Online reputation management is a hot topic lately. That’s partly because it’s easy to get burned.
Ninety-two percent of consumers read reviews online, and a mere 3 percent say those reviews have no affect on their purchasing decisions, according to research from online rep firm RatePoint. That leaves a whopping 89 percent who will either welcome or wave off your business depending on what they dig up online.
A wake-up call is long overdue for businesses still coming to grips with the stunning significance of online brand and presence. Managing your online reputation is a nonstop campaign that takes entrepreneurs to all corners of the web, not to mention social media. Suzy Frisch recently crafted an excellent overview of the importance of ORM and how small businesses can get a handle on an absolute necessity. She offers some crucial tips, such as being a first responder and replacing good news with bad.
Basic steps like tracking mentions via Google alerts and social media monitoring and flushing the Web with good news about your company are great starting points. But those introductory stages are often the end point for scores of businesses. The reality is there are other simple, straightforward, and low-cost techniques that can bolster online reputation. Here’s a look at five ORM approaches you might be missing.
Using Twitter for more than searches
Definitely comb through Twitter for company mentions, reviews, recommendations, and other key communications related to your business. Twitter’s basic search function can do the trick, but it’s often easier to use an interface such as TweetDeck, HootSuite and their counterparts.
Beyond that, utilize Twitter to funnel your original content. Tweets help original content get indexed faster by the search engines, which can prove a competitive advantage when it comes to ORM.
And speaking of indexing, remember that pictures and tweets get indexed; consider that the next time you use a photo or bang out a tweet about a potentially controversial, problematic, or otherwise unprofessional topic.
Freshen your content
Content is still king. But it also has a long shelf life. Content you created four years ago to address then-pressing needs might still be ranking, even if those needs have long since shifted. Businesses and business owners can change a lot in four years, or even four months. Google likes fresh, so revisit and revamp existing content and consistently add new information.
Double down on domains
Purchase the non-dot-com iterations of your website (.net, .org, .etc.). But don’t forget about getting social media hubs in sync, like your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn handles. For example, check out the lineup of sites and URLs when you search for online marketing guru Danny Demichele. That’s a pretty rock-solid run that helps keep potentially nasty pages pushed down in the search results.
Beyond that, consider defensively purchasing domains that are linked to, or in any way touch on, your company or personal name. Snatch up sites that include words like “complaints” and “reviews” and your company name.
Maximize public profiles
This is tied in some ways to the domain approach. Creating public profiles can help bolster your brand and temper any waves when it comes to online reputation management. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are three of the most common ones, but business owners should also check out Google Profiles and information-sharing sites such as Google Knol and Quora.
An absolute must is KnowEm, as in “Know Them?” This site allows entrepreneurs to better track and manage their brands and fend off misrepresentation and squatting across the web.
Get help from affiliates
Affiliate programs can have significant ORM benefits for businesses in the right spheres.
Consider the “We Buy Ugly Houses” people, who plaster billboards and telephone poles with those black and yellow signs. This is actually a Dallas-based company that essentially franchises its real estate flipping business model. When you search “We Buy Ugly Houses Dallas” in Google, every site in the top 10 is either one they own or owned by an affiliate.
That’s a huge ORM advantage. Google is set up to discourage and demote sites owned by the same company to encourage variety. Having an affiliate program essentially provides variety through third-party sites you don’t run or maintain. It also drives sales and traffic to your business.
You pay a commission to the affiliates, but it certainly beats seeing consumers go instead to a competitor’s site or some irrelevant profile, news story or blog comment that’s ranking higher.
Chris Birk is director of content and communications for VA Mortgage Center.com, the nation's No. 1 dedicated VA lender. A recovering journalist, he also teaches at a private Midwestern university. Follow him on Twitter at @cjbirk.