Have You Googled Your Brand Recently?
Hundreds or thousands of times a day, your customers are searching around your brand, products, and even employees to figure out whether to do business with you. Are you confidently in control of your online reputation?
Quickly clean up unfavorable search results and replace them with positive sentiment, with our intelligent online reputation repair services. Then go beyond, into proactive reputation management in order to improve your brand value and grow conversions. This is a critical component to your digital marketing strategy.
Contact Enlightenment Media today for rapid response reputation management solutions, and strategic thinking on long-term positive brand building.
Online Reputation: Repair, Then Get Ahead
Many conversations about reputation management begin from a reactive need to repair a brand image from a range of negative or unhelpful search results and mentions. It is essential to be on top of this and working to keep your online image clear.
Things that we commonly clean up in reputation repair projects:
- Unbalanced or excessively negative reviews
- Fake reviews
- Deliberate slander or smears
- Forum threads that attract unhappy customers -- particularly if they are on domains that imply that everything being discussed is a "scam" or "rip off"
- Customer troubleshooting discussions or complaints that aren't supposed to be public search results
- Out of date information
- Stolen content
- Negative mentions and results planted by competitors
Reputation repair is not only a matter of deleting the online matter that you'd prefer people not to see: just as much, it's also about building and promoting the good stuff like glowing reviews and positive press.Developing a lot of positive content can succeed in itself at hiding negative material from search results, just by pushing it off to the wilderness of page 2 of Google and beyond.
Pushing bad results off page 1 of Google is usually the priority of reputation repair projects, but "cease and desist" is usually not the easiest way. Instead, by focusing on building the ranking and message of good content, under your control, you'll virtually eradicate visibility of negative content without necessarily having to work to get it completely deleted.
Better Google Results
What do your customers currently see when they Google your company name or brands?
Apart from key areas of your site (usually expanded by Google as sitelinks), consider the range of other "virtual real estate" that you could occupy in the results using web properties that are more or less under your control rather than liabilities:
- Blogs or resource sites under your brands but on separate domains e.g. AcmeStories.com
- Your key social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, Linkedin, Pinterest
- If you are highly active in video, as well as your YouTube channel you might have Vimeo and Vine channels to rank up
- Articles set up on blog/publishing networks such as acme.wordpress.com, acme.tumblr.com, or acme on Medium
- Interesting content in document sharing sites like Slideshare, Issuu, and Scribd
- Directory listings such as in an official industry accreditation profile, a Chamber of Commerce website, or Better Business Bureau
- A Wikipedia entry (although this is absolutely not open to abuse/self-promotion)
- Feature articles such as "interview with the CEO" that were originally news items but have an 'evergreen' appeal for inclusion in search results
You should also watch the marketing value of pages from investor relations, previous funding campaigns, and venture capital partners, as anybody could be reading that to evaluate your company. Another common issue for larger companies is job websites (job adverts or company profile) as well as newer anonymous employee feedback systems like Glassdoor. These are all things to some degree in your control if you stay ahead of the game.
As Google typically mixes different media into "universal" search results, make sure you have good results for:
- recent news stories
- business overview / intro videos
- map pin and local information
- relevant images in image search
- app and software listings
At a further stage of reputation building, you should look at the wider searches that include your brand, such as "Acme Reviews", and searches that are about people comparing you and competitors, e.g. "BestWidget Sellers". You need to improve how you show up in these 3rd party review, discussion, and comparison sites. In some cases you may explore advertising, especially native ads, to include your brand in places where it's missing: this in turn can make it easier to get organic inclusions in lists and reviewer articles.
Everyone in the organization should get involved in reputation management: after all, isn't that everyone's job - to build the value of the business in the eyes of customers and prospects? Your team members should be reminded to solicit feedback when appropriate, pass on good comments, and promptly report when they discover online materials that are unfavorable.
Where you have highly networked or well known people (think: CEO) in your company, you should also watch the appearance of their Linkedin (/Xing /Twitter etc) profiles in searches for your brand. This will be especially the case when you have a celebrity spokesperson or active brand evangelists in social media under their own name. Key figures in your organization must work with your overall reputation management aims even if the web properties / profiles belong to them.
The phrase "reputation management" has grown rapidly in trend with the internet itself. The phrase is encountered in business books at least 5 times more frequently now than 10 years ago.
Source: Google Ngram Word Trends
Businesses which are not capable of controlling their online reputation, and effective in building positive sentiment, will view the internet itself as a liability. Sticking your head in the sand is not a brand strategy! Thus, to orient fully towards digital marketing performance, a business must incorporate reputation management techniques into the overall brand strategy.
Think Like A Shopper
Whether it's a quick B2C purchase, or a big-ticket B2B procurement, there are individual people behind the clicks and searches, and these people are increasingly becoming adept at using search to discover information about you, and evaluate a range of options in the market. The more you think like an in-market user, the better your reputation strategy will become.
You need to become adept at simulating the searches and research motivations of your prospects at the different stages of the buying funnel. Don't neglect the user experience and communication processes aftercompleting a conversion, because this is where you can influence happy customers to share the word... and where problems can quickly get spread around if not caught and solved well by your customer support system.
When you become more proactive and strategic about putting yourself in the mind (and web searches) of your customers, you will find it becomes easier to know what kind of information to create and promote. Looking at your business from the customer's point of view - including empathizing with complaining customers when things didn't go right - will reset your marketing priorities in the best way.
Businesses which are proactively in control of their online reputation enjoy wider benefits:
- better conversion rates
- more responsive social media presence
- lower legal risk and lower actual costs following things up in legal routes
- better connections with press/media
- better reputation security for partners and investors
- greater longer-term brand value as online sentiment affects offline awareness and word of mouth
Don't wait for bad reviews. Devise a deliberate "mystery shopper" approach and seek out improvement points for your business. Encourage your team members to use your products and services (with their own hard-earned dollars if you can persuade them!) and consider professional mystery shopper / reviewer services, which are available for online systems just as much as bricks and mortar business. This is the most proactive way to get inside the mind of your prospects and preempt bad reviews simply by improving your offering.
65% of internet users see online search as the most trusted source of information, and 79% of consumers place equal weight on both online reviews and personal recommendations
Source: Edelman Trust Barometer and BrightLocal survey, via Reputation X
Integrated Online Awareness
The number of different online places to monitor is practically limitless. Actively policing your business's reputation is very challenging if you are not already familiar with all the tools involved... and many companies find it hard to perform well because they lack a clear assignment of responsibility (and authority to act) in any particular staff member. We'll look at these internal communication and assignment issues with you when we start working on your brand strategy.
Having professional digital marketing experts on your side will make reputation management significantly easier and more effective for your business.
Customer support staff often don't view themselves as part of the active side of marketing. But in a modern business, the sales and support people absolutely must think about reputation, because customers can and will talk about their experience with your brand everywhere.
Any reputation awareness function assigned in your team should make use of alerts and monitoring tools which can e mail you automatically when your brand appears in a new web page or has been mentioned in social media. For brands with frequent daily mentions, more sophisticated software exists which can automatically sift and discover particularly positive or negative mentions to report, as well as summarizing estimated sentiment scores.
One of the top challenges for businesses is to be able to react fast to mentions and potential reputation challenges online. Increasingly, your customers are interacting with your social media and website 24 hours a day... and expecting real time responses... whereas your staff have to go home at night. This in itself creates a challenge for satisfying your customers: customer support can usually defuse a complaint situation... but not if there is nobody qualified online at the right time to deal with it.
The question of responding to discussions and complaints in social media is even more complicated when working with an ordinary marketing agency. This is a good example of why we don't recommend conventional outsourcing to narrow marketing specialists: by working with an all-round digital agency you make sure that your partners understand and care about all the performance aspects of your brand.
At Enlightenment Media, we don't narrowly work on just one or two techniques of marketing. We work with you in our unique Universal Solution approach, which means that we'll never consider any part of marketing and reputation as "not our business" -- we'll make it our business to be as proactive about your brand reputation as you are.
ORM and SEO
Online Reputation Management (ORM) definitely crosses over with aspects of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You need to use SEO tools to research what people are seeing when searching for your brand and products, and SEO techniques will come into play in improving the ranking of pages you want in your positive top 10 results.
SEO can also be benefited by the research you do in reaching out to 3rd parties for positive mentions and reviews: these can lead to good quality links that help your search rankings (provided that is not the only reason you are creating the relationship!) Building high quality industry directory listings, organization membership profiles, or accreditation pages can all provide you with good link reputation as well as the good search result in themselves.
Another related issue to watch out for is negative SEO. This is the increasingly frequent "black hat" techniques used to damage a competitor's brand in search results and even get their website dropped out of Google due to thousands of spammy links. This is why you will often see SEO services advertised as including reputation / profile "repair". Contact Enlightenment Media for SEO services if you are concerned about being penalized by Google or generally cleaning up your link profile.
Reputation Management Checklist
If you are not currently concerned about improving negative search results or repairing any unfavorable discussions online... firstly, congratulations... and secondly, don't rest on your laurels!
Here are 10 management questions you should check right now in your organization:
- Even though many different people may be monitoring brand mentions and alerts in many different places, have you got one single person responsible for gathering all of these, following up action, and reporting regularly on the issues involved?
- Do you measure and benchmark sentiment and review data, and can you relate this to your conversion rates and overall brand value?
- What is your exact standard operating procedure for website downtime and service stoppages, including out of hours? When [not if] your service is interrupted (even if it's not your fault), how can you communicate status to your customers? Do you have a list of contingencies you've planned for?
- In your business model, what are the greatest reputation risks? Do you have a list? What are your priority items to help you sleep better at night? Think: customer data; negative news coverage; legal issues and liabilities; safety incidents; disgruntled employees; risk to customers from (mis)use of your products; data loss.
- Contingency planning is not only for band news but also unexpected success and peak periods. Imagine you get a huge spike in orders, traffic, or publicity: do you have a contingency "all hands on deck" and know how to provision extra digital resources?
- When new staff join your company, what induction do they get into your brand values, and what training and policies do they receive about preserving your brand reputation online?
- How are you monitoring for copyright theft and trademark abuse? And what is the standard procedure for taking action on violations you discover?
- How can you monitor when a product complaint rate exceeds ordinary levels? What actions does this trigger? Have you got a recall procedure?
- In a reputation crisis or a positive story or trend where your brand needs to be involved, who is your go-to public spokesperson? Are they ready? Can press and partners find them? What about out of hours and holiday cover?
- Is anyone monitoring your competitors' online reputation? Your customers are looking at them and comparing to you.
The above thinking provides you with an example of how Enlightenment Media marketing strategy goes beyond the limitations of website building and traffic generation, and encompasses the entire picture of what is involved in making your marketing successful. This is the mindset in which we work with you in our Universal Solution marketing services.
Reputation management should absolutely start with repairing negative search results, and urgently. But it should not stop there. Your reputation is what your whole marketing is about, and developing your brand value proactively is what we do for our clients.
Contact Enlightenment for immediate initial analysis of your brand positioning in the eyes of your target market, and an action plan for improving your online reputation.