How to Assess Your Online Reputation
Assessing your online reputation is easy, really. Just search for your company online and see what you find. Make sure that when you’re looking, you check with different search engines. The different engines have different requirements for keywords and work slightly differently than the others. Because of that, you need to make sure that you’re searching not only general search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN; but also the metasearch engines such as Info.com, Dogpile, and WebCrawler.
So what should you be searching for? Well your name is an obvious one, especially if you’re the CEO or the President of a company; and you’ve probably already guessed that you should search for your company name as well. But along with those, also search for your brand, your product, your employees (especially those that deal with the public a lot,) as well as your brand and any usernames that you may use in association with your business.
Also remember while you’re searching your company that search engines are very often personalized right now, meaning that the results you see will probably be based on at least your location, as well as you or your company if you’re signed into that particular search engine. For example, if you’re signed into Google and search for your own company name while you’re signed in, you may only get to see results of material you’ve written, or material that you already know is out there. What you want to find of course, is the material you don’t already know about and that could be negatively affecting your business.
Once you’ve done some searching and found some results, what are you supposed to do with them? You need to track them! Create a spreadsheet that you can reference at any time, and put the following information on it, in this order: position in the search engines (was it the first, second, fourth, etc. result); the URL that has the publicity; the type of publicity (whether it’s good, bad, indifferent, or not about you); and the general sentiment behind the posting. Perform a search on each keyword (your name, your company’s name, etc.) As you search, record the first 30 results that you found on your spreadsheet, regardless of the sentiment behind them.
After that, it’s just a matter of finding the positive results and utilizing them to their full advantage; and finding negative results and fixing them as quickly as possible.
Online Reputation Management Overview
Online review websites range from large search engines like Google, review sites like Yelp, forums, blogs, message boards, and more. Virtually all online reviews are put up anonymously. Review sites have policies that preclude the release of any identifying information without a court order. Review sites act as public forums, and are legally protected from liability for the content by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Some sites like Scam.com and RipOffReport.com have pledged never to remove any negative information. They have successfully defended themselves against every SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) case.
Strategy and Response
To meet these challenges, research shows there are two effective responses:
• Make sure there is a significant number of positive reviews to negative reviews
• Where possible, manage where reviews appear on the web
The good news is that you can get plenty of positive reviews just by asking. Many clients who love your service just never think to leave reviews. If you make it easy, most are happy to do so. Taken as a whole, 80% or more of the reviews on the internet is positive (2007 Forrester Research). Just look at Amazon.com. They have thousands of reviews because they ask for them and they make it simple.
Studies show around 5-20% of people you ask to leave a review will actually do it. Just the fact that you ask them makes your customers feel valued and recognized. This feeling promotes positive reviews. You have to set up systems that make it easy. If you don’t ask, you won’t get the positive reviews you deserve and negative reviews will be abnormally high in comparison.
Manage Review Site Placement
It’s not possible to control every site customers use to leave comments. However, a healthcare practice can create a place where they gather reviews. When people see many reviews it encourages them to leave one, and the cycle continues. In time, the company has a “critical mass” of their own reviews on their site or other sites they control.
Eventually, Google, Yahoo, Bing and the other search engines will start to recognize the site. The reviews will begin to populate the top slots on search engine result pages (SERPs). As they become more visible, more users see them and then leave their own reviews. Each review is filled with search engine friendly keywords. The whole process helps makes the site a word-of-mouth magnet, a location where there is enough data that it becomes “The Authority” for reviewers and people seeking reviews on your product.
The challenge is that, the longer a company waits to start their own word-of-mouth magnet, the longer other sites will gather reviews simply because web users have nowhere else to go. If that happens, it makes it more difficult to establish enough reviews on a company’s site to take the Authority role.