Reputation is one thing that every human worries about- nobody wants bad things being said about them. In high school as in business, there is nothing worse than trying to overcome a bad reputation. This may be because its simply human nature to spread the bad before the good. For example, an unsatisfied diner at a restaurant is more apt to tell friends and family about the terrible service or overcooked filet than a diner that left the same restaurant full and completely satisfied. The same goes for any business or organization~ perception is everything!
Now more than even, potential customers and employees are looking for other people's comments, experiences & reviews of companies and products. People trust their peers' opinions and will use their opinions when making a decision. In the past, this may have been through word of mouth marketing or by talking to family, friends and co-workers. Nowadays, this process is occurring online at a rampant speed. It is easier than ever before for consumers (and even employees) to express their satisfaction as well as dissatisfaction with your business online. What one must worry about are the comments that "bash" your company or products. This can be in the form of forum posts, product reviews, personal blog posts, etc. These negative mentions of your company or brand can work their way up the Search Engine Result Pages (SERP). These negative comments or reviews can show up on the first page of the SERP when a potential or current customer/employee searches for your company, brands, products, key executives, etc. This can greatly affect your online reputation and may result in lost sales, damaged relationships with current customers and a lack of trust in your organization and products.
As in many situations, it is better to be proactive/preventive than reactive. Brand/company image takes a long time to build and establish. A smart business understands that one must protect their brand in every place a consumer can interact with it- this includes on the internet. You must be completely aware of what is being said about you online, take action accordingly, focus on your own site's brand content optimization and keep this a major priority moving forward.
The first step is being aware and watch what is being said about you online.
This includes monitoring not only the major search engine results but also blog search engines, video sites such as YouTube, image sharing sites such as Flickr, blogs, forums, product review sites, as well as social media (such as Twitter) & news sites. In order to be fully aware, watch not only what is being said about your organization name but also brands, products, important keywords, executives, etc.
The second step is to make your website(s) as Optimized as possible.
All digital content should be brand optimized. This content includes: Text content, Video, Images, Audio and Press releases.
It is also important to ensure that online assets from all departments within the organization are optimized- this includes PR, marketing, HR, SEO, etc. This is a tactic to make more of your own content rank well in the search engines. If your own content takes up most of the available space on the first pages of search results, the negativity can be diluted and the negative comments will have less of a chance of showing on the first page of search engine results.
The third step is to Engage with consumers and customers, both satisfied and disgruntled.
Once a negative comment comes up- you must address the issue, own it and react to the comment as soon as possible. Be honest and transparent with the consumer- explain the situation, accept fault if warranted and explain how you will improve/change or correct the problem.
There is a main breakdown of what you can do to help your online reputation in both the short and long term. Both of these should be considered in your online reputation strategy.
Short Term Reputation Management:
- Put most of your focus on the Search Engine Result Pages of the major engines
- Create a defined brand optimization process that is executed across all divisions of the organization
- Make sure all digital assets are optimized
Long Term Reputation Management:
- Work to identify, qualify and engage all negative online content by correcting all inaccuracies
- Respond to all negative comments
- Create open relationships and transparency between content producers (journalists, bloggers & fans)
- Focus on getting multiple positive rankings on the SERPs
Online and brand reputation is something that can't be ignored by any company or organization. Having negative listings on search engines for your company or products is like having a picket line outside of your building's front door. It is no secret that people are doing pre-buy research online and you must be in position to capitalize on this by making sure potential customers see and read positive things about your company, products and procedures.
Don't waste any time, get started now with some of these great online tools to keep on top of what is being said about you:
Boardtracker.com: Monitors only forum posts
Blogpulse.com: Track to see if you are being talked about more or less
Backtype.com: Track blog comments about brand and keywords
Google.com/trends: Watch up and coming trends in industries
Keotag.com: Track tags in bookmarking/tagging sites
Technorati.com: More tailored to track blog posts and social media sites