Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 at 9:08 AM
Image by sxc.hu user ortonesque
Online reputation management is not just the province of those businesses and public figures that have been subject to scandal. On the contrary, in this age of Google where anyone can look up anything and anyone, reputation management is vital. For small businesses, it’s not a vanity or a luxury, but a true necessity.
Think about it this way. Whether you’re a small business owner, the manager of a dental practice, professional services provider or the owner of a café, you need to bring in new customers. And you typically bring them in one at a time, not en masse. The thing is, customers you bring in are likely doing their due diligence, checking you out on Google and seeing what other customers have said about you.
If Google only brings up positive information about your brand, then you’re in fine shape. If there are any negative listings or bad reviews out there, however, then your company’s online reputation is sunk — and along with it goes your business prospects.
It doesn’t matter if those unwanted listings are true or not. Maybe they’re legitimate customer reviews, or maybe they’re defamatory posts written by business rivals or disgruntled employees. What matters is that these undesirable Google listings are going to send potential clients to your competitors — and your small business will begin to fade into oblivion.
All of that is the bad news. The good news is that reputation defense is very possible — whether you choose to enlist the services of a professional reputation management company, or simply do reputation repair strategies on your own.
Here are five cost-effective steps that any small business can use to ensure maximum brand protection.
- Know your online reputation. This is the easiest, most significant step for protecting your business’ online reputation. It’s astonishing, the number of businesses who don’t realize what people are saying about its products and services on the Web. Monitoring your reputation can be as simple as using Google and Bing, and perhaps setting up a Google alert, as well. Searching on Twitter and Facebook is also a good idea.
- Build a strong, defensive wall around your brand identity. Now that you have a good idea of where your business stands in terms of its reputation, you’re ready for the next step of building a strong, defensive wall. Start by snatching up all domain names associated with your business — that is, the name of your company, .com, .net, .org and so on. You may not actively use these domains, but owning them helps you build a hedge of protection on Google and other search engines.
- Get active on social media. A good Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest presence can be vital for your company. It shores up goodwill for your brand, and it populates search engines with positive content. Perhaps most importantly, though: if you’ve claimed your company’s name on Facebook and Twitter, then your enemies can’t seize it to use against you. Watch for company mentions — good and bad — and respond to them as you would a customer who calls to complain or compliment. If you don’t have an answer to the problem, acknowledge you heard the customer and you’re working on it.
- Create positive content about your company. Once you’re bought up some prime online real estate, and started using social networks to your advantage, then you can begin the work of amassing some strong, compelling content about your company. Remember that the battle over your company’s reputation is a battle for Google dominance. If someone writes a bad review of your company, and it shows up on page 10 of a Google search, that doesn’t matter. It’s what’s on the first page that matters. The best thing you can do to protect your brand, then, is to inundate Google with as much positive, brand-enhancing content as you can — using the very domains and social media accounts you claimed earlier!
- Bury bad reviews and listings. The final step is to remain committed to the process of publishing positive content, and trusting that positive content to do its job. While responding to feedback is important, it’s equally important to remember that the creation of positive content is what will ultimately curb the effects of bad reviews. Stay resolute in your content creation, and remember that it’s likely to be an ongoing process, one where you build your defensive wall, one brick at a time.
A small business needs a sterling reputation on the Internet. Your online reputation is more than just your business card in the virtual world — it’s the source of all your credibility as a company. By taking these simple steps, however, you are effectively taking online reputation seriously — something that will pay huge dividends in the end.
About the author
Rich Gorman is an expert practitioner of reputation management techniques and a designer of direct response marketing programs for companies large and small. He leads the team at www.reputationchanger.com.
Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 at 4:44 PM
I’ve been reluctant about guest posts because they rarely offer value and most of them write 10 versions of the same article to post everywhere. Not Matt Polsky. Matt did something different. He addressed me by name and his email included specifics about my blog. He also suggested a topic that worked for readers like you. That’s the way to reach a blogger. Take it, Matt.
Photo from sxc.hu user Thoursie
Businesses should take care in monitoring their brand name. From the first day and throughout the life of the company, managers need to use monitoring apps and searches to watch what is being said about their company. Not only does this apply to large businesses with many employees, but to small businesses and one-person businesses as well.
Ignoring customer comments and views devastate a business’ brand and negatively affect your personal image. Because one-person business owners have a tendency to use both their name and their business’ name simultaneously, online reputation management grows more important. To protect your name and business’ name, use the following online reputation management techniques.
Use Basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO used to be the go-to for all online reputation management needs. Although it isn’t the only technique to use, it remains important. Following SEO guidelines allows business owners to make sure that their names appear high in the search engine results and prevent poor press from being easily seen on these same search pages.
Great content and keywords contribute to SEO. After Google’s Panda update, content has become king, the better the content and the more people share it, the better it is for you. A great spot to start for content creation is a blog. Starting a blog is not hard and you can provide your customers with relevant information and show off your expertise.
Businesses researching their competitors look for who is linking to them and what anchor text they are using. However, for someone such as a writer, this would not be a time efficient option since you would have millions of competitors to research. Now if you are a niche writer who write about a certain topic that has fewer competitors, the research may be worth it.
Dominate Social Media
For individuals who run their businesses under a different title, they need to have an account on numerous social media sites for not only their own personal name, but also for their businesses name. Each of your accounts on these sites, both personal and professional, need to convey the same image that you are a professional providing quality products or services.
While your professional social media sites may be more focused on your products or services, your personal sites need to indicate that you are a professional business owner. This consistency makes it easier for potential customers to find you trustworthy, which will make them more inclined to give you their business. Other reasons why you need to be using social networking sites include:
- Gain feedback from customers.
- Engage followers in a positive avenue.
- Manage and correct any negative press received.
- Grow ranking factor for search engines.
Remember when working on social networking sites, it is important to keep them frequently updated. A neglected account can be worse than no account at all and lead to negative press. If you receive negative comments, respond immediately and rectify the situation, or at least show you are working to resolve it to make both parties happy. Remember negative comments aren’t the only ones that merit a response. If customers compliment, thank them and work toward turning them into brand advocates.
The rise of social media has made brand management a priority for everyone, even college students seeking employment. Politicians have ruined their careers over tweets, while Facebook photos have costs professionals their jobs. It takes years to build your reputation and merely a bad tweet, comment or photo to ruin it.
About the Guest Blogger
Matt Polsky is the Senior Content and Reputation Manager for VA Mortgage Center.com. Managing VA Mortgage Center reviews, and sharing insights learned from the nation’s leading provider of VA home loans.
How do you manage your reputation? What do you monitor? How do you respond to comments about you or your business?
Subscribe to this here blog: RSS or E-mail