strong>Online Reputation Management – How to Protect Your Company Image on the Internet
With 70% of U.S. households now using the Internet when shopping locally for products and services your online reputation is more critical to the success of your company than ever before. Obviously, if you have a negative reputation customers will not trust you with their time and money. If your reputation is solid and positive you should be willing to do anything to see to it that it stays that way.
What is Your Online Reputation?
Your online reputation is impression that a person gets when “surfing” the web for you, your company or your products and services. It is a compilation of everything they see and read about your business online including comments, posts, tweets, reviews, videos, etc. And since over 75% of online shoppers use reviews and ratings when purchasing, you better be sure that you have a “stellar” online reputation.
Anyone can generate a review, blog or comment online these days – it’s what’s commonly referred to user-generated content. Some of the more common places that accept user-generated content include social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but there are many more.
Review sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, FourSquare and Epinions have also become quite popular. According to a recent press release by Yelp, “Yelp had a monthly average of 61 million unique visitors in Q3 2011. By the end of Q3 2011, Yelpers had written more than 22 million rich, local reviews.” And that’s just one of many review sites out there today.
Then there are user-generated content directory sites like Google Places, Yahoo and Bing Local where visitors are encouraged to leave reviews of local businesses. In addition, there are a variety of blogs and forums that cater to specific industries where thousands of comments get posted every year. The point is that there are a lot of places where prospects can find information, reviews and comments about your business.
A Bad Online Reputation Can Hurt More Than Just Sales
Your online reputation affects your business in several ways. Prospective consumers are motivated or driven away by the information they find on the Internet. But it’s more than that. Prospective employees, business partners and investors may also research your company online before making any commitments. Furthermore, as your business grows, journalists and reporters will sift through your online history when researching a story to be published.
How to Assess Your Online Reputation
Assessing your online reputation is rather easy. Just type in your company name online and see what you find. Make sure that when you’re looking, you check with at least the top 3 search engines – Google, Yahoo and Bing (MSN). That’s because each search engine uses different criteria or algorithms when returning search results. This means a negative result may appear on page 3 of one search engine and page 1 in another.
If your search brings up a result from say Google Places or Yelp, open up the link. Even though only one review shows up on the search results, there may be multiple reviews listed once you open up the page.
You should also check your name, especially if you’re the CEO or the President. If you want to go even deeper, you should also search for your brand, your product, and your employees – especially those that deal with the public a lot.
Being on Page One of Google with a Bad Review Can Kill Your Sales
Much of the work I do for clients involves getting the on page one of Google or other search engines for specific keyword phrases. Why is page one so important? Because according to some studies, 90% of people searching for your products and services on the Internet never search beyond page one.
On the other hand, having a negative review on page one can be disastrous for the same reason. You can have 1 bad review on page one and dozens of great reviews on page 2. The problem is that 90% of the people searching won’t go to page 2 and will therefore never see the good reviews.
What is Online Reputation Management (ORM)?
Online reputation management is a term that’s becoming more and more common these days. Essentially, it involves watching or monitoring the Internet reputation of a business or individual with the goal of limiting or diminishing exposure to negative comments or content.
ORM involves mitigating potential damage by promoting positive web content. The overall goal of online reputation management is to push negative communications off the search engine results page and replace with positive results, thereby repairing the online business reputation. ORM uses a variety of strategic Internet marketing techniques combined with effective search engine optimization (SEO).
How is it Done?
There are two types of reputation management services: pro-active and re active. Pro-active services assist established companies build on their good standing and help build online images. Re-active services revolve around getting your positive reputation back after negative comments already appear.
In either case, an aggressive online reputation management strategy consists of several strategies. The most obvious approach involves requesting positive reviews from previous customers. Then you can generate high quality content like press releases, blog posts, social media and more. The more positive content that achieves page one placement on the search engines, the more the negative content gets pushed off on to page 2 and beyond.
Online reputation management is not a one-time push, but rather a on on-going process that involves continual monitoring and positive content generation. This allows business owners to generate a positive online reputation at all times and immediately rectify any negative changes that may appear.