Let’s talk about what SERM is and how to use it in your business.
SERM stands for Search Engine Reputation Marketing, which literally means Search Engine Reputation Marketing.
This is a type of marketing that implies the creation of a positive image of the company in search engines (Google, Yandex, Bing, etc.). Often, users find all the information they need about a product even before they go to its website. The search results contain informative cards that help a potential buyer to form an opinion about a brand / product.
Therefore, it is important that this opinion is positive. And this is exactly the characteristic that a business can influence. Through reviews.
How online reviews and SERMs are related
People rarely go to specialized sites when looking for reviews. Oftentimes, the rankings displayed in the search results are enough for them. In rare cases, popular sites like Otzovik or iRecommend are used, consistently appearing on the first page of search results. These are the sources of user opinion that you need to influence when building your marketing campaign.
Why is it important?
Marketing professionals have found that nearly 90% of people who make a purchase online or offline have read online reviews before. Moreover, 50% of them were ready to make a purchase after seeing only 2 positive opinions about the product.
At the same time, the presence of negativity can greatly reduce the likelihood of a purchase. Even one negative feedback will outweigh 2-4 positive ones. People believe in negativity more.
Therefore, it is so important to work with the negative and try to earn as many positive opinions as possible from the outside.
Depending on the business situation and the goals pursued, a company may hire reputations to address one of four issues:
Increase sales of an unpopular brand.
Reduce the flow of negativity towards business.
Analyze the potential of new products.
Find new niches to expand your business and increase its profitability.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the options.
Low brand popularity
If few people know about your company yet, then SERM promotion can increase the amount of traffic and conversions.
When people go online, they rely on the opinions of users who have already made a purchase. But if there are no buyers who left a review, then a potential client can go to a competitor whose product has already been left with at least 2-4 reviews.
In the eyes of the seeker, lack of feedback looks like a lack of reputation. Therefore, making a choice in favor of an unknown product is too difficult and scary.
The SERM is used to correct the situation. Marketing professionals shape people’s opinions by persuading them to write reviews online.
A lot of negativity towards the brand
The popularity of a business does not guarantee good performance. Sometimes the low conversion rate is influenced by the abundance of negative comments on the Internet. In particular, those that are displayed on the first page of results in Yandex and Google.
In this case, SERM is required to solve two problems at once (or one of them, depending on the situation):
an abundance of negative reviews due to the poor quality of the product,
the presence of customized reviews on the network that discredit the reputation (for example, from competitors).
In the first case, you need to improve your product / service and ask customers to try it again and change their minds. As a result, the positive should crowd out the negative.
In the second case, SERM masters turn into myth-debunkers, identify fake responses and try to eliminate them. Some services remove them on demand, while others will have to leave additional reviews in their defense, informing potential buyers that negative comments were fabricated, and this is an attempt by competitors to play dirty, and not the real experience of a living person.
Testing new services / products
Another common use case for SERMs, but in a more passive way. It allows you to look from the outside at the dynamics of changing user opinions in relation to a new service / site / product.
Since in this case SERM is used for analytics and data collection, specialists do not take an active part in communicating with the audience and writing reviews.
Everything is built around observing the reaction of potential buyers and users who have already tested the new product. Already in the early stages of tracking reviews, you can adjust the development strategy, assess all risks, rethink the PR campaign, etc. This is in the event that there is a noticeable negative impact of the launch of a new product on the brand and business as a whole.
Finding ways to expand your business
Customer reviews can tell not only about their attitude to existing products, but also help in the formation of future strategy.
SERM specialists analyze the entire stream of opinions and often find in them the makings for future products. For example, in people’s reviews, the same question or the same wish can be traced.
If customers have a request, and it is repeated from the lips of a large number of users, then it is in the interests of the brand to respond to this request. Add a new function to the application, change the layout of the site, change the composition of the product, improve the packaging, etc. Anything that buyers want and that can increase sales and improve the rating of the product on the network.
What does the work of SERM specialists consist of?
Often the work of a SERM specialist fits into the following steps:
Collecting and analyzing existing reviews that affect the brand’s reputation.
Creating a positive image to displace the negative from the first positions of search results. This is achieved by generating new positive comments.
Engaging with the audience to create a more loyal business image.
This list looks like a plan for dealing with negativity, because dealing with negativity is the most common use case for SERMs.
To start monitoring reviews, reputation specialists collect a block with reviews for specific requests. These include search queries with the following syntax:
brand name + the word “reviews”,
brand name + field of activity + the word “reviews”,
brand name + the word “review”,
brand name + product name + the word “reviews”.
And so on, until it is possible to form a sufficiently large base for analytics.
After the analysis, you need to answer four key questions necessary to form a further strategy:
What is the company’s rating among buyers as a whole?
What resource has the most negative comments about your business?
What difficulties do clients face?
What wishes do people have who have already bought your product / service?
Based on this data, a further action plan is created to improve products and eliminate negativity.
Seeking negative responses
You need to search in those sources with which the brand is most closely associated. Shops, hairdressers, tattoo parlors and repair shops can look for opinions on Yandex.Maps and in the 2GIS directory. Sellers of specific products can see reviews on sites in the spirit of Yandex.Market. Services that provide cleaning services will find reviews about themselves in Yandex.Services, Avito and other similar sites (if the business is registered in them).
But more often than not, reviews are on specialized platforms in the spirit of Otzovik and iRecommend.
Handling negative feedback
It is enough to be sincerely human. If you find negative feedback about your company, try to be as loyal as possible. The response from the official brand representative should be discreet, but at the same time focused on the customer.
Your task in this case is to understand the problem and try to find a solution.
Product doesn’t work? Make a free replacement.
Does the product work poorly? Provide free diagnostics or repairs.
The client could not figure out something? Explain to him in the review or ask him to contact through another communication channel.
Didn’t like the service? Render again and much better.
Seeing a loyal attitude towards negative reviews, other customers can change their attitude towards the company. Constant contact with users in a positive way will help contain the influx of negativity if the product / service is really of poor quality. This will buy you time before it improves.
But if the negative review is 100% the work of competitors, then you need to collect the evidence base and with this base go to the administration of the site that publishes the reviews. Or post a rebuttal directly in the comments so that other users are aware of the attack from competitors and the presence of fake opinions on the site.
Instead of a conclusion
That’s all. To promote a site, it is not enough to please the search engine. SEO and SERM always go hand in hand. Read customer reviews regularly, be guided by their opinions and build your business around customers so that they are as satisfied as possible.