Have you ever put in a search for a business and had a bunch of negative pages pop up? It isn't rare to find hate pages these days, not to mention negative reviews on third party sites like Yelp, or complaints from unrelated forums. Really, while you can aim to make the customer happy, not every experience is going to be a good one (besides, people are much more willing to leave negative reviews than positive ones!). When it comes to some companies, they fail on a much larger level than that.
But if that is the case, why do so many massive brands manage to keep the hate from flowing into their top search results? Even those that have a reputation for bad service or scandals somehow keep the first page of Google results their own. How is that possible?
Preemptive Reputation Management
The first step is to think of reputation management as a preemptive strike against possible scandals or negative reviews in the future. When you look at it that way, you can begin to think of what problems might potentially arise. Making it easier to prevent those issues from creeping up at all.
Make a list of any risky keywords you can think of. Then monitor those keywords vigilantly. Google Alerts is a pretty easy, free tool to use. But you can also use a more extensive program that will also monitor social media, such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. My recommendation would be to use both, or any other combination of tools.
The moment something happens that relate to those keywords, you will be aware of it. Knowing there is a problem is the first step in taking care of it.
Preemptive reputation management isn't just about monitoring. It's also about working on online profiles for your business - those third-party pages that you can control and that can rank for your brand name.
- Make sure your business profiles look legit and complete: That's part of your brand real estate
- Make sure to maintain and monitor your profiles for comments, ratings, etc. Many sites profiling your business support schema.org and outside reviews - those can be part of your business search engine snippet (read more about rich snippets here)
- Business.com lets you profile your business as well as free useful newsletter
- Knowem lets you easily register and track profiles for your businesses
- BusinessProfiles.com offers enterprise API
Rel=publisher is Google's way to understand you are a brand and connect your Google Plus page to your brand's website.
As a reward, you get a nice branded info box for your brand's navigational query. For example, if anyone were to search for [jetblue], they would get this:
... because JetBlue has connected its website to its Google Plus page using rel="publisher"
Can You Control Everything?
The Internet voice is free, diverse and unpredictable. So is Google! Its algorithm likes fresh mentions and would most obviously bump them up in search for surfers to see recent results.
You can't control what people are saying about you. You should be listening and reacting though.
Every big brand has had a reputation nightmare online because people love picking up (negative) stories about businesses. What differs is how they react. Here's a great case study about how Delta is doing that. An almost bad-press incident turned out to result in lots of positive mentions around the web.
You cannot "own" your search results. But you can get your customers' help if you are doing a good job listening to them online!
Do you have ideas on how to own the top ten search results for your business? Let us know in the comments!