Rob Swystun, Pristine Advisers
A few months ago, I was looking for experts in the addiction recovery field to interview for a client. One individual in particular was keen on helping out with what I needed. But, when I googled his name to check out his credentials, the results were damning, to put it mildly.
The first couple of pages of results for this guy’s name were nothing but accusations of fraud and misconduct. I can’t remember exactly what the alleged circumstances were, but this guy’s online reputation — whether deserved or not — caused me to send a polite email informing him I would not be interviewing him.
It behooves entrepreneurs and professionals alike to keep an eye on what is being said about them online, lest a Google search of their name turns up nothing but how unsavory they are.
My potential interviewee could have used the advice dished out by John Rampton, founder of online invoicing company Due, in a recent Forbes article. Rampton’s advice, culled from the snappily-titled book Mechanics of Online Reputation Management: Repair and Control Your Name or Brand Reputation Online by Tyler Collins, is meant for entrepreneurs and their businesses, but applies to anyone.
Everyone from the CEO to the sales support team to the PR and marketing team has to be involved in maintaining a solid online reputation, Rampton says, and here’s the way to do that:
- Ensure the first 1-3 pages of search results contain more than just links to your website.
The first page of search results will heavily influence whether people trust your brand or not and people are more likely to trust it if they see what Rampton describes as socially infused content.
This means having more than just your company website show up in the top search results. People want to see a collection of information from different sources, mainly third-party sources like customer reviews, media coverage or testimonials. Obviously, the reviews, etc. should be positive.
- Companies must start online reputation management before they launch their brand.
The time to start online reputation management is prior to launching a brand. That can be done with some pre-launch research. Choose a name that doesn’t have any negative baggage attached to it and that will allow you to easily establish brand ownership of that name on- and offline.
- Check for negativity often, suppress it when it shows up.
Negative content is bound to show up. You can’t please everyone all the time. But, that doesn’t mean it has to float around the top of the search rankings. When it does show up; suppress, suppress, suppress.
You do this by putting up new, authoritative content, which pushes the negative stuff down the list of search results. Aggressively publish new content about your company, preferably the aforementioned socially infused content.
But, also keep in mind that it’s easier to prevent than suppress. Take care of your basics first like good customer service and solid products.
- Manage the online reputation of your executives.
Potential customers and business partners research more than just a company, they research the individuals involved in a company they are considering doing business with. Therefore, you need to have reputation management strategies in place for key executives at your company.
Give your execs a dedicated bio page on the company website and make sure those pages rank in the top search results for their names. Procure relevant media coverage about them whenever possible. Include them in blog posts and PRs.
- Seek outside help, particularly with SEO, to get your reputation on track if necessary.
Bring in an expert to help build or repair your online reputation if necessary. As Rampton says, one of the best investments you can make is in your own online reputation.
Hire an SEO expert (and make sure it’s an actual expert and not someone pretending to be an expert) to help you get your content ranked highly. Simple PR and content marketing strategies are useless by themselves. They need the SEO part of it to complement them. Spend the resources to find someone who can perform stellar SEO to get your content ranked highly.
- Aggressively utilize social media in your reputation management.
Post (or assign someone to post) frequently to your business’ social media accounts. Have accounts for the major social media networks, plus any niche ones that will benefit your company.
Be proactive about responding to people who reach out to your company on these networks, regardless of what they’re reaching out to you for (praise, criticism, customer support, etc). Monitor applicable hashtags and make a point to respond to negative reviews in a professional manner. And, while we’re on the subject of monitoring, create a Google news alert about your company so you can see when new articles pop up about it.
Oh, and have a social media policy in place before you jump on any networks.
Following these six steps will help your company cultivate and maintain a strong, positive online reputation. Don’t be that potential interviewee. You ignore online reputation at your own peril.