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Creative businessAs a real estate agent, you live and die by your referrals. Offline word-of-mouth referrals can be powerful and effective since they come from a trustworthy source, but their reach is limited to your clients’ family and friends. Online reviews have a much broader reach, and for better or worse, clients are increasingly moving conversations about their experience with you online.

A survey by Zendesk.com found that 86 percent of respondents who have read negative online reviews claim their purchase decision was influenced by those reviews. You may be a wonderful and well-respected real estate professional with the majority of your clients happy and satisfied, but a “vocal minority” of unhappy customers may harm your future business.

Because people are more likely to share negative reviews than positive ones, your online reputation requires constant vigilance and regular audits. The easiest way to see how you look online is to search for yourself on Google, Bing and Yahoo! and see what pops up on the first few pages of results. What you find is likely what potential clients will find. Then, be very honest with yourself and answer a simple question—would you do business with you?

Once you know what sites are most visible, you’ll want to build your presence and improve your ratings there, whether that’s on a broker’s website, on social media, through a national review aggregator, or all of the above. A simple way to build your presence is to ask your best clients to share about their experience with you on the most influential sites. You already ask them to refer you to their friends and family, why not take it one step further and ask them to do the same online?

No matter how hard you try to make every client happy, you’re bound to wind up with some less than flattering reviews, and how you respond is crucial. When you come across one of these, it’s important to be transparent, address the client’s concerns head-on with honesty and integrity, and make sure your side of the story is heard without becoming defensive.

Beyond encouraging your clients to leave positive reviews and responding promptly to any negative reviews, be sure your online presence is an accurate reflection of who you are. Update your public profiles to include the things clients are looking for, such as longevity, experience, trustworthiness, your familiarity with the area and how you’re involved in your community.

At the end of the day, what a client says about you may be more important than what you say about yourself. You only get one shot at a first impression, so take control of your online reputation and make sure it’s a good one.

Tracy Berger is senior vice president Real Estate Sales, First American Home Buyers Protection. For more information, visit www.firstamrealestate.com.

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