Todd WilliamTodd is the founder and CEO of Reputation Rhino and has over 15 years of experience providing a wide range of legal and strategic advisory services to Fortune 500 companies and financial institutions on a broad variety of regulatory, enforcement, compliance, risk management and transactional matters. Todd advises individuals and companies on online reputation management, public relations and digital marketing strategies.
According to a 2010 Intelius study, 78% of consumers believe it is very important to look up information about people and/or businesses online before deciding to interact or do business with them. 74% of those studied responded they would most likely refuse to interact or do business with a person or company if they found negative information about them online.
Today, the first impression prospects and customers have of your business is probably online. What people see on Page 1 of Google directly impacts the sales and leads for your business. I want to share 7 ways to turbocharge the online reputation of your business.
1. Get Social
Create an optimized personal or business profile on high quality social media and Web 2.0 sites, like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+/Google My Business. Post a well written bio or business description, upload high quality photos and link to your other online profiles. Think about ways to leverage these social channels in a way that makes sense for your business.
A dentist will get much more mileage out of highlighting the secrets to a celebrity smile than simply regramming Kim Kardashian’s latest post. Measure success by more than just followers -- user engagement and hitting the right messaging with the right audience is a far more valuable and often overlooked metric for most businesses.
We are reminded of the potential of social media when considering how the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge forced every non-profit to rethink cause marketing by generating publicity, celebrity engagement and donation dollars during the late summer when fundraising is traditionally in the doldrums.
2. Be the Master of Your Domain
Purchase firstnamelastname.com and other variants for your name, your company and your key products or services. Register your name and brands across social media. With domains costing about the same as a trip to Starbucks, there is no good reason not to own your brand.
Last year a small marketing company tried to capitalize on our goodwill and marketing by registering a deceptively similar domain and social media channels that actually ranked pretty highly on page 1 for related searches. We hired a high-powered intellectual property law firm, had an airtight case and were ultimately triumphant, but a few thousand dollars in legal fees are much better spent at a blackjack table in Las Vegas or on the beach in the Caribbean. Remember you can win Monopoly by having the best properties or by having the most properties.
3. Content Marketing Matters
When was the last time you clicked on an ad on the top or right side of Google? Can’t remember can you? You are not alone. We call that “ad blindness” and it is not an incurable disease but a reflection of the fact that we are bombarded with advertising messages everywhere we go, driving on the freeway, opening our email and of course, searching online. There are a couple of cures for ad blindness. One is to deliver better ads that are highly responsive to search intent. For example, someone searching for “best Mexican restaurant in Louisville” is far more responsive than online searches for “Louisville restaurant” and a responsive ad to the former search will do much better than any ad for the latter.
Another way to cure ad blindness is to deliver outstanding content to your audience, rather than a sales pitch or advertisement.
Content marketing involves creating useful, engaging content – video, blog, infographic, etc. to educate and inform prospective clients and customers so they come to see you (and your company) as a subject matter expert and thought leader in your area of specialization. Quality content has a half-life many times that of any ordinary advertisement, visitors return again and again to a useful post or video and share with others.
4. Monitor Mentions
Google yourself! Find out what is being said about you or your company online. If you are on the customer or client facing side of your company with a sales or business development role, adjust privacy settings accordingly and delete embarrassing personal content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media.
Monitor conversations mentioning your name, brand or company. Discover where the conversations are taking place, what people are saying and who are the key influencers impacting the dialogue surrounding your company. Measure sentiment and follow trends. Are certain social channels or discussion forums driving the chatter for your brand? If so, this is probably where you need to be more active and responsive.
5. Review Your Reviews
When people are searching for your brand name, products or services online, client and customer reviews will help determine whether the next call or business lead will be yours. Google+/Google My Business, Yelp, Trustpilot, Yellow Pages and other relevant review sites with star ratings are eye candy for people searching online, and you should be actively trying to attract as many reviews as possible.
Google shows local business review sites lots of love in the search engine rankings, so this is a great opportunity to influence your Page 1 results and promote your business. Plus, some customer review sites allow you to seamlessly share positive reviews on your Facebook and other social channels. Can you imagine an easier way to connect a positive message with your audience?
For doctors, RateMDs.com and Healthgrades.com are among the key review sites to watch closely. Lawyers should be following reviews and ratings from Avvo.com and Lawyers.com. Regardless of your vertical, you should know which review sites have the most impact on your business and make these sites your top priority.
Not only should you be monitoring your business reviews in real-time, you need to know when to respond immediately and when to remain silent. What you say can and will be used against you online, realize your response will say far more about your company and business ethics over the long run than any single negative review.
6. Press Releases
I’ve heard a lot of good reasons why press releases don’t matter anymore for reputation management. If you are trying to outrank a high authority negative search result with a press release, you are going to have a very happy press release vendor and a very frustrated client. But press releases do still rank. On page 2 or 3 most often, but news about your company, written by your company, sure beats almost whatever else is on these pages right now. Also, press releases still have some residual SEO value. Do-follow links (by sites republishing the press release) can be very valuable and most press release sites allow you to pepper your PR with a variety of links to not only your Web site, but also to link to positive business review sites and your social media websites. Press releases get a lot of social media support and these branded retweets, Facebook shares and other social proof all come at no additional cost. With premium press release distribution available for under $300, this is another valuable tool at your disposal with multiple reputation management benefits.
7. Online Reputation Management
Let’s just say I am not a “do it yourself” kind of guy. When I need help with something I try to find someone who is better than me and, when it comes to home improvement, it is usually not that hard to find. Most of us get help from accounting experts with our taxes. We hire lawyers to draft our real estate contracts. We go to doctors when we are sick. If you have a problem online, you can try to fix it yourself, but unlike a poorly built dresser from Ikea, your online reputation can’t be tucked away in the corner of your bedroom. It is out there for the world to see every day.
There are reputation management companies that do this work every day. It is not cheap. There are no guarantees. Ultimately, Google’s algorithm is as inscrutable as Coke’s formula, KFC’s secret blend of herbs and spices or Donald Trump’s campaign speeches.
If your online reputation really matters and you are having some serious issues showing up on the first page, find the best reputation management company you can afford to help.