Online Reputation Management

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It ain’t easy defending a brand these days.

In the good ol’ days, all one had to worry about was print media, TV and radio. Sure, bad news for a company’s brand hurt, but the speed that the news traveled was limited to either the traditional media or word of mouth. Both could be countered with enough time.

These days, word travels literally at the speed of light.

Bad reviews and bad news can shave billions off a company’s worth. Just look at Toyota.

Worse, these bad reviews can stick to Google like gum on your shoes. The last thing you want when someone types in your company’s name is to have two or three bad reviews, with words like “fraud”, “sucks”, “complaints” and “cheats” associated with your name.

To be sure, every company will have their share of detractors. And the larger you get, just the way percentages work, the more complaints you’ll have.

But there’s a difference between negative listings when someone types in just your name, and when they type in “Name Sucks”.

If you Google your company name and the first page has many complaints, you’ve got a problem. The problem is especially magnified the more valuable your sale is; selling $10 t-shirts is different from selling high-end database migration services.

This has also given rise to the ability of troublemakers to use concerted effort to smear company names and brands. There’s nothing to stop people from spreading lies and slandering you all over the Internet, protected by the First Amendment and anonymity.

This has contributed to a new, growing field called online reputation management. The goal: monitor, identify and combat online negative listings on search engines or social media.

Here are some things you can do:

1. Set up Google Alerts for your company name or “Name + Sucks” or other variations. They are free. Get updates delivered to your email.

2. If you find complaints or outright lies being posted on public
message boards, respond once and only once. This is very important. If you get sucked into a back-and-forth war of words, you will likely only harm yourself. The more activity is on a thread, the higher Google will tend to rank that thread for being fresh and active. Remember, just respond once!

3. Keep emotions out of it. State your side of the story, state the facts and offer a way for those aggrieved to reach your company. Don’t be too defensive nor aggressive. Grace under fire is a trait your customers will appreciate.

4. Now you will need to use the skill of SEO in overdrive. While you don’t have the ability to actually move negative listings down, you can squeeze them down by moving other listings up. These include:

-registering your company name for all the major social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
-registering your company name on all major blogging platforms: WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, etc.
-reserving domain name variations immediately, eg. .net, .com, .org
-trying public relations to get your company featured on prominent media websites for stories

5. Start building out quality content and link building for all the sites you created in #4.

All of the above take time and persistence. SEO is a long term process, so the sooner you start the better. Don’t despair if your brand is plagued by negative search engine results. Take action!

Firecracker has experience helping companies defend their brands through online reputation management. Contact me directly at [email protected] if you have any questions.

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