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Online reputation: what to consider when buying a business

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Buying another business or going concern? Think of the online legacy before you sign on the dotted line.

If you run a business, there will probably come a point when you will consider buying or merging with something (or someone) else. It might be that you’ve be eagerly eyeing a long-established business that would help you expand, or you’ve found another company that would make the perfect fit in terms of diversifying your product or service offer.

Exciting times! But before you agree a price and sign on the dotted line, have you taken a moment to consider its online reputation? Is there a digital legacy you should be thinking about – and what impact does it have on the overall value of the business?

So, what do I mean by this? I’ll explain further.

Imagine your town has a famous café on the high street that has been in the same family for generations. Admittedly, it’s a bit run down and the food is not too inspiring these days, but it’s in the perfect location, the building is charming and you just know you could make it appeal to artisanal coffee lovers. When it comes up for sale, you jump at the chance to fulfill this dream.

In the ‘old’ (ie pre-internet days), you could simply give it a refit, and together with an ‘under new management’ sign, you’d soon get new punters in, no problem. In fact, it would be blindingly obvious to anyone wandering past that there were some exciting new developments inside.

It’s a bit different now, however – especially if you have kept the business name.

Take that café, for example. Even with your new menus, seductive interiors and great customer service, the sad fact is that anyone Googling the café’s name will discover dodgy reviews from its previous life unless you put in a lot of work. Past photos of dingy interiors, dispiriting Insta shots of flaccid sandwiches – these are the stuff of nightmares for a new business.

So what can be done?

 

The digital presence has a value

Poor online presence needs to be a consideration when negotiating the purchase price of the business. It’s also vital to get access to the digital side of the business as part of the sale.

This needs to include:

  • the logins for Google My Business
  • the website domain ownership
  • website hosting
  • social platform logins
  • email accounts for the domain (you may need to verify new ownership at some point)
  • Tripadvisor and similar accounts so you can manage the reviews.

These are the keys to the whole online identity of that business – I’d go as far as to discourage buying any business without these critical pieces of information (it’ll save you a lot of time, money and stress later on).

Without these, you could even argue that the business should be valued at thousands of pounds less. It’s that important.

 

Managing your digital reputation

Once you can manage the digital identity, make as many positive changes as possible. This includes:

  • replacing old photographs and descriptions on every single platform – Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin – whatever ones you use or that the previous owners used.
  • update the website with new info and images. Yes, you could just build a new website with a new URL – but it’ll take years for Google to give it as much prominence in search as an older, more established domain, which means people searching for the business will still find the old site and Facebook pages. Much better to rebuild what’s already there.

Another useful tip is to get as many new reviews as you can. Do this whichever way works best for you – competitions, discounts, offers, whatever. And don’t forget to tell news outlets and industry sites that you’ve taken over the business. Good old PR still works, even now.

Don’t attempt to add a load of fake reviews yourself. Google can see through that and will judge multiple logins from the same IP address or from people with similar or same surnames as suspicious and you run the risk of getting the account frozen or the reviews rejected.

Managing your online presence is hard, but when you have to take over someone else’s presence without knowing what’s been before you, caution rules the day.

Meanwhile, if you need help improving the digital legacy of a business you’ve taken over, speak to us.