I was recently asked to jump in on a roundup post over at IQ SEO about negative press. The question was, “What do you do if negative press appears on Google about you or your company? How do you protect your reputation online?” You can follow the link to get a great set of feedback from various people in the industry, but I thought it was a great subject to cover here, as well (and a little more in depth).
When Does Your Online Reputation Matter?
First, why would you care about your online reputation? What scenarios make this kind of thing important? Is it just business and branding?
In actuality, there are several reasons to pay attention to what’s being said about you online. Here are a few:
- You’re a high school student trying to get into college, especially on a scholarship
- You’re trying to get an internship at a prestigious institution
- You want to do better in your career, either in the company you’re currently in, or a competitor
- You’re a business owner and the face of the business
- You’re an employee of a company and use social media to be an employer advocate
In short, if you work for anyone, own a company, want to work for anyone or want to get into school – pretty much anything besides sit in front of a T.V. and be a couch potato -, you need to worry about your reputation.
We live in a world where people lose their jobs over social media posts and what shows up on their public profiles. Many probably remember the Twitter storm over Jessica Stacco’s tweet about AIDS, posted right before she jumped on a flight to South Africa (#hasJessicaLandedYet)? Then there’s the man in Chicago that lost his job because of an ill-thought-out tweet. Students have lost scholarships when the college boards came across party pictures; interns have lost promising positions. All because the people forgot that the world was paying attention.
What Is The World Seeing About You?
How do you find out what your online reputation is? Most people don’t have the media storm that Ms. Stacco’s tweet received. In fact, many don’t even know why they didn’t get a job, or were passed over for a promotion they were perfectly suited for. Thankfully, there are several paid and free tools out there to help you keep your reputation golden (or at least catch it when it starts to tank). Here are four to get you started:
- Search engines – Search engines are often overlooked, but searching your name and/or company can help you uncover a lot of information. If nothing else, you get a good idea of how well the search engines know you and how much information is available to any researchers. Make sure you don’t just stop on the front page, though; those looking for you won’t. Go back three or four pages, or more.
- Google Alerts – Create a Google Alert with your name, any nicknames, your company, etc. Yes, you’ll get results that may not have anything to do with you, but make sure you do a quick scroll anyway. You never know when something negative will show up.
- Complaint Search – Check your name or company against 40 different complaint sites. This is an excellent little app for finding complaints and responding to them.
- TalkWalker Alerts – Much like Google Alerts, TalkWalker scans numerous areas around the web, dutifully listening for mentions of your keyterm, name, company, etc.
So you use the tools and find some unfavorable, unsavory, or otherwise unwanted content with your face, name or company plastered all over it. What do you do? What’s next?
Solving the Negative Online Reputation Problem
The worst thing you can do when negative content shows up is retaliate without thought. You can’t just react. In fact, sometimes you don’t have to act at all. First, go down the line of questions:
- Do I have access to it?
- How bad is it?
- Can I have it removed?
- Is it slander?
The first question is whether you can take it down yourself or not. For example, you’ve looked online and found some risque pictures of yourself that you posted on Facebook in a moment of drunken madness. Or perhaps it’s not even that racy, but just doesn’t give your company or name a good bent. If it’s on a property that you own or a social media account of yours, just go in and clean it up – and then check your accounts to make sure nothing else has shown up.
If you can’t take it down, you need to assess how bad the content is. You could be spending quite a lot of resources getting it removed. Will it destroy your reputation? Does it really need to be dealt with? If the answer is yes, see if you can contact the owner of the content to request them to take it down. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t. For example, in the case of a negative review, the review site might take it down if it’s obviously a false review.
If they won’t, your last chance of it not turning into a long-term, full-on, reputation management campaign is Google or the authorities. Occasionally, such as in the case of slander, Google will take down the results and block them from being indexed. The standards are pretty strict, however, so don’t put a lot of hope into it.
Online Reputation Management Campaigns
If you answered the four questions above and the problem remains, the final step is to bury it in the search results. You can read the post at IQSEO for what 30+ SEO specialists would do with negative press (including yours truly), but let’s cover two of them here.
Claiming Social Accounts
Do you have any social accounts you haven’t claimed?
- Find your social accounts. You can use KnowEm to find the ones you don’t have and claim them.
- Fill them out fully. If there’s a place to put information, use it:
- Write a complete bio. Use as much of the available character count as you can.
- Add images. Whether it’s an image of your smiling mug, the front of your business or a few of your products, make your profile shine.
- Address (for companies)
- Contact information
- Manage and participate. There are several social media management apps and programs that can help you manage them. You can use cross-posting, as well. In other words, some apps allow you to push a single post to several social accounts. Participation helps build a positive reputation, so participate where you can.
Search for your company, your name, your business address and your phone number. You should have at least a few business listing sites pop up that you haven’t actually invested in. A few examples of where you might claim a listing:
- Google Business
- Unofficial Facebook page
- Merchant Circle
When claiming and filling out listings, it’s important that you use the same NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) every time. The bonus here is that you’re also helping your local SEO. Win, win. And again, if there’s a place you can fill out, do so. Add images, content – really beef out the profiles.
I can’t stress enough that what you do in an online reputation crisis matters. You can’t – CAN. NOT. – react with a knee-jerk reaction. It takes planning and thought. Don’t just jump, create a campaign – or better yet, figure out ahead of time what you’ll do in a crisis.
Yes, you may have to move quickly, but quickly isn’t the same as rashly.
Remember, when managing your reputation, you don’t just want to bury the negative. You want to come out better than you were before the crisis. What’s that saying, “haste makes waste”? Don’t waste the opportunity to better your business. From your responses, to your profiles, to your conversations on social, make everything a carefully crafted communication. Let your words be golden!
Make sure you take the time to look over the IQSEO article Need to Bury Negative Press? Online Reputation Management: Protecting Your Brand for more great tips. If you need help with your online reputation, contact Level343. We’ll help you shine bright!