You’ve probably heard the axiom, “The best defense is a good offense.” That’s especially true on the Internet. Online reputation management should begin long before a crisis dictates it.
1. Be Proactive: Monitor with Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a great tool for monitoring brand mentions. If there is a discussion or review of your brand, you will know about it and you will be able react in a timely fashion. Setting up Google Alerts is easy; all you need is a free Gmail account.
2. Have a Plan in the Event of a Crisis
A crisis is any situation that threatens the reputation of your brand, often fueled by negative publicity. In the event of a crisis, you need a communication plan. Keep in mind that if you find yourself in a crisis situation, it’s important to quickly admit your role in the situation, tell the truth and tell it all.
3. Get Mentioned by the Mainstream Media
Having a PR strategy goes a long way in building and protecting your brand. Because news outlets carry so much trust and authority, these websites tend to rank high in search results. Social media and websites like HARO make it easier than ever to connect with journalists. The key is to have a compelling and timely story to tell when you do reach out.
4. Own Page 1
The best way to protect your brand is to “own page 1.” In other words, have all positive mentions of your brand on the first page of search results. How? By creating a “network” of pages filled with positive information about your brand, a concept that works equally well for individuals and corporations. If you already have a problem, the good news is that it’s never too late to regain control of your reputation. Displacing negative content and promoting positive news is the best way to turn this situation around.
5. Create Business and Social Networking Profiles
The goal is to get social media profiles ranked on page 1 for branded searches; this becomes your line of defense against unflattering or defamatory attacks. Not all platforms are created equal. Start by creating profiles on the most powerful networks, including Facebook, for both personal and brand pages; Google+; LinkedIn, for personal and company pages; Twitter; YouTube; Pinterest; CNN’s iReport; Blogspot and Blogger.
Next, build profiles at angel.co, blog.com, disqus.com, fotolog.com, manta.com, prlog.org, resume.com, sitejabber.com, slidesearchengine.com, tackk.com, thoughts.com, trustlink.org, tumblr.com, whitepages.com (Set “Hide Number” option), wordpress.com and xing.com. There’s also alibaba.com, if you’re selling B2B. Link to other profiles as permitted.
6. Pay Attention to Details
Never copy and paste the same profile description or bio on multiple websites. Google recognizes and penalizes duplicate content. Each profile must be unique and in sync with the “spirit” of the website that you are publishing it on. Don’t get lazy and just spin your profile; the Panda algorithm looks for that.
Each profile should include optimized images of yourself or your business. These images, like the rest of the profile, should relate to the website that it is published on. Embed your brand or other words that accurately describe the images to be visible in image previews. Don’t create and publish all your profiles at once; that looks unnatural. Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter should be among the first you develop, since many profile pages will allow you to link to them.
Linking to existing positive search results will also help boost or solidify those SERPs, as well.
7. Leverage the Small Business Administration
If your company is American, the Small Business Administration offers business owners the opportunity to publish a business profile at sba.gov. While these profiles are not indexed by Google, discussion topics are.
Once you’ve set up your profile, navigate to “Add a Discussion Topic.” For example, the one of top search results for “When patenting an idea, should the patent be owned by an individual person, vs. the person’s LLC?” is the SBA community. It’s not a surprise, as this government site has massive amounts of trust and authority. Keep in mind that this is a moderated forum, so pure SEO spam won’t fly. Offer up some genuinely useful information and everybody wins.
Some have theorized that Google uses an Aspersion Algorithm favoring negative sentiment over positive. I’m not sure that I buy into that, but I do know that once your reputation takes a hit, it’s extremely difficult to recover, so it’s worth taking the time to protect it. The best time to start a brand management campaign is long before a crisis erupts.