Managing your online business reputation

Just like in the "real" world, it is important to monitor and protect your online business reputation.

This need is well illustrated by an example. A new client presented to us when faced with a negative online news article, written by a local journalist. This article had appeared in the local paper, and had also been listed on the local news website. Although this was a low interest article about an isolated customer complaint, soon this article was appearing in the search results, due to the existing high ranking of the news website. This article moved very quickly up to first place in the search results for keywords relating to the given niche business. Our new client had not previously invested in a strong web presence, and was then faced with trying to out-rank this article in the search results. Out ranking this article could take months or even years of effort in building a substantial web presence, to push the article off the front page of Google.

To avoid a similar situation, a proactive stance to reputation management is called for:

  • Establish a strong web presence and search engine ranking, so negative results or comments do not out-rank your search engine listings.
  • Monitor the web for negative publicity using automated tools.
  • Monitor your social media presence.
  • Protect your online branding and domain names.

1. Establish a strong web presence

We have covered this topic in detail, you can read more here:

How to get to Number 1 in Google
http://www.achieversgroup.com.au/e-zines/ezine_june10_article3.html

2. Monitor the web for negative publicity

There are a large number of tools available to monitor web activity. Here are a few:

Google Alerts - sign up to be notified of content related to specific keywords you specify, such as your business name. This is an amazing service where you can get instant, daily or weekly updates as your keywords are detected on web-pages by the google crawler.
search.twitter.com - See real-time discussion around all topics on twitter.
wotnews.com.au - Search Australian news.
blogsearch.google.com - Search blogs for comments around your brand.

What to do when you discover a negative review or comment:
Once a negative review or comment has been posted, don't simply ignore it. In most cases it is best to address a complaint, negative review or comment immediately, either on the site or by contacting the comment poster. It is very important to take the customer is always right approach online. Many potential customers may read your response! See this complaint as an opportunity to win back a customer and potentially get positive feedback from an Internet savvy consumer, who is obviously willing to post online.

3. Social Media - Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter

Maintaining a social media presence implies your business is willing to devote the resources necessary to regularly monitor for negative comments and to respond to customer complaints and enquiries. Make sure you your business is fully committed to maintaining this presence before taking on a new social media site.

For example, comments can be posted on facebook fan pages and youtube videos by users. Email notification of new comments should be set to on, such that these posts are checked by your staff as soon as they are posted. When you don't have these resources available, disable comment functionality.

Ensure staff that respond to comments are well trained in the appropriate responses and use a conciliatory tone when writing. Often it is best to assign one qualified person in your organisation to handle social media posting, to ensure consistent and well measured responses are always given.

4. Protect your online brand names

Update - .co domains have just become available!

It is important to check that you have registered all relevant domain names for your business. Most Australian business opt for .com.au domain name. If it is available, we also strongly recommend you consider purchasing the matching .com domain. This domain can be redirected to your main .com.au website.

If you plan to export or trade in a particular country, consider registering a corresponding domain in that country. eg .co.uk or .co.nz

Other domains to consider are: .net, .net.au, .org, .org.au, .asia, .tv, .biz and many more.

You can check the availability of your domain name at any domain name registrar. There are a variety of rules associated with the registration of different types of domains, so be sure to check you are able to register a given domain before applying.

Also consider domain names that contain hyphens, for example:
register yourbusiness.com.au as well as your-business.com.au

The rules for registration of a .com.au have been relaxed, so ensure that you consider registrations for not just your business name, but also for your product and service names (before your competitors register them!)

It is now also very important to secure your branding across social media platforms, for example:

www.facebook.com/yourbusinessname
www.youtube.com/youtbusinessname
www.twitter.com/yourbusinessname

Even if you are not planning on using the particular social media site, it is important to secure your pages now so you have the opportunity to do so in the future. This approach prevents competitors from registering and trading on your business name on social media sites.

About the Author

Since 2006, Nick Jerrat has been blazing a trail across the Internet, working with hundreds of clients to build and market their websites online. Nick is the managing director of Publish My Web, an integrated website design and marketing firm. Click here to view more of his articles.