The internet is a fantastic tool for democracy and one that allows anyone to have their opinion heard. The web is essentially one huge forum that allows anyone to upload and publish their opinion in blog posts, or as a comment on other sites or social networks. The internet is a veritable melting pot of opinions and ideas.
For businesses, harnessing the internet offers a wide range of marketing opportunities – when things go well. Whether you want to put your site at the top of the search engine result pages (SERPs) or take advantage of interconnected social media networks to spread news of your offers and deals via word of mouth, there are a lot of options available to you.
But, while the internet can be a great tool for business, it can also be a threat if you don’t know how to manage it. Just as social networks and blogs are excellent channels for promoting yourself, they can also become channels for slamming your products and services if you should accidentally upset the wrong user.
One person with a vendetta against your business, or a few people who feel they’ve been let down by your service, can very quickly use the web to completely tarnish your reputation in an effort to undo any good work you’ve done.
Unfortunately, people are more likely to write bad things about your company than they are good. This is a sad reality for companies, but the simple truth is that most people can’t be bothered to comment on a service until they feel upset by it.
Because of this, it’s crucial that you understand how to handle online reputation management, and that you have the tools to make sure that the overriding message that comes across when people look you up is a positive one. Below is a rough guide to some of the practices involved in online reputation management.
Responding to Comments
Attempting to cover up or bury bad comments can backfire if you aren’t careful, as anyone who notices this will see it as an attempt at censorship and this won’t reflect well on your business ethics.
It’s better to be honest and open – simply respond to negative comments with your point of view. This means actively looking for negative mentions of your business online, and responding to them wherever you can. If someone has posted on a forum for instance stating that your service was slow and unhelpful, you can undo some of the damage.
All that needs doing to to simply respond on the same site, apologize for the issue, and perhaps offer them some form of compensation. This can turn a negative into a positive as the people who subsequently review that discussion will now see you as a company that cares and one that is willing to make amends when something goes wrong. Likewise, if someone posts a negative post on their blog, you can respond in the comments and if you’re lucky they may even edit what they wrote.
Running a Blog
Of course sometimes you won’t be able to respond directly, in which case you might instead opt to simply post your own response on your site. If you keep a blog of your own, you can then mention negative comments there and respond to them in a way that will help to improve your reputation. Likewise a social network can be a good channel to use for getting your point of view across.
Social media is a tool businesses can use to start conversations and improve customer relationships. It is a forum where some of your best learning can be done. Getting this type of social feedback and interaction with your products and services can bring to light gaps or concerns about your business that you may never have considered. These revelations can lead to negative review prevention and improvements to the core structure of your business. Social media content is also now starting to rank well in search engines, so the more positive conversations about your business that are out there, the better.
One of the worst things to happen to a business in terms of its online reputation is for a negative post or comment to get to the top of the SERPs. In other words, imagine that someone searches for your company and instead of finding your website they find an angry rant from a disgruntled customer. In this scenario the most common response is to work hard at your SEO (search engine optimization) in order to change this and put your page back in the number one spot.
Beyond this, if you are an excellent blogger and media poster, why not apply targeted SEO strategies to the areas on the web where you are seen favourably? Build up the first page of search engines with shining examples of your exemplary products and services. Of course, this takes a lot of content, work and time but – if you have the resources – it is incredibly valuable for winning over your online prospects.
And by winning over, I mean, “helping them learn about your company.” 😉
Removing Bad Links
While removing bad comments may be seen as an attempt at censorship, you do have a right to remove links to your site that you didn’t request and this can help ensure that only positive terms get associated with your domain. One way to do this is to try contacting site owners directly – if it’s a forum and they had nothing to do with the post they may help you out by taking down the link. Another method to use is the new ‘links disavow’ tool from Google which allows you to tell Google which links it should ignore when ranking your page for certain terms.
These are just a few elements of reputation management but there are many more. Hiring a reputation management service is the best way to ensure that your company’s online rep stays as positive as possible. It is truly an ongoing effort that businesses need to be savvy about. A professional reputation management company will effectively work with your reviews while still being honest, making sure smart strategies are in place to help you look your best.
Courtney is the Director of Communications at Wisdek Corporation. She got her start in the Ad World and then moved into the online marketing industry from there. She very much enjoys working at Wisdek and finding ways to communicate with passionate entrepreneurs; teaching them how to grow their businesses online. You can connect with Courtney on Google+ To learn more about Wisdek, visit them online at www.wisdek.com or call 1-877-947-3351 today.