In today’s socially connected online world, reputation management is becoming more and more a concern for any business. Sure, most companies are able to secure the number one spot in the organic search results for their brand via their company web site. However, what about the remaining first page real estate and even that of the second and third pages? What is an effective means for companies, especially small to medium sized business to control that real estate without necessarily deploying multiple company web sites? The answer – social media.
Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and the list goes on, all offer the ability for companies both small and large to ensure they are represented in the first page of organic search results for their distinct brands and even pages beyond. And why is this important? Because consumers are talking about your business and the conversation is not always good. With the abundance of consumer review sites as well as personal blogs, consumers have much more power today than they did in the past when speaking about companies. While it should be the goal of any business to make sure each and every customer is happy, it is inevitable that you will not be able to please everybody all the time.
I will use our own brand, SearchRank, as an example of how social media can be used to control online reputation. Let’s take a look at what the first three pages of the organic search results of Google reveal when searching for our company name.
First of all, listings outlined in red are the ones in which we “control” due to the fact that they are either paid ads (AdWords), listings from our own site or social media pages from accounts we set up. Listings marked in green are other’s bookmarks which in most cases are a direct result of the existence of this blog.
1. Paid AdWords listing (the second is obviously someone using our trademark to trigger an ad – don’t get me started).
2. Listings from our site.
3. Pages from social media/networking profiles we control.
4. Other people’s bookmarks mostly related to our blog feed.
Again, listings outlined in red indicate pages from social media profiles we control, while green indicates other’s bookmarks related to this blog. The only listing not outlined (number 12) is related to some
“uninformed person” using our trademark to define what they think ranking pages at Google should be called.
Everything here is controlled with the exception of the last two results which are from scraper sites.
To summarize what we have just seen, we have the top position for AdWords, the two top spots in the organic search results via our web site (which is how it should be), then out of 30 listings, 11 are pages from social media profiles we have set up and 14 are bookmarks as a direct result of this blog. With the combination of our site, social media profiles and having a blog, we control 27 out of 30 listings.
Using Social Media (and a Blog) to Control Online Reputation
One lesson to be learned here, not completely related to the subject of this post, is that every company that has a web site, should also have a blog. You might argue that, “you have no one to write content for it,” to which I would reply, “do it yourself or hire someone.” You might then argue that, “there is no reason for your site to have a blog,” to which I would reply that, “there is no reason for you not to have one.” Blogs allow you to add fresh content to your site, communicate with your clientele, reach new customers, become an authority in your industry and so much more. As you can see from the example above, they also allow you to obtain inbound links from other sites and help control your online reputation.
Now that I have that off my back, let’s talk about social media/networking. Not every social media/networking site is going to be a fit for your business. For example, if you are a custom home builder, you will probably have little to no chance of attracting MySpace users. However, that should not stop you from setting up a profile, if for nothing else, to secure your branding. If for some strange reason someone decides to search for your company on MySpace, at least you are there. Furthermore, if you link back to your web site in the profile MySpace allows you to create, it helps your site’s link popularity.
Where to Start?
There are literally hundreds and hundreds of opportunities to create user accounts at social media and social networking sites. Even sites like eBay and Netflix allow their users to create profiles that will allow them to get involved in the community aspect of these sites. The best place to start is with some of the more popular sites which are as follows:
There are also a few good lists that include these any many additional social media sites.
- Joe Whyte’s List
- Arsenal Marketing
I’m sure there are additional lists – these are a few I found while searching for them.
Setting Up a Profile
Most social media sites allow you to write something about yourself. Some even allow a space for you to link to your site or sites. For those that don’t, you can sometimes link to your site within the text you use for your profile by adding the opening and closing “href” tag and URL before and after the text you want to use for your link. Our MySpace profile page is a perfect example of this. The main idea is to include some brief information about yourself and/or your company and then somehow make sure there is a link back to your site. This will not only allow those visiting your profile to easily access your site, it will help build link popularity once those profile pages are indexed, which leads me to the next point.
Getting Social Media Profiles Indexed
If you are looking to use social media sites to not only build link popularity, but as we have been discussing, help manage online reputation, you will need to get your social media profiles indexed by the search engines. There are a few ways to accomplish this.
1. Add links to your social media profile URLs in the “company” or “about us” pages of your site. See our “Founders” page for an example.
2. Link to a variety of social media profiles via MyBlogLog and Sphinn profiles. Of course you will have to make sure the MyBlogLog and Sphinn profiles themselves are indexed before you can expect search engines to find additional social media profiles you may have added there.
3. Friend other people who have social media profiles that have already been indexed. When you friend people, their profiles link to yours which helps engines to find them.
The basic idea here is to link to your social media profiles via other web page that have already been indexed themselves.
Controlling The SERPs For Your Brand
As your social media profiles get indexed and begin to age, you will start to see them showing up in the SERPs in the same way that I have demonstrated in the screenshots above. Of course this is not the only way to make sure you are well represented for your brand, however it is one step you can take that is completely free (if you do the work yourself) and completely within your control. You may even find that you generate some pretty good traffic from getting involved in social media and networking. There are millions of people using thee types of sites, so much in fact that it is become more and more of a necessity to make sure you
have visibility in them, just as it has been essential to have search engine visibility for years now.