Matt Earle is an entrepreneur based in Toronto, Canada, and is the President of Reputation.ca, an online reputation management company.
Reputation management is all about sculpting your appearance in the eyes of the public. Today that means, more than anything else, your Google search results. When someone searches for your company, what do they find? Typically, they’ll come across things like:
• Review aggregator sites like Yelp or Trustpilot.
• Your own website’s homepage.
• Social media posts on sites like Reddit and Twitter.
Almost none of these are under your direct control—that is, you can’t edit and control the content on them—but they are all subject to reputation management techniques.
You can use a handful of strategies to sculpt your public appearance on Google; you simply need to put them into practice.
Take control of public profiles.
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Whether it’s Yelp or Twitter, the profiles representing you online should be your “owned” media. You may not be able to delete or remove negative reviews—and you shouldn’t anyway—but you should at least control, verify and actively use the most important profiles.
Which profiles are most important? It depends on your industry and which profiles show up in the first two or three Google search results pages. However, you’ll want to claim and utilize profiles on Yelp, TripAdvisor, YP, Trustpilot, the BBB, Google’s Business Profile and any other niche-relevant review sites. You will also want to claim your social media profiles on the major networks, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Reddit and Quora.
Use SEO to rank positive content.
SEO techniques are well documented online, though they are far from easy. SEO takes sustained effort, content production, paid and sponsored media, and time. However, it can be one of the most effective long-term strategies for reputation management.
SEO reputation management aims to control the top search results for any query involving your business with relevant, helpful and positive content. You may not be able to cover all the bases—negative news stories, for example, may still get through while they are still fresh—but your reputation will improve as your visitors see more positive content and fewer negative results.
Reply to and address negative reviews.
Negative reviews are a fact of doing business. You can’t please everyone all the time after all. As far as reputation management is concerned, the key is dealing with them appropriately. In general, you want to follow this process:
• Verify the authenticity of the review. If it’s real, proceed. If it’s provably false, report it and get it removed.
• Respond to the review and acknowledge the problem. Offer any steps to resolve the issue, make things right or otherwise address the user’s concerns.
• Edit or respond again later to reflect the resolution of the issue. Likewise, ask the customer to edit their post if possible.
• Meanwhile, work to solicit and encourage positive reviews from your customers so that the overall proportion of positive to negative reviews remains skewed in favor of positive reviews.
• Avoid spam techniques like purchasing fake positive reviews; they’re apparent, easily detected, easily removed, and they won’t help you.
Use policies and legal action to remove defamation.
Sometimes an unscrupulous competitor or angry ex-customer will spread lies about your brand. These can range from simply false to actual defamation. Whenever possible, identify and remove this content.
You can remove certain kinds of content from Google’s search results directly. Usually, this is restricted to personal and protected information but can extend to defamatory details or information that violates your copyrights and trademarks. If you can’t remove the content via Google, you can approach the site’s admin or the content host.
If they don’t remove it, you can speak with the company leasing their server to the customer. If you’re unsuccessful with your attempts to contact the website owner and the web host, you can speak with an attorney and see if you have grounds for legal action.
This process is generally a last resort, as following up on those demands is costly, but it can be effective. Don’t use them against legitimate, non-defamatory information, or it can work against you.
Maintain active monitoring.
Finally, ongoing monitoring is an essential key to reputation management in Google search results. Google’s algorithms can change, and different kinds of content can surface. Sites rise and fall in the ranks. New information can appear. Your goal is to keep a constant eye on what’s showing up for the most common and crucial queries and address it as appropriate.
Investing in reputation monitoring and management is one of the core pillars of business success online. Is your business doing all it can to succeed?
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Author: Matthew Earle, Forbes Councils Member