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Online reputation management: Ensuring the good outweighs the bad

Online reputation management is one way to help ensure that you don’t come a cropper when would-be clients and customers enter your name into Google and hit ‘Search’.

fingers on a keyboard

CC: Rochelle, just Rochelle

Not so long ago, every home would keep a bulky yellow or blue directory next to the phone. In 2013, people are far more likely to bash what they’re looking for into Google or Yahoo. Often they don’t need to contact the company at all to find the information they need.

Since so many potential customers will use the net to form their first impressions of you and your business, it is imperative that they are not put off by negative or unprofessional stories. Silly as it seems in the 21st Century – it’s probably more important for businesswomen and women-owned businesses to show that they manage themselves competently and professionally.

The unerasable blackboard

People are publishing on the internet every minute of every day. Occasionally, they might regret what they’ve written. The problem is that there is no blackboard eraser in sight. They aren’t writing with chalk; they’ve used permanent paint. Once it’s up there, it can be impossible to remove.

Online mud is incredibly sticky. If you or your business dropped a clanger years ago, it could still be one of the first things people see about you when they type your name into Google.

People are usually quicker to criticise than they are to praise. One angry restaurant review can put a lot of people off. It’s even possible that the reviewer owns a rival business and wants to dish some dirt on his competitors.

Inevitably, the search results pages can paint a completely unfair picture of some companies. They end up with an undeservedly poor online reputation.

Focus on the positives

On the positive side, any good reviews or news about your company will linger on the web for all to see, every bit as much as the negative ones do. What reputation management seeks to do is to take your positive attributes and reviews and make them the first thing people see about you and your business when they do a bit of Google investigating.

Only an estimated 3% of Google users venture beyond the first three pages of results. Search engines are becoming better at identifying what users are actually looking for. In fact, it is becoming increasingly likely that you will not have to delve very deep to find what you want.

If you don’t like what you see on page one of the results for your name or company name, it’s down to you to proactively change that. Without entering the deeply unethical world of ‘negative SEO’ – which involves deliberately building poor quality links to other sites to get them penalised by Google – there is nothing you can do to affect how optimised for search engines another site is. However, you can create something new that’s better-optimised and therefore replaces the negative story at the top of the results page. In other words, you ‘leapfrog’ any lousy reports or reviews with something that reflects the hard work and integrity you put into your endeavours in a way you deserve.

Leapfrog the negatives

While negative reviews are damaging, it is worth remembering that most of them have simply been written by a member of Joe Public with little or no knowledge of how search engines categorise their results.

Shrewd businesswomen who find themselves with a patchy ‘Page 1’ should identify the sort of content they can create to muscle past the first page stinkers, pushing them down onto the much less frequently visited Page 2 and below. If the good stuff is optimised for search engines, Google and others should gradually start to see the positive reviews as being more important and relevant than the negative ones.

This won’t be an overnight process. It will take up a lot of your time if you try to take it all on yourself. Consider consulting a search engine optimisation specialist or web content provider to see what they can do to help your business recover after the ramblings of Mr. A. Noyed from Grumpsville. Give them the lowdown on what makes your company good at what it does, what it offers that its competitors can’t and any good reviews or testimonials it might have had. Smart writers and SEO experts can mould this into something that Google will be interested in.

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