Reactive Online Reputation Management
A mind boggling number of site owners usually have no idea what has happened when their visitor numbers remain constant but their sales (or other goals the website is meant to achieve) drop through the floor.
One part of the jigsaw is staying on top of what others are saying about you - either to challenge them or thank them - is as essential as the work you put into marketing your site in the first place.
The other part is making sure you know, and manage, how your website looks when it shows up in the seach results.
I'll cover both here.
What are others saying about you?
The most common two searches that internet users carry out when trying to check you out are:
- [your name/company name] scam;
- [your name/company name] reviews;
If your brand name is unusual it is also well worth checking Google's Keyword Planner (part of Google Adwords) for other phrases that people might be searching. You don't need to be actively paying for Google Adwords but you do need to register to gain access.
To find these words:
- log into your Google Adwords account;
- on the top menu click Tools and Analysis and then select Keyword Planner;
- on the left hand side of the next screen click Search for new keyword and ad group ideas and enter your brand name in the box that is revealed title 'Your product or service';
- scroll down and make any adjustments to the targeting such as countries, language, etc. I would suggest at first leaving these as open as possible;
- Click the button Get ideas;
- On the next screen click the tab Keyword ideas at the top of the central area;
- You will then see a list of popular searches people carry out with your brand name;
Here's an example of the list for the keyword 'Clickbank', an affiliate program company
As you can see this well known brand has thousands of people searching for 'scam' and 'review' information. So how is Clickbank doing in terms of managing these types of searches?
Well for "Clickbank scam" there isn't too much there that suggets Clickbank is a scam. Now whether Clickbank helped to promote these various forums and YouTube videos to the top we don't know but it is exactly the kind of thing a reputation management service would do. Not perfect. The top 10 still includes a link to ripoffreport.com where several hundred very unhappy people have voiced their opinions.
"Clickbank review" fairs a little worse. In the top ten search results we've got a blog titled "Five Reasons Clickbank Stinks" but in general there is nothing drastically awful here and perhaps even keeping a slight mix of positives and negatives in the top ten helps it all look more realistic.
Once you have your complete list of words or phrases then it's time to go through each one and see what is showing up in the search results in the same way as I just did for Clickbank.
You may find either or both of the following:
- Negative comments on forums or blogs which you can now address.
- Negative pages from your own website (such as your terms and conditions) showing up You can address these by changing the page content or optimizing alternative pages from your website to show up higher.
Monitoring the web for talk about you
The above deals with addressing the here and now issues that may be floating around on the internet. But how to make sure you know about what people say tomorrow and the day after.
Your search may have thrown up forums where you are mentioned and where you will want to join and keep an eye on discussions (without getting yourself banned for trying to hard sell!) but there are also free automated services out there that can tell you when your brand name is mentioned.
Google Alerts (http://www.google.co.uk/alerts) is a great starting point. Simply add your brand name, what parts of the web you want to monitor (all of them) and how often you want to be updated.
Where Google Alerts can be limiting is in situations where you brand name is similar to words that would appear in normal text anyway. So if you are called Cheap Laptops you are going to be overrun with reports from a forum comment asking "where can I buy cheap laptops" to a blog comment stating "the best cheap laptops I have found are at ....".
You can try limiting this, often to good effect, by telling Google Alerts you want to be updated when it spots your domain name - say cheaplaptops.com. But of course not everyone will mention your domain when talking on the web, "I just bought an Asus from Cheap Laptops in Texas and they took forever to deliver" will not fire a Google Alert.
If This Then That (https://ifttt.com) is a more targeted way to keep an eye on things but requires a more detailed set up. You can target exactly where you want it to monitor and what to do when it spots something you might want to be aware of.
This can be a great way of monitoring specific forums, blogs or news channels for your brand name so you don't have to do it manually.
Reacting to negative content
Knowing when someone says something negative about you is the first step. Knowing what to say in order to make sure those words do not fester out there on the net and become a reason people are put off your products or services is another. So here are some pointers.
- Never get into an argument you can't win. If you sell X but they bought Y leave it alone. A butcher and a vegetarian will never agree!
- If the complaint is about your product or service do not offer any action immediately. Ask the person to contact you so you can look into the matter. Return later to post an update of how you resolved things.
- Be polite, keep calm and never loose your temper, even if what the person is saying is blatantly untrue. If you feel you are about to rant leave your response until the next day.
- Stay factual and if the other person starts to get emotional ask them politely to keep to the facts so the matter can be resolved.
In plain English if the person who left a comment is a raving loony they will show themselves as that but do themselves little damage. What is most important is that you come out of it looking dignified and professional.
Here's a great real life example from techcrunch.com although the original mistakes should probably not have happened in the first place!
If you want to see a real life example of it being done so badly it will make you want to cringe then BuzzFeed's This Is The Most Epic Brand Meltdown On Facebook Ever article is a good place to start.
Reacting to positive content
It's every bit as important to follow up on people who have made positive comments about you. It's an opportunity to thank them as well as add a promotional twist - "we strive to offer 100% customer satisfaction and I'm glad you found our service met your expectations".
Don't get flattered too easily. Remember to look for errors or ommissions - "I'm glad you are happy with your product. We also stock a full range of accessories for it as well should you need them."
Managing searches for your name
We're not talking here about your title tags or meta descriptions. Getting these right is important but the pages from your own site that show up on services lile Google when people search your name are a crucial part of how you and your brand come across.
Here's how my brand, link2light, shows up in a search:
First of all it's taking up a lot of space, that's good! It looks like a well established domain (which it is). The links to the internal pages are eye catching and relevant to the customers I want to attract.
Those extra links aren't created by me, their created by Google when it is confident enough to do so, but I can manage them. They are known as Site Links.
If a search for your name or website in Google shows these links but their ugly or wrong you can ask Google to drop the ones you don't like. You can't state the ones you do want but by careful management over time you can achieve your aims.
To do this go to Google Webmaster Tools and select Search Appearance and then Site Links. Enter the URLs of the site links you want to drop and leave it a few days. Google will remove these and invariably replace them with alternatives. Continue doing this until you have the Site Links that you want.
Maps and business information
Here's ane example of how one of my clients shows in the search results:
Here we're taking up most of the screen with information about the business which makes it look like a stable and well established commercial organisation - which is good because it is!
To achieve this your company needs to be on Google+ Local as a verified local business.
Also by registering with many of the popular directories (not link farms, proper respected directories, some of which may require paid submission) you can also effectively take up the whole of most search engine's first page results with pages from your site or to profiles which link to your site.
You can see this in action with the above example where all the results coming up are either for the website itself or for directory profile pages for that website.
Managing your pages for negative searches
Here is a classic example. BT and Virgin are both suppliers of broadband internet access in the United Kingdom. I tried Google searches for "BT broadband problems" and "Virgin broadband problems" and here was what I found:
- BT results - help pages and technical information from their own website to assist users experience problems.
- Virgin results - forums and blogs ranting about how terrible Virgin's broadband service was.
Now it was totally possible that Virgin was better than BT but the perception was most definitely the other way round. BT had made the effort to SEO their pages for this negative phrase while Virgin had not, and Virgin's reputation suffered for it.
Virgin today, it has to be said, have got their reputation management in better shape and their results are a little more positive! But what are yours like for searches like this ... ?