You are your reputation.
Search engines are a great tool, but they add to the vulnerability when the wrong information gets exposed online. It doesn’t matter whether the misinformation is from neglect, a disgruntled former employee or a jilted lover, the damage can be real and sometimes, devastating, both socially and to one’s career. People finding the bad data don’t stop to ask questions, they just make an assumption and move on. That can deprive you of opportunities, or expose you to punishing consequences.
Keywords and Citations are the language used by search engines to define who you are (Citations) and what’s important to you and about you (Keywords). No one can tell search engines like Google what to do. All we can do is make suggestions, so talking the search engines’ language can be a strong advantage.
Citations are just that – references to a bit of data, plain and simple. Just as your English professor used them to check on the accuracy of your term paper’s quotations, so Google uses them to establish the credibility of bits of data, such as name, address and phone number. Google looks for exact match data, and applies trust to the data based on how many times it is accurate (and where it is listed).
Citations may arise as a tool in a hostile competitive or disinformation campaign. Bad data can be misleading, thieves may use false citations to steal business leads, or simply to confuse readers. Incorrect data can hamper local search results. Unwanted disclosure of some data, such as credit card numbers, or unlisted phone numbers, represents a vulnerability that it is best to defend against.
What Can You Do?
Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) is a free ‘clipping’ service that can send you E-mail alerts when particular keywords that you select are found on the web and newly arise in their search index. Your Business Keywords may be:
- your personal name,
- a unique brand-name,
- company name,
- product name,
- leader, officer, spokesperson,
- or even a competitor.
A carefully-chosen bunch of keywords (when limited by ‘negative keywords’) can feed a warning system for personal and business purposes. As new mentions of your keywords are crawled by Google on the worldwide web, you can click through to them and find out if the mentions are positive, negative or neutral. Each type of sentiment expressed requires its own strategy to profit from any interaction. Some times it is even better not to react at all. The key is knowing the difference, and for that it pays to gain knowledge from a Reputation Management expert.
An even-handier tool for personal use may be Me On the Web, https://www.google.com/dashboard/ (part of the Google Dashboard). It offers email alerts when your personal information (name, company name, home address, email address, phone number, etc.) is posted on the Web. It automatically includes things such as one’s E-mail address. Even better, it includes guides to “Manage Your Online Identity”.
To use it requires one’s Google services log-in. Clients and prospects must be cautious when providing this to their Online Reputation specialist, potentially making this a strictly personal tool. Information that’s confidential, embarrassing, or just plain wrong should be addressed by taking the time to click the “How to remove unwanted content” link to request the removal of a page from Google’s search results. That way, one can reduce the risk of exposure of unwanted material.
An Online Reputation professional who is made aware of the undesired presence of personal information or incorrect listings in Google has strong tools at their disposal. They may apply effort to ProActively or ReActively alter listings in Directories or Business Indices in order to correct the data. They may add more and better Citations. They have experience in how best to respond to Comments and Remarks, whether complimentary or complaining. They may even advise on contacting Google or other methods to improve the situation. Results are tracked and reported on a regular basis. That way, the successful improvement of your Citations, Keywords and thus your Reputation will be clear.
And what of Social Media? Mentions on Social Networks can be utterly scathing, yet Twitter and other social sites’ messages are not indexed by Google. How will you know what is being said about you? WhosTalkin.com is a search tool focused on social media sites. SocialMention.com is another, very fully-featured tool. If people are talking about you or your company on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any of the 60 other social sites that these sites monitor, this service will help you keep tabs on those discussions. How to respond then is up to you. Time is of the essence… most complainers resist any effort to change their attitude after about 24 hours have elapsed.
Any good, ethical Reputation Management specialist can talk knowledgeably about your situation. Don’t hesitate to contact WebiMax with any concerns you may have. After all, it’s our reputation on the line, too!
Defending your Good Name Is More than just a Smart Idea
The growth of the World Wide Web over the last decade has been a mixed blessing for businesses hailing from around the globe. Although every online advertising firm touts the strength of e-commerce, social media outreach, and viral marketing, there still exist a number of setbacks that can be truly damaging for a business in the online arena. Chief among these is bad publicity.
What’s in a Name?
Although the old adage of there being no such thing as bad publicity has worked its way into common parlance, this saying is actually quite untrue when the web is involved. Due to the increasing reliance of smartphone and mobile device users on the internet for reviews and consumer reports, many companies find themselves losing significant business because of negative online interactions. These can include forum complaints, published articles, self-proclaimed “watchdog” blogs, and any other variation of internet content.
It certainly does not help that particular key terms are often incorporated into queries that consistently lead to bad press instead of official properties and balanced reviews. Let’s take for example a company that we’ll call “Biff’s Book Store” (yes, you and I have seen the same movies). If someone is standing outside the book store itself or is looking for reviews for the store prior to traveling to it, then odds are they’ll go to Google, type in the name of the business and add “reviews” or “complaints” to the end of it. This is what inevitably results in people finding overly negative reviews.
Sometimes well-respected review sites will populate the search results and other times it’ll be random blog posts and forum replies that can be quite harsh. This isn’t to say that sharp criticism may not be warranted of a particular business, but there are many occasions where outlying critiques set a bad precedent for how potential customers see a company. That’s why reputation management services exist.
Managing your Good Name on the Internet
SEO companies and online marketing firms provide a varied selection of services to their clients and one of these is reputation management. In short, reputation management is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a series of procedures and content creation techniques that downplay the negative feedback. This can be accomplished through a number of different approaches, but more often than not SEO agencies try to emphasis positive company reviews and highly ranked web domains (such as Glassdoor.com) so that they appear above negative results in the SERPs.
By implementing standard SEO procedures and a number of other techniques, reputation management providers are able to ensure that potential clientele will be able to look into a business and see well-balanced reviews appearing above unfair ones. This helps situate companies in a manner that prevents customer loss before interaction can ever occur. In our modern web-oriented age, this sort of preemptive approach to customer service is crucial to keeping momentum for businesses and is something that no company should be without.
Following the recent appointment of new CEO, Hubert Joly, Best Buy is now beginning its turnaround and attempting to return to its former profitability. While the retailer initiates its restructuring plan, both Best Buy and Joly remain prominently featured in news headlines, blogs and throughout social media. Although the public response to Best Buy’s management changes has provided the brand with enhanced visibility on the Web, the company must now take measures to monitor and manage its reputation in order to maintain a positive brand image.
Some companies struggle with terms such as “complaints”, “reviews”, “scams” and “rip-offs”, however, those may not be the biggest adversary for a company with the worldwide identity that Best Buy has forged for itself as a leading retailer. Instead, the primary focus for Best Buy’s marketing division should be terms such as “Hubert Joly” and “Best Buy CEO”. These keywords are expected to have a high search volume and any negativity associated with them must be neutralized using reputation management techniques.
An effective strategy for Best Buy to remain reputable during this transitional phase would be the development of a customer engagement plan. Encouraging satisfied customers to leave positive feedback and reviews on their website, blogs and on social networks will boost the brand within the SERPs and help to suppress any potential negativity.
It is essential that the company maintains a positive reputation in the months ahead and a proactive approach is necessary. Best Buy must implement a “call-to-action” to keep its satisfied consumers while also remaining focused on gaining valuable market share online.
How can lip balm be controversial? Just ask Chapstick – they’ve managed to offend a lot of people with the image they chose for a new advertisement and, moreover, how they chose to deal with the backlash on their Facebook page.
Chapstick is the latest example of a brand mishandling negativity over a new advertising campaign – a prime example of how NOT to use social media when it comes to managing your reputation online.
What many companies don’t realize is that, for the most part, Americans are a forgiving group of people. We watched as Britney Spears fell from grace, but now she’s a judge on the popular television show X Factor with millions of people rooting her on. Michael Vick was involved in an illegal dog fighting ring and served time in jail for the conviction, but now he’s the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles with a strong fan-base. Chris Brown was charged with felony assault for beating his girlfriend, pop star Rihanna, but he continues to be a celebrated member of hip hop community.
What do these three people have in common? They all admitted their mistakes, apologized, asked for forgiveness, and explained to the public how they plan on changing their lives for the better. Any publicist will tell you that trying to cover up a controversial event will only make matters worse. Owning their actions and taking responsibility for their mistakes is the only way that celebrities or famous athletes can begin to repair their relationships with the American public – and that goes for brands, too, not just people.
So when Chapstick ran this ad -
- featuring a woman bent over the back of a couch looking for her lost Chapstick (we know where they were going with this ad: read Dan’s latest post about how sex sells in the marketing world), and they received criticism on their Facebook page by people who found it offensive, did they take ownership? How did they handle the backlash?
They deleted the comments. Big brand management no-no.
To make matters worse, in bold letters at the bottom of the ad it says “BE HEARD AT FACEBOOK.COM/CHAPSTICK.” Perhaps a more accurate call-to-action would’ve been “be heard – as long as it puts our brand in a positive light.”
If Chapstick wants to use social media as a place where consumers can go to give their honest feedback and “be heard,” they’ll need to be prepared to take the bad with the good. Here are my two pieces of advice for Chapstick, or any brand that is faced with a similar situation:
- Listen to people’s complaints, and apologize to those you have offended on your Facebook page where the public can see your response.
- Be prepared to handle criticisms as well as praise & approval whenever you launch a new campaign – especially if you direct readers to your Facebook page where consumer feedback is a fundamental part of social media for businesses.
What do you think about Chapstick’s decision to delete negative comments from their Facebook page? Join the conversation on Twitter using #brandchat or email me at pryan[AT]webimax.com.
Many brands struggle to gain recognition in the SERPs and throughout social media, but achieving visibility is not the only important element of Internet marketing. A company’s reputation is crucial and managing that reputation is necessary in order to maintain a positive image both on and offline.
Discovering Reputation Concerns
Throughout both search results and social media, reputation concerns can often be easily identifiable. Features such as suggestive search have been advantageous to business owners and online marketers in discovering potential brand reputation issues. Keywords such as “scam”, “ripoff”, “complaints” and other similar terms may accompany a brand or individual’s name in suggested searches and these results should be identified and subsequently managed to avoid gaining a negative profile online.
Developing a Strategy
Customer complaints and negative reviews can greatly impact a company’s image and should be carefully monitored in order to design an effective reputation management campaign. While every strategy should be customized and tailored to fit the brand, there are certain techniques that should always be utilized. Encouraging satisfied customers to add positive reviews and feedback to social networks and other authoritative sites is a great way to fortify a strong reputation or rebuild a damaged one.
Once a successful reputation management strategy is designed, it is important to maintain it. To ensure a positive brand image remains in place online, long-term maintenance is required. Brand and keyword research are part of the ongoing efforts involved and being proactive is also useful in preventing future reputation issues.
The importance of a strong online reputation is virtually immeasurable and is a crucial component of both Internet marketing and brand management.
For more on reputation management, see Todd Bailey’s latest video on our YouTube Channel.
“Godfather, be my friend,” a man pleads as he kisses Don Vito’s hand. The former was really asking of a favor. The Godfather knew. It’s VERY LIKELY those on your ‘let’s be pals’ radar know your immediate intentions too. It’s okay; be aware of their awareness and proceed…naturally.
I’ve been pretty successful in making friends throughout my life. I’m actually pretty cool; but, that’s for me to know and others to notice. In social life, I can be a bit lax, allowing things to happen at a gradual pace. I’m a tough sell. I’m not going to ‘be down’ with just anyone. In my professional life, things are a bit different, warranting a mixture of friendly and professional sentiments; but, I’m very similar to other professionals in that regard too. I’m not going to be ‘cool’ with just anyone. If I did want to begin a relationship, I would go about it in the following manner.
The Elephant in the Room
Have you ever engaged someone in conversation, knowing there is an ulterior motive for the union, yet it goes ‘unpublished’ in conversation. It makes for an awkward guessing game of what the other person is thinking. Be honest whenever approaching or PR pitching another professional. Would you like their help? Would you like them to read your blog? Would you like to be considered as a source in an article? All of these ‘selfish’ desires are acceptable; however, don’t ‘beat around the bush.’ Just be direct. Being direct doesn’t guarantee a disarming welcome; but, it does let the other person know you’re a straight shooter, honest, and not wasting their time.
Some time ago, I wanted to guest post on Mike King’s blog. I hit him up in an email; and, though may have been a bit complimentary in the opening, I was succinct in my intentions. I wanted a social media post on ipullrank’s blog; however, it was important to offer something to Mike’s readers too. Why else would he accept if I wasn’t creating some sort of value? Mike posted on the wrong and right way to ask for a guest post.
My mom thinks I’m special; that goes along with the job. I know. Do others? Perhaps, but it’s because I earned their respect. I did; I inspired; I worked; I expressed; I did a number of things to openly demonstrate (out in the practical, wide-open world) I can offer some sort of value. Think of other professionals as active musicians. By adding your presence, does their professional world become more harmonious? If not, they’re likely to want you to ‘sit this number out.’ Maybe you can try-out again when you have something of value to offer.
Value is subjective; but, the need to offer ‘something’ is an objective reality. What can you offer?
- Humor (maybe you make them laugh with your take on the industry)
- Research (maybe you’ve crunched a lot of data, elucidating a new trend or previously unseen ‘truth’)
- Exposure (maybe you have a high number of followers and can introduce a personality to a new pool of subscribers and vice versa)
- Guidance (perhaps you have experience in a particular area and can offer insight)
Think about what you can add. It’s a delicate dance of give and take. If you’re not offering anything valuable, there’s no reason for professionals to jump at the chance to ‘make friends.’ Many will question why you thought a union with them was apropos in the first place. Have you researched?
I recently read a great explanation of why doing your homework in a respective vertical is important. You see, it’s not about ‘just getting exposure.’ It’s about finding the right fit; it’s about making the right kind of relationships. I’m a writer. Is making a contact with NASA the right fit though NASA is an incredibly respected entity? Unless NASA wants me to help them with content marketing, the relationship is ill fitting. I’d be better off finding better niches, befitting to my networking wishes.
Check out Chris Dyson’s post on chasing footprints for linkbuilding. Knowing the right paths to venture is crucial. Next, don’t forget to familiarize yourself with the personality of interest. That’s how you would normally go about making relations and conversation, right? Consider the alternative:
If you are going to pitch me, at least check out my freakin’ site first. Otherwise, I just hit the “delete” button. Sheesh!
You’ve heard of link building, the reason why many people approach others for immediate connections. Awesome, you’ve made a connection and got a valuable link. The link is good in and out itself; but, I liken the process as getting the opportunity to shake the Dali Lama’s hand but not engaging him in conversation.
The reason it’s so important to research relations above, is because like online marketing, relations take time to build momentum and strength. What’s better, getting one guest post link or cultivating a relationship, resulting in future guest spots, insight and guidance, introduction to other ‘doors’ of opportunity and personalities, etc? Lightning storms are pretty and exciting; but, the excitement is short-lived. I’d rather invest in my time in building lasting weather patterns.
Pro tip: PR (I think of it as peer relations) is not for everyone. Are you stuck in a connection rut? Do you wonder why you and yours are shunned by others? Something is off; you’re doing something wrong.
Do you see relationships merely as a means to an end? If so, PR is not for you. You don’t ‘get it.’ No matter how much work you put in, you’re likely missing an integral piece of the puzzle. PR is a practice for the genuine and forthright. You can roll your eyes all you want at these sentiments. Go ahead and try to prove me wrong. The following video is for those interested in building real relations with peers. All others need not apply.
Which camp does your approach fall under? I can tell (I’m just nice about openly id-ing the former group.) Don’t be foolish. Others, who are PR savvy, can ‘see’ your approach too.