If you own a business, there is a high chance that you have at one point looked up your business on Google just to see what people say about your products, customer service, and the business as a whole. The last time you did that, what kind of search results did you get?
Truth is, for most people who’ve “googled” their own businesses, there is always an unpleasant version of the business online; a mixture of half-baked facts and malicious stats that can easily damage the business’s reputation. You will find business listings, reviews, and images of your business and wonder: To what lengths can people go just to damage the reputation of others?
The sad thing is that unlike the information on your website and social media pages, you have little or no control over the ‘other’ information that people publish out there about your business. What, then, can you do to clean your name and uphold the integrity of your business? That is where online reputation management comes in.
Online Reputation Management (ORM): What Is It and Why Is It Important?
ORM is a collection of techniques and strategies that a business can employ in a bid to take control of any and all online conversations regarding the business, and to create a positive online image. It counters misinformation and misleading trends by providing internet users with the right stats and facts. You can implement your ORM strategies on social media, through press releases, search engines, and basically any platform where your target audiences assemble.
By influencing public opinion and online perception towards a brand, ORM helps brands to rank better on SERPs, get more business leads, and grow profits. Here is how:
1. Everyone is talking about your business
Potential customers read the information others share on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Reviews, Reddit, etc. before making their shopping decisions. The problem is, there are tons of negative online conversations aimed at tarnishing your credibility. What can you do to turn the tables in your favor when you have no power to stop those conversations? Well, your only option is to get on top of the thoughts and feelings that people have about your business through online reputation management.
2. It helps you create an online community
When you take charge of your online reputation, you are able to convince people to trust your company and products. That is the trust you need to build a community of loyalties around your brand. These communities are your loyal foot soldiers online; they will advertise your products for free both online and offline. And because nearly 70% of potential customers trust consumer opinions more than paid advertisements, the communities you build are critical for the growth of your SEO, conversions, and profits.
3. You need the best talents of the labor market to choose your company
The best talents in today’s labor market want to work in companies with great reputation. If you are getting negative reviews all the time, you risk being stuck with low-profile employees who are uninspired, lazy, or unskilled.
4. People want you to respond to their reviews
Online users want you to respond to their queries and show that you care. Besides, responding to negative reviews respectfully and with utmost professionalism can turn your harshest critics into your loyal foot soldiers.
How to use SEO for Successful Online Reputation Management
Search Engine Optimization helps you manage your reputation by giving you a chance to showcase your strengths and to override whatever falsified information about you, your competitors have sponsored. It pushes positive aspects of your business up the ranks and masks the negative ones so that no one gets to see them. Here is how you’ll achieve that with SEO:
1. Leveraging the power of video
In a bid to encourage content developers to create helpful and easy to consume content for its searchers, Google consistently ranks videos higher than static content. Good SEO practices, therefore, involves creating video content regularly; quality, informative, and engaging videos. Videos are also great in that you can always promote them on video hosting sites like YouTube, Vimeo, or Daily Motion and consequently push your website (positive content) even higher up search engine rankings.
In online reputation management, videos serve two main purposes:
a) To answer customer queries and to discredit the myths and rumors that anyone could be circulating online. Of course, an online user will be more willing to watch a 10-minute video of you defending your brand than to read a 1000-word article on the same topic.
b) Videos are easier to share on social media compared to static content: Your loyal customers are always more than happy to share your videos with their friends. Technically, what they do when they share is spread the word of your good reputation.
2. Using your expertise and experience to build a reputation
You can always redeem your reputation by getting the validation from your peers; getting published on high-authority websites in your niche.
When you write articles and share your experience and expertise on different peer-review sites, you pass as a resourceful expert who deserves the benefit of the doubt, even when competitors have filled online platforms with rumors and half-truths. Besides, the more you share your expertise for free, the more your personal bio spreads and stands out from the crowd.
If you link your online guest posts to your site and social media profiles, you start getting more organic traffic, more people know what your business is actually about, your SEO rankings go higher, and your portfolio grows. Those are the exact ingredients you need for successful reputation management.
3. Drowning out negative results from the first pages with positive results
When people search for your business- or the products/services you offer, what do they see? Do they find credible and valuable information, or do they find sub-standard content that validates the negative reviews they’ve already heard or read? Point is, searchers see what you want them to see. Thus, in creating quality content and optimizing the right brand-related keywords, you give searchers the value they need, so they don’t need to scroll down to where the negativity resides.
4. Leveraging the power of images
You can use images to create authentic backlinks, and by extension, build a strong online reputation. This is how:
Let’s say you contribute to charity or your company engages in local community programs. During such events, people take pictures and share them online. You too can do that, and then optimize those images for search engines. Searchers will discover those images and see the human side of your business, and their opinion about everything you do will change for the better.
Note that images, videos, and other engagement objects are up there in terms of search engine rankings. In fact, when someone googles your brand name (or your products), there is a whole section that Google has dedicated for related images. What’s more, you can always optimize alt tags and branded keywords when adding images to your web content to improve your keyword ranking opportunities.
5. Using social media to push down negative reviews
Most social sites enjoy a high domain authority, especially Facebook and Twitter, so they appear at the top of most brand searches. Chances are that your Facebook page (or Facebook mentions or Twitter trends) appears above your website when someone searches your brand name on Google. That makes social media a great place for brand representation. And because SEO and social media are intertwined, you have to optimize them both if you want to drown negative reviews.
Social media optimization will help you manage your brand reputation in the following ways:
• If your social media profiles are complete with full branding gear (logos, campaign posts, and slogans), there is minimal chance that malicious pseudo accounts registered in your name will ruin your reputation.
• You can use Twitter hashtags to attract traffic to your website and to influence conversations around your brand.
• People will subconsciously associate with your brand at a personal level and trust your products more when you comment on topics that matter to them, even if they aren’t relevant to what you do. Speaking up against cyberbullying and body shaming, for example, will bring you more business from people who have gone through that ordeal in the past.
Bottom line: The more social media activity you engage in, the more positive content there will be about your brand, and the easier it will be for you to down the pages with bad and misleading information.
Basically, SEO helps in reputation management by showcasing your brand’s strengths and weaknesses. After all, everything people see online is SEO-driven. However, you need to understand that reputation management is a multi-channel effort. You have to optimize your website for search engines, provide visitors with valuable content, optimize your social media pages, and most importantly, rectify any mistakes that you or your employees could have made to attract the wrath of online users. A simple apology to the online community can go a long way in managing your reputation.