In an age where a single Tweet can influence the court of public opinion, brands and business owners can’t afford to take their online reputation for granted.
Those who don’t thoroughly monitor their reputation leave their brand at risk of significant harm from negative online content populating the internet.
The nature of online content surrounding a brand can create a lasting impression on potential clients or customers who come across remarks or reviews when searching a business. Since many clients and consumers make their purchasing decisions based on a company’s reputation, negative online content can directly impact revenue.
At the same time, the internet offers opportunities for businesses to amplify their message and reach a wider audience. But unfortunately, without proper protection, negative online content can lead to a business’s downfall. Competitors or unsatisfied customers can take advantage of the internet’s reach to smear a business’s online presence through fake reviews, social media posts, or other harmful content.
Businesses need to take a proactive approach in protecting their online image, or they will risk minor issues from turning into major problems that could haunt them for years to come.
Combating these threats requires active reputation monitoring. Business owners need to know where to look for potentially damaging content about their brand, how to respond to or remove negative posts, and how to publish positive content that outranks harmful articles or reviews.
However, active reputation monitoring and management takes time and resources that many businesses simply don’t have. Reputation management companies can step in and help brands stay on top of the online conversation surrounding their organization and identify their reputation weaknesses.
From there, reputation management professionals deal with problematic content for you and can neutralize it before a crisis occurs. Above all, they bring businesses peace of mind and the ability to focus on what they do best.
Regular Online Reputation Monitoring
Proactive reputation management begins with a preliminary brand audit, though you’ll want to perform a more in-depth audit later on. Still, a surface-level review of the Google search engine results pages (SERPs) for key queries related to your business will help you identify the most pressing issues for managing your online reputation.
Whenever you search your brand or related terms for reputation research purposes, be sure to sign out of your Google account and use an incognito browser. Using an anonymous browser ensures the SERPs aren’t tailored to your past searches and online habits. Doing so will provide a more accurate impression of what a potential client may see when entering the same query for the first time.
What should you look for in the SERPs during your preliminary reputation audit? Search your brand’s name and take note of your star ratings on Google and trusted review sites (like Yelp), articles about your brand from high-profile or industry publications, and comments on popular web forums. Negative or false claims in any of these areas should be a red flag.
Lack of content in search results is another cause for concern. When looking through SERPs for branded queries, business owners should try to see the results from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know anything about their business. We recommend asking yourself the following questions:
- Can a potential customer immediately find your business’s official website and contact information?
- Can prospective clients easily find and skim reviews about your business at large and specific products or services?
- Does your website offer a fast and frictionless path to purchase?
If you answer “no” to any of these questions, the absence of helpful content and positive reviews may be hurting your bottom line.
When performing a reputation audit, it’s important to note that the results that appear won’t stay the same forever. If a Google search for your business doesn’t turn up any negative content right now, it doesn’t mean your brand is invulnerable to negative press or defamatory reviews in the future.
Also, keep in mind that harmful content can lurk below the first and second pages of Google SERPs. While the average consumer typically only looks at the top 10 or 20 results, prospective clients, investors, and more discerning consumers may take a deeper dive.
To perform a more thorough audit, you’ll want to utilize Google’s advanced search operators. For example, you can use quotation marks to return results containing specific words. Searching “brand name” + “review” or “name of top product” + “review” can help you locate customer feedback quickly.
Another search operator allows business owners to check for mentions of their brand on specific websites. For example, to see what’s been said about a brand on an influential forum like Reddit, business owners can enter this into the Google search bar: “brand name” site:reddit.com.
Using advanced search operators in your audit will help uncover deeper results. But remember—regardless of where content exists in search results at the moment, it always has the potential to rise without warning and damage your brand’s reputation.
Moreover, brands need to look beyond Google’s search results to monitor their reputation thoroughly. Search results give business owners only one part of the story around their brand.
Content takes time to rank in Google, and during that time, it remains visible and discoverable on other platforms, such as social media feeds and independent review sites. Fortunately, software tools help business owners discover content about their brand as it’s published, allowing them to promptly take appropriate action.
Review monitoring tools notify admins when content mentioning their brand is published anywhere on the web. Social media monitoring tools can identify posts that may require attention, such as questions or complaints, and measure the general sentiment toward a brand. Competitor analysis tools can analyze how a brand’s online presence compares to others in the industry.
Even with advanced reputation monitoring tools, reviewing and managing the results may require a full-time commitment and a diverse skill set. As a business owner, you’ll have to determine whether or not you can handle this responsibility in-house.
Devoting Time and Resources to Your Reputation
It depends on the size and reach of your business, but in general, effective reputation management requires the attention of a full-time employee, if not multiple.
It takes hours of daily, in-depth research, along with the use of software to accurately identify reputation-damaging content. On top of that, establishing a positive brand image in search results involves knowledge of SEO best practices, Google ranking factors, algorithm updates, and more.
While larger corporations can build in-house teams for SEO and reputation management, many small and medium-sized businesses can’t dedicate the necessary resources internally. But that doesn’t mean smaller companies can’t afford reputation monitoring.
Many business owners enlist the services of a reputation management company. Quality reputation management providers have teams of experienced professionals devoted to the various areas of reputation management, including SEO, review monitoring, social media management, and negative content removal.
The experts at reputation management companies stay up-to-date on Google’s algorithm and ranking factor changes, as well as the development of Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines. Clients receive regular reports on their reputation status and receive immediate notifications about any harmful content.
Reputation management companies bring peace of mind to brands by solving existing reputation issues and developing proactive plans for any negative content that may emerge. In some cases, reputation management companies can get harmful content removed. In other situations, they may employ SEO strategies to bury the problematic web pages with content that paints the brand in a more positive light.
Protection and Planning for Proactive Reputation Management
Before business owners can take action to protect their brand reputation, they need to know where it currently stands in the eyes of prospective clients or customers. After identifying critical issues in a SERPs audit, businesses need to improve and maintain their reputation through constant monitoring.
While some businesses can perform reputation management duties on their own, many others don’t have the internal resources or expertise. Fortunately, they can work with a reputation management company to watch over their brand narrative, and defend the company against any looming reputation threats.
It may not seem like your business is particularly at risk for a reputation crisis, but all brands are susceptible to damaging content given today’s online landscape. Given how much damage a negative review or online article can cause, it isn’t enough to hope for the best or ignore reputation management until there’s a problem.
Simply waiting for a crisis to occur then going into damage-control mode when it happens has the potential to do irreparable harm. The only way to stay on top of your business’s online image is to monitor your brand actively and develop proactive plans for potential threats.