SEO is an ongoing process and, if you invest the necessary resources and time, it can bring the expected benefits. You can grow your popularity and brand in the online environment and, what’s most important for your business; it can increase sales or obtain contracts for the services that you provide.
However, this is not the only advantage that you can obtain through the SEO process. You can manage your online reputation, a very important thing nowadays, considering the great development of social networks and the amount of information you can learn about a person only by searching their brand name on Google.
Here are 10 professional tips for your online reputation management.
1. Create A Presence On Any And All Relevant Web Properties
Your company should already have Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ accounts, at minimum. If you’re in a highly competitive market and vertical, you may need to be active on some additional social media sites, as well — there are dozens available, some of which may be specific to your industry. For many B2B, high-tech and/or professional types of businesses, having executives and employees integrate with LinkedIn may be valuable. For visually-oriented products, using Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr may be needed. And, most businesses will benefit from some number of videos shared through sites such as YouTube and Vimeo.
2. Don’t Neglect Your Social Media Accounts
It’s important to build out your social media accounts. Merely having a Twitter, Facebook and Google+ account/page for your business is insufficient — you need to develop your audience on them, too. With ongoing development, you can build your social media accounts in order to interact with customers and to increase your influence and engagement scores. If you don’t do this, those accounts may not be strong enough to outrank the postings if someone begins to post negative things. While we don’t know precisely how Google and Bing may assess the strength of social media accounts, you can use some independent scoring utilities to assess whether you’re achieving growth. Two of the better-known ones are Klout and Kred.
3. Consider Your Brands and Products
You may need to build out online materials and social profiles for more than just your company name. If you have brand and product names beyond your company name, you likely ought to develop content to rank for those names as well. You may need to develop websites, web pages, social media profiles and collateral materials just to claim and reserve each brand name.
4. Protect Individuals Associated With The Business
Develop a strong social media presence for your founders’, owners’, or executives’ names, particularly if they are distinctive. As I described above, keeping a low online profile to preserve your privacy just leaves you wide open for any drive-by defamers! There are quite a few businesses where the company’s identity is fairly entangled with their executives, and a solid reputation management strategy is vital for these. Consumers often search by name for doctors, dentists, and lawyers (to name a few), so create collateral to rank for these individuals if they don’t already have any.
5. Implement Authorship Where Applicable
I declared Authorship to be my top marketing tactic of 2013, and it’s still a significant advantage when done properly. This is primarily for businesses where a founder/proprietor is closely associated with the business’s identity. Google requires authors to be individuals; thus, the author tag must be associated with an individual Google+ profile, not with a business page. Using the author tag assumes you’ll be doing some ongoing publishing of articles or blog posts over time or else it’s not worthwhile — which leads us to the next point.
I’m serious! I’ve called blogging a secret weapon for local SEO because it helps with a site’s rankings on good keywords (if done properly) and provides fodder for one’s social media accounts. For reputation purposes, it not only can rank for your name, it can give you a solid “home court” ground where you can directly respond to any major assertions made about your company if necessary.
When responding to online complaints or bad reviews, seriously consider that there may be some weaknesses in your process that need to be addressed — particularly if you get frequent negative feedback about a specific thing. Remember the adage that “the customer is always right”? Don’t be inflexible; come up with a creative way to give customers what they’re wanting without creating friction. I’ve seen business processes that just seemed dumb, or service fees that just made customers feel like they’ve been gouged. Just because you can pressure people into paying more doesn’t mean that you should. Consider that you could be driving existing or potential customers into the arms of your competitor. The extra money you make on that annoying fee could be cancelled out by business lost from those who see numerous complaints about it online.
If you or your company messes up, fails or otherwise does something wrong, own up to it — and make a genuine apology to those who have been affected. Being real and transparent in apologizing can go far toward diffusing a situation and moving the process along toward reconciliation or, at least, toward making a crisis situation come to a close. If you do it, make sure the apology is authentic — don’t do one of those weaselly, “I’m sorry you allowed my actions to make you feel bad” statements that are disingenuous nonsense. Also, try to make amends in some way, unconditionally.
9. Don’t Get Into Online Arguments
It’s very easy to get sucked into this — but even if you’re technically right, you might lose out overall by just coming across as petty, harsh or unprofessional. Worse yet, you might actually be wrong… and once you get emotionally riled up, you could end up saying and doing things that damage your reputation. (For a dramatic example, read about the epic Facebook meltdown of a husband-wife restaurateur team.) The best approach is to diffuse situations and take communications offline to try to reconcile. Be nicer in your online interactions than you even think you need to be. Your professional responses may win more customers than being “right” in an online disagreement. Feel yourself getting drawn into escalating conflict? Walk away from your computer.
10. Make The Investment
Reputation development requires an investment, both in time and money. Most small, local businesses are either ignoring proactive reputation management or they are doing it themselves, on a shoestring, and on an as-needed and as-they-have-time-to-do-it basis. I’d argue that social media and proactive reputation management should be considered vital elements, not nice-to-haves. Further, if you don’t have experience in interacting with online communities, doing it yourself may not be good enough or may exacerbate any issues that can arise. So, make the investment — and if you don’t have the time to do it, don’t know how, or just aren’t getting the job done, hire someone to handle it for you.