Table of Contents
- How Much Should Small Businesses Spend on Marketing?
- Why is Online Reputation Management Considered Part of Marketing?
- How Much Does Online Reputation Management Cost?
- Three Options for Online Reputation Management for Small Business: Cost, Advantages, and Disadvantages
In today’s digital age, online reputation management is essential for businesses, including small local shops. With 97% of customers searching online for local businesses and relying on the internet to determine which businesses to trust, your online reputation has a significant impact on your bottom line.
Your business’s online star rating, also known as your reputation score, is often the first impression customers have of your business. If your reputation score is not up to par, you risk losing customers to your competitors.
While it may seem unfair that review sites like Google My Business, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Yelp have such power over your business, it’s the reality we have to navigate. The good news is that if you provide a seamless buying experience and deliver a quality product or service, you’re likely to receive positive reviews.
However, it’s crucial to actively monitor what’s being said about your business online and actively work to generate more positive reviews while minimizing the impact of any negative ones. This is the essence of online reputation management for small businesses.
How Much Should Small Businesses Spend on Marketing?
Since small business owners are often busy individuals, reputation monitoring services or online reputation management companies have emerged to handle this process for businesses that lack the time or staff to do it themselves.
Womply, a small business marketing success guide, recommends that small businesses allocate approximately 7-8% of their gross revenue to marketing. This budget should also account for online reputation management or monitoring services if you choose to outsource this task.
Why is Online Reputation Management Considered Part of Marketing?
As mentioned earlier, your business’s star rating is often the first thing customers see when searching for businesses like yours online. This star rating serves as a form of advertising for your business, even though you haven’t paid for it. Your online reputation acts as a virtual billboard, conveying the overall judgment of your business’s quality to all those who come across it.
This can be a positive thing if your business consistently receives positive reviews, or it can be a challenge if your online reputation is less than stellar. For instance, a Harvard study found that restaurants with a 2.5-star rating were 25% more likely to close, while those with a rating of 4.5 to 5 stars had a 0% risk increase.
How Much Does Online Reputation Management Cost?
Now, let’s dive into the details. How much can you expect to pay for professional online reputation management? The short answer is a lot. However, it’s important to note that it’s challenging to find specific, up-to-date pricing information online. Many companies are hesitant to provide upfront quotes without knowing the specifics of a business’s online reputation problem.
When searching for reputation management pricing, you’ll likely come across outdated articles from Forbes and PCWorld dating back to around 2013. PCWorld mentioned that ReputationDefender charges between $3000 and $10,000 to monitor your reputation, while RemoveYourName and Integrity Defenders are slightly more affordable, with pricing starting at $3000 and $630, respectively. However, it’s unclear whether these are monthly costs or one-time fees.
Varun Sharma, Growth Manager at UpReports, mentioned in a Quora response that he has charged between $700 and $5000, depending on the complexity of the project. The cost can also vary based on factors such as the authority of the negative links, whether you’re targeting developed or undeveloped countries, and the number of negative links you’re trying to remove.
If you search on Google for reputation management services’ costs, you’ll likely find sources citing the Forbes article that mentions the services can be free or cost upwards of $1,000 a month, depending on the level of cyber-scrubbing required.
While it’s challenging to find specific pricing information, it’s essential to contact reputation management companies directly and request individual quotes based on your business’s situation and goals.
Three Options for Online Reputation Management for Small Business: Cost, Advantages, and Disadvantages
For small businesses, there are three primary approaches to online reputation management: do it yourself, hire an online reputation management firm, or use reputation management software. Each option has its own costs, advantages, and disadvantages.
1. Manage Your Business’s Online Reputation Yourself at No Cost
Some small business owners choose to handle their online reputation management themselves. This approach requires consistent monitoring and management of your business pages on review sites, as well as your social media platforms. If you have set up Google Alerts for your business, this can also help you stay informed about online mentions.
Cost: Free (only costs your time)
Ease of use: Moderate to difficult
Time savings: Poor
Effectiveness with standard reputation management tasks: Moderate to good
Effectiveness with removing or “hiding” damaging content: Low
The advantages of managing your online reputation yourself include being more involved with what’s being said about your business, feeling more connected to your customers, and maintaining control over your business’s voice and messaging. Additionally, if you have the time but lack the budget, this may be the right choice for you.
However, the disadvantages include the significant time commitment required, which can make you feel disconnected from your customers and your business. Additionally, as an individual business owner, you may have less expertise and success in removing or “hiding” damaging online content. If you’re specifically looking to remove negative content, it’s best to hire a firm specializing in that service.
2. Hire an Online Reputation Management Company
Another option is to hire an online reputation management company to handle this task for you. It can be challenging to determine which company is the right fit, as you’ll need to contact them directly and discuss their services and pricing. However, you can expect the cost to be high, depending on the level of service required.
Cost: High (several hundreds to several thousands of dollars per month)
Ease of use: Completely hands-off
Time savings: Excellent
Effectiveness with standard reputation management tasks: Good to excellent
Effectiveness with removing or “hiding” damaging content: Varying/moderate*
The advantages of hiring an online reputation management firm include freeing up your time to focus on running your business and dealing with customers. Reputable companies may also be more effective in removing damaging content or “pushing down” negative search results.
However, the disadvantages include the high cost and the potential loss of control over your business’s voice and messaging. Many small business owners are hesitant to give up this level of control.
*Note: Removing negative web content, negative reviews, and negative search results can be challenging, if not impossible. Be sure to ask about guaranteed results before investing in these services, as some methods may violate review sites’ usage policies or regulatory organizations’ guidelines.
3. Use Cost-Effective Online Reputation Management Software
The third option is to use software specifically designed for online reputation management. This approach offers a balance between time savings and cost-effectiveness.
Cost: Varies (comparatively low to moderate)
Ease of use: Easy (choose your level of involvement)
Time savings: Good to excellent
Effectiveness with standard reputation management tasks: High
Effectiveness with removing or “hiding” damaging content: Low
The advantages of using reputation management software include saving time compared to managing your online reputation yourself and maintaining control over your business’s voice and messaging. Additionally, software solutions are generally more affordable than hiring a professional firm.
It’s important to choose the right software that aligns with your business’s needs. For example, Womply’s reputation management software offers various features and pricing options. It allows you to choose the level of involvement you want, from setting up auto-replies to individually responding to reviews through the Womply dashboard.
In addition to reputation management, the right software can provide other benefits such as business insights, customer relationship management (CRM), and email marketing functionality. This comprehensive approach can save you time managing your business, improve customer loyalty, and increase revenue.
In conclusion, online reputation management is an essential part of doing business in today’s digital age. While the costs can vary significantly depending on the approach you choose, it’s crucial to allocate a portion of your marketing budget to this task. Whether you decide to manage it yourself, hire a professional firm, or utilize reputation management software, investing in your online reputation is crucial for the success of your small business.