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Mastering Reputation Management in the Digital Age: Insights and Strategies from an Industry Veteran

In Conversation with Alen Kevorkian

For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Alen Kevorkian, owner of LiveWebMedia, an avante-garde web design and interactive media agency located in Woodland Hills, CA. Dive into the realm of web technology and online reputation management with Alen. With a 25-year legacy in web design and development, Alen explores the ever-evolving landscape where AI, tools, and creativity converge. Gain insights into proactively managing online reputation, harnessing the power of genuine reviews, and optimizing web presence with a technical perspective.

Watch the episode now for more insights!

Using internal tools and external platforms is key to collecting and managing reviews efficiently.

Alen Kevorkian
Owner of LiveWebMedia
Alen Kevorkian

Hey, hi, everyone. Welcome to your show E-Coffee with Experts. This is Ranmay here, and I have Alen, who is the owner of LiveWebMedia with me today. Welcome, Alen, to our show.

Thank you for having me.

Great. Alen, before we move forward, why don’t you talk us through your journey this far and also about LiveWebMedia, and what you guys do? How are you guys different from all the agencies out there? And what are your core offerings? And we’ll take it forward from there.

Yeah, LiveWebMedia is primarily focused on web design and web development. I started the company in 1998, so October of ’98, somewhere around 25 years. I believe this year, October will be 25 years. So our core business of web design is still there. So we’re still doing exactly what we were doing 25 years ago. A lot of the tools have changed. The AI has been introduced to us and all that stuff. We utilize all of this in our development. And of course, our designs, I could still think about what the designs used to look like 10, 20 years ago. They’ve evolved a lot.

So that is the main business, the main core. And of course, now because of social media, marketing, SEO, pay-per-click, and review management, those are important factors to take in because your website, as beautifully as designed, is only good for your family and your friends to see. If you need the rest of the world to see that’s where marketing comes into play. That is why you need to utilize, again, any one of these sources, ideally, you should be utilizing all of them. But SEO, Google, social media, reputation management, all of this is going to burn traffic and give you credibility. Because there’s the other part of the business is not simply doing marketing, you need to bring credibility to your business. How long have you been around? What reviews do you have? What social platform? How often are you posting on these? So this all gives you credibility that these businesses have been around, they’re very active in social media, and so on. This all correlates back to Google if you’re doing SEO because Google is watching all of this activity, and that is actually how you begin coming up the ranks towards page one.

So that, in a nutshell, is what we do, what we’ve been doing, and what we will continue to do until the latest trend comes out, whatever that is, that we will jump on and begin using it in our business and offering it to our clients.

Good. Lovely. And today we’re going to discuss reputation management, which is so crucial in today’s landscape. Could you please provide some insights into how businesses can proactively manage their online reputation, especially when faced with negative reviews or feedback?

Yeah. So the number one thing that I would say before we get into the discussion of negative reviews is to make sure you have created your account in the form of collecting reviews. So the primary one is that you could collect reviews on Facebook. So most people do tend to have a Facebook business account. Make sure you collect reviews there. The one that most businesses tend to skip over only because of their, maybe I shouldn’t use the word hatred, but their dislike towards Yup. Most businesses are like, I’m just going to skip over Yup. I don’t like Yup, I don’t want to use Yup, and I don’t want people to leave me reviews on Yup. The unfortunate misconception here is that if you’ve never created the Yup account for your business, anyone could actually go and create it for your business and then go ahead and leave that negative review. So in other words, you didn’t do any service to yourself and your business by simply not creating one because someone can go and create it for you. And then what you have to do is at that point is, of course, claim that business and then rebuttal that.

So discussing negative reviews is one person’s opinion of your service, whether it’s a restaurant, the food that they ate, or whatever it is that one particular person’s issue. Again, simply they could have had a bad day and they’re leaving you a negative review. But at the end of the day, this is what we see a lot, is ignoring that review. And here’s what I mean by that. You must respond to that review. Now, you do not hack them. That is probably if you want this negative review to make a bad impact on your business is simply attacking that particular customer. Whether they were right or wrong is irrelevant. You do not take that stand. You have to be very creative in your response to whatever the issue is. Ideally, you want to provide facts about whatever took place, but you also want to make it very pleasant and that you’re almost inviting them back because maybe they had a bad taste in their mouth, the service was bad, the customer service was bad, whatever. Again, because we see so many different industries that we deal with a negative review will come in. So to begin with, again, you must respond.

Here’s what’s going on. And it’s unfortunate because this is the way the world operates. If you’ve got 10 positive reviews and you have one negative review, the majority of the people will go and focus on that one negative review and read that review. So in other words, they’ll skip over the 10 that you’ve got 10 good things to say or people said 10 good things about it. They’re like, Yeah, that’s great. I want to see what that negative review is. Now again, if this negative review becomes a trend and a lot of people are beginning to say the same message, That’s more internal. You need to fix whatever it is. Again, whether it’s customer service, maybe it’s a certain food dish that you’re serving, whatever it is. But if people are leaving a constant review, a bad review of a specific thing, then there is something wrong with your business in that. And that is a lightning thing where you learn from it. Now, if you can leave a positive response to that, this is what’s going on. This again is someone’s review of a particular thing that they did not like.

And so when someone comes in and is reading a negative review, they’re like, That is their side of the story. So when you respond to that negative review, it’s your side of the story. And again, you have to make it very pleasant, facts only, do not attack the customer, and this will actually where people like, Oh, you know what? The way that the customer or the way the business has responded, because I’ve seen this so many times, where a business will respond in such an elegant way, where it flips that negative review into a positive. So that’s ideal. Now we have this and we guide our clients on how to respond to negative reviews because you cannot stop a negative review. It is what it is. Now, the ideal solution is to try and mitigate that from actually coming into a negative review, which means you are actively talking to your customers. And if there is any red light they say I’m not happy about this, you try and fix the problem. You try and say, What is it that we did wrong? What is it that we could do to fix this?

What do you do? You’re trying to get that five-star review before they go and leave a one-star review or whatever. So there’s a lot of finessing around reputation, but it’s very important because when you go to Google and you begin typing it, Oh, I don’t know, we’ll just pick a subject. Whether it’s restaurants, whether you’re looking for glasses, you type in Google, if those businesses have reviews, that is the very first thing. So it’s almost like a cheat to it. You just get lots of reviews for your business and you will automatically populate at the very top of page one of Google because you’re surpassing everything. Because Google wants to show relevant content, Google wants to show reviews. So if that business, has reviews, they’re going to populate straight to the top, which is why we also recommend people set up a Google business account, Google Maps, because this, once again, is where you collect reviews for your business via Google, of course. So Yup is important, and Google is important. Depending on your industry, for example, we work with attorneys, Abo is specifically for attorneys, so they need to collect reviews in there.

If you’re a travel agency, you need to collect it specifically in there. You don’t ignore the other ones. You don’t ignore Yup and Google just because you are an attorney. It’s just one more review source that you need to collect. And this does tend to get a little out of hand because you’re like, I’m collecting reviews. But that is where you hire an agency to manage all this for you and to keep track of all of them. Because, for example, I’ll give you a very simple idea when you take your car, and we’ll take Most car industries do this and dealers, most car industries do. So you go and you purchase a car, it doesn’t matter what it is, Toyota, Mercedes, they all pretty much do it. And your car needs service. So you take your car in for service. As soon as you pick up your car that day or the following day, you’ve already received a text message or an email requesting, How did we do? We want to get a five-star. If there’s an issue, let us know. So they’re proactively asking for review. They’re not paying you for these reviews.

They’re not saying, Well, give money to leave a review. They’re trying to say, We need to get reviews because it’s important in our industry and we want to earn a five-star. So if there’s a problem, let us know because we want to make sure this is fixed for you. Again, if you left with a bad taste in your mouth or something was not right. And again, before you fumed and decided, You know what? I’m going to go leave a negative review for a dealer because they didn’t do something right or whatever. They want to capture you right before that happens to make it right to get a picture. So that, in a nutshell, is reputation management. Again, it’s what we do, it’s what you should be doing. It’s super important for businesses.

Yeah, absolutely. Do you recommend using any software for collecting reviews and processing them?

The software we use, we build internally, and it does exactly that, where a service has been conducted and this message will go out. And the way we worded it is a little different. So most businesses will say, Will you leave us a review? Yes or no? It’s a fork in the road.

It’s a no, it triggers a different thing that will happen. If yes, it triggers another thing, which will take you to a certain page that says, Here’s the review platform we’re trying to collect. So whether it’s Facebook or Google or Yup or whatever or a flip flop, we will only focus… For example, if we have 50 reviews in Google and we have one review in Yup, we would tend to push Yup more often to collect more reviews in Yup and bring that up. So you want to have a balance across all of your review platforms. Now, again, most people will be saying, Will you leave us a review? Yes or no? What we’ve done is worded it differently. It’s still the same triggers, but we worded it where, Would you recommend us to a friend or a family? A little bit more psychological where you’re like, No, I will not recommend you, which means they’re not happy with the service. So once again, this will take you towards this specific trigger which says, I’m so sorry we let you down. Please let us know what the issue is. We want to fix this.

So right away again, you’re trying to capture them before they do the next step, which is to leave a negative review. So you want to capture the problem so that you can fix and mitigate the issue. If it is, yes, I will recommend you not only is this going to take them to again, Yeah, Google, whatever it is that you’re trying to collect, but it’ll also trigger another action which will say, if you’re going to recommend this to a friend or family, maybe give us a name and an email address with it. So again, reputation management is also a form of getting more clients. It’s not just simply I’m getting a review. And by the way, these reviews are very important for every business, every industry. Again, most people are thinking about, Oh, I need to go to a website and it has to look beautiful, or I need to do marketing, whether it’s social media or SEO or whatever the case is. And yes, those are very important. You don’t ignore those. But most clients are not focused on the reputation portion of it which is also very informed.

Very cool.

Just.

In continuation to that, in the context of reputation management, how do you balance the need for authenticity and transparency at the same time and the online communications with the desire or the end goal of maintaining a polished and positive image and a true one for your clients?

So the very first thing is that, for example, this happens often. We’ll see a client and they want us to redesign their website. And on their current website, there’s a section that says testimonials or whatever the case is. And in the testimonials, there are all these reviews. Now, the issue with that is that a review on an actual website, unless it is being imported directly from YAP, Google, Facebook, social media, whatever the case is, and it has their logo and it is a direct link back to that specific platform. If it’s just the content, that doesn’t mean a lot because I could just go write my review and make it sound like someone left that review for me on my website. Now, if those reviews are legitimate, they’re going to be directly connected again to an actual platform that collects reviews, as I mentioned, Google, Facebook. So to leave a review, we already know the way Yelp operates. Some reviews stay visible, some reviews do not. And I know the reason behind that, which I can share in a minute. But they’re already working on making sure that these reviews are credible.

Again, whether it’s a negative review, too, because we’ve even seen this happen where someone has gone and left a negative review and they were not a legitimate person. They were not an actual customer of someone. So we even get those removed. It’s tricky, but yes, we have gotten those removed because they’re not a legitimate customer to leave a review. So this does happen, it’s unfortunate, once again, is sometimes two businesses will fight with each other and leave negative reviews to try and bring the other one down. Ideally, when you’re dealing with Yelp, Yelp is trying to do whatever it can to make sure that these reviews are legitimate. They have verified this particular person. You have to have a profile picture. You have to be connected to social media. You have to show that you have lots of friends. Again, it’s verifying you as an actual person, not a bot or anything like that. The other thing is verify is how often are you leaving reviews for other businesses. So if you are constantly reviewing someone, again, from one business to another business, positive, negative, neutral, whatever it is, Yelp, for example, has verified you as a legitimate person to leave reviews.

So when you leave a review for someone, this is like checks and balances behind the scenes. Is it 100 % perfect? No, it’s not. But it’s a lot closer than simply going and writing a review on your website and claiming it as a legitimate review. And while that may be because we’ve seen this where a client has said their customer writes a review and emails it to them so they could use it on their platform. So that is a legitimate review. However, when you copy and paste that into a website, it doesn’t appear to be legitimate only because it doesn’t have a backed-up source. Like I said, whether it’s coming from Google or Yup or social media or Avo or whatever. Because you have to have most of these platforms, you have to have an account with them to log in to leave a review. So it’s not just random text from outer space, it’s connected to an actual person that could be verified. Once again, it’s not about, secondly, how often are they active? How often are they leaving reviews? So that is the closest thing to being as legitimate as possible that needs to work.

So we leave it up to the industries that created this review platform like Google to verify that the particular person leaving the review is legitimate. But that is where we’re actively collecting reviews in Google, and social media. Again, depending on the platform you are or the business you are, whether you’re a travel agency, you need to have different platforms. For example, if you’re a plumber or a handyman, Angle’s List is another great platform to collect reviews on. But the ones you should not be ignoring are Yelp and Google. Because those two are going to do eight, again, as I mentioned in Google, when you’re typing in something if there’s a review, that’s going to come up right away. And then, if I’m not mistaken, Siri on Apple will also pull up reviews from Yelp first. So that is another reason why you cannot ignore Yelp as a review platform, as a claimed business. You need to be active. Now, Yelp’s customer information that they’ve said they do not want you to be actively collecting reviews. That is in their so-called bylaws. I have had several conversations with Yelp regarding this.

And again, it’s unfortunate because if you are going to just sit there on the sidelines and wait for someone to leave you a positive review, you will be waiting a long time. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. However, someone will go leave you a negative review because something has triggered in them. Something happened that they’re going to fume and go leave a negative review. So unless you are actively collecting reviews, that is the only way to move forward. And that again, as I mentioned, Mercedes-Benz does this. A lot of reputable companies will actively ask for a review. So the first thing you do after this, again, service has been done, you ask for a review so that you can say that particular customer was happy or not happy so that you could capture that.

Yeah, absolutely. You can also figure out when they’re walking out of the dealership from your interactions, physical interactions, as to who all clients are happy, and who all are not. You can direct the journey according to that. You can map that user journey based on their experience and your understanding of that experience as well. You can customize it. The tools are there at our disposal these days.

Wonderful. Yeah, we have a lot of tools at our disposal and therefore you should be utilizing them. Again, the issue is from our customer, On our clients’ end there are too many tools and they don’t know which ones they need to be using, and which ones they need to focus on. And they’re too busy focusing on their business to think about, Oh, now I have to do social media. Now I have to collect reviews. Now I have to be active on the app. And I get it. That is where an agency helps you, where they take that off of your hands. You just focus on your business, they’ll take care of everything else.

Absolutely. Very well said, Allen. Allen, it was lovely speaking with you, but before we let you go, I would like to play a quick rapid-fire with you. Game for it?

Okay.

Yeah?

All right.

Your favorite sport? Basketball.

All right, great.

What did you do with your first paycheck?

My very first paycheck? I gave it to my father.

Oh, lovely. So nice of you. Great, yeah. Which day of the week do you love the most?

Saturday. All right.

We have something in common there. The last one, I’ll not grill you any further. Your last Google search. You can check it. It is an open book, so don’t worry.

Suitcases. Are you?

Are you planning to buy them?

Yeah, I travel a lot. So I’m always searching for the right suitcase. It’s more of a carry-on, but I always search for a carry-on. Because, for example, I have one right now that is, as somebody put it, it’s like a bulletproof case where it’s like it’s a solid. Unfortunately, when it closes, it’s the one where you’ve got two halves. So the kind that I’m searching for is number one, all of it is on one side and it just has the top. So it’s easy to deal with. And the second thing is that it has a special place for your laptop and computers. Again, if anyone is out there who knows when you travel, you have to keep taking this tablet out, your computer out. So it’s like to unlock this thing to dig through it. And then you don’t want to be during TSA check-ins.

Absolutely. So that would be in a search. Yeah.

Do let me know when that search ends because I carry two laptops with me. One is a work laptop, one is a personal one. Imagine me going through that stuff during the checking-in phase, which brings me to my next question I could not stop myself from asking this one, although I promise that the earlier one was the last question. But yeah, since you mentioned travel, what plans for your next vacation?

Oh, I just got back.

From where?

I was in Rome and then I took the train down to Cicily because I wanted to experience the idea of the train entering the barge and the barge going across and then going into Cicily. So I had heard about this and I wanted to experience it. So my wife and I just got back from one month in Rome, one month in Italy, one week in Rome. The rest of the time was traveling through Cicily.

Wonderful. This is the best part of our industry, I tell you. We can work from anywhere and completely remote.

As long as there are two things you must have, whether it’s an Airbnb or a hotel, you need a good, solid, dedicated desk. Correct. Yeah. And a very good internet. You are good because while I travel, I’m always checking in with my team. I’m in constant communication. And when you think about whether it’s an email, Zoom meetings, whatever it is, as long as a good internet connection and a nice place to stay with no interruptions, basically at work.

Yeah, absolutely. A good internet connection is a must in our space. Absolutely. We cannot go to those digital detox zones as they call it. We cannot be there. That’s one limitation. But thankfully, we are all in that space wherein we can work from anywhere without any limitations.

Yeah, that is definitely what the Internet has done for a lot of the industries. You think about it just from that one little single point of the creation of the Internet. And how many jobs that created the ability for social media to flourish, the ability for web design to come into the space, online marketing, online banking, online anything, the ability for you and I different locations to have a meeting, to be able to work. If that internet was never created, we would all be working at the typical 9:00-5:00 job.

Yeah, absolutely. Can’t imagine life without it nowadays. Great. Let me, Alan, it was indeed a pleasure hosting you. I’m sure our audiences would have gained a lot of insights from what you shared, and know a thing or two about reputation management, which they can put to use with their clients. Thank you. Appreciate you taking the time and doing this podcast with us, Allen.

Thank you so much for having me.

Cheers, man. Thank you.

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