Whether you are a big brand, a small business, or a money-making blog, the internet has created a universal arena for public relations. Your name and reputation are among the most important assets you have and protecting that name online should be pretty high on your priority list. Whether the challenge is creating more citations or fixing negative publicity, it can be more than a little overwhelming. But when you look at Online Reputation Management (ORM) on a few different levels, you can start small and close to home and then start thinking broader, and eventually, thinking abroad.
Lately Google is getting personal with a vengeance. Personalized results are the future of search and there’s nothing more personal than home. First, make sure your local address is present on your site. And if you put it in the header, footer or sidebar so that it’s there on every page, even better. Then make sure you register your business with Google local and verify your listing.
One of the most interesting developments in local search is the reviews that appear next to most local searches. These reviews also tie directly into ORM. There are two kinds of problems you can have here, either a lack of reviews, or bad ones. In this screen shot for a search for Chicago Pizza, you’ll see that each of the results has a number of reviews beside it along with an average star rating.
Even more interesting is the Review snippet which is featured right there on the front page. Fortunately for these pizza joints, they seem to be making the hungry masses happy. But imagine if one of these Read “The WORST Pizza I’ve ever had in my life”. That kind of statement on Page one of Google could actually be severely detrimental to a business.
Then when you got to the “Place Page” for each business, you get a lot more information, and a lot more opinions. You can’t please everyone all the time, true. But you need to be aware of what people are saying, and where.
When you search the local results for your keyword phrases, take note of the reviews for your competitors. It’s no so much about whether or not people think their sauce is better, what’s important to note is where the reviews are coming from. Chicago Pizza tends to get a lot of reviews from places like Tripadvisor, Zagat’s, Yelp and Urbanspoon. Meanwhile the phrase “Chicago Vacuums” has reviews from places like Dexknows and Dealtime. The point is every niche has a different set of review sites to focus on. Find out what yours are, and find out what’s being said about you there, or what isn’t.
You may have hundreds of satisfied customers, but are they speaking up? People are typically more compelled to write a review of a bad experience than a good one, so it may take a little nudging to get the acclaim you deserve. There is no shame in integrating subtle and humble review requests into your marketing. Encourage people to say nice things about you online, and perhaps, even recommend which sites they should do it on. And if the sites you choose just happen to be Google’s favorite resources for reviews in your niche… well that’s just a happy coincidence right?
Moving past local search, the playing field gets much bigger. You have social networks, blogs, videos, news sites, and hundreds of other places where your name could come up in conversation. The first thing to check is the top ten results in Search Engines for your name. Seeing as most people will click a link on the first page of results, those are the most important place to start. Evaluate whether or not the results are positive, negative or neutral. Is every result even about you or do they relate to another business with a similar name? If you don’t dominate the top 10 for your name you are risking brand confusion and potentially losing business because of it.
If you do own your first page of results, the next thing to do is determine if those are the results YOU want there. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just call up Google and ask them to rearrange their results for us? Maybe someday I’ll make that call, just for fun. Then I’ll play it on You Tube. But wishes and prank calls aside, there are some actions you can take to oust results that you don’t like.
Displacing undesired SERP results isn’t always easy, but with proactive measures it’s possible. First, if you haven’t already, create social profiles on the big networks like LikedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. You should use them, but that’s another post, for now, just get them up and running. Claiming your name on these major channels is itself an important act. These popular sites carry weight in search results for your name, and it prevents imposters from getting hold of it. You can also build links to these profiles to help them gain ranking momentum. If you need more than just a slight boost, you’re going to have to work a little harder than the Big Three. Fortunately there are tons of social networks, groups, directories, and business profiles where you can list your business, often for free, which can help fill up that top 10.
Everyone has the propensity to be a little ethnocentric when it comes to their business. As in, they are primarily concerned with their reputation in their nation of origin. And that’s fine if you only serve your own country, state or city. But if you ship internationally, or have multiple websites for different countries then your reputation matters world wide. First, try to get a hold of all versions of your domain, as in the .com, .net, .info and your country specific TLD. It’s also smart to get, hyphenated versions, and common misspellings. Then 301 redirect them all to your primary website.
From there, take note of where your international traffic is coming from. Do you have a huge contingent from India? Is Europe hot for your product? If you have been seeing success from a particular country, it’s a good idea to peruse that country’s specific search engine results for your name as well. The process of dealing with mediocre results is much the same as doing it for your home country. International social media juggernauts will probably perform equally well across country lines. But every country has distinct places which carry weight. Find out what those are in the countries where you are doing strong business, and even the places you’d like to see your business improve. Find competitors which are indigenous to that country and see what their Top 10 results look like. That recon will help you identify which sites you should attempt to get listings on. Sometimes this level of work requires you to transcend language barriers, human translators are good, but if you don’t have a native Russian speaker in your office, online translators and tools will suffice.
This is a big pool to be swimming in so do yourself a favor; use tools. There are tons of tools, some free, some with nominal costs and some that are really expensive. The ones you need will depend largely on the scope of your business and the state of your reputation. If you have huge problems, then you may need professional help to clear up a mess. But if your rep is generally lukewarm or lacking, then there is a lot you can do on your own. Once you’ve gone though these steps to bolster lackluster search results make sure to subscribe to tracking programs like Google and Yahoo alerts, and SocialMediaMention to keep track of new mentions of your company good or bad. Ultimately no amount of ORM can compensate for a bad business model, poor product or lousy service. But if you are giving your customers the best of you, then the rest of the world should know it. There is no room in ORM for wallflowers, so it’s up to you to stand up and be counted, in your home town and across the globe.
Jessica is a writer for a German based online reputation management program. She has been working as a freelance writer and an aspiring SEO for the last 5 years. Her expertise covers a number of areas including, online reputation management, link building, branding and social media.