Let’s be honest: what’s the first thing you do when you get back to your computer after a first date? You Google that person and see if any red flags pop up. You’d be surprised at how often people do this for businesses as well. The first two pages of a search for your business name must be positive mentions – this is vital. Sometimes you’ll think you come up strong, but then a nasty review, a hate site, a disgruntled ex-employee or any number of things could land right on that first page – perhaps even #1. You have to be ready if and when that happens.
To spin this around to a positive, it’s also great to find out about positive news, reviews and blog articles about your brand when they happen – so you can promote them through your website and social media channels. The first step in online reputation management though is to be aware of what is being said, and for that, you need to monitor online conversations.
Monitoring your Reputation
There are great tools out there for keeping an eye on what people are saying about your business so you can head off anything ugly at the pass. A common one people have been using for years is called Google Alerts. Just enter a search query, filter it by result type, language and so on, and choose how often Google will deliver results to you. Then, every time there’s a significant mention of your brand, you’ll get an alert from Google.
The issue with Google Alerts is that it doesn’t work as well as it used to. It often misses important mentions of your brand throughout the Internet and only seems to find a good one here and there. There’s got to be a great alternative service out there, right? Yep. It’s called Mention.com.
The free account only comes with a single alert. Fine if you have a single brand. If you have multiple brands, you can stack them in OR statements, but that generates a huge list with all your brands blended together. The alternative is to upgrade your account to the paid service, which costs $10 / month for 2 alerts and 500 mentions, or $30 a /month for 10 alerts and 100,000 mentions. The valuable mentions that this service provides might be worth that fee to you.
Managing your Reputation
So you’ve been monitoring your brand, and a nasty mention of your brand hits, and hits big – it’s on the first page of search results. What can you do?
Engage the negativity
Many review sites, like Yelp, will give the brand manager an opportunity to reply to the bad review and make his or her case. Though you can’t change or remove the original review, at least you can temper it with your side of the story. If the concerns in the review are legitimate, you have something to fix for the next customer.
Remove the attack post
Some attack sites and complaint boards will allow you to remove the vitriol – for a fee. If this sounds like extortion, there’s a good reason for that. You’ll have to determine for yourself if it’s worth ridding yourself of a bad apple before it rots the bunch.
Search engine results management
And some haters are just gonna hate, no matter what you do. In order to combat these, you’ll need to engage in a little search engine results page management of your own.
SERP, or Search Engine Results Page Management
Is your website search engine optimized so that it ranks at the top for your brand? Great! Consider submitting your company to listing sites that also naturally rank well in Google. Places like CrunchBase, Technorati, YellowPages, the Better Business Bureau, Google My Business, and so on are great places to list your brand, and these listings will often rank very highly in search results. If you don’t already have a Wikipedia page, have someone create one for your business (Wikimedia frowns on you doing this yourself), and make sure it’s factual.
These signposts of brand reputation will eventually crowd out the trolls and leave you with a sterling reputation on Google, which to many potential customers, is the only site that matters.