Reputation management began as a phrase to describe an online media concern and became a real live industry over time. If you run a search on reputation management companies, you’ll get pages of browser results.
Websites are not simply brochures but rely on user-generated content and regular engagement with social networks. If your company is being slandered or criticized unfairly in the press or on consumer feedback sites you might consider hiring a reputation management firm to fix it. The key to needing outside professional help is generally the size of the business and, therefore, the size of the problem.
Losing control of a digital reputation happens because it is easy to share both positive and negative information. If someone wants to do damage to your personal or professional reputation they simply need to share their opinion under a testimonial or review, post a message, or make a comment on a website.
Repeated negative reports will alert the browser bot crawlers to a problem and your ranking will go down quickly, whether the information was accurate or not, especially if the culprit is skilled in technology to maximize the impact. These are considered “reputation bombs,” and can create long term severe damage and result in closing down your business. Their power comes from prominence in search engine results.
An attacker can build a website dedicated to sharing negative information about your company and often have illegal content. “Hate sites” address companies and public figures with insults and false information.
Dealing with these consumer opinions must be done quickly to prevent further harm. If you can’t identify them or reach them, a reputation management firm can really help.
There are two categories of reputation agencies:
These agencies protect reputations of people and companies and maintain positive public relations.
These firms clean up after a negative public relations catastrophe to restore the reputation of people and companies.
The Reputation Management Firm Strategy
Consumers have always tried to protect themselves from poorly operated companies by seeking help from information sources like Consumer Reports for both good and bad reviews. Unfortunately, not all consumer sites are designed to be helpful. Focus on negative feedback sometimes grows out of control and that can be very bad for business.
Reputation Management Firms take on the rogue feedback problems with engineers that design, fix, or boost your digital reputation or profile. This involves extensive monitoring of your consumers’ online activity on new website platforms and conversation threads. Once feedback is located, they can address any consumer concerns through each website.
These firms will attempt to bring the complaint back to the company website where there is more control over the outcome; preventing the use of more highly publicized consumer sites like PissedConsumer.com and RipoffReport.com which take things a step further by focusing solely on lodging complaints.
Reputation agencies bury disparaging search results, locate hostile links, and monitor your virtual image. The goal is to move this negative information about six or seven pages down in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) through aggressive Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to increase your online ranking of new positive content owned by you and third parties.
They use conversion metrics to study traffic from visitors of the site, searches, and referrals, find out why new visitors are interacting, returning, and why. They monitor activity and make adjustments, calculate values per number of visits, and determine the cost to convert a visitor. They discover bounce rate (visitors leaving without engaging) and even find out what page the consumer was on when they left. This process extends to all social media accounts as well.
An investigation will reveal negative search terms and find the origin. The search terms can be purchased so traffic can be directed to mini sites that contain them giving you an opportunity to address the problem. Then positive content can be promoted and outrank the bad publicity. Deeper investigations require analysts to uncover threats through email tracing, data cross-indexing, and other techniques for more difficult cases.
It is possible to remove content from Google but it is a challenging process. A firm will know how to report offensive predictions to Google when the negative content is actually illegal. Consider help with situations using defamatory language, false information, reviews and sites aimed only at damaging the company’s reputation.
Your Reputation Management Plan
Both businesses and individuals need a reputation management plan. A company may need a department or firm devoted to it, but the main issue is communication. Fixing the problem will require the same initiatives.
- Building your reputation from the beginning and maintaining it
- Keeping a positive, established reputation at the highest level possible
- Recovering a lost reputation by hiding the bad comments and feedback under new affirmative marketing and promotion
- creating better content, promoting it, and having patience to wait for it to kick in. It works even better if you build some links to your new content
- SaaS and e-commerce businesses can add the use of exit surveys to find out why customers are leaving and set up separate review sites
Unless you are a public figure or celebrity you may not have to delve too deeply into a reputation management plan. Individuals searching for job placement might have embarrassing party mugshots on Facebook they would prefer not to see on the first page of their Google query results. You may only have the responsibility of your own LinkedIn profile. In that case, you can investigate the source of the reputation destroying material to ask for removal from the site owner or publish new quality content quickly across your web and social sites on you own.
If you bought your domain name and created some personal content for the site including a short biography, any articles about your life or interests, commentary, and CV or portfolio for personal or professional reasons, you need to establish a clear presence on social media sites, then post and monitor consistently to find any embarrassing data floating around in cyberspace. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts have easy to use analytics pages to monitor activity. Once bad data is found, it can be buried with positive optimized content pushing it further down the list of Google results.
You can periodically Google search your name and search again in Google Images to see what comes up. Google settings allow you to set up a Google alert on your name to track new content. You can monitor activity on your site using Google Analytics. That may be all that is needed.
While a celebrity could pay up to $10,000 to hide unflattering articles, the average person might pay a couple hundred dollars per year for reputation management services.
A small business could have a string of bad reviews from a single disgruntled customer. You may have created your own business website and host it yourself. Choose whether you will have the time or ability to be able to investigate damaging reputation problems, swiftly publishing new content across your variety of related sites on your own or ask for help.
Google Analytics, and tools like Buffer, and FollowerWonk can help you analyze larger amounts of information on your own and make more informed decisions that can continue to help you repair your reputation.
Look at your online reviews at sites like Yelp, Google My Business, and Foursquare and see how consumers really feel about your business. Monitor daily with help from setting up a Google Alert and using tools like Social Mention, or Hootsuite.
Do a Google search for your business and let it autocomplete the query. Your branded marketing search terms and keywords should show. If you see something negative or controversial you will need to investigate where it came from and address it. Ignoring complaints increases the problem by having a dissatisfied consumer who then feels discounted. Censoring any negative complaints will make it appear you can’t be trusted.
If you hire help from a reputation management agency, they should actively work together with your customer service to avoid mixed messages.
Larger companies can find reputation management processes to be both difficult and time-consuming due to the volume of website pages and data involved. Changes to the marketing strategy can take a few months to see progress. It will include blogging updates, creating new directory listings with optimized keywords, hiring writers for good website reviews and syndicated articles including links and banners, as well as posting on several social media sites. Reputation management plans are customized to each business; what works for one company does not work for all. An open mind will help determine the right path to take. Professionals often have much more experience to draw from concerning what works and what doesn’t in a variety of industries.
Opening social profiles on sites with high authority to rank higher on search pages, looking for authoritative websites to link with and pushing negative results to second and third pages, as well as going after the criticism and the origin of the comments on high volume websites to find which social pages are creating the most noise, requires some advanced tools.
Reputation management firms can reach out to share legal consequences and request to have content removed from those websites and, if necessary, move forward with legal action. The perpetrator may not be aware of the rules and regulations for online comments and remove the material right away.
Managing your reputation is part public relations and part technology expertise to rebuild your brand. Professional agencies can bury negative search results and promote new desired content to improve your image. You need to take advantage of the right tools to enhance your reputation.
Important reputation guidelines:
- Give and receive respect
- Be transparent
- Monitor feedback and reviews
- React timely and politely
- Address criticism
- Google search page one is positive
- Understand consumer complaints
- Sue illegitimate attackers
- Learn from your mistakes
- Ask for help
Maintaining and managing your online reputation is a continuous process requiring constant attention and hard work in order to remain on top of it. It is imperative to build a plan to remove or change these results so positive reviews and comments appear instead. This can be an extensive project for some businesses with larger volumes of data to collect and maintain. A reputation management team can be one of the most important tools for the future of your business.