How To Perfect Your Online Reputation Management
- The problem is that there is a good chance that this unfair negative material will appear on the first page of the Google search results when your brand is mentioned.
- Much negative online publicity comes from a genuine misunderstanding or misinterpretation of something that has been said online. So make sure that you are always clear about what you mean.
- Once you have a good amount of content, both positive and neutral/ unrelated, both created by others and created by yourself/ your colleagues, then you can start to link build to it.
Preventing Online Reputation Management Problems
Woof woof. This is blog dog… your favourite canine blogger. After The Business Review supplement in the Sunday Telegraph’s big article splash revolving around Go Up and our efforts in online reputation management, I thought it might be a good idea to get my paws to keyboard and write a little overview on Google brand protection: when to do it, why to do it and how to do it. You might think of me as being barking mad for giving away all of this advice… for free-zies… but they don’t call me super dog for nothing. Okay most people don’t call me super dog, at all really. But it would be cool if they did. (By the way… how many times do you think I can get away with making the barking mad joke before people start to want to see the tail end of it?)
Go Up believes that, although much criticism found on Google is very much warranted, much of it is not. In the Internet age of impulse, mindless and knee jerk blogging It is all too easy for one disgruntled former client, employee, or even a competitor, who has a chip on his or her shoulder or an agenda, to blog unfair things about you online. The problem is that there is a good chance that this unfair negative material will appear on the first page of the Google search results when your brand is mentioned. If nothing is done about it, this can be very damaging to your business reputation, potentially even costing you leads and sales. But worry not. There are things that you can do about it. It will most likely take time, but be patient and persistent. Follow the steps below to clean up your Google image!
Disclaimer: If you are genuinely just a total, total muppet and running a business that is on the wrong side of the moral compass… then this guide is probably not for you. Change your business and stop robbing old ladies of their pension funds. Woof.
How to do Online Reputation Management:
Naturally, the first thing that you should do is take measures to stop having a reputation management problem in the first place. Here are some steps that you can take, as well as a run down of the social media outlets that should be used and those that should be avoided.
1. Avoid doing stupid things
This is an obvious one. In the Internet age, businesses and individuals can no longer expect to get away with doing stupid things. People no longer need to irritate a journalist to get mass exposure of negative publicity. All that it takes is one irritated blogger or social media user writing one blog post or sending one tweet to send the whole house crashing down. The Internet has forced businesses to rethink their whole business strategy. Consumers must now be put first, and business practices cleaned up, or face the wrath of the Internet.
2. Are you a controversial business?
This takes a degree of self-honesty. There are businesses that are more prone to online criticism than others. If you run a very politically correct, neutral business, or if you are up to good things, then you will probably not face online reputation problems. This is definitely not always the case, as often it only takes one disenfranchised client, or one person that does not believe in your cause, to cause brand reputation problems. But you will probably not need to take too many precautionary measures, beyond doing a good job.
If, however, you are a controversial business, you will want to really assess the outlets and methods through which you communicate with the digital spheres. Here are a few examples:
Twitter is one of the busiest social spheres. Content goes viral on Twitter in seconds. Once something has gone viral, there is little to nothing that can be done to stop it. The platform has little in form of controls. Unlike Facebook, which is used for many reasons, from photo sharing to keeping in touch with friends, Twitter is very much an ‘opinion’ sharer. People are very prone to making mindless, knee jerk comments on Twitter, perhaps more so than they are on Facebook. Because of these reasons, Twitter is a huge causer and carrier of negative PR.
When to use Twitter:
– If you are a neutral, uncontroversial brand. Twitter can be a fantastic way to get your brand across to the public, to create a public identity and to get your fantastic content going viral.
– If you are a very mindful tweeter, and think before you tweet. (Repeat after me: NO IMPULSE TWEETING please!)
– If you are a controversial brand with a huge team at your disposal to answer or respond to negative criticism across the Twitter-sphere.
When not to use Twitter:
– If you are a very controversial brand, especially if you are a controversial brand that does not have the manpower or resources to constantly monitor twitter and respond to high volumes of criticism.
– If you are a mindless, impulse tweeter. How many problems have occurred because of mindless tweets? It seems that every other story of a massive celebrity fall from grace started with a stupid impulse tweet. If you think before you speak, avoid Twitter.
Good alternatives to Twitter:
Facebook. Business pages and groups on Facebook can be much more easily monitored and controlled. It also has very decent built in analytics so that performance can be tracked, and their search facility enables easy location of negative hubs, who can then be contacted and, hopefully, appeased.
Linkedin: One of the most professional and mindful of the social platforms. Knee jerk reactions and impulse statements are rare. It is a great place to put out company statements and to follow and be followed on a highly professional basis.
Pintrest: A great way to get across your company ethos, though visuals, in a highly controlled and very friendly environment.
Vimeo: More controlled and professional than YouTube. Easy to monitor and far less trolls.
YouTube: Trolling is a problem, and content can go viral very quickly, but comments can be switched off and it has very good analytics software that allows you to see which blogs have linked to your content, so that you can quickly identify where any negative traffic is coming from and take action.
3. Be clear in everything that you say online.
Much negative online publicity comes from a genuine misunderstanding or misinterpretation of something that has been said online. So make sure that you are always clear about what you mean. Clarity of intention/ meaning is so crucial.
A British traveller was barred from travelling to the US in 2012 for tweeting that he was going to ‘destroy’ America. What he really meant was that he was going to have a great, and perhaps somewhat debaucherous time in America, but try explaining that to border control!
Poorly constructed or ambiguous tweets can go viral in moments and are a very common catalyst for negative publicity.
4. Avoid making unsubstantiated, politically incorrect or out and out stupid remarks.
This applies to your website, blog, social media outlet and any other online medium.
Avoid making generalizations, extreme, tenuous, sexist/ racist/ disturbing, combative or unbelievable statements.
If it sounds extreme, combative, or controversial, it probably is. If it sounds tenuous, and you cannot immediately substantiate it, then don’t post it.
Statements such as: ‘Our health drink will make you live longer’, ‘we are the best law firm in the UK’, ‘We can cure you of cancer’, ‘Women are better at cooking and men are better at sport’ are obviously controversial and almost certainly untrue. If seen and questioned by a chippy or inquisitive blogger they could well cause you problems. Your drink may well make you live longer… but leave it for the consumer to decide that, or at least get it verified by a bunch of scientists before promoting it online.
What do I do if I have an online reputation problem?
Even if you take precautionary measures, watch what you say and where you say it, there’s always a chance that you will run into some reputation problems along the way.
As said, all it takes for a Google reputation problem to occur is for one reactionary human being with a sense of injustice to write one bad review.
There are a few steps that need to be gone through first of all.
1. Identify the nature of the problem.
a. Is it damaging your brand and losing you sales/ clients?
Yes- Reputation Management
No- Suck it up. A bit of negative criticism is only natural and can be a great learning tool. So if it is not causing you financial problems, and if it is not causing you too much emotional distress, then you might want to consider leaving it as it is and taking the lesson.
b. Is it a problem with Google, Social Media or niche forum/ websites (i.e. contained to certain sites, but not showing up in Google or on social networks?)
Google- Google reputation management.
Social Media- Social Media reputation management.
Niche sites- Niche site reputation management.
All of the above- Full reputation management.
c. Is it libel?
Yes- Try taking legal action. Contact the offending website/ blog/ newspaper/ blogger/ social media user and inform them of your intention to take legal action unless they remove the offending content immediately.
This is often fruitless, especially if the website is hosted overseas, where the UK courts have no jurisdiction. UK libel laws are starting to catch up with the Internet, but this is happening relatively slowly.
Try serving the website with a D-Moz notice. This is a notice that the website might be breaking the law by hosting the offending content. Sometimes website publishers will respond well to D-Moz notices, removing the offending content swiftly.
If you get no joy down the legal route, try reputation management.
2. Wait for the storm to clear.
Reputation problems occur when you irritate and individual, company or group of individuals and companies.
Attempting to clean up the mess whilst the storm is still raging can cause you a whole lot of additional problems, and can often enflame the situation. You want to wait until tempers have calmed and people are not so knee jerk.
Leave six-weeks from when problem has passed its peak. This should give people enough time to get over it and move on, reducing the chances of a backlash at your clean up.
In the meantime, place a short, factual and to the point statement in a clear place on your website, explaining events from your point of view. Be careful to be entirely objective, and to avoid opinion or fluff. Do not attack your critics. This notice can be taken down once the negative publicity has been dealt with.
3. Clean it up.
The nature of the clean up will depend upon what platform the criticism is coming from.
Here are a few examples of methods that have been known to work:
So, you Google your brand name into Google and negative stuff shows up on the first page. This is a very common problem. Do not panic.
The first thing to do is assess the content. Is it something that the website publisher might take down if approached and requested politely? If it is in regards to a dispute, why not try to come to some sort of compromise that will satisfy and be fair to both parties? This way the publisher might consider it reasonable to take down the material on his or her own accord.
If this is not viable, then:
In what position is the negative content ranking?
Work out in what position the negative content or pieces of content are ranking. Is it in first position in or fifth position? Track the rank over the space of two weeks, as it is possible that the position will fluctuate. Your starting point should be the worst-case position, so if week one it rankings in seventh but then on week two it rankings in tenth, use seventh as your rank. It is advisable to always work for the worst scenario as opposed to the best, as the website could suddenly bounce back to seventh position, or worse, at any given moment. You do not want to be under prepared.
If there is more than one piece of negative content, work for the piece that is ranking highest. Doing so will push down this result and all results below it, killing two birds with one stone.
Knowing the position of the negative content is important as it will show how many places the content needs to drop for them to move down to the second page of the search results pages, and thus out of site of most searchers.
- Negative content ranking in ninth position of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) will be significantly easier to get rid of than negative publicity in second or first place. This is for several reasons:There are already eight search results ranking above it, indicating that eight other pieces of content have been deemed more relevant (than the negative content) by Google when someone is searching for your brand name. If so much content is considered more relevant than the negative content, then it is probably not going to be too difficult to create more content that is more relevant and has higher domain metrics (more on this later) and that will rank higher than the negative content, thus bumping it down.
- There are only two results below it on the first page. This means that you will only need to get two pieces of content ranking above the offending content for it to disappear onto the second page!
What is the page rank and domain authority of the offending content?
You will now need to work out the Page Rank of the specific offending webpage and the Domain Authority of the overall website that the material is on.
Page Rank is a Google metric used by the search engine to determine where to rank a webpage. It is a score from 0 to 10. A webpage’s Page Rank is determined by the number of website links that point towards that page, and the page rank of those linking page. You can read more about Page Rank here.
Domain Authority is a similar metric to Page Rank, except instead of analysing one specific webpage it analyses an entire website. It is a score out of 100. It is not a Google metric, but rather one created by Moz.com. It is fairly accurate and very indicative.
- Knowing the Page Rank and Domain Authority of the content that is damaging your reputation is important because it will let you know:
a. How difficult it will be to out rank the offending content with positive or neutral content, thus pushing the content down to the second page. Generally speaking, the higher the number, and the more difficult it will be to beat. Any website that you want to out rank it will quite possibly need to have a higher Page Rank and Domain Authority.
b. What sort of metrics to shoot for when optimising the replacement websites. We will talk about this more later.
Has the webpage been specifically optimised to rank well for your brand name?
Another important one. It is important to know whether or not the offending webpage has been optimised to rank for your brand name. If it has, then it is an indicator that the person who has posted it has a real vendetta against your company, so much so that they have placed this content with the specific intention that it will rank well for your brand name and thus damage your brand online.
Optimised content is often more difficult to beat in Google. This does not mean that it is impossible… just more difficult! There is a chance that the optimisation might be spammy, which could work in your favour, as you would be able to file a Google web spam report, which means that the website could be knocked off the first page by Google without you having to do a whole lot yourself!
Things to look out for when determining whether the website has been optimised:
– Are the title tag keywords exact matches to your brand name?
– Are the H1 Tags exact matches to your brand name?
– Are the Alt Tags exact matches to your brand name?
– Are the NoScripts exact matches to your brand name?
– Is the URL of the offending material your brand name?
How many times is your brand name mentioned throughout the negative material?
This is a pretty self-explanatory one. Count the number of times your brand is mentioned. If it is mentioned a lot, this is going to be more difficult than if it is mentioned only a handful of times.
It is worth mentioning that Google is a very sophisticated search engine. It will probably recognise if your brand name has just been squeezed into the text as much as possible purely for the sake of having that webpage rank well for that keyword. If the copy reads unnaturally because of over cramming of the keyword into the text, again it might be a good idea to file a web spam report, as this constitutes keyword stuffing.
How many pages of content about your brand is there on the offending website?
Count up the number of pages on the offending website that mention your brand. You might wish to do a specific Google search for this. You can search something along the lines of:
The “site:” directive tells Google to just search the specified website, in this case goup.co.uk. The “agency” directive tells Google to search for the term “agency” on all of the pages of the Go Up website. Google will then return a list of all of the pages that it has indexed on the goup.co.uk website that mentions the word ‘agency’.
Generally speaking, if the offending website has loads of pages which say negative things about your brand, your replacement website will have to have loads of pages saying positive or neutral things about your brand. Your positive or neutral sites will want to match and exceed the quantity of brand related pages that are on the negative sites.
Once you have compiled all of the above information, it is time to put together your strategy.
1. Buy up all direct URLs related to your brand.
This is an important first step. If your brand is Coca Cola, you not only need to buy cocacola.com, .co.uk, .net, .org, .biz and all related and available TLDs, but also the likes of cocacoladrinks.com, .co.uk etc.
Since the 2012 Google EMD update, exact match domains (having the exact keyword phrase that you are targeting in Google in your domain name) are less potent ranking factors than they once were. But they are still important.
Buying them allows you to build a few websites that will quickly stand to rank well just from having an EMD. Throw some great content on there, and get some links going, and you stand a very good chance of overtaking the negative content.
2. Get some positive press.
If you can afford it, hire a PR company to get your brand some great write-ups in the press, either having articles written specifically about your business or having reps from your company interviewed as industry experts for articles regarding your industry. Few things naturally rank higher and faster in Google than press from leading online newspapers and magazines, such as the Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Guardian etc.
If you cannot afford a PR agent, why not have a stab at it yourself? Sure it will take a longer time, but it is still definitely worth a punt. Think of a scoop. What is unique and interesting or topical about your business? Write a short press relies of not more than 250 words, pitching your story. Send it to the editors of the major newspapers and magazines. Their contact details are often available on their websites. Always follow up with a call a few days later.
Insider tip: it helps to refer to them by their first name in the email. It will draw their attention and confuse them as to whether they have spoken with you before! Always own up to not knowing them in follow up correspondence however… it is important to be honest.
Getting good press will often only be possible if you are genuinely not doing anything wrong as a business. If you are, in actual fact, a bunch of a** h***s, then probably avoid contacting the press or they might well just end up writing an article exposing your business as crooked.
3. Search for positive brand match press/ content online.
Google your brand name and find positive mentions of your brand in articles, forums, on websites etc.
Make a list of these positive mentions. One by one, check the Page Rank and Domain Authority of each website with the positive material on them. Pick the top four or so, in order of PR/ DA (depending on how many websites you need to rank above the content that requires Google reputation management).
Be ready to link build to these webpages/ websites.
If the positive brand mentions are on a forum, why not prolong the discussion by adding a few more positive comments onto the thread? Be careful with this. Make sure that the forum is not a highly active one, or if it is make sure that the users would by and by be friendly to your brand. The forum community can often be a bit of a hornets nest and you do not want to wrong poster to find the thread and start placing negative comments on there, or things could very soon get out of hand. Only prolong a forum thread if you think that there is little chance that the people writing the negative content that you are trying to get rid of, or that other like-minded people, will find forum and add negative comments to the thread.
4. Search for neutral/ unrelated brand match press/ content online.
Often, when you perform a Google search for your brand name, content unrelated to your brand comes up. Perhaps it is content with a few similar keywords but with no other direct link to your brand name? Perhaps it is another business with the same brand name but in a different field? Not all of the search results for your brand name that appear on the first page of Google need to be specifically about your brand. For small to medium sized businesses especially it is common for much of the content on the first page of a brand search to be unrelated. This is not a bad thing, and can be utilised to your advantage.
Make a list of the top three or so webpages with neutral or unrelated content, sorted by Page Rank and Domain Authority, and be prepared to link build to them.
Again forums are useful here. If there is a forum thread that ranks positively and discusses unrelated or neutral brand match content, contribute away. This runs much less risk of starting a firestorm than openly and positively discussing your direct brand on a forum. As far as the forum world is concerned your contributions have nothing to do with you actual brand, and so is unlikely to cause any trouble for your actual business even if the forum gets nasty.
5. Create positive and neutral brand match content on EMDs and non EMDs.
So you own a bunch of your brand EMDs. Use them. But use them well. I have seen in the past a company with Google reputation problems use EMDs very badly. They simply bought up the various TLDs of their brand name, and then placed a blog on each URL, writing thin content on each blog that was vaguely related to different areas of their business. I cannot remember whether there was any link building to the specific blogs but I am assuming that there was not There were a few problems with this. The blogs were poorly designed. Google takes design into account when judging where to rank a website, so you need to make sure that your websites are well designed. Google is also very good at judging content quality, so you need to make sure that the content on your website is top notch: interesting, unique and useful or at least enjoyable! Have a look here at some tips for creating great content: How to create great content for Google. You will also want some good links coming into the site, to increase its link metrics.
However, even if the plan had worked (it had not and, in Google, most of the blogs languished down on page two), I think that any savvy searcher would have seen through it in a heartbeat. Nine blogs, all owned by the same company, all with very similar content, taking up positions two to ten on the first page of Google? Could it possibly be that this business is trying to cover something up?
Instead of creating a bunch of different EMD websites all directly affiliated or referring to your actual brand, why not create websites on EMDs that claim to be related to completely different brands, which just so happen to have similar names to that of your own?
If you are a law firm with an online reputation problem, called Gibbs&Simon, why not create gibbsandsimonpuppetmakers.com, simongibbsbuilders.com, or even gibbsandsimon.net, but have the design and content of the website geared towards Yorkshire travel advice? It just seems much less suspicious!
You can also, of course, create more positive mentions. Why not start a forum thread in a low risk forum community and get a few friends or employees to regularly contribute to it singing the praises of the firm: how great it is to work there and how friendly the atmosphere is? As mentioned earlier, always be careful when choosing your forum community. Perhaps run some tester threads first, writing about similar themes to the ones that you intend to write on the main thread, but omitting your company name? Monitor the tester thread over a week or so. If there are no negative comments on it, and if the thread has not drawn too much attention and had too many third party posts to it, then it is probably safe to place the real post on. If, on the other hand, tens of posts have been added by unknown posters (those other than yourself, your friends, your colleagues etc), or if there are negative comments on there, then this will indicate that the forum thread could quickly get out of control, and that you had best search for a new forum. With this in mind, I strongly suggest avoiding the likes of Yahoo answers!
6. Link build to this new content.
Once you have a good amount of content, both positive and neutral/ unrelated, both created by others and created by yourself/ your colleagues, then you can start to link build to it.
Link building is one of the most important aspects of online reputation management and thus cannot be overlooked.
Make sure to have a decent amount of exact match anchor text (because you are trying to rank for your brand name, as opposed to generic short tail searches, you might be able to get away with much more optimised anchor text than you could in generic SEO).
For a detailed summary of how to go about link building, check out this post that we have written about it in our SEO how to guide: How to link build for SEO.
It is argued by some in the reputation management industry that, when it comes to reputation management, one can afford to utilise slightly more grey hat tactics when link building, than you could otherwise get away with in regular SEO. It is of my opinion as well that, although you should always be cautious of the quality of the links when link building, you have a little bit more wiggle room in which to engage with spammy link building when doing it for reputation management.
But, if you do, do so mildly. Don’t rush out and get links from 100,000 link farms for crying out loud!
7. If possible, regularly update the content of these sites.
For the reputation control websites that you personally control (ie the ones that you build or the forums), make sure to update the content regularly. Write interesting articles of a decent length (ideally over 400 words a piece). Make sure that they make sense, use correct grammar and spelling, and are readable, unique (no duplicate content please) and compelling.
For a website, try to add new content at least once a month, better yet once a week. Slip in the brand name a few times into each new article. Don’t cram it with brand mentions though, as this is not necessary and often looks suspicious. It sometimes helps to make the brand mentioned bold or underlines, sometimes making the brand name the anchor text for a link to the homepage of the website (not the offending website, but to the homepage of the website on which you are placing the content that you are writing) but again do this sensibly and sparingly.
8. Create Social Media profiles for your brand on high metric Social Media platforms.
Social Media is a quick fix to a lot of reputation problems, but can also be your undoing. Use the advice given at the start of this article when choosing your social media platforms.
One of the many benefits of social media in reputation management is that the large social media platforms have huge metrics and rank very well in Google naturally. So if you create yourself a business profile on a few of the safer platforms and get a good number of followers, likes, connections etc, then it is perfectly likely that these profiles will start to rank well on the first page of Google, for your brand name, quickly and naturally. As with your newly created websites and forum threads, remain active on your social media platforms. Why not update them every day? Actively engage with your followers/ likers/ networks, upload interesting content and always go for more likes.
If your social media outlets rank higher in Google than the material that is causing you reputation problems, then the offending material will be knocked down a space in the SERPs, and will thus be closer to the twilight zone of the second and third page of Google’s results.
Make sure that one of your platforms is Google+. This may well stand you in a good position to get a Onebox profile on the right hand side of the SERPs (Which contains a photo and bio of your business/ person when someone does a brand search).
9. Get reviewed positively on review sites.
There are plenty of good business review sites out there. Utilise them. Ask your clients who have had good experiences to review you; ideally giving you that coveted four or five start rating. We recommend the likes of Google+ and Yelp but there are plenty others out there, the likes of Feefo.
Google often places the average number of stars that your business has next to your website’s search result, which is a trusted quality endorsement to many consumers.
10. Be patient and persistent.
Reputation Management can take time. But do not be disheartened. Keep at it and you can get you really great results, which may well result in getting your business back on track.
Social Media Reputation Management.
We will speak about the topic of Social Media Reputation Management in the follow up blog post to this one!
If you or your business are the victim of an unfair online attack, or ‘corporate trolling’, then Go Up wishes you the best of luck in your endeavours to straighten things out. In the world of instant, impulsive information, there is lot of unfair content.
If the task seems a little overwhelming, and you are not in the franchise of stealing pensions from old ladies, killing innocent animals or the likes, then give us a call; we would love to hear from you!
Blog dog over. Woof!