How important is your personal reputation to you?  How about your reputation as an instructor, teacher, or coach?  That is, do you care what people think and publicly say about you?  If you are an entrepreneur, you should care a great deal about your business’ reputation.  Because to those who don’t know you directly, which is almost 100% of your future students/customers, your online reputation IS you.  That’s all they know. And they care.

  • 92% of users read online reviews before selecting a business (eTailing Group)

  • 84% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal)

  • 74% of users say they will not select a business with a poor reputation (Harris Interactive)

  • A 1 “star” difference in reviews results in a 5% – 9% increase in revenue (Harvard Business Review)

Google also cares a great deal about your online reputation.  They care so much that they use reviews as the most important ranking factor in local search results (these are search results for local, bricks & mortar businesses – like your academy). So if someone searches for “jiu jitsu near me” in Google, the results will depend more on your online reputation than the quality of your website content, keywords, backlinks, or any other SEO factor. That doesn’t mean those other factors are not important, just that they are not AS important in the local search results.

There are several ways you can manage your online reputation.  You may have already solicited Facebook reviews. You should also be sure that you make use of Google My Business, a free, simple tool that you can use to be sure your information is up to date, collect and respond to reviews, and gain insights about your reputation.

Once you have Facebook reviews and Google My Business up to date, you can begin to manage your reputation in other ways, like via Yelp or Foursquare.  A multi-channel review strategy is best; it meets one of Google’s factors in examining your reputation. The key factors in Google’s assessment of your reviews include:

  • Quantity (number of reviews)

  • Velocity (frequency that new reviews are published)

  • Diversity (range of sites you have reviews on)

  • Recency (age of reviews)

You can have 100, 5 star reviews, but if your most recent review is from a year ago, Google will ding you for that.

Managing your online reputation is among the most important things you can do. And it has to be done week-in and week-out, month after month, year after year.  It’s a bit like jiu jitsu practice – consistency is key. But the problem is that it can be very time consuming. Sometimes you don’t even know when someone posts a review, so tracking all the various review sites can take some effort.  That doesn’t even begin to address getting quantity, velocity, diversity, and recency in your review portfolio.

Because your time is valuable, here are the 3 priorities that matter most to your online reputation:

  1. First Impressions – They say, you never get a second chance for a first impression.  Make it count. Think about the experience of a new student, from their perspectives.  Walk in their shoes, that is – look at things from their point of view. Make sure you are giving them an experience that warrants the review you want.

  2. Show humility – Ask and listen for feedback.  If you can get someone to tell you about a bad experience or a frustration they have, you have an opportunity to fix it before it lands on Yelp or Facebook as a review.  Accept the criticism. Apologize, if appropriate. Try to learn and improve and show genuine concern about their experience. If you are too defensive, excuse the issue, or ignore it — you may be ensuring they vent publicly.

  3. Respond to reviews – Periodically, go to all the major review sites to read your reviews.  But do more than just read them. Learn from them. Act on them. And respond to every one of them. Don’t be an asshole to people who review you poorly – even when you believe they are lying or being intentionally hurtful.  Exercise your jiu jitsu discipline. People who know and love you may want you to defend yourself by responding in kind and calling the negative reviewer on their nonsense, but that isn’t productive. Remember, reviews are only useful for people who don’t know you.  People who don’t know you will not like negative responses to poor reviews, so don’t do it.

Dirty Gi Marketing is a partner with BirdEye, maker of the leading Online Reputation Management software. Because reputation management takes time and effort, BirdEye allows us to take this burden off of  our clients. Together, we create a systematic rhythm of new, authentic customer reviews and then promote them across the web, boosting ratings and contributing to a positive reputation.  BirdEye also allows us to automatically monitor feedback across all social channels in real-time in order to address issues quickly and effectively. This tool does more than just help us strengthen online reputations, it helps identify root causes allowing school owners to close the loop between reputation management and customer experience.  This builds trust and further helps schools grow.