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Trust is the most important thing in business. Investors are willing to fund your business because they trust you, and customers buy from you because they trust your brand. That’s why, in this tech-savvy world, it becomes more and more important to maintain a good online reputation.
Decades ago, before the internet dominated our lives, bad customer experience would result in word of mouth negative publicity. This way of distributing information limits the number of people that learn about the negative experience. But today, a single negative review on Yelp can become viral reaching millions of people. This, in turn, can tarnish a brand’s reputation completely. In fact, 85% of consumers trust online reviews just as they trust their family’s recommendation.
Imagine working hard for years to build a successful business only to be destroyed by some fake bad reviews on the internet. If your business somehow catches a bad reputation, then even the best marketing strategies in the world won’t matter because people aren’t going to buy your product.
The bad news is, you can only control a small fraction of your online reputation. To support my claims, let’s consider the following example:
You’re running a pizza restaurant. You make sure that everything is perfect, from the quality of the pizza, the service, and the employees. But someday, a newly divorced man comes to your restaurant. Because he’s deeply frustrated and can’t enjoy the meal, he begins yelling that you serve the worst pizza in town and tweets on Twitter about it. That’s negative publicity.
It may be exaggerated, but that’s the perfect example that you can’t control when a customer is having a bad day and you can’t control customers’ opinions about your product. The good news is, there’s a way to counter it through reputation management.
What is reputation management?
In short, reputation management is a string of strategies and attempts done to sway people’s perception of a person or a brand. The main point of reputation management is to build and maintain your brand’s positive image as well as minimize any negative publicity that may occur. Maintaining your online reputation is important for several reasons:
• Everyone is using the internet. So, if there happens to be a bad review or article about your brand, people are going to find out sooner or later.
• Things move very quickly on the internet. Once the bad news about your brand becomes well-known, the public’s trust in your business will start to diminish.
• If people don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you. On the other hand, if you can maintain a good reputation, customers will keep coming and even take their family and friends along.
• Keeping a good reputation will grow your sales and business in overall, while negative publicity can drag your business to the graveyard― 4 negative results about your brand can make you lose 70% of business potential.
How does online reputation management work?
Reputation management exists because the truth is, people are much more likely to share negative news than positive news. Controversies get more clicks, more views, more shares, and overall more attention, even though no one can guarantee the truth behind it.
The media knows this fact well, and they make more money reporting bad news because it’s far more appealing to the readers. That’s why they always look for a single misstep from well-known figures and companies to make headline news.
Here, the role of online reputation management comes into play. Basically, it is monitoring the reputation of you as a person or your brand online, identifying content that potentially can be damaging, and solving customers’ complaints before they get out of hand.
The sources of reputation problems
Most of the reputation problems that brands face nowadays are online because we’re in the digital era where everybody is using the internet 24/7. And like I mentioned before, the reputation management’s role is to identify online content that can damage your reputation and find a way to counter it. Here are 8 sources of online reputation problems that you should watch out for:
1. Negative press
False reports and straight-out fake news are everywhere on the internet. The problem arises when negative news articles about you manage to sneak in the first Google results page. While some people may ignore it, some will believe it and share the news with everyone they know.
2. Negative online photos
When people search for you or your brand on the internet, your images are most likely included on the first page of Google results. If you happen to have a good reputation, but images of you having an affair are suddenly leaked online, it will absolutely crush your reputation and your business too.
Wikipedia is a site where people can learn about almost anything. The problem with this site is that pretty much anyone can edit the content inside it. What makes matters worse is the way that Wikipedia constantly ranks high on SERP. If you want to keep your reputation intact, you have to pay very close attention to any changes about your brand on Wikipedia.
Practically anybody can write an article and get a wide reach. You can’t control what they want to write and you can’t control their opinion about you. This can easily create problems when they write inaccurate information about you.
5. Fake websites
There are tons of malicious websites out there that were created just to destroy brands’ reputation. The sites might be created by the competitors or just by some random guys who have nothing else to do. Either way, these kinds of sites pose a serious threat to any brand when they can go mainstream.
6. Bad reviews
The purpose of creating review websites like Yelp is to help customers pick the right brand based on previous reviews. The problem is, you can’t control what the customers’ reviews are going to be. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you can’t always avoid having negative reviews from people who are always dissatisfied.
7. Negative forum comments
Forums like Quora and Reddit have become so popular over the last few years. People can ask questions about anything and interact with other users. These forums pose a threat because they can easily rank in the first Google search results, just like Wikipedia.
8. Social media
Everybody uses social media these days. They use it to gossip about celebrities, share hoax news, as well as criticize brands and public figures. If someone posts a negative review of your product on social media, then people will believe it and share the post as well. Before you know it, your sales are going way down.
There you go, those are the online threats that reputation management has to eliminate. One of the best practices of reputation management to counter all that negativity is through the use of search engine optimization.
The practical guide to reputation management SEO
For many people, the first interaction they have with your brand is through a search engine like Google. Maybe someone they know recommends your brand or maybe they see your ads on social media. Either way, when people hear about a new brand, most of the time they will Google it. But what happens when they Google about you and this is the result:
Whether you like it or not, that will spark doubt in the customers’ minds. And some people will just find other companies rather than risking to get scammed. That’s why SEO is important for your reputation management.
Here are some other reasons why SEO matters:
• If you don’t pay any attention to SEO, sooner or later the negative posts will dominate search engine results of your brand and it will diminish your company value.
• As a result of negative news, people will abandon the search before they ever get to your website because they’ve lost the trust. This means a loss of organic traffic for you.
• A decrease in traffic means a decrease in conversions and sales.
• As time goes by, if you still haven’t fixed the issue, your company will slowly lose money and profitability, and then it’s just a matter of surviving.
If you don’t want that to happen to you, then it’s time to start taking SEO reputation management seriously. The main idea of using SEO is to boost positive search engine results about your brand and eliminate, remove, de-optimize, and push down negative search engine results. Here’s how to achieve that:
Set up Google Alerts
Before setting up Google Alerts, you need to identify first which keywords are showing negative results. Certain keywords are more likely to trigger negative results than others. That‘s why you have to test all the keywords that consumers use to find your brand.
After you find the negative keywords, set up those keywords in your Google Alerts account. Google Alerts then will send you an email every time new content surfaces― such as blog posts, articles, news, or even scientific research― that matches your keywords.
Optimize your website to be SEO-friendly
After you’ve got the keywords in your pocket, you have to optimize your webpages with those keywords so that the negative content can’t outrank you on Google. For example, if the keyword “data breaches” shows negative results about your brand, then you need to start optimizing your website with that keyword.
There are plenty of ways you can do to optimize your website. The first one is to publish a long article about data breaches where the main keyword is mentioned regularly within the article. After that, build authoritative backlinks to the page to build its credibility and relevance. As long as your webpage is more credible than the negative domain, you will rank higher.
Utilize other domains
The new Google algorithm seems to favor more variety when it comes to search engine results. It’s rare to see two web pages from the same domain rank on the first Google page simultaneously these days, though it’s not impossible when the webpages’ credibility is extremely strong.
With that being said, you have more chances if you utilize other domains that you have control of to “dominate” certain keywords. Think of a sister company, your personal website, your investors’ website or one of your team members’ domain, and even third-party websites where you consistently contribute with guest posts.
Optimize all of your social media accounts
Social media platforms have great domain authority (+90) and you should take advantage of that. Optimize all of your social media accounts so when people search for your brand, the search engine will show your website and your social media first instead of any bad news. Here are some of the social media platforms that you should optimize for:
• LinkedIn. If you search for someone on Google, most of the time the LinkedIn profile of that person will be included on the first page. LinkedIn also allows you to publish an article, which can help you to promote a certain keyword.
• Twitter. Besides LinkedIn, Twitter profile of a person or a brand appears regularly on search results. Moreover, Twitter is the perfect platform to connect deeper with your audience.
• Facebook. Facebook is the most popular social network on the planet. Therefore, most viral hoaxes come from here. There is no better way of countering negative posts than being active on Facebook and creating useful content for the audience.
• Medium. This is the perfect platform for writers and marketers to publish their writings. You can utilize Medium’s high domain rating to your favor by consistently publishing optimized articles.
Use different kinds of content like infographics and videos
Let’s begin with videos first. The simple fact that YouTube is currently the second-largest website in the world should be enough to convince you to use videos. It’s no coincidence either that after Google purchased YouTube back in 2006, they show more video results:
Just make sure to choose the right keywords and optimize the title and the description of the video to help search engines understand the content of the video. Creating videos will surely help you push down negative and fake news about your brand.
On the other hand, I recommend you to use infographics for various reasons. Infographics are one of the most effective tools in attracting tons of high-quality backlinks to your website. So instead of writing a generic blog post, you can create an infographic instead and then promote it to gain backlinks.
The more backlinks you gain, the more relevant your page becomes in the eyes of Google, enabling the web page to rank higher than the negative results.
Counter it with a PR campaign
If you fail to stop the negative press for becoming viral, there’ll always a way to counter it with the right PR strategy. A lot of websites, both free and paid, offer brands and companies the opportunity to write PR statements. You should use these websites to spam the search engine with your clarifications and statements.
Here’s a few tips to generate positive PR:
• Be honest. If you legitimately did something wrong, you should be honest and apologize for your mistakes. Running from the press and say “no comment” will only make matters worse.
• If you didn’t do anything wrong and is a victim of false reports, prove that you’re innocent. Bring in experts and eyewitnesses to strengthen your claim.
• If a news outlet publishes negative news about you, you should try to talk to that news outlet’s competitors. Offer your side of the story to the competitors, and encourage them to publish positive news about you to make the rival look bad.
• Ask your fans to back you up. During hard times, your most fanatical fans can be the main source of positive PR. Turn to social media to tell your story and give the evidence to back up your claim.
People love bad news and controversies, and the internet has made it very easy to share this kind of information. A simple mistake from a public figure or a brand could end up being viral within hours, and the next thing you know is that sales are dropping fast and your reputation is ruined.
This is where reputation management comes in – method to influence what and how people think of you or your brand. The main purpose of reputation management is to control and monitor any online content that can be potentially harmful to your reputation. In this article, we learned how to manage reputation through the use of SEO.
The idea of SEO reputation management is very simple, though not easy to apply. Basically, all you have to do is fill the search engine results with your positive results, such as your brand and personal websites, social media accounts, videos, and even guest posts on third-party sites, so that there’s no free room for negative content.