08 Mar Online Reputation Management 101 for Small-Medium Businesses
Is your firm getting killed in the search engines or social media sites with negative content? Unfortunately, this is not a quick fix as we don’t control what the search engines display nor what review sites publish.
With the widespread use of review networks (think Yelp), forums, discussion groups, blogs, social media networks – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and more, it is very easy for Internet users to post online their opinions and rants.
Often the reader generated content published online is positive but it can also be very negative with wide ranging consequences. Even large companies with first-rate reputations can be impacted from negative user generated content or even a planned attack against a business.
If your business is experiencing negative content it is vital to deal with this issue as quickly as possible as the negative review is likely to be there forever.
You may never know the business you lost as prospects seeing the negative content just never contacted you.
Reputation Management Objectives for Small Business
- For starters address any issues that are factual and need to be handled. You can post a reply in many cases – if you messed up, say so and offer a refund or suitable alternative. People understand that in life and business no one gets 100% of only 5 star reviews. In fact, if you only had 100% super positive reviews, people would likely suspect that it wasn’t real.
- Bump the negative information off the first page of the major search engines. Techniques are used to push negative content off page one of Google by moving up other sites such as social media and directories.
- Lessen the impact of the negative posts through a consistent campaign of quality online content generation such as blog posts, reviews and other targeted content which will strengthen the positive perception of the practice and its owners. Don’t wait till you have a problem before doing these positive actions.
- Work with sites that have positive content. Social sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, can often show up on page one of Google – so ensure that you have a complete profile and are active – both the owner’s personal account as well as the separate business account.
- Get the firm and its principals recognized as “white hats”. You could be doing all kinds of great things in your community but no one will know unless they are publicized – in a tasteful manner of course. If you help raise funds for a new wing of a Children’s hospital, don’t keep it a secret.
- Build a wall of positive content and online listings to frustrate any future attacks against your business.
The Course of Action Is in Four Stages
- Research and monitoring – determine where the source of the negative content is coming from which can include websites, news sites, social sites, blogs, forums, review sites, etc. Is it a one-time upset client or a smear campaign?
- Planning and strategy – the creation of the online reputation management plan. Analyze what is currently showing up on page one in the major search engines and social sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc). Determine the source for both positive and negative listings. Create the strategy and plan of action. There are also techniques to buffer your online business reputation in the event of negative content showing up at some future date.
- Taking action – primarily generating new content, SEO (search engine optimization) and new directory listings.
- Deal with the immediate situation which could be as simple as proving an apology or a rebuttal to the negative content.
- Make it a priority for your firm to build an overall positive reputation – this is medium to long term.
- Review and evaluation – manage and adjust the campaign as needed. Assign a team member to monitor the Web so you know what you are dealing with.
Online Reputation Tools
There are several tools that can be utilized to create interest in the firm, enhance the online reputation and create goodwill including:
- Blogging – write and publish content on your own site as well as “guest blog” on other sites – the bigger and more influential the better.
- Undertake blogger relations to engage with influential bloggers.
- Register with every possible online directory, review and social network that is relevant for your firm. Populate them with full profiles.
- Utilize an online monitoring service or hire an agency to manage your online reputation.
The best practice is to be active online so that a negative review will get minimized with all the other content and listings that you have created.