A small café or the local diner round the corner of the street will always have its regulars walking in. It is the irregular or sporadic footfall that fluctuates. A small business will also have a steady traffic to its website and a predictable pace of orders or business. There will be sudden spikes and slowdowns from time to time but those are often easily explained. From the day of the week to the time of the month, everything affects a small business.
There are times when small businesses witness unexplained developments. The website traffic may crash all of a sudden. The footfall of tourists at the store may become elusive. The consistent flow of leads or steady signups may become a thing of the past. No matter what the small business does, the reality may be too baffling.
No matter what the scenario is, small businesses should track their online reputation. There was a time when the rumor mills in a town would spell doom for businesses and then good word would spice things up. Today, these rumor mills and all the talk in the town happen online. It is in the virtual world where reputations get slaughtered and credibility gets fostered. Unless local small businesses are aware of their reputation online, they will be vulnerable to unexplained outcomes.
Let us explore a few realities:
- If Google or any respected security software flags your website as unsafe or a source of malware, spyware, adware or viruses, then your website will be tagged accordingly and internet users would avoid visiting your website. As a result, you would get less traffic.
- If someone or more than one person writes a horrible review about your product or service, your business or just something you have offered, then that is enough to put your business in jeopardy. There could be more voices cropping up that did not air their views till now. In effect, you could lose revenue, existing customers and you may not be able to acquire new customers.
- There can be a smear campaign by your competitor, a not so potent complaint may go unnoticed and unaddressed and that may make your target audience feel that your business doesn’t care. Such impressions are also likely to jeopardize your online reputation and hence your credibility.
- Small businesses do not have the luxury to purchase media space, influencers and to pay for a certain narrative to be built in its favor. Online reputation management is one way local small businesses can build and retain their credibility.