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Taking Your Reputation's Temperature

Search engine algorithms are complicated and ever-changing, but the previous chapter offers a solid overview of how they determine your online reputation. The next step could be the toughest so far: Using what you’ve learned to evaluate public perceptions of you, your brand, and anything else that can influence your company’s success in a competitive field. It might not be pretty, but it’s a critical step. Online reputation monitoring is an important step, but you must monitor search phrases for every step of the buyers journey. How people feel about you is called sentiment.

Trial by Search Engine

Judging how your company is perceived by search engines — and those who use them — isn’t as simple as querying “companyname” and “companyname reviews” before calling it a day. Like any research project, your approach needs to be systematic.

First, you need to categorize the types of people who’d want to find information about your company online. As mentioned earlier, this might include:

  • Potential customers/business prospects
  • Investors and shareholders
  • Employment candidates
  • Members of the media

Reputation Management and the Buyers Journey

For each category, you need to consider the key stages of engagement. As you can see from the matrix below, the typical business prospect goes through three stages before making a purchase. The same general idea applies to potential investors, employment candidates and others and is therefore part of any solid web reputation management campaign:

Attraction Stage

Consideration Stage

Decision Stage

Blue widgets

Acme Company

Acme blue widget reviews

Blue colored widgets

Acme widgets

Acme testimonials

Square blue widgets

Acme best widgets

Acme complaints

While plugging these terms into Google, Bing and other search engines allows you to cast the widest possible net, it’s important to go a step further and manually search individual review sites — which, according to Vocus, 77% of online shoppers use to make a decision — that matter most to your company’s online reputation. If you’re a consumer-facing business, this might include:

  • Yelp
  • RipOffReport
  • PissedConsumer.com
  • UrbanSpoon
  • Industry-specific review sites and e-commerce platforms with review functions
  • For B2B companies, focus on:
  • Local business directories
  • Your local Chamber of Commerce
  • The Better Business Bureau
  • Industry-specific trade groups and directories

And it’s no longer possible for any company to neglect social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. A recent Forbes study found that 82% of consumers trust a company more if it’s involved with social media, and Vocus just found that 85% of consumers expect companies they do business with to have active social media profiles. 

 

How Bad Is It?

After an exhaustive review of your company’s online image, it’s time to take stock. For simplicity, just focus on the first page of your results for now. Remember, the vast majority of searchers never go beyond that anyway.

You can divide your search results into four basic categories:

 

Positive and relevant These results portray your company, or key players/associates, in a positive light. Crucially, they must also pertain directly to what your business does. Example: A local news story titled “ABC Co ranks #1 for customer satisfaction in XYZ industry.”

 

Negative and relevant These results are about your company but portray it in a negative light. Example: A local news story titled “ABC Co ranks last for customer satisfaction in XYZ industry.”


Irrelevant These results appear because they pertain to your company or its key players in some fashion but aren’t particularly helpful to any of the personas outlined above. They also don’t say much about your reputation one way or another. Example: A Manta profile that contains only your contact information, with nothing about what your company does and no feedback from customers.


Mistaken identity These results contain information about another company or entity with a similar or identical name. Results about individuals who share names with key employees fall into this category as well. Mistaken identity results are typically either negative or neutral, depending on the information they contain. Example: A search for ABC Co turns up lots of results for ABCD Co.

Once you’ve assessed your first results page, use the 10 entries to fit your overall image into one of these categories. It might not be an exact fit — having one or two irrelevant or negative results in a sea of positive content isn’t the end of the world — but you do need to be honest. And you can’t call the end result “positive” unless you truly have no negative, irrelevant or mistaken identity results to your name. 

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