In case you haven’t heard about it, online reputation management is a thing. A really important thing that can make or break your startup or business. It’s exactly what it sounds like—managing your online reputation. One tactic is to minimize negative Google results by putting out new content that will rank higher than the unfavorable content. Social media also comes into play. In short, there is a lot involved, and now, before your startup launches, is the best time to jump in.
It Is Insufficient to Have No Reputation
You might be thinking, “Nothing comes up when I Google myself and my business, so I’m good.” Think again. In this case, no news is not good news. For example, when you are considering a new purchase from a company you’ve never heard of, are you reassured when you Google it and get…nothing? Probably not. In fact, the dearth of results may just make you think the business is a scam.
And what happens down the road if the first thing posted about your business happens to be negative? Do you want that to be the only thing online? You need information out there, and it should be reliable, fair, and positive.
Early Management Enhances Visibility
Reputation management actually comes into play when you’re brainstorming your company name, logo and much more. For example, if you choose a relatively generic name, breaking through the “clutter” online becomes more difficult. On the other hand, you could choose a unique name but one that has unintentional negative associations. Right away, your reputation needs work due to the negative consumer perception. Managing it may become a daily struggle that is more trouble than it is worth.
Your ultimate goal should be to land (with positive information) on the first page of search results on any search engine when someone types your company name, the name of an executive, or a key product or service the company offers. This visibility should help breed success for your company.
SEO and PR Aren’t Enough
It’s natural to think that the marketing agency handling your SEO and PR will cover reputation management, if only by default. After all, your blog posts offer fun and educational content that should rank highly, right? Well, the idea is that they will rank well, yes. But SEO and PR folks don’t focus on your reputation. They typically focus on your own website and on your own social media to try to attract new customers and to present your business in a positive light. However, reputation management covers much more than that.
For example, Reputation Defender points out that almost 90 percent of searchers don’t bother to check out the second page of a company’s search results. What is better for reputation: a first page full of blog posts and landing pages all from the company’s website, or a mix of blog posts, positive reviews on third-party sites, news articles, and mentions from other companies? The second, of course, because it’s not just about the business vouching for itself.
SEO and PR folks don’t work on trying to minimize negative reviews about your company. They usually don’t aim for strategic placement of an opinion piece written by one of your company’s co-founders. Such a piece, however, can be huge in reputation management even if (perhaps especially if) it is not related to the business. As long as it ranks highly in search results and has positive associations, it should be great for a company’s reputation.
Playing Offense Instead of Defense
Many customers expect companies to reply within hours of a social media complaint. SEO and PR specialists often handle such real-time reacting duties, which involve constant business-client communication on channels such as Twitter. It also encompasses surveys that provide feedback as well as live customer chat. However, it is playing defense. It is necessary, to be sure, but smart offensive moves go a long way.
For instance, wouldn’t it be better for a company’s reputation if there was an obvious note with a product saying, “Not happy with this product? Please call us at XXX for immediate help.” No need to involve public channels such as Twitter.
In sum, if your business has already launched and has no online reputation to speak of, that could be part of why it is struggling. Prospective customers or clients like social proof. They like seeing that your startup’s co-founders and staffers contribute to the community. These actions lend an air of authenticity and help them know a product or service isn’t a scam.
They appreciate the opportunity to reach out directly to your company after a bad experience rather than have to turn to Twitter and wait for a reply. This type of offense is also more likely to result in a positive review being written. Reputation management gets your company out ahead of the curve while your competitors struggle to play catch up, and many great businesses specialize in just this thing.
Image credit: CC by Eric Huybrechts