By Daniel Hunter

An overwhelming majority (77%) of small & medium sized enterprises (SMEs) consider having a good online reputation as important to their business, yet 40% never check online reviews of their company according to Zurich’s SME Risk Index.

15% of SMEs have already experienced some form of negative comment online, whether that be poor reviews, malicious content from competitors or negative media coverage.

Additionally, more than one in five (21%) of SME decision makers say that their business has been contacted online by someone who they thought was trying to scam the company.

Britain’s small and medium sized businesses are waking up to the consequences of this issue. Almost 1 in 10 (9%) already pay someone to manage their online reputation, with a further 9% expecting to do so in the next 12 months. The research shows how seriously some firms take this emerging threat as 12% of those who are paying a third party to manage their reputation online pay £2,000 or more a month.

SMEs of all sizes might be getting more marketing-savvy though, as despite only 15% of them experiencing negative online, 41% of them believe that having a good online reputation will be more important to their business by this time next year.

Richard Coleman, Managing Director of Zurich’s Commercial Broker business, comments:

“Online reputation is an increasing worry for SMEs, many of whom are only just getting to grips with managing a social media presence and a website, let alone the effects of negative content posted about their company.

“In a world where the consumer is increasingly guided by what they can easily find out online — think about review sites such as Tripadvisor and Trustatrader - SMEs need to get to grips with their own online presence and how to manage it.”