The internet has the potential to make or break your online brand.
With the advent of social media, it has become even more easy to build (or destroy) your reputation. That’s the reason online reputation management has evolved to become a specialized service.
Your reputation on the Internet can be subject to a lot of volatility.
Do something awesome, and you’re liable to get liked, shared, and followed by a huge number of loyal fans overnight. But if you do something off-putting … BOOM! Down goes your carefully constructed professional image.
If you think your online reputation is doing all right, you might be correct.
But you might not.
While you may be seeing positive reviews about yourself or your business, you need to really “listen” beyond “what you can hear,” because the internet is populated by all sorts of noises.
Someone could have posted defaming statements against you somewhere. There might be negative posts on certain social media about your operation. While you only checked out the first page or two of Google search results for anything about your business, the pages further down might be sprinkled with content that could prove damaging to your reputation, both on and off-line.
In this guide, we’re going to explore the importance of a brand’s online reputation and some of the strategic SEO tips and tricks businesses can use to ensure they’re seen in the best possible light.
Let’s begin by exploring some of the specific reasons why your brand’s online reputation matters. (Some of these will be obvious, but it’s important to review each one so that you remind yourself why it’s so important to invest in your reputation.)
Did you know that 97 percent of companies say online reputation management is important to their business? By comparison, just 92 percent believe a social media presence is important.
Yep…you read that right. Brands believe online reputation is more important than social media. (And while you could argue that the latter falls underneath the heading of the former, you get the idea.)
If you aren’t already paying attention to your brand’s reputation, now is the time to focus on the things that matter most.
The key to keeping your internet reputation sparkling clean is to pay close attention to what people say about you.
Paying close attention should be something you do concurrently with your efforts to fill the search engines and social media platforms with positive information about your activities. Your success online rests on how well you optimize your site for the key terms that you would like your business to dominate.
However, it’s equally crucial to address any questionable issues that might be raised about your business — and you must address them quickly.
As e-Commerce evolves at dizzying speed, it spins off new acronyms and even new fields at an amazing rate. A new subdivision of Public Relations, largely the offspring of SEO, is the field of reputation management. This new type of public relations activity addresses the matter of negative search engine results, which can be devastating to e-Commerce success.
Many sites ask for feedback in the increasingly interactive arena of cyberspace, and of course feedback can be positive or negative. Any e-Commerce vendor wants to publicize its positive feedback and hush up negative responses. E-Commerce sellers thrive or wither on the basis of customer feedback after purchases.
Your first step is to correct the problem that the bad review is complaining about. This is just common sense and applies to a brick and mortar business just as much as to an e-Seller.
If you can turn a dissatisfied customer into a happy one, he or she may remove the negative feedback, and perhaps even submit a new review gushing over your responsiveness to feedback.
If posted information is simply incorrect, it may be sufficient to point that out, and the slur may be removed. Legal challenges of libelous sites are even a possibility.
Another corrective measure might be garnering positive references on authoritative third party sites.
Press releases are a time-honored tool of public relations, and they can be used in this way. Like any other tool of public relations, reputation management can involve abuse. Sellers have been known to offer discounts as rewards for positive reviews.
John Morgan of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, with his colleague Jennifer Brown of the same university’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, studied feedback processes in connection with selling activity on the best-known site for e-Sellers, and found that positive feedback was being bought and sold through discounting practices. Items were being sold for as little as a penny, simply in order to generate a positive feedback blip, thus raising the positive feedback percentage, a crucial matter for an e-Seller.
Fake reviews and even fake bloggers, talking up a product or service, are sometimes employed. Of course the ethical boundaries are very fuzzy here. Just what constitutes a “fake” blog? Not every hired blogger is misrepresenting the truth, but some are.
The new term for this type of activity is “astroturfing,” taking its cue from the way astroturf masquerades as real grass. An astroturfing site strives to hide its connections to the individuals that produce it, and particularly to hide its basis of financial support.
Astroturfing can be used by competitive rivals who upload fake reviews trashing other suppliers in the same field. Strong-arm techniques are not unheard of. A spam bot can harass a site so seriously that it has to leave the web entirely, or submit to demands to remove content.
Online reputation is as much an art form as it is a science. You’ll need to use common sense, act swiftly, and be willing to pivot when things change.
With that being said, here are some useful tips you can put into action to neutralize negative mentions, promote positive ones, and craft a compelling brand story that’s backed by loads of social proof.
Turn to your customers, your loyal fans (hopefully), and ask them for positive feedback. While it would be inappropriate to offer them discounts in return, it is legitimate to discreetly make it clear to them that a good relationship between the customer and the firm, perhaps involving a positive review, will benefit both parties in their future commercial relationship. This is not rocket science or anything particularly new. Merchants need to be nice to their customers, and when they are nice, the customers will be happy, and will say so.
Set up a legitimate blog – it’s not unethical to hire bloggers for this – to blog positively about topics related to your product.
If you go this route, make sure the blog is producing genuine content that’s helpful to readers. And for best results, don’t make the blog 100 percent about your brand. It’s a good idea to mix in some other content about topics that aren’t directly about your products and services all the time.
Get yourself a guest blog gig on other blog sites related to your product. Obtain the same sort of gigs for your writing staff and public relations operatives. Use these opportunities to garner positive name recognition for what you do.
Guest blogging opportunities are more plentiful than you might realize. You can find these opportunities by running quick Google searches for search terms related to your niche + a keyword like “become a contributor.” This will reveal websites and blogs that have formal programs.
For example, if you want to become a contributor on a blog that focuses on marketing, you could search for something like:
digital marketing blog AND “become a contributor”
It also doesn’t hurt to reach out to websites and blogs that you think would be good opportunities. They might not have formal programs, but could be willing to accept your content. You don’t know until you ask!
Register with directories like Yelp and others, and solicit reviews there. Of course, make sure that the product or service referenced by the directory is one that will produce a positive response among users.
This is sort of a slow play. You aren’t going to get immediate results, but over time it could produce a steady trickle of positive feedback. (Again, be nice to your buyers and they will be nice to you.)
Establish relationships with third party sites that can talk about your site. Get some interviews. Use all of the time-honored techniques of old style public relations and advertising. Press releases are good possibilities. Of course each of these releases and interviews needs to be promoted with good SEO techniques and other SEM practices.
As more website traffic and content consumption goes to video, YouTube continues to expand its reach and influence. It’s no longer just a place people go to be entertained. It’s the world’s second-largest search engine.
Find out what results come up when someone searches your brand’s name on YouTube. Then produce positive, branded content so that you can control the narrative in a way that reflects well on your brand.
This is a super grassroots approach, but the success of online reputation management is often found in the details.
Maintain a presence on public forums, and engage your writers to do the same, making sure that they do not violate the boundaries of truthfulness or ethics in what they say there.
If you notice negative press and mentions, address them in a positive and proactive way. Casually and organically spread good news about your brand and elevate your online presence along the way.
Monitor your success with alerts that can be placed on Yahoo, Google, Twitter, and other sites. There are tools that will let you set up alerts about search results that will let you know how you’re doing. This can help you amplify good mentions and address the bad ones in a swift and proactive manner.
These days, it’s impossible to ignore the enormous opportunities that social media has to offer. It has served as a medium for businesses to promote their products and services, and customers are largely choosing it as their most preferred tool for airing their complaints.
You can program Twitter and Facebook, two of today’s leading social tools, to track mentions about your business. You can also use these sites to track mentions about your competitors and study what the public is saying about them.
By using social media to track mentions of your business, you can respond to consumer concerns immediately, show your appreciation for any positive comments, and defuse threatening discussions that could potentially destroy your reputation.
When you’re proactive in this way, and you maintain a high profile across the web, this shows potential customers that you stay fully aware of any issues relating to your business, and that you are always ready to resolve them with people in a quick and timely manner.
But which tools should you be using? Here are five of our favorites:
You won’t need to use all of these tools – many of them offer the same features and capabilities – but you should be able to find one or two that naturally integrate into your workflow. (Most have some sort of free option and/or trial that allows you to use it risk-free.)
At SEO.co, we give brands the fuel they need to build authority and cultivate positive online reputations that precede them in the sales process.
Want to scale your organic traffic with high quality links, prominent brand mentions, and positive PR pieces that allow you to reach the right customers at the right time?
We’ve got you covered.