As social media, blogging, online reviews and other user-generated content types of sites continue to garner the attention of Internet users, more and more companies and individuals are paying attention to their online reputation – in other words, what people are saying about you online. The thought of negative listings appearing in the organic search results strikes fear into many. However that does not have to be the case if proactive steps are taken.
In this post, I will look at some ways one can go on the offense in taking control of their online reputation rather than just sitting like a lame duck, waiting for the worst-case scenario to occur.
The general idea of this post is to offer tactics and strategy to better control at least the first three pages of organic search results that appear in search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing and others when your company or brand names are search for.
Let me start off by saying that the best proactive measure in preventing negative online reputation is to 1.) offer an excellent product and/or service and 2.) provide the very best customer service. That being said, you cannot please everyone all the time. No matter how hard you try, someone somewhere will eventually be upset with you.
This is where taking proactive steps to control what is being said about you online can go a long way in combating the eventual scenario of a disgruntled customer bashing you online.
Now on to the meat!
1. Web Site Branding & Company Profiles
I am really big on including branding in the title tags of web pages. Some may argue that there is not enough space and that having page-specific keywords represented there is more important. While I agree that having keywords listed in the title tag is very important, I am also a strong proponent of having the brand name follow what ever keywords are listed.
Here is an example of how I typically format a title tag (keyword phrase separated by a pipe symbol and then followed by the brand name).
When you choose to have brand names such as a company name, product name or even trademarks/slogans included in your title tag, it helps to get these pages to rank well for those words.
Additionally it is important that every site have an “About Us” page or some style of company profile. If the company consists of key founders, executives and the like, it is also good strategy to have individual profile pages for these individuals.
Often these types of pages will rank well for the company name or an individual’s name and as such help to control those first three pages of organic SERPs.
2. Set Up a Company Blog
In the early days of the “World Wide Web” (now simply referred to the Internet), it has been said that any company worth their salt should have a web site. Now I say that any company who wants to be successful with that web site should have a blog along with it.
I could go into the many reasons why a company should be blogging but for case of time, I want to highlight just one here – branding. A blog will allow you to talk about your brand, your products, your services, etc., all of which have the potential of ranking well for key words and phrases that are important to you.
A question I am often asked is, “Should we set up a blog under our own domain (yourcompany.com/blog), sub-domain (blog.yourcompany.com) or even a completely separate domain (yourcompanyblog.com)?” The answer really depend on the strength of your main site but for ranking purposes, I don’t feel it really matters that much.
For example, we decided to place our company blog on our main domain in order to add to the domain’s authority by continually adding new and resourceful content. But what if you are a “Walmart-sized” company and already have a site that carries tremendous weight and authority? A sub-domain or even completely separate domain name might be the way to go.
Even in our scenario of hosting the blog under our main domain, we are able to dominate the first two listings in the SERPs – main web site first and blog second, when searching our company name.
Either way a company blog will not only help to fill another spot in the SERPs but has far-reaching additional benefits such as the ability to build community around your brand and products.
3. Initiate Social Media Profiles
Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a myriad of others all allow you to set up profile pages. This is a big part of what makes them “social” in that you can have your own page or “section” on another site that allows you to include information about your company or yourself. And because in most cases these profile pages have their own URLs (i.e., twitter.com/SearchRank), they can sit in one of those coveted positions in the SERPs if set up correctly.
The key is deciding what user name to use and whether you should have multiple profiles to represent company and brand names as well as key individuals. For example, I have a personal Twitter profile at Twitter.com/DavidWallace and then a company Twitter profile at Twitter.com/Searchrank. In most cases, the user name you select will not only become part of the URL but be listed in the title tag as well.
Now I must point out that engaging in social media shouldn’t end with simply creating profiles but rather it is all about getting involved with and engaging the communities of social media sites. That however is the subject of another post. The idea here is to set up profiles, include information about your company and/or the individual and then make sure the search engines actually index them.
A big part of the indexing process comes from being actively involved in each social media site. And while it may take time to build up a social media profile by active involvement as well as gaining an audience, you can assist the indexing process by search crawlers by simply linking to those profiles from another site that is already in the search indices. One of the most common ways to accomplish this is to simply link to your social media profiles from your “about us” pages, company blogs, and even personal web sites.
Where to start? That’s a good question as there are thousands of social media sites. How about starting with some of the most prominent (list below).
If that is not enough for you, there are many more social media sites listed at http://namechk.com.
4. Get Localized (for Local Businesses)
If you are a local business (i.e., landscaper, home builder, real estate agent, etc.), then another way to control the SERPs are with local listings. Like social media profiles, local listings are typically free to set up. They also allow you to increase your visibility on the local sites themselves.
The three major search engines, Google, Yahoo and Bing, all have their own local search sites that you should make sure your business is listed in or at least claim it if already listed. Simply enter your business name and location info and you can either claim a listing that is already there or add a new one. Google and Bing use a verification process that entails either calling a phone number they have on file or sending a post card to an address which then contains a PIN number you will have to enter to activate your listing. Other than that, the process is painless.
Some additional Local Search sites are listed below.
5. Monitor & Engage
After you have taken proactive steps to help manage your online reputation, you will want to continuous monitor and engage if necessary. One of the easiest and obviously least expensive ways to monitor your online reputation is to sign up for Google Alerts. These are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. You can have Google send you alerts every time a new result shows up for your company name, brand names, products and just about anything. While Google Alerts don’t cover the other engines, with Google having something like 70% market share of search, you can be pretty confident that if negative results show up in Google, they are very likely in the other engines as well.
For a more robust option, you might like a tool such as Trackur. Trackur is an online reputation & social media monitoring tool designed to assist you in tracking what is said about you on the internet. The subscription based service scans hundreds of millions of web pages–including news, blogs, video, images, and forums–and lets you know if it discovers anything that matches the keywords that interest you. Pricing starts at just $18/month and they even offer a 14 day no obligation free trial so you can test the service out.
In the unfortunate case that you do begin to see negative results show up in the organic search results, you can one of several things. You can work to push the negative results down by some of the methods mentioned above. If the negative results are out-ranking your local listings, social media profiles or even your own sites, then you can engage is strategic link building to build up the link popularity and authority of pages you have control over and as such, help push them up in the rankings.
You can also engage the person or persons who posted the negative reviews in an attempt to have them removed. Oftentimes it is as simple as resolving a dispute they have with you but in cases where the negative listings are based on lies or are slanderous and libel, you may have to take some legal action.
The bottom line is that if you take some proactive steps to help control your reputation in the organic search results, it can make dealing with a negative online management issue much less effortless or even non-existent.