Online Reputation Management
The Complete Online Reputation Management Guide for SEO in 2020
The internet is not only big business, it is also big for business. Recent global events have seen a spike in people turning to shop online, with businesses following suit to provide a greater selection of goods and services. The result of this is that a big part of people’s experience with a brand or business is online, and just as in the ‘real’ world, a business or brand’s reputation can make or break them in this fiercely competitive current online climate.
Just ask yourself, how likely are you to buy from a business with a bad reputation?
In this article, we’re going to look at why online reputation management is important, some industry-standard online reputation management best practices, as well as several ways and tools you can use in managing your online reputation.
WHAT IS ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT
Simply put, online reputation management is just that, managing the online reputation of your business, but with a strong focus on the prevailing sentiment towards your business on search engine rankings (which is why it is often referred to as website reputation management). For instance, when people Google your company name, are the results that come up positive, or are they about negative aspects of your business? Online reputation management is what you can do to influence those results towards the positive (or build on already positive sentiment).
WHY IS REPUTATION MANAGEMENT IMPORTANT
Considering that more and more people are choosing to shop online, and almost two-thirds of people’s shopping experience starts with an online search, how your brand is perceived online can impact your brand in the ‘real’ world. Here’s a look at more reasons why it is so important to have a good reputation online:
i. It’s an online spokesperson
Your online presence is an extension of your brand similar to how things like advertising, customer in-store experiences, and brand-spokespersons affect how people see your brand. In fact, things like your website and social media are essentially brand spokespeople.
ii. It’s permanent
The saying goes that you should never say or post anything online that you don’t want to come back to you. Everything online is permanent and if there’s ‘dirt’ on you, someone somewhere is bound to dig it up at some point. That’s because almost everything is permanent online. Every post, every comment on social media, and every faux pas can come back and bite you.
iii. Financial & legal implications
A negative online reputation isn’t just bad for your brand, it can have financial and legal implications as well. SEO can be a big contributor to both on- and offline sales, and thus a bad reputation on rankings can cause a drop in revenue. But there can also be costly legal implications. Things like a CEO or employee making a controversial comment on social media, can result in legal action that can tarnish your reputation and may lead to legal action.
iv. The number of things that can bring your online reputation down.
There are a great many things that can negatively impact your online reputation, including negative comments, competitors intentionally leaving negative comments, disgruntled current or former employees spreading ‘hate’ online, someone reporting you to a consumer watch group, negative news, fake profiles, ‘squatted’ domains and social media usernames, false information, to name a few.
The fact that there are so many, and that spreading negative information is so easy, is one of the biggest reasons why online reputation management is so important!
HOW TO MANAGE REPUTATION
With so many things that can have a negative impact on your company’s reputation, it may seem like a lost cause, but implementing online reputation management best practices can make a big difference in strengthening a positive reputation or turning a negative reputation around. Here’s a look at ways of managing your online reputation:
i. What do you want your reputation to be?
Before you get started it is important to decide how you would like people to perceive you? What would you like your online reputation to be? Use this as the goal of managing your online reputation. Knowing what you are working towards makes it easier to develop an online reputation management strategy.
ii. What is your current online reputation?
The next step in managing your online reputation is to find out what your current online reputation is, because if there are problems and what they are then you can’t address it. Google your company, search for your name on social media (including hashtags), speak to friends, family, customers, anyone who would give you an honest answer. Where on search rankings does your company appear? Are there any trends or patterns? If comments are negative, are they about the company or specific products? Use these to build a reputation management strategy.
iii. Content strategy
Once you know whether your current online reputation is in-line with what you want your reputation to be, you can start building a strategy to manage it. Content (blog posts) marketing is becoming an increasingly important tool in online marketers’ toolbox because it works. This makes it a great tool to improve your reputation, but you have to plan. Research content that’s appropriate for your audience, produce good quality content that speaks to them, then draw up a timeline of when and where to publish this content to ensure the audience reads the content.
iv. Manage social media
Social media is a very important tool for managing your online reputation. Similar to content, make sure you regularly post relevant, informative, and good quality content that appeals to your target audience. Draw up a schedule so you know exactly what you are posting, when, and where (tools like HootSuite are great). This will allow you to curate the message beforehand and ensure it is in-line with the reputation you want to build.
IMPORTANT: Getting involved in controversial topics is a sure-fire way to damage your reputation. Sometimes it’s important to have an opinion on social media but tread VERY carefully.
v. Secure your brand
As mentioned before, fake or squatted domains and usernames can potentially be detrimental to your reputation, since you don’t have control and users can easily be fooled into thinking that it’s legitimately you. Make sure you register ALL relevant web domains and usernames on social platforms such a Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn (among others). By owning your brand online, you are in charge of the narrative you put out to the world.
vi. Build credibility
Once you own your brand online you can start to manage your reputation. One of the best ways to do this is to establish yourself as the authority within your industry with things like blog posts, videos, podcasts, and guest posts on industry websites. For instance, if you sell vacuum cleaners, be the brand people go to when they are looking for information on what to look for in a good vacuum cleaner. This forms a big part of your content strategy, as mentioned above.
vii. Be accessible
Having readily available email addresses and phone numbers on your website and channels like Google or Bing makes it easier for customers to interact with you (and for you to respond). How quickly you respond is very important for your reputation. Give customers an indication of how long it will take for you to respond — good response time is within 24 hours.
viii. Respond to criticism
Responding to criticism is vital for managing your online reputation, but how you respond to criticism is will determine on which way it will go. Before you respond, it is important to listen to complaints. Read comments and emails carefully to understand what the criticism is really about.
When you respond, by honest, don’t make excuses and promise to do better in future. Speak to customers like a person. It is fairly infuriating when you have a complaint and you receive a standard, copy/paste response. Finally, remember to stay calm — it is business, so don’t take criticism personally. Losing your cool can only make the situation worse.
ix. Monitor Reputation
You have your reputation goals, you know what your current reputation is, and you are doing something about it. But how will you know whether your efforts are effective? To ensure you stay on track, it is important to continuously monitor your reputation by using things like analytics or monitoring tools. Remember, things like a shocking news story or a bad comment that went viral can almost instantly damage your reputation. Knowing your reputation and monitoring your efforts will allow you to quickly respond to these events and minimize the damage.
On the positive side, monitoring your online reputation can also identify opportunities to strengthen your reputation.
x. Create an online reputation guideline
One of the ways to manage your online reputation is by creating an online communication policy. Use this document to stipulate online do’s and don’ts especially where social media is concerned. This should include things like staff should not post anything personal or harmful while using company accounts, no sharing of sensitive data (list these), and for staff to remain professional at all times when interacting with the public on the company’s behalf. It may sound obvious, but many companies have suffered due to staff, even CEOs, being guilty of these things.
Your online reputation doesn’t just come overnight, it builds up over time. That said, it can change seemingly overnight, and a bad reputation can be very bad for business. By carefully building and managing your online reputation you can ensure that consumers trust your brand or business and in these uncertain economic times, it might just be the thing that lets your business thrive!
Last Updated on November 29, 2021 by Gregor Blair