A study conducted by BIA/Kelsey found that 97% of consumers do research online before going to a local business.
And how do you do research online? Yep, you just type a business’s name right into your favorite search engine. In the digital world, the web is often our first and most important impression, and finding ways to monitor, improve, and control our reputation online is something that benefits everyone.
Take control of the conversation
Online reputation management (ORM) means taking control of the online conversation. Its techniques and strategies ensure that whoever is searching for you finds the right info and sources: the information that you want to be associated to you.
Done well, ORM creates a balance, corrects misleading trends, and allows you to put your best foot forward. It counteracts that human bias for gossip, negative reviews, and conspiracy theories, ensuring that the information that actually matters isn’t overshadowed by the negative stuff.
The first step in online reputation management is to determine whether or not you have a problem on your hands and, if so, how bad it really is. In the first part of our series on managing your brand online, we’ll help you diagnose your search results; based on these results, we’ll help you determine what your next step should be, along with a quick overview of what you can start doing today.
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Search engines are the new yellow pages
The very first thing you need to do is Google yourself. Type your business’s name into the search bar, making sure you’re signed out of your Google account. Google uses personalized and local results when you’re signed in, meaning the results may be slightly altered to be more relevant to your account.
Whoever searches for you won’t have the same customizations, so make sure you’re getting a true snapshot of how your business looks to others, not just how it looks to you.
Search for the name that people know you for and also for any variations of your business’s name, including common misspellings. Set up alerts for your business on Google, Facebook, and any other social media profiles where your clients are active. Claim and optimize your Google My Business page using our step-by-step guide.
Keep monitoring your brand. There are tools out there that actively “listen” for mentions of your business. These are always a good investment so you can be proactive about your reputation. Even if you’re on a tight budget, Google Alerts offer a free way to find out whenever another website mentions your brand, name, product, or service.
Diagnosis and Plan of Action
Once you have the search results in front of you, the next step is to figure out which category your Google rank and overall online reputation falls under. After this, it’s time to get proactive and start improving your search results. The goal is to fill the first page of a search engine with positive results. Depending on your web presence, you can figure out how much work lies ahead and plan accordingly.
You might already have a website filled with useful info, articles, or other content you want people to find, but it just isn’t showing up high enough in the results. There are specific steps you can take to boost your content higher in Google.
Tip: Focus on the first page of your search engine results. Most searchers never go past the first page.
Negative: If you have one or more negative search results representing you, you may be in this category. In today’s world of social networks and online connectivity, it’s incredibly easy to fall in this category: all it takes is one status update, tagged photo, online review, rant by a former employee, tweet from an angry ex, or even just a wild customer. Perhaps there are some negative reviews, an unflattering comment, or confusion about your business. You’ll want to create positive content to push the negative results down.
Irrelevant: These results don’t hurt your brand, but they’re not helping either. They could include outdated info. Instead of finding out you are one of the most well-respected doctors in El Paso, the person finds out you finished 150th in a 5K you ran several years ago. First things first, you need to build your online presence for Google. If you don’t have any positive content, there’s no way for it to show up on the results.
Mistaken Identity: In this case, your results are mostly some other business or multiple businesses with a name similar to yours. For better or worse, these results shape that first impression. In the best case scenario, they simply prevent the searcher from finding anything meaningful about you. Worst case scenario: they mistake you for someone else with a negative reputation.
Positive & Relevant: This is the goal, this means your results are full of positive, well-branded content that is about you and/or your business. If you’re not in this category (yet), don’t worry, that’s the purpose of this email series.
Be proactive and in charge of the conversation around your business or brand name. This means not only responding quickly and politely when applicable, but thinking of this as continuous improvement, always seeking ways to better your products and services. When you come across a negative review or post, make the situation right as soon as possible.
Be polite and non-confrontational. Negative reviews provide you with the opportunity to learn from mistakes and improve, or simply clear up any misunderstandings or confusion. Take time to acknowledge whoever posted the negative stuff, address their issue, and extend an olive branch by offering a solution. Even if they’re not motivated to change the review, when future viewers come across it, they will be able to see that you’re doing everything in your power to make sure your customers are happy.
Always assume that nothing you say or do online is really private. Even “private” conversations can be screenshotted and posted online.
Never ever engage in arguments or verbal brawls. Remember Kitchen Nightmares, the TV show in which Chef Gordon Ramsay helped struggling restaurants turn their luck around? There were cases when not even Chef Ramsay could help. This show provided us with an online reputation nightmare of what NOT to do. This is further proof that whatever you post online never disappears. Proceed with caution, it’s filled with expletives.
Take your time — we promise, it will be worth it
The time you spend monitoring and managing your reputation is an investment in your business. Even if it’s just five minutes of your time every day, you’ll be able to see positive results.
Still, if you find yourself struggling to properly manage your online reputation on your own, there are plenty of companies that can help you get where you want to be (cough, cough). However, regardless of the company you decide to hire, you need to assess their reputation. If they have a bad rap, how can you expect them to manage yours?
If you’re interested in getting specific feedback for your business, give us a call at (915) 227-4667 or fill out our contact form.
The rest of this series will cover everything from the basics to advanced tactics for controlling your search results, managing your online reputation, and taking charge of the conversation around your business.
Next in the Managing Your Brand Online series, we’ll talk about Search Engine Optimization, the process of creating and improving content to make sure it shows up as high as possible in search engine results for the right keywords.