The internet has provided an abundance of free and inexpensive marketing opportunities – more than we could have imagined just a few years ago. At the same time, it has become much easier for others to publicly share their opinions of your business. My guest today has some valuable tips to help you keep tabs on what they’re saying about you.
They used to refer to it as “ego surfing” — the practice of typing your own name into Google, and seeing what came up on the page. Over the years, however, many of us have noticed that what we find when we go “ego surfing” is not always pleasant or positive — and that in some cases, it can be downright defamatory. It is from those realizations that the online reputation management industry sprang up.
Nowadays, there is nothing “egotistical” or frivolous about conducting an online search for your own name, or for that of your business. In fact, if you’re a tradesperson, a business owner, or a working professional, this practice is nothing less than essential.
Simply put, what people say about your brand on the Internet matters. Think about it this way. Your task, as a professional, is to bring in new clients or customers — not en masse, typically, but rather one person at a time. Generally, those people are going to be doing their due diligence, checking you out online before giving you their patronage.
If they like what they find about you and your company, on Google or Yahoo or Bing, then everything is hunky dory. If these search engines yield negative listings or bad reviews, however, it’s trouble for your company
There are, however, some ways in which you can take matters into your own hands. Aside from the far-reaching services of a professional reputation management firm, you can follow a few simple, DIY tactics to ensure that your reputation on the Internet is a positive one.
It All Starts with Search
The first step any reputation defender needs to take is monitoring. You need to know what people are saying about you on the Internet if you want to have a clear picture of what your company’s reputation actually is. This is going to involve going to the search engines and searching for your own business name, on a regular basis.
Remember to cast a fairly wide net, with regard to how you search for yourself — because, of course, Internet search users are going to search for you in different ways. Do you run a business called ABC Fabrics in Nashville, Tennessee? If so, then conduct online searches for ABC Fabrics, ABC Nashville, ABC TN, ABC Fabric Store, even something like ABC cloth or ABC textile.
Another important, easy-to-overlook tip: Make sure you log out of Google before you attempt these searches. Google is coming, more and more, to personalize its search results. If you’ve written a bunch of content talking about how great your company is, that’s the content Google will favor in your own search results, so you may not get a clear view of any negative listings that are out there.
Scanning the search engines, on a regular basis, is an important part of reputation monitoring. Another good idea is to set up some Google alerts. This is a free service, and fairly simple to use: Basically, you type in some search terms — ABC Fabrics, ABC Fabrics Nashville, etc. — and Google sends you an e-mail when there are new blog posts or news stories about those search terms.
This is a great way of letting you know when people are talking about your brand on the Web. Sometimes, there may be some duds — a business totally unrelated to yours, which just happens to have the same name. If someone is using the name of your company to try to sabotage you, however, a Google alert will tell you.
Other Avenues for Reputation Monitoring
In addition to the search engines themselves, social media platforms are also important. Make sure you check into your company’s Facebook and Twitter pages (as well as Google+, and whatever else you have) on a regular basis, and respond to comments or questions promptly. Don’t trust in your automated alerts to always tell you when there are new comments — they don’t always work as well as we want them to. And don’t use canned, stock answers; real, genuine interaction is essential for shoring up goodwill for your brand!
Also make sure you are keeping tabs on your company’s profile in different review sites — like Yelp. Respond graciously to positive reviews, and to constructive feedback. As for unreasonable or defamatory reviews, however, it’s generally best to simply not respond at all.
The Secret of Reputation Management
The true secret of reputation management — for individuals and small businesses alike — is that there’s simply no way you can repeal those negative reviews. So why even try? What you can do is suppress them — something that is done by inundating the search engines with positive content about your brand.
The bottom line, then, is that you should always be monitoring — and always posting positive content to Facebook, your business blog, and so on. That’s how you build a strong defense, and ultimately ward off online attacks.
Rich Gorman is a serial internet entrepreneur with an extensive background in direct marketing, affiliate marketing, and online reputation management. In addition, Rich operates the official blog for the Direct Response industry where he shares his thoughts on Direct Response Marketing.