Image credit: Shutterstock

Image credit: Shutterstock

 

Have you Googled your company lately? If not, you probably should. What  people are saying online about your brand — the good, the bad and the  oftentimes inaccurate — makes all the difference when it comes to winning or  losing customers, says Michael Fertik, founder and chief executive of Redwood  City, Calif.-based online  reputation management agency Reputation.com and co-author of Wild West 2.0: How to Protect and Restore Your Reputation on  the Untamed Social Frontier (AMACOM, 2010).

If you’re not vigilantly monitoring and constantly improving your company’s  online reputation, you could be sending potential customers to competitors who  are. You can’t control what others say about your brand online, but you can  manage how your business generally comes across on the internet with a few  helpful tools, tips and tricks.

Here are 10 vital questions to ask when managing your company’s online  reputation:

1. How can I find out what people are saying about my brand  online? Start by simply searching for your company’s name — and the  names of your products and services — on Google, Yahoo and Bing, and see what  types of information come up. Search using the exact title of your business,  along with common misspellings of it. You’ll also want to run an image search  using your company’s name.

In an ideal world, your business’s actual website, hopefully along with some  favorable, accurate news and reviews, should dominate the majority of the first  page of search engine results, says Michael Zammuto, president of Brand.com, a Philadelphia-based online reputation management  firm.

2. Can I be notified when my company is mentioned online? Thankfully, yes. All you have to do is create a Google Alert. They are free, real-time email alerts that are  automatically sent to your email address when mentions about your company occur  online. You can easily set up multiple keyword-based alerts to notify you when  relevant new web content is published about your products, services and events  and those of your competitors.

3. How does my company’s online reputation stack up to my  competitors’? Fertik says it’s just as crucial to monitor your  competitors’ online reputations as it is to stay on top of your own.

“Pay close attention to what people say your competitors are doing right that  you might not be doing right,” he says, “and what they are doing wrong that you  are doing right.” The idea is to use what you learn about your competitors  online to fill any service gaps and gain a competitive edge.

4. Does my company website represent my business in the best possible  way? Your company’s own website is your first line of defense when  it comes to your online reputation, Zammuto says. Does it contain compelling  brand messaging that clearly demonstrates what your company services or  sells?

More importantly, does your company’s website URL directly mirror your actual  business name (www.companyname.com)? If not, Zammuto says you should immediately  acquire an exact match domain name, if possible, so consumers can easily,  quickly find you online.

5. How can I monitor what people are saying about my business via  social media? If you have your own company Facebook page or Twitter  account, log into each platform daily to track customer questions and comments  and respond to them individually in a timely manner, Zammuto advises.

There are several fee-based social media management tools that you can use if  you don’t have the time to monitor and respond to individual social comments and  interactions about your brand. These include Salesforce.com’s Radian6, Vocus’s Buying Signals and HootSuite.

All three let you track and reply to social mentions based on specific  keywords from a single dashboard. HootSuite offers a 30-day free trial, with  paid plans starting at $8.99 per month. Vocus and Radian6 share their fees via  prearranged sales calls.

6. Should I really care what people say about my company on review  sites? “Word-of-review is now more powerful than word-of-mouth,”  Fertik says, so it’s critical to analyze and understand what people are saying  about your company on review sites that are relevant to your specific line of  business.

For example, if you own a hotel, you’ll want to search for reviews and  ratings of your establishment on sites like TripAdvisor and Hotels.com. If  people are complaining on these types of sites about the cleanliness of your  rooms, view it as an opportunity to swiftly respond with appropriate, corrective  action and to update your brand’s own website messaging to reflect your improved  housekeeping standards, suggests Fertik.

7. What types of positive web content can I create to offset negative  content? Zammuto suggests that you create several different unique  types of web content that highlight your products and services, including a  company blog and a YouTube channel, for starters.

Building up interesting and relevant web content about your company can  increase the likelihood of favorable links appearing on the first page of Google  search results. The basic concept, Zammuto says, is to produce enough positive  search results to minimize any negative ones beleaguering your brand. Suppress  the bad, pump up the good.

8. Should I be concerned about my personal online reputation, too? Yes, especially if you are the product itself, says Fertik. For  example, if you are a doctor or an attorney, you’ll want to be sure that when  people search for your name online they encounter web content about you that is  nothing less than favorable. This includes comments, images and videos that you  post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and on your personal blog.  Your personal online persona and image should be “consistent with your  profession enough to boost consumer confidence,” Fertik says.

9. Should I respond to negative reviews? Both Fertik and  Zammuto advise that you don’t waste time responding to excessively negative or  attacking comments on review sites like Yelp.

“The more you engage negative comments on Yelp, the more you’re basically  encouraging Google to drive traffic to those types of controversial  interactions,” Zammuto says.

10. What are some reliable online reputation management tools? For business owners on a shoestring budget, there are a handful of  free, but basic tools to choose from. Addict-o-matic  is one such free tool that delivers the latest online mentions about any topic  or name you look up, including mentions on WordPress blogs, YouTube videos,  Flickr images, Ask.com news and more.

Organizations such as Brand.com, Reputation.com, Integrity Defenders and RemoveYourName offer paid services for businesses that can  help you clean up your online presence. Among other services, they request that  negative online commentary and information about your company be removed and  assist you in developing positive content to take the place of unbecoming  content.

Integrity Defenders offers business packages that start at $1,289 to clear  unwanted information from the first page of search results for a single search  phrase. The company’s advanced business package costs $2,149 and extends the  service from the first page to the second page of search results, also for one  search phrase. Reputation.com’s widely used Reputation Defender product ranges  between approximately $3,000 and $15,000, depending on how customized the  services are, to keep tabs on your online reputation and to get rid of negative  remarks they dig up.

 

 

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Branding,   Reputation management

 

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Kim Lachance Shandrow is a Los Angeles-based tech journalist who  specializes in writing about iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android phones, as well as  social media marketing, startups, streaming TV, apps and green  technology.