Four Top Tips to Successful Online Reputation Management

Posted on March 6, 2011

 

The Internet, as we all know, is a very public place where dirty washing doesn’t just get aired in front of people; it gets inspected, deconstructed, reposted and even spoofed if left unchecked. When the proverbial hits the online fan, the stench can stretch far and wide, and no matter how many windows you open, the smell may never go away.

That’s the trouble with the Internet; it’s also its biggest advantage. It is a place where anyone can have a voice on anything, but it also enables you to retaliate and comment on anything – and everything is in the public eye. Where the Internet was once an anonymous place, inhabited by ‘keyboard warriors’ posting from the relative safety of their basements or back-rooms, knowing that they could say what they wanted without fear of repercussions, the net has now changed. Internet users are being held accountable for what they post. ISPs are quick to offer up information on who has posted something if it gets them out of trouble, and websites often react fast to complaints about content to save themselves a lawsuit.

The Internet has indeed changed over the years, and what was once a free-for-all of unchecked opinions has now become a more thoughtful place amid fears of reprisals, solicitors’ letters and libel cases.

However, despite the relative lawfulness of the Internet when compared to the wild west feel to the post-dotcom bubble burst, businesses and individuals still find themselves the victims of negative press, vitriolic attacks, unfounded allegations and biased reviews on a regular basis. The very public nature of the Internet means that anyone can have their say about anything, and someone with an axe to grind will always shout louder than someone heaping praise upon you. As the tabloids will testify, a negative story is always more interesting than a positive one, and negative press often finds its way into Google’s results when your company or brand name is searched for.

So what can you do about it? If you find that pages are cropping up in Google when someone searches for your company that are negative towards you, how can you make them disappear? How can you bury that negative press so that it doesn’t show up at all?

Let’s look at some tips for online reputation management and how you can clean up the search results for your company, so that your customers (and potential customers) aren’t faced with any negativity about your company when they search for you.

1. Leave Well Alone
2. Use the power of Social Media
3. Promote ‘neutral’ results
4. Create additional results on powerful websites

Leave Well Alone
The first thing someone will be tempted to do when they see a blog post that is laying into them, or read a review that is full of negatives, is to comment on that post. This may be in the form of blog comments, a forum post or, in many cases (and certainly the case with sites like Ciao.co.uk) to sign up to the website and post positive reviews of their own company. This is absolutely, 100%, the wrong thing to do. You should leave those review sites and blog posts well alone, for a number of very important reasons.

Firstly, if you disagree with the original posters viewpoint, or create an account on a reviews website to post a positive review, you will be creating an confrontational scenario. Your post will provoke the original poster, and other people who have posted or just read the post, to also comment. By replying to any negative press on the website you’re creating a forum for discussion, and it’s a discussion you cannot control. The more you post, the more they will post, and things can only get worse.

Secondly, every time you post a comment or review on a website you are adding fresh content to that page. Google loves pages with fresh, constantly updated content. Every time you post, you’re improving their SEO, helping their rankings, and ensuring that the original negative review or blog post ranks higher in the search engines, and is always going to be found when someone searches for your product.

Finally, if you do create an account (or accounts) to post positive reviews of your own business you are running the risk of being found out, and this could create far worse press than the original post generated.

Use the Power of Social Media
Social media is perhaps the best weapon in the arsenal of the online reputation management expert. Social media websites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, are incredibly powerful and show up in Google’s natural search results for a high proportion of searches. As such, they can be used to guard against negative results appearing in Google for your company, or for yourself.

You should create profiles on each of the major social media websites, both for yourself and for your company, and use them as a daily part of your online strategy. Promote them in much the same way as you would promote your own website, with optimised page content and links from other websites (including your own) and update them regularly.

If you think that sites such as Facebook and Twitter are a drain on your company’s man hours, you couldn’t be more wrong. Embrace them and reap the rewards.

Promote ‘neutral’ results
There are ten places on the first page Google, and they don’t all have to be relevant to a search from your point of view. Look at the first ten results for a search on your business, or your own name (if that’s what is causing the problem) and see how many of the results are positive, how many are negative and how many are neutral, or irrelevant. For example, if it’s your company name you’re searching for there may be a similarly named company in Australia ranking on the first page of Google. This result doesn’t do your company any harm, and it’s not a competitor – so if it ranks highly, above any negative results, that benefits you. There may be someone else with the same name as you showing up on Google, maybe on the second page, and this won’t harm your reputation either.

Using standard off-page SEO tactics you can promote these pages as you would your own website, so  they rank higher in the SERPs. Aim to promote any positive or neutral results so that negative ones disappear off the first page.

Create additional results on powerful websites
Remember that you don’t have to control, or own, the websites that rank for your business name, or personal name. There are a number of powerful websites that could also rank for your name, and wouldn’t cause a problem if they did. For example, Wikipedia is possibly the biggest bane in the life of the SEO expert as it ranks for almost everything (because of its billions of pages of content) and if your company, or yourself, had a Wikipedia page it would rank within Google for a search on your name.

Be careful though as you cannot use Wikipedia for self-promotion, and any page that you add must be deserving of an entry in Wikipedia. You can help any entry stand a better chance of being accepted and avoiding deletion by adding references to it from the press. Any mentions in national newspaper websites, or the BBC, will certainly aid this.

These are just a few tips for online reputation management. There of course many other tricks that you can use, but the result should be that anyone searching for yourself or your business won’t find any unsavoury, negative results.

Also, as with anything in life, prevention is better than cure. It’s best to adopt a reputation management policy before something happens online, rather than after, to protect yourself and your business from harmful Internet publicity.

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.
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