Consumers are using the internet more than ever before to inform their purchasing decisions, whether it be what restaurant to eat at or what car to buy.
The majority of people use Google to search online because it gathers a wealth of information from every corner of the web and, perhaps more importantly, filters all of that information to provide the most relevant, reputable, and useful links first.
In fact, Google does this so well that people have come to trust the links on the first page of search results significantly more than those on subsequent pages. A staggering 93% of all the links that people click on in Google search come from that first page. [i]
If even one of those links is negative when a consumer researches your company or product (such as a poor review on Yelp, an embarrassing blog post by a disgruntled former employee, or an unflattering article in the local paper) the damage to your company’s reputation can be devastating and do a lot more than just hurt the bottom line. It can:
- Incite consumer boycotts of products or services
- Sharply increase customer acquisition costs
- Arm competitors looking to cause a stir in press and social media
- Mar future product launches and announcements
- Lost partnerships with charities and non-profits
- Make it difficult to fill high-level positions within the company
- Lower employee morale and productivity
- Decrease leverage with partners and vendors
Online Reputation Management (or ORM) has evolved as a result of the internet’s increased power among consumers. The more consumers research and interact with businesses online, the more important it is for businesses to ensure their online reputations are strong and positive.
If a customer will be researching your company or product tomorrow, you need to start managing your online reputation today.
There are some very powerful tools at every business’s disposal for both reversing and defending against negative links. If you’ve had your reputation damaged online, you can effectively repair it … and if you have a good reputation (or little reputation) online, you can fortify it. This reputation management guide will show you how.
Step 1: Claim Your Territory
The first step in managing your online reputation is to go out and claim what is rightfully yours – your company's brand, or your name.
There thousands of social networking, professional networking, blogging and content sharing sites out there, but a few of them tend to rank higher in Google search results and are more likely to be visited by your customers – these are the sites where you need to establish a presence.
STEP 1: Putting a stake in the (virtual) ground
Begin by creating profiles for your company on the sites listed below. (We’ve included some examples to show you what a good business profile looks like.) All of these sites will walk you through the process of creating a profile once you register your name.
You may have created personal profiles in some of these places, but keep in mind that business profiles should generally be different in a few ways:
- Anything that is posted on a company profile should carry the reputation of the company as a whole. There might be some great pictures from the Christmas party you’d like to upload, but consider what your Board of Directors might think if they saw them on the site.
- Share interesting and valuable content with others. If your printer repair company has DIY videos, post them. If the managers at your sports apparel company have a list of the Top 10 Best Athletes Of All Time, post it.
- Don’t just blast one-way messages. People will lose interest in your profile if you only use it to announce sales or new business hours. Instead, engage others by asking questions, taking part in conversations, or commenting on others’ posts. This is the essence of social media.
- Remember, you’re building your reputation. If you’re known for customer service, you want to respond to a customer complaint on your site right away. If you’re known for innovation, consider sharing the sketches for your latest product.
- Update often. A stale site will only build your reputation as a stale company. This video from Matt Cutts help explain it.
Checklist: Claim Your Reputation Territory
Here are some excellent examples of how it's been done right:
- Facebook Food Network - http://www.facebook.com/FoodNetwork This Facebook page is regularly updated, filled with rich visuals, and offers new recipes that followers will want to share and re-post.
- Google+ Daria Musk - https://plus.google.com/100974258168375166691/post Daria is an independent singer/ songwriter who used Google+ to share her music. By hosting a series of live performance on her profile page, her songs became wildly popular and her online following skyrocketed.
- Twitter JetBlue - http://twitter.com/#!/JetBlue JetBlue uses their Twitter profile to interact with customers, oftentimes answering questions or handling service issues, thereby reinforcing the values of the brand.
- LinkedIn Razorfish - http://www.linkedin.com/company/razorfish This marketing company uses their LinkedIn profile to announce job openings and profile their current employees.
- Youtube Best Buy - http://www.youtube.com/bestbuy Best Buy uses YouTube to share videos that aren’t aired on television. Fans can access special, unique content that’s not available anywhere else.
- Tumblr Oscar de la Renta http://oscarprgirl.tumblr.com/ The clothing brand’s Tumblr blog promotes the Oscar de la Renta heritage by posting both current and vintage photos. (Note, Wikipedia is also a prominent blog site worth looking into.)
- If you’re feeling ambitious, you might also want to consider some of the sites on this list: 50 Social Sites That Every Business Needs A Presence On http://www.insidecrm.com/features/50-social-sites-012808/
Step 2: Manage and Monitor
The next step after creating your profiles is to monitor and manage them effectively. There are lots of tools out there for doing this, but we think a few of them outperform the others and we’ve listed them here.
Spend some time browsing the websites for each management tool below. Most of them have descriptive guides or tutorials available. Once you’ve explored each one, choose the two or three you prefer and try them out.
When you find the one you like best, connect all of your social profiles to it. (Each tool will guide you through the process once you register.)
All of these tools (except Google Alerts) do two very important things:
- Allow you control your multiple profiles at once. From one dashboard, you’ll be able to post to any of your profiles – no need to log into each one separately, saving you lots of time. 20 minutes a day with any of these tools is enough to manage up to four profiles.
- Let you monitor online conversations and immediately spot any opportunities or risks to your reputation. If negative sentiment about your company is brewing somewhere online, you can identify it and deal with it head-on. If positive comments are starting to emerge, you can get involved and promote them.
Management and Monitoring Checklist
- Hootsuite http://hootsuite.com/ Hootsuite creates a dashboard showing conversations and posts from around the web. Monitor keywords or names both in and outside of your network. A convenient calendar feature allows for posts and updates to be scheduled up to months in advance.
- Tweetdeck http://www.tweetdeck.com/ Tweetdeck, like Hootsuite, allows users to manage their profiles across multiple channels including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It has a clean interface and clearly delineates conversations across the web.
- Social http://www.socialmention.com/ Social Mention analyzes large numbers of tweets, posts, and other information on the web togauge online ‘sentiment’ around a keyword or phrase. It can be extremely useful for quickly assessing the public’s reaction to a specific issue.
- Twazzup http://www.twazzup.com/ Some people consider Twazzup to be a better Twitter search engine than Twitter itself. It pulls real-time tweets, points out twitter influencers, and trending hashtags.
- UberVU http://www.ubervu.com/ UberVU tracks and analyzes mentions of your company (or any other term you give it) across Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, and various Blogs. This is a subscription-based tool that costs around $50/ month.
- CoTweet http://cotweet.com/ CoTweet is ideal for businesses that have more than one person handling social media accounts and messaging. It allows managers to mobilize their teams by assigning different online conversations to specific employees for followup, and has an ‘on duty’ status for the person in charge of monitoring social at a specific time. The standard version is free and allows up to 6 users.
- Google Alerts http://www.google.com/alerts Google alerts are timely notification emails sent to your inbox every time a designated keyword or search term appears on the web. A good supplement to any of the tools above.
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How To Monitor Your Brand Online (Without Losing Your Shirt)
With your profiles up and running, and your management tool setup, you’re ready to start implementing some best practices for managing your online reputation.
Understand the Rules of Internet Reputation Management
Over a year ago, Google started rolling out major changes to its search engine and dubbed it the Panda update, that was followed by others dubbed Penguin and other creative names. It was such a wide-sweeping overhaul that it changed the rankings of nearly 12% of all search results, far more than any other update that preceded it. [ii]
STEP 3: Develop best practices
Your next step is to develop a set of best practices that leverage some of the Panda updates to your advantage.
Our goal is to push the best possible links for your company into the top of Google search results, so any best practices you adopt from this list will fast-track your company’s glowing status.
Best Practices Checklist
Google wants to be sure the links they give you on the first page are the real deal. For example, if a site claims to be an “official” company page or a legit news link, Google will try to verify it. Number of sites linking in, how often the content is shared by visitors, and how much it is “liked” in social media (or +1ed or followed) all matters.
Best Practice:Before posting any comment, picture, or video to your profiles, ask yourself “Will people want to ‘like’ or +1 this?” & "Does it help my reputation?".
Stale content usually takes a back seat to newer content. Google wants to return results that are timely and relevant.
Best Practice:Develop a posting / updating schedule and stick to it.
With the Panda and Penguin updates, Google has placed more value in social media indicators than ever before. Links that are important to the people you know (indicated when they +1 a page, link to it in Facebook, and other actions) are given a ranking ‘boost’ in your search results.
Best Practice:“Like” and +1 your own content to ensure it will show up in your friends’ search results.
Google also updated their search engine to pay close attention to images on websites and to prioritize those with meaningful pictures.
Best Practice:Avoid generic pictures or stock photos that are unlikely to get noticed by others. Choose pictures that people will comment on and link to. You want to create web properties that make people stick around - conveniently this is called 'stickiness'.
- 40 Google SEO Changes in February and What They Really Mean
- Google’s Results Get More Personal With “Search Plus Your World”
- Google Knowledge Graph Could Change Search Forever
- Creating Websites Optimized for Google’s Panda Algorithm
- Google’s Latest Panda Roll-Out: April 2012: The Basics
- The Panda Enigma: An Overview of Major SEO Factors
Control Your Reputation Destiny
At this point, your company’s internet reputation is starting to rise. Your profiles are in order, you’re effectively managing and monitoring what’s going on around you, and you’re capitalizing on some of Google’s most recent updates.
Now it’s time to bring it all together with tried and true reputation management tactics.
STEP 4: Execute Reputation Tactics
The ideas below are tactics that you can use right now to get ahead in managing your online reputation. We don’t expect you to do them all overnight, but you should start working on them now.
Create a YouTube channel
Videos are one of the most shared forms of content online and a YouTube channel is an easy way to create a company branded experience for viewers. The key is to upload and aggregate videos that are of value to your audience, and which they are more likely to share and comments on. Some ideas include:
- How-To videos for your products and services
- ‘Behind the Scenes’ videos showing what the business does
- Interviews with movers and shakers in your industry
- Customer testimonials
Kraft Cooking School – http://www.youtube.com/KraftCookingSchool
Kraft does an excellent job of creating and posting educational videos that explore food and recipe ideas. The channel is clearly branded and is regularly updated with new videos. It’s easy to see why people would want to revisit this site over and over again.
Cisco - http://www.youtube.com/Cisco
Cisco gets their viewers involved by hosting contests, discussions, and informational videos on their YouTube channel. People are more inclined to share these videos across their own social networks.
Start a company blog
Blogs are easy to set up and generally straightforward. A business blog is an opportunity to continuously communicate the values a company and differentiate it from competitors. Use interviews and guest posts as a way to include relevant people who have strong social followings (the interviewee will be likely to share the blog post with his/ her legion of followers).
My Starbuck Idea - http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/
This is an example of how you can create a robust blog without spending a lot of time writing posts. Starbuck has turned their blog into an open discussion forum for new, user generated ideas.
General Motors - http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/
GM’s Fast Lane blog is a collection of thoughts, images, and chats about new innovations in and around the auto industry. It highlights GM’s commitment to technology and offers followers access to unique content.
- 10 Business Blogging Best Practices
- How to Promote Your Small Business Blog
- Six Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Blog Now
- Answer questions Answer questions on sites like Quora, and Yahoo Answers, and questions that come up in conversations on Twitter. Don’t be afraid to jump in and offer your expertise.
- Issue press releases Use press releases to promote newsworthy information and announcements.
- Offer your opinion in the press Get quoted in publications with strong online presence. News items not only get ranked well, they also get passed along a lot more in social networks.
- Join conversations Leave comments on major blogs, online magazines, and news sites. Industry and niche publications are great places to build your rep.
Both of these blog posts inspired lively discussions among consumers and industry professionals:
- Adobe Blog Post http://blogs.adobe.com/flashplayer/2011/02/flash-player-10-2-launch.html
- Adidas Blog Post http://blog.adidas-group.com/2011/10/how-to-overcome-your-weaker-self-to-boost-creativity/
Aggregate valuable content
Collect and add relevant resources to your site and social profiles. You’ll be adding value to other people’s good content by gathering it all in one place.
RedBull - http://www.facebook.com/redbull
The company’s Facebook page is a collection of videos and images from many different sources, including fans and followers themselves. People continue to return to the RedBull page because they know they’ll get new, sports-related content from around the web.
Reviews can be a double-edged sword. A good review can cause a spike in business. A bad review can instantly ruin your reputation and cause financial strain.
If you find yourself the victim of a fake, inaccurate, or overly negative review, the first thing to do is give yourself some breathing room. It can oftentimes feel like a personal attack and its perfectly normal to have an emotional response.
But after the initial punch-in-the-gut feeling has subsided, its time to channel that emotion into action. The links below offer great advice on how to respond in this situation. Also, don't forget that if you follow this guide, you have a good chance of getting that review pushed off the first page of search results, making it far less likely to effect your business.
- Bad Online Review? How To Respond To Keyboard Critics
- 5 Tips For Responding To Negative Customer Reviews Online
- How to Handle Negative Online Reviews About Your Business
- Google Webmaster Blog: Rich Snippets – Reviews
Consumer product companies can use sites like Pinterest and Instagram to visually market their goods while increasing the strength of their online image.
Pinterest: Birchbox - http://pinterest.com/birchbox/
This company has created a rich, image-heavy Pinterest site that showcases related products which people can ‘pin’ themselves and pass on in their social networks.
Pinterest: Michaels Stores - http://pinterest.com/michaelsstores/
Michaels weaves ideas and DIY projects into their collection of product images, compelling followers to spend more time on the site.
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9 Tips: Boost Your Business With Pinterest
A few more things to remember
- Use social sites like Facebook and Twitter to funnel people to your content in other places such as your blog, company site, or business profile on LinkedIn
- Post different content on your different social media channels – that will give people a reason to follow you in multiple places
- Keep content fresh and updated. It helps to create schedules for posting and having employees contribute as well
- When appropriate, ask people to share links to, post, like, +1, and comment on your content
STEP 5: Keep going
It’s our goal to make you rethink the common myths and falsehoods surrounding internet reputation management for businesses. Your company can effectively manage its own reputation online, and you do have a powerful set of tools at your disposal for doing so – one of them being this guide.
As you begin following our steps toward engineering a reputation ‘halo’, you’ll become more adept at using the tools we’ve outlined, as well as some others you’ll discover for yourself. Tackling the issues that may have seemed insurmountable before will become second nature.
Remember, every effort you make now will buttress your company from future reputation attacks – a safeguard worth working for.
…and of course, you can always contact Reputation X if you need more help.
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[i] Source: Golden Nuggets From SMX Search Analytics by Josh Dreller - http://searchengineland.com/golden-nuggets-from-smx-search-analytics-17544
[ii] Source: Creating Websites Optimized for Google’s Panda Algorithm by Adam Heitzman - http://sixrevisions.com/content-strategy/creating-websites-optimized-for-googles-panda-algorithm/