In today’s digital age, a business’s reputation is its most valuable yet vulnerable asset. If not properly prepared, companies are at the mercy of negative online content harming their reputation and skewing the perception of their brand to consumers.
Luckily, there are ways to protect your online reputation from harm and prepare your business should a reputation crisis occur. Reputation Management companies are the professionals in this field who utilize their SEO (search engine optimization) expertise to defend their clients’ digital footprints.
The strategies this article delves into explore a few of the many ways these companies help clients take control of their online image and offer a guide to businesses and CEOs on how to start protecting their brand.
1. Be Aware of Your Digital Footprint
Managing a business’s reputation starts with an in-depth analysis of its online presence.
First, search for the business in Google and try to see the results from a customer’s perspective. We recommend using Google’s advanced search operators for a comprehensive dive into your brand’s mentions. You can also use social media monitoring tools to track mentions on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc.
Conducting a reputation audit will help you identify any pain points that may cause friction on a customer’s path toward purchasing products or services. Common obstacles include negative reviews, unflattering mentions in big-name publications, and targeted hashtags.
Next, you should strategize how to improve on those issues. For example, if a search for your business returns negative reviews or no reviews at all, then start developing a plan to acquire more positive reviews. One popular strategy is to incentivize leaving reviews by offering perks or future discounts to those who provide feedback.
Reputation management companies provide intensive monitoring services to keep businesses up to date on changes to their reputation. But, it’s important to recognize that the absence of negative content in search results does not guarantee protection against threats that may surface in the future.
How a business differentiates itself from competitors needs consideration as a potential pain point. With the help of Google, customers can comparison shop with ease, which makes it crucial to stand out in search results. This is where in-depth competitor analysis comes into play.
Search for a competitor in Google and think about how their search engine results pages (SERPs) may appear to a customer comparing multiple companies. Consider which company a customer may end up contacting based on what they find in the SERPs.
An essential byproduct of reputation management is establishing a brand that instills confidence in customers when they conduct a Google search. Businesses can give customers what they want to see by putting out positive content and developing a voice that speaks to them.
2. Develop Your Company’s Voice
When it comes to building your brand’s voice, consistency is key. As explained by Hubspot, a brand’s voice is “the personality your brand takes on in all of its communications…Good brand voice makes your brand stand out from the noise, and helps consumers remember and relate to your brand.”
It goes without saying that you need to publish content to establish your brand—but how much content is enough, and where should this content live?
Yes, your public and social media presence are important; but you can’t neglect your own website in the pursuit of outside engagement and publicity. For both branding and SEO purposes, content marketing experts recommend posting two to four blog posts a week.
To top Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs), your business needs to post industry-specific content regularly. Doing so will help you target valuable keywords while establishing expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness in the eyes of Google and customers. These factors, referred to as E-A-T, communicate signals that Google’s algorithm looks for when ranking web pages in SERPs.
The volume of content you publish matters, but quality ultimately outweighs quantity when it comes to earning high positions in search results. Google designs its algorithms to recognize content that meets E-A-T standards and is published by trustworthy experts.
Brands have a distinct advantage here. Specialized content about industry-specific topics holds more authority when published by a business working in that industry. For example, content published by a business with a good reputation will likely rank higher than similar content published on someone’s personal website.
Social media will be your most valuable tool when it comes to promoting your content and engaging in ongoing online discussions of relevant topics. An active social media presence helps you create connections with customers and encourage conversations.
3. Encourage Conversations and Connections
Businesses can further enhance their reputation by maintaining a connection with customers on review platforms and social media. In addition to responding to constructive questions and comments, businesses need to acknowledge negative feedback.
A business can show it listens to customers and values what they have to say by replying to negative reviews, forum threads, and social media posts. Addressing this feedback allows a business to personalize its brand to customers and searchers.
Businesses can turn negative feedback into an opportunity to prove their authenticity and showcase exceptional customer service.
Resist any urge to respond to negativity with more negativity. Instead, focus on how you can make the situation right by resolving errors, clearing up any misinformation, or offering solutions like refunds or additional support.
Staying professional and resolving concerns builds a sense of trust with customers, and reputation and trust go hand in hand.
4. Maintain Your Assets
Managing your brand’s reputation requires a commitment to both excellent content production and the more technical side of SEO.
To assess your website’s performance, you can run a site audit that reports key performance indicators (KPIs) like loading speed, keyword rankings, bounce rate, conversion rate and backlinks.
An audit will point you to the areas where the most improvement is needed. For more guidance on optimizing websites, refer to Google’s official tips here.
Moreover, your SEO strategy should complement your blog post production. Make sure users can easily spot and access blog posts from your homepage, and use these posts as assets for your link building campaigns.
Links from reputable websites go a long way toward generating the E-A-T signals discussed earlier in this article. Businesses can earn links from other sites through publishing valuable content such as whitepapers, infographics, primary data, and other professionally written and relevant articles.
5. Expand Your Knowledge
Search rankings don’t last forever. A business can achieve a position-one ranking and later lose it if they don’t keep up with the latest Google updates.
Over the past few years, Google has made several significant changes to how it ranks web pages in search results. For example, an algorithm change called the Medic Update—named for its targeting of YMYL (your money your life) sites—introduced E-A-T as ranking signals in 2018.
Brands also need to prepare for the upcoming core update. Originally slated for May 2021, the Google Page Experience Update has been postponed for mid-June. This gives businesses a bit more time to prepare for the update by doubling down on their sites’ user experience (UX) elements.
Businesses that keep their Google knowledge current can make the necessary improvements to stay ahead in search rankings. Also, understanding how Google’s search ranking algorithms incorporate brand reputation factors can help you stay ahead.
Google lays this information out in a document called the Search Quality Rater Guidelines, which Google employees use to evaluate websites.
The Search Quality Rater Guidelines contains a chapter (see Section 2.06) on how to assess a site’s reputation. Feedback gathered during these manual reviews guides the development of future algorithm updates. You can read more about the connection between reputation and SEO here.
To effectively manage your brand’s reputation, you should invest time in understanding Google’s algorithms and staying up to date on industry news. Business owners should stay informed by reading SEO news publications and following industry experts on social media—or risk being left in the dark.
The reality is, no company is completely safe from negative content harming their brand. This risk comes with the territory of owning a business.
However, the concepts and strategies discussed in this article give businesses control over their online reputation and a way to mitigate the damage that negative content may bring to their brand.
Having a business without practicing reputation management or utilizing the services of a reputation management company is like driving a car without insurance. You’ll want to be prepared and protected should an unforeseen reputation crisis emerge.