Every year take time to take stock of your online reputation and make adjustments to your reputation management campaign. Three-quarters of the way through the year, we've wrapped up these top tips.
Reputation threats and opportunities
Keeping close tabs on your reputation threats and opportunities is the basis of a sound reputation management campaign. Without a real-time understanding of the negative (threats) and positive (opportunities) affecting your online reputation in the here and now, you can’t effectively position yourself for what could be coming down the pike. And you may miss the early warning signs of a serious threat until the full effects—falling sales, less interest from talented employee prospects, negative coverage in the mainstream press, cratering employee morale and so on—make themselves felt.
Here’s what you can do to monitor—and position yourself to react to—your reputation threats and opportunities:
- Google (and Yahoo and Bing) yourself frequently, flagging inaccurate reviews and taking appropriate steps to remove other inaccurate or negative content when possible (click here to learn more) and other search engines)
- Monitor online review sites and social properties to keep tabs on what customers and “people on the street” are saying about you
"A one-star increase in a business’s Yelp rating boosts revenue by 5% to 9%, on average"
Set up a rapid-response plan for reputation crises
Many reputation threats are ongoing concerns that don’t require immediate action. Reputation crises are different: They demand a rapid, forceful response that minimizes the potential damage to your online image. Having a number of content distribution points you already control, be they social media, being a contributor on anothers blog, websites you own, etc. contributes to a solid plan of reputation "readiness". Examples of potential reputation crises include:
- You or a key employee face(s) arrest, or news of a previously unreported arrest comes to light
- A disgruntled employee or customer begins a concerted defamation campaign against you or your company
- You or a key employee post(s) or say(s) an ill-advised comment that immediately produces a backlash
- A major customer service problem that attracts media attention, such as a data breach
Every crisis response plan is different, but yours might include:
- Immediate action, using legal threats if necessary, to remove defamatory or copyright-infringing content
- Press releases, social posts and online videos for damage control
- Public evidence that you “get” the problem, such as an apology or explanation. Do this on a page you control, so if necessary you can take it down later.
- A redoubled effort to produce and promote positive content that suppresses negative search result
Take the next step with your social media properties
With three quarters of all Americans now meeting the criteria for “active” social media use, social engagement is no longer optional. If you haven’t already, you need to claim, flesh out and use all the social media properties that matter to your peers and customers. That means:
- Analyzing the properties that get the most customer engagement in your niche and focusing on building them first
- Creating catchy “About” blurbs on all target properties
- Uploading photos and videos where permitted
- Segmenting and targeting customers by location
- Using contests and questions to drive engagement
- Reposting catchy content from other publishers, always giving credit
- Posting original content that positions you as an industry thought leader or drives brand/name recognition
Cultivate positive online reviews
According to a Harvard Business School study, about 80% of American consumers trust online reviews as much as or more than old-fashioned word of mouth recommendations. The same study found that a one-star increase in a business’s Yelp rating boosts revenue by 5% to 9%, on average. Online review sites, and directory sites that feature business reviews, tend to rank on your first SERP—sometimes right at the top.
Beyond investing in great customer service, which we’ll talk about below, here’s how to cultivate positive online reviews:
- Offering incentives for customers who leave reviews (tip: focus on happy customers)
- Personally responding, in polite fashion, to negative reviews
- Flag and report defamatory or inaccurate reviews
One note: Though tempting, it may not be worthwhile to purchase fake reviews for your business. Most review sites can see right through these and typically penalize your listing if you’re found out.
Search engines love original content. Even if everything you publish is dynamite, Google and friends’ spiders are bound to get bored if they see the same posts every time they return to your blog.
SEO studies indicate that you should blog at least once per week, per property, to keep your owned content fresh (and highly ranked). But beyond this general guideline, there’s no “magic frequency” for blog publishing. If you have an active, engaged readership that clamors for new content, you should be publishing once a day or more. If your blog is more of a supplemental tool to drive traffic to your main site or keep your thought leadership credentials sharp, once or twice a week may be okay—as long as each post is the best it can be.
Ramp up your content marketing operation
Blogging is just one aspect of content marketing, which is often mistakenly seen as a tool to drive conversions and sales—not help with reputation issues. But content marketing is fundamental to a strong reputation management campaign because, after all, reputation is content. Content marketing takes many different forms:
- Posts on owned blogs
- Press releases
- Website and landing page content
- Guest posts and sponsored content
- Case studies, ebooks and guides that relate to your products or services, typically featured on your website
- Infographics and lists
- Interviews with industry leaders
But an effective content marketing operation requires a sustainable plan for content creation and publishing. Those things require resources—time, money, talent. Taking an hour out of your week to dash off a quality blog post is one thing, but keeping up with an “all of the above” content marketing campaign can quickly become overwhelming. We can help you find the resources to plug your content creation gaps and publishing gaps, from nimble, talented freelance writers and savvy editors to social gurus and multimedia whizzes.
Invest in great customer service
Here’s something other online reputation management companies don’t want you to know: To a certain extent, your reputation is like gravity. You can fight it tooth and nail, using a combination of tactics to prolong the inevitable fall back to Earth. But unless you can achieve escape velocity, you’re always in danger of plummeting back to the ground.
How do you outrun the powerful pull of your accumulated reputation woes? By looking at every online and offline point of contact as an opportunity to leave a positive impression. Forget crisis management plans and SERP maintenance for the moment: We’re talking about investing in old-fashioned customer service that builds an organic reserve of goodwill and positivity around your business. Go the extra mile for regulars. Work hard to attract newcomers. Share smiles and pleasantries. Make “customer appreciation” a core business activity. This stuff works, even if it takes some time to pay off in the form of improved word of mouth and positive online reviews.
Got reputation management ideas?
These seven tips, plus the industry-specific considerations outlined above*, are sure to get your reputation management campaign off on the right foot. But if you’ve got additional ideas, we’d love to hear them. And after evaluating your reputation threats and opportunities, we’ll come back with some of our own.