentioned, and then you put the logo of the online publication there and potentially link to the review.
D) You also might get some SEO benefit from having a review done by an online publication. If Google sees another website mentioning your website, it will notice and might consider that to be a sign that your website is important in some way, which could improve your own rankings in search engines.
With all these benefits, it’s clear that getting an online publication to write an unbiased review could prove to be a nice springboard to building your online reputation.
4. Put a BBB Insignia On Your Website
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers placards that you can put on your website. The placard looks like a BBB logo, and it displays a grade in the logo (Between A+ and F). If you’ve got a badge with a high grade, it can help your online reputation.
You do have to pay for the service though. If you do, they will create a profile for you and determine a grade for you. As long as you have very few or no BBB complaints, then your grade might have good odds of being high.
There is evidence that showing the BBB insignia on your site can improve conversions. Many sites put the badge in the footer, near the “Add to Cart” button, in the checkout, or in their Reviews section.
5. Ask Customers for Reviews
Hopefully the above steps will jump start your business and get you some customers. Once you start to see real customers who are actually buying your product or service, you could be very focused on asking for their reviews.
For some people it can feel hard to ask someone for a review. We know the feeling! But what we found is that if you don’t ask for the review, then you are very unlikely to get one, especially from satisfied customers.
So the way we like to think of it is that our company is at stake, and we need reviews to survive and thrive. After all, building an online reputation means getting reviews of one form or another, and if you have no online reputation, then it will be very hard to grow your website. Looking at it that way helped us get over the discomfort of asking the customer for something.
We’re not pitching them or coercing them or anything like that. We simply ask the customer, “Would you be willing to leave a review about your experience?” And then we paste the link right after that. It’s that simple.
It can be an automated email that gets sent to the customer after they receive their product or service. Or, in the early stages if it’s manageable, you could personally email customers to ask for the review. You could also thank them for their business at the same time, and personalize the email in any other way you want.
Ultimately, the way to get your website to start taking off is to get those reviews pouring in. So in the early stages, you could be very intentional and focused about asking for customer reviews. Getting those first several reviews could start a snowball effect that leads to dozens more if you’re regularly asking customers for reviews.
By taking the steps above, you can build your online reputation. As you can see, you don’t need paying customers to do it. If you have a good product or service, you get it into the hands of the right people, and you give them an outlet to post a review, then you can start the domino effect of getting your online reputation to grow.