We are living in a digital and mobile age. People are always connected, using the internet to help them with work, education and personal endeavors.  

As a small business, you must ensure that you are properly maintaining your online presence; a negative online reputation can be even more damaging than absence. The vast majority of people find businesses through online searches. Did you know that most people only look at the first page of search results?

Unless your business appears at the top of the first page during a Web search, your prime customers are probably not going to find you.

To combat this problem, you need to understand the evolving nature of search engine optimization.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) involves putting the right keywords into your website and online content. You should pick the terms that people are most likely to use when looking for your type of business or services. These keywords should be used naturally and with the correct density, ensuring that your website performs well on search engines without compromising readability.

In fact, search engines have such advanced algorithms that too many keywords can actually hurt your performance. You also need to work to keep your content updated. Search engines analyze content for a variety of factors, prioritizing content that is maintained regularly over outdated material.

Blogging

Blogging is a powerful tool that a small business can use as a content marketing platform. Highlight topics of interest to your potential customers and engage with readers in the comments.
Blogging can cover a wide range of topics while still providing essential information about your business on a regular basis. When you start a blog for your business, you need to keep it relevant, engaging and updated. You should try to update your blog at least once a week if not more. As a side note, this regular maintenance can help keep your website performing well in search engines. It can also encourage people to check back more frequently.

Your blog should reflect your business's expertise. The content needs to be interesting and not merely promotional in order to be successful. Feel free to use your blog to link back to your services and products as a way to naturally promote more traffic to your website.

Social Media Management

Blogging is a step in the right direction, but today’s tech savvy consumers spend most of their time online using social media. This includes websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. You probably have at least one or two of these accounts for your own personal use. You can leverage these social tools for your business growth as well.

The advantage of social media for your business is that it promotes intimacy with your customers. If you can get customers to like or share your content, you are ensuring that your business is showing up in their personal accounts alongside updates from their friends and family. Better still, your customers will become ambassadors for your business. Every time they engage with your content, they are giving your business more traction within the community.

With social media, it is advisable to start small. Pick one or two social platforms, and focus your attention accordingly. It is better to have fewer accounts that are frequently maintained than numerous accounts that are neglected. Social media should be updated frequently, but it is important to balance your usage. You do not want to spam your followers by posting too much. If you do not post frequently enough, people will forget your presence entirely.

You should also try to post fun content, and offer candid looks at your business. You can post pictures, event advertisements, press releases, news or host an online contest. Encourage responses from your customers, and take the time to reply to them with comments or questions of your own.

Social media can also be a great way to mitigate any negative attention you may be receiving in a timely and positive manner. If a customer posts an unfavorable comment about your business online, social media presents an effective way for you to publicly share your side of the story and mitigate any negative exposure.

Getting Help  

If all this sounds like too much, remember that you don't have to manage your online reputation alone. Appoint one or two employees to manage your website, blog and social media accounts. You can even outsource this work, hiring a marketing services company to maintain your website, update your blog and respond to queries on social media.  

Given the risks associated with running a business, it is advisable to have insurance protection. Professional liability insurance protects your business if you are sued for negligently performing your services, even if you haven't made a mistake. Similarly, general liability insurance protects your business from another person or business's claims of bodily injury, associated medical costs and damage to property.

About the Author(s)

Lou Casale

Lou Casale is head of communications at specialist insurer Hiscox USA. As a marketing and communications expert, he has created transformative programs for Fortune 500 corporations, startups, and C-level executives. 

Head of communications, Hiscox USA
reputation management