Have you ever Googled your brand and found a bad comment or review?
If so, you should probably look into Online Reputation Management (ORM).
But what exactly does it mean to manage your online reputation?
Let’s take a closer look at what ORM is and what it can do for your business.
According to BrightLocal’s Jamie Pitman:
“Online reputation management is an ongoing task which serves to create, cultivate and maintain your brand name and its good standing online. Much like traditional reputation management, it’s all about perception.”
Ok, so managing your business reputation on the web is about shaping a brand people can trust and want to do business with. Got it.
But what does that mean? How do you build a reputation your customers are drawn to, particularly in a crowded online environment?
“For online reputation management,” says Pitman, “that means building a digital public image, one online review at a time, so that anyone searching for your brand finds 5-star reviews and positive customer experiences that paint your company in the best possible light.”
In other words, reputation management is not only about carving out a positive online footprint for your brand name, products and services, but also ensuring your customers are finding the best, most accurate representation of your business every time they search you online.
How do you get started? With these five easy steps:
1. Check the first page results for your business. Make sure you’re dominating them
First thing’s first: knowing what’s yours on Google’s first page.
The first result people find when searching your brand should always be your website. If it isn’t, it’s likely due to one of three issues:
- Your site isn’t properly indexed (you’ll find some helpful tips for indexing your site here).
- You’ve been penalized by Google (fortunately, recovery from penalties is possible).
- There are no backlinks to your site (earning backlinks can take time, but the pay-off is well worth it).
But what about those other page-one results?
Well, your goal is to control as many or most of those results as possible. In online reputation management, this means you should “own” a good percentage of what typically shows up on the first page, including your:
- YouTube channel
In other words, you should be in the driver’s seat of all things social—at least those featured prominently in Google.
And the best way to get started is to:
- Own your brand’s social profiles and maintain an active social presence.
- Link to each profile from your site (ideally with sitewide social buttons).
- Link to your profiles on any third-party sites where your brand is registered (business directories, industry forums, etc.).
Mastering your brand on social tells Google crawlers that these pages are yours, increasing the likelihood they gain traction and start to overtake negative online reviews in search.
The key here is to keep your social profiles active, something that itself may involve a multi-layered social media strategy and the will to stick with it. An effective, brand-centered online reputation management campaign not only incorporates a good social strategy, but may also make it easier to facilitate social profile management and streamline the process.
Note that different platforms are better suited to feature different kinds of content (i.e., videos for Facebook, images for Pinterest, etc.). It’s therefore best to avoid putting your strategy on complete autopilot and take care to manage each social feed carefully.
For first page results you don’t have control over, you have two basic options:
- For positive, unowned content like good reviews, testimonials or articles, leave well enough alone. Always keep a close eye on SERPs to monitor for changes that could negatively impact these results.
- For negative results like bad online reviews and customer comments, have a strategy in place for reaching out and finding a solution. Work with reviewers to find a middle ground and see if you can nudge them toward removing that information from the internet.
Another option is available, which we’ll explore a bit later.
2. Locate high-traffic negative online articles and reviews hurting your business… and fix them
If your business has been around for any period of time, it’s likely your products or services have been mentioned in articles, stories, comparisons or reviews somewhere on the web.
And regardless of where and how your brand has been featured, it’s a good thing, right (all publicity is good publicity)?
While it’s true that a little visibility can be good for business, what happens when those mentions portray you and your company in a bad light—or are simply inaccurate, outdated or worse?
What’s more: what if those negative articles are getting hundreds or thousands of visitors via Google search every month?
Sadly, there’s probably a multitude of potential customers consuming negative and/or inaccurate items about your firm. And without a little online reputation management, they’ll likely fester and create real damage for your brand.
The answer? Identify those items and fix the problem fast!
Google Alerts provides an easy tool for finding and tracking mentions of your brand online. But a full online brand audit and analysis from Reputation Sciences™ can provide a much deeper look into those mentions, their reach and what kind of volume they’re pulling in each day.
A complete digital audit of your business can help identify and set apart those high-traffic negative links and online reviews so you can take action to mitigate or remove that harmful information from the internet as quickly as possible.
The Rep Sci Audit tool can also help point out any inaccurate or outdated info hurting brand consistency and creating frustration for your customers. Once identified, you can reach out to the owner of those offending articles and request a correction—or even offer to fix the problem yourself.
But what about more serious items, like scathingly negative online reviews?
Again, if the review represents a genuinely bad customer experience or issue, you should first take the step of fixing the root cause BEFORE requesting the author to update the comment. If the review is truly subjective, however, and offers no real path for fixing it on your end—or if the reviewer will not budge when you request them to rescind their comment—then your best option is most likely to
3. Use online reputation management to push bad reviews down and pull positive reviews up
Some negative online reviews create more havoc for your brand than others. Not only do they rank higher in SERPs than other comments; they get a lot of attention from customers searching your business online.
For instance, let’s say your name is Barry, and you run a local restaurant.
What happens when a potential patron Googles “Barry’s diner review” and finds a bad review dished out right at the top of first page results?
Well, that customer is more than likely going to read that negative review first. And whether it’s a valid complaint or something more scurrilous, that customer is probably going to avoid your business and move on to the pasta place down the street.
Unfortunately, the same thing will take place for any lousy comment that gets top-level visibility in Google search.
And sometimes the best solution for high-traffic reviews that put your brand in a bad light is to suppress them (push them down).
It starts by knowing why those reviews are getting such high placement in the first place.
Improve your review presence with backlinks
More often than not, a negative review will rank in searches of your business due to backlinks. By virtue of having more—or more authoritative—backlinks than the results below it, that review gets a boost in search.
But with an online reputation management approach that uses backlinks to your advantage, you can begin to dilute that review’s power and ramp up more desired results.
- Googling your brand. Identify not just the bad review in question, but the reviews and other links that fall below it in search.
- Gathering metrics on backlinks for each result for your query. Tools like the Moz Link Explorer can make this process a little easier.
- Singling out which positive reviews have fewer or weaker backlinks than the bad review and creating backlinks to those sites.
The best place to start nudging people toward more positive results (via links) may be your own site. Linking to a positive review on your homepage—such as through a customer testimonial—can help direct more traffic to that review and catch Google’s attention.
Backlinking within guest posts across the web can also be an effective way to bump positive results up a few slots.
To begin this process:
- Locate a few sites related to your industry that accept guest submissions.
- Write informational posts that provide value to each site’s audience and feature the keywords you’re aiming for.
- Hyperlink to the URL you want to elevate in search (i.e., the positive review) within your post.
For example, as the owner of Barry’s Diner, you could write “getting the most from your milkshake machine” as guest contributor for, say, https://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/, and link to a positive review within the article.
Do this several times (on different sites, of course) and you’ll likely see that negative item slip out of sight.
Rather than removing information from the internet, you’ve really just nullified the impact that bad review was having on your business—and given a spotlight to a result that improves your online reputation.
4. Create content around popular brand-related search terms
It’s not just reviews customers are searching for when looking for info on your brand.
Say you’re the owner of Dr. Bob’s Dental Office. Sure, people may want to learn about other people’s experiences at Dr. Bob’s (i.e. “reviews”), but many will also likely want to know what services you offer, if you treat children, what’s involved in a typical check-up, etc.
So, if Dr. Bob isn’t ranking in SERPs for such searches as “dr. bobs dental office treatments” or “dr. bobs dental checkups,” people will likely get their information from someone else (a third party)—despite your name being right there in the query!
Whether you’re Dr. Bob or Barry the restaurateur, ranking for popular branded search terms is key to successful online reputation management—and to building a robust search presence to enhance your reach and find more customers.
This doesn’t always mean you have to own or control each asset that pops up highly in brand-related searches, only that those first page results (particularly the topmost result) are objective, accurate and positive (or, at the very least, neutral).
But how do you identify popular branded search phrases?
Easy. Start by conducting a branded search audit.
There are many tools out there you can use to perform this audit. Of course, we recommend the Rep Sci Brand Audit solution (wink wink), which takes a deep dive into your online presence to show every branded search term you for which you’re doing well and those where you might need some help.
And once you know how your brand is being featured for each Googled phrase, you can take steps to correct inaccuracies, start removing harmful branded content from the internet and develop a more comprehensive content strategy that better defines customers’ expectations.
When you’ve identified outdated, inaccurate or inconsistent content for these branded phrases, you have two options:
- Contact the author and request that they update the post with updated, accurate information (sound familiar?); or
- Start creating content centered on the search phrase and optimize those pieces to outrank the existing link.
Both options can be effective, but it’s probably best to start with the first before moving onto the second.
Remember: when developing content around branded search phrases that don’t just highlight your brand and value-add, but that provide the reader accurate, unbiased information that is consistent and up to date.
So, what’s the bottom line? Creating content that effectively addresses what customers are searching for in relation to your brand provides them useful answers quickly, eliminating frustration and putting them on the fastest pathway to your business.
5. Set up alerts for mentions of your brand… then remove harmful information from the internet fast
By now, you’re well on your way to solving the negative online reviews and mentions haunting your brand online.
But that doesn’t mean your online reputation management strategy should be put on hiatus or relegated to the backburner. In fact, now is the time to kick your ORM into full gear.
Because the internet never stops churning, nor do customers or competitors stop talking about your business on the web. And like it or not, more bad reviews, articles and social mentions will pop up down the road, leaving you with the need to deal with problems fast.
If you’re not actively scanning the web for brand mentions, you won’t have any idea what they’re saying about you online. And when you’re not in the loop, it’ll be impossible to react to problems quickly, much less to lessen the impact a new bad review or salacious comment thread is having on your business.
What’s worse is that once that the longer that negativity goes unchecked, the likelier it will gain traction and higher ranking in search, creating a hailstorm of damage you’ll be largely unprepared for.
This is why it’s so crucial to sign up for a continuous brand monitoring service. Some of the more popular options include:
Customizing your own RepSci 24/7 brand alert helps you stay apprised of new business reviews and third-party mentions as soon as they’re posted on the web.
Ongoing brand monitoring is key to staying ahead of crises and dealing with problems fast—as well as to show customers you take their concerns and experience with your brand seriously.
24-7 monitoring is also crucial for removing baseless, subjective reviews and information from the internet before it has the chance to really smear your online reputation.
Either way, vigilant monitoring of brand mentions is an integral component of any online reputation management campaign and maintaining good digital health for your company.
Be Your Best Online
As we’ve shown, reputation management is about much more than dealing with negative online reviews or removing negative information from the internet.
Proper online brand management is about being your best online, making sure that when customers search your business, products and services, they’re finding the image that most accurately reflects the value you have to offer.
And because threats are everywhere, and SERP rankings are changing all the time, you can’t afford to be complacent—or leave your reputation up to chance.
But do you have time to run your business and implement an online reputation management strategy on your own?
With professional ORM services from Reputation Sciences™, you can seize control of the online narrative without taking the focus off your company. As leaders in reputation management strategy, services and technology, we have the resources and expertise to manage your digital presence and build your bottom line.
We do the heavy lifting so you don’t have to.
Build an online reputation that grows your business. Visit us today or call 866-427-2206 today to learn more.