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You’ve taken a long, hard, and most importantly honest look at your online reputation, and you’re ready to do what’s necessary to improve it. Great! Whether your company is dealing with serious, persistent negative pressure from high-authority domains or just needs to polish a search result or two, here’s how to dive into the nitty-gritty work of repairing its image online.

Help! I'm Surrounded by Negativity!

The concept of suppression is critical to online reputation management. Basically, suppression uses positive SEO — and positive content — to reduce the impact of negative mentions, whether they’re found in snarky reviews, unflattering news stories, or a disgruntled employee’s hate site. It requires you to build a “fortress of authority” around your company’s online presence. In a nutshell, it can remove bad search results from the first page of Google by pushing them down.

Don’t worry, this kind of fortress doesn’t require you to hire a team of laborers or buy up all the bricks in your town. Its skeleton is comprised of:

  • Relevant domains and websites. You need to buy up relevant domains before your competitors — or profit-seeking squatters — do. In addition to variations on your company name, these might include references to a key product or industry. Domains can cost as little as $1, but popular or intuitive ones can fetch four- or five-figure sums (or more!)
  • A regularly updated blog. Set aside a domain or domain extension for a blog that’s updated at least once per week, and preferably two or three times a week. 
  • Outside sites with relevant, positive content. Getting content that you create posted on relevant, high-authority sites, like influential blogs or industry websites, is a great way to enhance your exposure and boost your search ranking. Media mentions are a boon too. 
  • Once your fortress’s skeleton is in place, put the positive SEO tactics discussed above — fresh and unique content, links from high-authority sites, clear navigation, judicious use of keywords and more — into play. 
  • A word of warning: This is an ongoing process that won’t bear fruit overnight. And it’s more difficult to suppress negative mentions on moderate to high-authority sites, like regional news outlets and popular review sites, than on lower-authority hate sites or little-read blogs.

Building a Better Phone Book

Unfortunately, you can’t rely on your website, blog and allied sites to support your online reputation on their own. After all, you wouldn’t trust the sign outside your store to attract 100% of your customers, right?

As in the real world, your company needs an online “phone book” (look it up) that reaches as many people as possible. The individual components of your corporate phone book may rank high in search results: According to Socialnomics, 25% of the search results for the world’s 20 largest brands link directly to user-generated content, like online reviews and social media profiles. And, independent from what search engines think, they’re also important for creating an aura of trust and positivity around your brand. 

The reality though is that you can't always control user-generated content. [Sigh...] 

 

To build your phone book, you need to claim directory listings on popular sites, like YellowPages.com and Manta, even if you don’t plan on using them to promote your business directly. Collectively, these sites receive more than 100 million unique visitors per month.

You also need to flesh out your social media profiles, especially Facebook and LinkedIn. According to Business2Community, 77% of B2C companies and 43% of B2B companies use Facebook to generate leads. Meanwhile, LinkedIn has about 100 million users in the U.S. alone and claims that 40% visit on a daily basis. It’s a good idea to have both a company profile and individual profiles, which should mention your company, for key employees.

Multimedia exposure is key as well. No matter what your company does, it should have a YouTube channel or some other way to distribute videos online. Why? According to Forrester Research, video search results are 50 times more likely to rank on your first search results page. Wow. And users are 41% more likely to click on those results, compared to text-only entries.

It's a lot, we know. At Reputation X we use a sophisticated methodology to keep up to date and on target. If you're curious, it looks like this.

online reputation management process

Removing Negative Web Pages

If your company is threatened by a compromising picture, video or piece of written content, you may be able to skip suppression and head right to removal. That’s right: The law offers some limited protections for individuals and businesses faced with a reputation problem.

When can you ask a search engine or publisher to remove negative content? The short answer: If it involves copyright infringement, libel / slander, or the dissemination of highly specific financial or personally identifying information, like unredacted bank account numbers attached to your business name. 

Otherwise, your options include:

  • Contacting the website owner or publisher and asking them to take down material that infringes on a copyright. With limited exceptions, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act compels publishers to do so.
  • Asking the website owner or publisher to attach a noindex tag that prevents the content from being indexed by search engines. It still exists, but search engines no longer drive traffic to it. This may offer a better chance at success in cases that don’t involve blatant copyright infringement.
  • Threatening a lawsuit over defamatory content. Such suits were once considered long shots, but plaintiff-friendly decisions in recent high-profile cases have shortened the odds. Often the threat of a lawsuit that has at least some chance of success is enough to get content removed. We have also had clients who tried this, only to have their lawsuit reposted online - making the problem worse

What Not to Do

Of course, your best-laid reputation management plans will come to naught if you make too many unforced errors. As in the real world, you need to put your best digital foot forward and avoid preventable mistakes that draw negative attention to your company. This is even more important online, because search engines and social media sites have far longer memories than the typical human. Even if it may not be not technically true, it’s prudent to act as if everything you post online is public.

Here are a few things not to do online:

  • Personally respond to a negative review angrily. Some people can’t be satisfied. Rather than getting into an online flame war over which you have limited control, be the bigger person and walk away. If you stand and fight, you’re liable to look petty and disrespectful.
  • Make vague or ill-conceived social media posts. Read and re-read every Facebook post and tweet before sending it out. If the meaning isn’t crystal clear, change it or refrain from sending it altogether. Even if you know what you’re trying to say, it’s all too easy for a reader to misinterpret it and take offense. 
  • Breach taboo. If you wouldn’t talk about it in the office with other people around, don’t talk about it online. Avoid political rants, disparaging customers (or groups/types of customers) and offensive humor in particular.
  • Post inappropriate multimedia. Since they go viral more easily, inappropriate pictures and videos — of you, an employee, or something happening at your business — are even more dangerous than ill-advised written diatribes. According to BarnRaisers, 41% of Internet users repost or share pictures they find online.

 

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See how Reputation X can help you: 1-800-889-4812