Reputation Management for your business, or your name!
Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing are where the corporate battles for consumers are being waged on a daily basis. The race to claim a top ten/first page ranking on Google, for instance, now draws an ever increasing slice of company advertising budgets as they reduce spending on less efficient and untrackable advertising venues like traditional media. In areas with many competitors the costs of implementing search engine optimization and marketing strategies can command funding that not everyone can afford.
Companies that cannot afford the expenses required to push themselves up in search engines rankings are increasingly resorting to more underhanded methods to knock down the image and reputation of their more well-funded competitors. These methods include smear campaigns, the spreading of false rumors, misleading information, and anything else that may damage a company’s reputation to the point where it puts doubt in the minds of consumers considering the purchase of that company’s products and services.
Protecting and Repairing Your Online Reputation
There are basically two aspects of online reputation management; protection and repair. Ask anybody that has been in repair mode and they’ll tell you they should have invested way more in the protection aspect than they did. Monitoring is the first step toward protecting your online reputation but there is always more that can be done.
Beyond listening to what is being said, assess what you have put out on the web yourself. People hurt their own reputations all the time with what seems like innocent pictures, stories, comments, etc. Just remember that in the eyes of a stranger you are who Google says you are. Whether that stranger is a potential investor, business partner, etc., starting off in hole because of something you posted can and should be avoided if at all possible. Publish content on your area of expertise. It’s easy and will likely rank on the search engines when people search for your name. A blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, and a LinkedIn profile is a good start. Keep your personal information to a minimum. You’re not going to gain much by going full disclosure but the information can come back at you so don’t volunteer more than is necessary.
The same type content you would publish in protection mode can work to push the rankings negative content back off of the front pages. Publish regularly and keep your content meaningful and positive. If you screwed up and yelled at a customer or something like that, just say you’re sorry. Don’t try to push your side of the story, it will just extend the battle. An apology is one of the fastest ways to end problem situation. If there is negative content that people are going to see, be upfront about it. This gives you a degree of control by getting your account out first while being honest about the issue.