Your business is only as good as its reputation. No matter how high quality your product or service might be, if your reputation is tarnished, your success will suffer. You will lose customers and clients. You’ll lose partners. You might even lose employees. And today, your reputation is largely built online. Even if you run a primarily brick and mortar business, online reputation management is an essential consideration. Even a single negative review on Google or Yelp could lead to reputation damage. How do you engage in online reputation management, though? Actually, a significant number of business owners and decision makers struggle with this question today. Below, you’ll find 10 of the most vital strategies for managing your brand online.
1. Search for Your Company’s Name
Perhaps the single most important online reputation management strategy is to keep an eye on the conversation. Search for your company’s name on Google, Bing and Yahoo. What are the top results? How many of those are negative? You might be surprised to find that the majority of the first results are made up of negative entries creating serious damage to your brand and your profitability. Keep tabs on the conversation and run searches on your company regularly.
2. Get Active with Social Networking
Another of the most vital online reputation management tips is to ensure that you’re utilizing social networking. Your business cannot afford to ignore Facebook, Twitter, G+ and LinkedIn. You may also need to have a presence on sites like Pinterest, Tumblr and more. Being active on social media gives you the means to create positive buzz surrounding your company, and Google in particular loves social media (which means that you have a chance to create some positive entries in the SERPs). Of course, the real value here is that you’re able to create genuine engagement with your customers and potential customers. That’s the real value of social media – being able to connect directly and more deeply with your target audience.
3. Maintain Those Accounts
Too many businesses start off strong with social media, but then let those accounts fall by the wayside. It’s all too easy to do. You get busy. You have other claims on your time. Other items take precedence. However, you cannot afford to let your social accounts languish. Good online reputation management requires that you stay active and engaged. You need to do more than just HAVE an account. That account must be active and monitored. If your accounts aren’t active, or aren’t active enough, negative entries can easily supplant the positive ones you’re able to generate. That leads immediately to damage for your brand.
4. Don’t Over Do It
There’s a significant temptation to create accounts on every single social network out there. Don’t fall prey to this. Each social network is different, and some will be useful to your brand, while others will be useless. Do your due diligence and determine which networks are worth your time and effort. For instance, Twitter is one of the single most important sites for businesses hoping to engage in positive online reputation management, and Google is once more showing tweets in the search results. By engaging with your customers, clients, business partners and others on Twitter, you’re able to create a significant positive impact. LinkedIn is another no-brainer for businesses, but Facebook may or may not be the right choice for you. The same applies to G+, YouTube and other sites. Research each and determine where your efforts are best spent.
5. Optimize Your Site with Your Business Name
Your company’s website is one of the most powerful online brand management tools at your disposal, but you must ensure that it’s being leveraged effectively. You have to do more than just have a website. You must do more than optimize those pages for your product or service names and other related keywords. When it comes to online reputation management tactics, optimizing for your business’ name should be at the top of the list. Make sure that several of your website pages are optimized for your company’s name. Why? Simply put, there are few better things to show up in the top of the SERPs for a search on your company than your actual website. By optimizing your site for the company’s name, you help increase the chance of that happening. You can’t rely on your URL and about page alone. You need other pages to feature your company’s name pretty prominently (once every 100 words or so should be more than ample). Avoid using first person here (“we are your source for…”). Instead, opt for third person (“The XZY company is your source for…”).
6. Be Aware That Your Personal Reputation Will Affect Your Business
Many business owners fail to realize that their own personal reputation will have a significant impact on their online reputation. Management of your personal reputation then becomes an integral part of ensuring that your business is able to succeed. According to Forbes magazine, “Shareholders might look into executive reputations before investing, and well-known customers sometimes do that before buying from or endorsing the company.” That means you need to take steps to monitor, manage and improve your own reputation (as well as those of other decision makers within your business).
7. Handle Negative Content Correctly
Whether you run a large company, a midsize firm or a startup, chances are good that you’re going to come across negative content regarding your company at some point. When this happens, it is absolutely vital that you handle the situation correctly. In no instance should you ever reply to the comment or post in the heat of the moment. Great online reputation management methods begin with careful thought, and this definitely applies in this instance. The most common place to come across negative posts is on a consumer review site (Yelp, for instance). Resist the urge to post a rebuttal in the comment section. Instead, carefully consider the information provided by the commenter. Is there any truth to the situation? Is it possible your company dropped the ball in some respect?
Take this opportunity to dig into the situation and determine what went wrong, where and why. When you arrive at a course of action, respond to the individual directly, not through the review or post. Contact them through email, or if their information is in your database, give them a phone call. Ask what can be done to make the situation right. If possible, give your side of the story and explain that you’re very happy to take any steps necessary to rectify the situation (or explain what you are already doing to remedy it).
8. Avoid Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a powerful tool, but you might actually be better off not using it at all. Why is that? Simply put, you don’t own the page here. The information can be easily edited by anyone else (in fact, you may not have even created your company page in the first place). How accurate do you think that information is? There’s immense potential for that information to be incorrect, and even cast your business in a negative light. Avoid relying on any pages where you don’t own the content. If you use Wikipedia at all, pay very close attention to it and dispute any erroneous information with the editorial board as soon as possible (note: be prepared for a lengthy dispute process here, too).
9. Actively Listen
Sure, some negative content is posted by people just looking for attention. Other content might be posted by competitors seeking to smear your online reputation. However, that’s not the case for all instances. Some of those comments, posts and blogs may be created by customers with legitimate complaints. Listen to what they have to say. Use this as an opportunity for growth, and then show the poster or commenter how you’re taking action. Remember that every customer who leaves dissatisfied is one more who is going to your competitors, and do what you can to adjust your processes, fees or practices to better position yourself as a true leader in the industry.
10. Get Help
Online reputation management requires a significant investment of time and effort. If you’re unable to make that investment yourself and follow the best practice tips listed above, you need help. An online reputation management firm can help you monitor the conversation, stay engaged, and get to the root of the problem with negative content. With the right online reputation management tactics, such a partner can push down negative entries and populate the SERPs with positive content that leads back to your website and other online platforms. The right firm can also help by providing online reputation management training and courses, free tools and a great deal more.No matter the size of your business, or your industry or niche, online reputation management is an essential consideration. Without the right steps, you could be irreparably damaging your company’s single most valuable asset.