You can’t always control what others say about you online, but you have full control over the breadth, depth and quality of information you proactively ensure is easily and quickly found by customers, prospects and others researching you on Google and elsewhere.
With prospects in particular, it isn’t always necessary to eliminate every negative mention anyway. Not only is that next to impossible, but most rational consumers know that nearly every business has its handful of naysayers. As long as the sprinkling of negative is mixed with a high volume of positive, the prospect will keep going.
So where can/should you focus to more proactively improve and manage your online reputation? Here are six focus areas we recommend.
What worked for search engine optimization even 12 months ago has changed significantly, so you will want to continue evaluating the key on and off-page components you’re using to increase domain authority. You can do this via an audit of what you have currently, plus a checklist of what’s needed to make immediate improvements. We highly encourage that you work with an outside SEO expert who keeps a pulse on the ever-changing SEO algorithms and requirements.
2. Inbound link-building program (quality vs. quantity)
At least as of this writing, Google is decreasing the importance of pure inbound link volume, and increasing the importance of link quality (i.e. who is linking to you). You will want to continue being proactive at driving quality inbound links, including actively soliciting and generating more links from your industry’s key influencers.
3. Continually add content to high-ranking sites
There are a number of sites that already have high authority in general with Google, and by increasing frequency, volume and quality of content on those sites, you can increase how those positive-content pages show up and even supersede negative content in first-page results. These sites include Slideshare, Quora, YouTube and more.
4. Google+ acceleration
It’s particularly important that you accelerate the growth of your Google+ networks – both for your business page as well as the pages of key people inside the organization who are customer-facing. Simply put, more followers tells Google you’re relevant and is a fast track to increasing domain authority. The more people you are “circled” with, the more of those search results tied to their authorship (Web pages, blog posts, etc.) will show up high in search with special notations and pictures.
5. Review site management/engagement
Be more proactive at monitoring and responding to content on Ripoff Report, CredentialWatch and Yelp in particular. This means engaging with negative reviews with offers to correct the situation where/when appropriate, as well as encouraging happy customers to respond directly.
6. Customer mobilization/Advocate marketing
This could be the most important and highest-leverage component of your online reputation management program, especially if executed with an eye towards both reputation management lift as well as accelerated word-of-mouth and inbound referrals from your networks and spheres of influence. At a high level, this means identifying and more proactively engaging your happiest customers and partners, encouraging them to become part of your “brand army” online to evangelist your business, products, services and results. You can start organically with this program through a series of emails and perhaps an online community forum, but will eventually want to look to one of the newer audience engagement/mobilization platforms such as Influitive to accelerate action, create reward systems for participation, and so forth.