Have you heard? This month, I’ll be presenting the Vertical Measures Webinar! Join us for “Protect Your Online Reputation While You Still Can!,” on September 9 at 11:30 a.m. EST (8:30 a.m. PST, 10:30 a.m. CST) where I’ll discuss the need for and ways to protect your good online name. In preparation for my big day, I took some time out to talk to some folks in the field that I respect and whom have helped shape by approach to Online Reputation Management. I started off with David Wallace, the co-founder and CEO of SearchRank. He is a recognized expert in the industry of search and social media marketing. Also, David is a strong proponent for practicing ethical search engine marketing techniques and pro-active online reputation management.
Elise Redlin-Cook: What do you think is the best way to audit your online reputation?
David Wallace: The best tool I’ve come across in my online reputation management duties is Trackur. Trackur is a subscription based online reputation & social media monitoring tool designed to assist in tracking what is said about you or your company on the internet. The tool scans hundreds of millions of web pages, including news, blogs, video, images, and forums, and lets you know if it discovers anything that matches the keywords you put into it.
Of course if you want something simple and even free, Google Alerts is also a free way to have email updates sent to you of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic.
Elise: What’s the best way to prevent reputation crises?
David: Be proactive and take control of the SERPs (search engine results pages) before you have a problem. There are several ways to accomplish this. First and foremost, make sure you have a corporate web site that includes your brand and even trade names for which you wish to protect the reputation of. A corporate blog is also a must, not only with regards to online reputation but also as a way to get out information and interact with your community.
That should allow you to control the first and second set of search results but what about listings 3 – 30 and even beyond?
We have found that setting up profiles at popular social media sites works very well to “control” what the SERPs say about you (more about that later). You can also hire bloggers to write reviews about your company or even your products and/or services. With this technique, make sure the blogger lists the brand or trade name you wish to protect in the title of the post. If you can get a Wikipedia page for your company, that would be huge as Wikipedia pages rank very well for brand names.
The main idea is to have a variety of sites/pages besides your main corporate site that somehow represent your company in a positive or even neutral manner.
Elise: Great advice! So, how about if a reputation crisis does arise, where should one start?
David: I think you should start at the source. Most reputation management problems are caused by a single person. One should ask if there is any merit to the negativity. Can it be resolved with the individual who started the crisis?
There was a scenario a few years ago where I myself caused a company to have a negative online reputation by a blog post I wrote. I was simply relating the horrible experience I had with their shoddy craftsmanship and poor customer service. Once they discovered the post, which ranked number one for their brand name, the owner contacted me and worked to resolve the reason why I was upset in the first place. The post went away and their online reputation problem was solved.
So, I’d say start with the cause of the problem first and if it cannot be resolved that way, then take steps to either get the negative results removed (in cases of liable, slander, etc.) or push them down the results so they are not found on at least the first three pages of results.
Elise: What are some of the mistakes small business owners are making in terms of not fully protecting themselves or keeping tabs on what’s going on with their reputation?
David: They simply aren’t paying attention. They also underestimate the power today’s consumers have. With blogs and review sites such as Yelp, consumers have a lot of power to either do good or harm to a company. Whereas bad experiences were typically shared with 10 – 20 people in pre-UGC (user generated content) days, now a single blog post can be broadcasted to millions.
No matter how small a business is, they should be paying attention to what is being said about them online and take steps to not only have some control over the conversation but also be able to engage those who might have a negative image of the business.
Elise: It is suggested that if a company website has a negative result directly below it then up to 70% of surfers will click on the negative result first rather than the company website. Do you think this is true?
David: Absolutely! Even though most won’t admit it, we like negativity. Why are most of the local news stories negative in nature? It’s not just due to the fact that there is a lot of bad stuff going on but also because people feed on negative news. We love the scandal. In light of this, it is not hard to believe that most searchers will click on the negative results rather than the company’s web site.
Elise: Well, that certainly makes sense. So, what are some of the most common ways individuals or organizations come under attack?
David: It is true that you cannot make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time. However in most cases where an online reputation management problem occurs, the company did something (or didn’t do something) that really made the consumer upset, upset enough to take the time to write a blog post or file a negative review somewhere. Poor customer service, cheap products, sub-par service and or just not caring whether the customer is satisfied or not are all reasons why consumers get upset.
Of course there are the mentally unstable and even those who simply wish to do harm to a company because they can. Oh and the online extortionist… not mentioning any names here but if you been involved in any negative online reputation cases, you know who I’m talking about.
Elise: You’ve suggested creation of social media profiles for use in this endeavor. How do you use social media for online reputation management?
David: Sites like Facebook, Twiteer, LinkedIn and many others will allow you to set up profiles in which you can list your brand or trade name as the user name, have a custom URL, include info about your company, and in most cases create link or links back to your site.
The key is to set these up properly and then make sure they are indexed so they will actually show up in the results. Some social media sites allow you to link to other social media profiles which helps in the process of getting all these profiles indexed and present in the SERPs when your brand(s) or trade name(s) are searched for.
Elise: What are some tools and/or reading materials do you recommend on this topic?
David: Tools to monitor online reputation include Google Alerts, Trackur, Reputation Defender, BrandsEye, Radian6 and Twitter-specific – TweetDeck, Sideline, and Monitter. These are just a few of many tools now available to monitor online reputation.
As for reading, I wrote a post earlier this year entitled “Getting Proactive With Online Reputation Management” that may provide some insightful steps and techniques one can take to take control of their online reputations.