You know what they say about sure things—death and taxes and all of that. Guarantees and certainties are especially hard to come by on the Internet, where the rules change every day and there are always exceptions.
Yet, when it comes to building and protecting a sterling reputation for your brand, there are a few things that can be said without hesitation.
You will get Googled.
By now you shouldn’t doubt it: Consumers who have easy access to the Internet, on their smartphones or tablets or PCs, will absolutely use search engines to research your company. And how many consumers do you know who don’t have Internet access through their smartphones or tablets or PCs?
People want to know that they’re spending their hard-earned money on something reliable. And for better or worse, they trust Google to tell them that.
Your Page 1 Google results matter.
Not so much page 2, and definitely not page 7, but that first page of Google… that’s the one everyone’s going to see. And what it says will set the first impression of your business. In a very real way, those first ten or so search results will determine whether people feel confident doing business with you, or otherwise.
So what’s on your first page of search results? The company website, Facebook page, and LinkedIn profile? Great! Some competitor sites, bad news headlines, or negative Yelp reviews? Not so great.
You can sort of control what’s on your first page of Google results.
It’s not precise and it’s not guaranteed—Google’s algorithms work in mysterious ways, after all—but there are certainly actions you can take to ensure that solid, strong, brand-enhancing content shows up for your business. The first step, of course, is to actually create content, and plenty of it: Blogging, robust evergreen Web content, and even press releases can be beneficial. Also make sure you’re cognizant of SEO concerns—though we’ll let you in on a secret: If you focus on quality branded content that your human readers will use, you’re probably going to be okay.
Regular social media posting is vital.
You’re not just going to undergo Google scrutiny. You’re going to get checked out on Facebook, too, and perhaps also LinkedIn. We’re not saying you have to post ten times a day to every single social network in existence. We’re just saying that online reputation management is proactive. It’s about going out of your way to demonstrate thought leadership. And social media offers you a perfect platform to do so.
Listening is key.
Don’t just talk at your social media followers. Hear what they have to say—and, unless you’re dealing with trolls and flamers, respond in kindness. Remember that online reputation management and social media marketing are both flipsides to customer service.
Truly. What your Yelp page or your Google rating says about you goes a long way toward building customer confidence—or not. Directing your customers to leave reviews, perhaps even offering some incentive for honest feedback, can be a huge way to bolster online reputation.
A caveat here: Reviews really do matter, though not necessarily to the point some ORM firms would have you believe. A hundred nasty reviews can sink your business; one or two negative reviews, amidst 30 positive ones, aren’t going to ruin you. Don’t freak out.
Messaging is Job #1.
The secret to protecting your online reputation, in a nutshell: Ensure that everything your brand says on Twitter, Facebook, the blog, etc. is on-message, aligned with your corporate values, mission, and voice. Choose the kind of brand you want to build, then stay true to it.Digital & Social Articles on Business 2 Community