As a well-known professional with tons of referrals, it might be easy to “rest on your laurels,” as the saying goes. We’ve had potential clients tell us their website was “just a business card, so don’t worry about all that reputation or SEO stuff.” In fact, many professionals with a high referral rate believe they don’t need to worry about online reputation management at all. And branding? What’s branding?
Hello? You Need Reputation Management.
There’s only one problem with that attitude. All it takes is one unhappy customer, or even a non-customer, to ruin your character.
Case in point: a few years ago I had a run-in with a potential client. Potential. He didn’t like my prices and, although we had no contract, he somehow felt he’d been gypped. He chose a well-known complaint site and posted a complaint against me for “how poorly I treated clients”. For a month, anytime someone searched for my name, one of the first things they saw was the complaint. Now, granted, some of my actual clients came to bat for me, but the damage was done.
In this case, reputation management part was easy – sort of. I contacted the complaint site, showed them the correspondence and they took the complaint down. However, it took another month for it to disappear from the SERPs; it was listed, but when you clicked on the link it redirected to the home page of the complaint site.
For those two months, there’s no telling how many potential clients I may have lost from that one untrue complaint.
Stop The Problem Before It Starts.
It’s very seldom that a company manages to go through the business cycle of life untouched and pristine. It happens to everyone, whether the claims are legitimate or not: resentful employees, competitors, etc. can quickly destroy your online reputation. Because these complaints are easy to make anonymously, they’re hard to control, and harder to take care of in a private setting.
Being proactive is one of the best ways for you to keep strong muscles on powerhouse prestige. Build your online reputation and keep it strong with the following tips:
Tip #1: Add YouTube RSS feeds to your feed reader.
Why? This Comcast video search goes a long way to giving the answer.
- Video is big and anybody can make one.
- Video can easily go viral.
- One bad video can bring about “bad video offshoots”, causing negative publicity and reputation to spread.
Bonus Video Management Tips:
- Set your feeds up with relevant tags, such as brand names, company name, head officers, etc.
- Have an action plan for how you would address negative video feedback – before it happens.
- Make sure you post the video “in response to” the negative video. This ensures that people seeing the first will also see a link to yours, giving it more visibility.
- Don’t forget to fill in all the available boxes for details – meta info, description, tightly focused keywords, etc. This also gives your video response more visibility in the video SERPs.
Tip #2: Subscribe to Google Alerts.
Why? Google Alerts can show you what’s being indexed in the SERPs for:
- Your name
- Your company name
- Your brand name
- Specific products
- Your website and/or URL
- Other specified, important key terms
Bonus Alerts Tips:
- Set your Google Alerts with carefully thought out terms.
- Be specific with your terms: if you search for, say, “real estate”, you’ll get a slew of alerts you don’t want.
- Again, have an action plan for addressing negative feedback.
Tip #3: Monitor realtime social media.
Why? Twitter is a daily conversation. People share dreams and disappointments, including reviews like “[Company] products suck!” or “Still trying to reach [Company] customer service rep. after three hours.” Not only do Twitter, Facebook and Google+ (as well as others) give you a chance to monitor, but they also give you a chance to provide instant customer service.
Bonus Realtime Tips:
- Choose your social media monitoring tool.
- Find key terms your products /services /brand /company might come up in.
- Set email alerts for these terms.
- Be prepared to respond instantly to your alerts.
- Have an action plan for responding to other alerts.
Tip #4: Have a loose content strategy prepared for damage control.
Why? It’s harder – and less effective – to create an ORM campaign in the middle of the crisis. Content is the heaviest hitter when it comes to ORM.
Bonus Content Tips:
- Create a loose outline; “if this happens, we’ll do this.”
- Make “acquaintefriends” with people in your field who will let you add content to their site.
- Occasionally offer content, even if there isn’t a reputation management issue.
- Use each site as an “insta-posting” site (carefully), should damage control be needed.
Tip #5: Spend time creating strong, loyalty-based relationships.
Why? The obvious answer is, because it’s good for business. The less obvious answer is because loyal customers make a more convincing argument against negative brand reputation than company mouths.
Bonus Relationship Building Tips:
- Make sure your services/products meet the promises you make about them.
- Offer quality customer service and more than one way (email, phone, Twitter, Facebook, etc) for your customers to contact you.
- Don’t be afraid to address potential situations online. If you see a negative remark about your company on Twitter, address it immediately – live and in front of everybody. “I’m sorry to hear you had a bad experience. Please tell me how I can help.”
- Always take the higher road. Never respond with a negative comment, no matter how much you might want to.
- Make sure your social relationships know you’re human. Don’t try so hard to be professional that people wonder if you’re a bot.
Think of link building, and how hard it is to get organic links – especially in this day and age. Anyone who has ever started a blog, posted great content and waited for links to come in knows what I mean.
Now consider that building links is much like building reputation. Links, and reputation, only come to you after you build your online business. Until then, and even after then, it takes hard work to get enough reputation muscles to flex.
When you’re working on your next big deal or thinking about where you’re going to spend your marketing dollars next, don’t leave out the above tips. Why? Because a strong online reputation does matter.