One of the keys to good reputation management online is to make it look natural. When a user does a Google search on your company name and the entire first page is filled with positive testimonials taken directly from your corporate website, the user will be suspicious and probably move onto the second page of search results in order to get “real” information about your company. You don’t want that. You want users to look at the first page of a Google search and be satisfied with the diversity of information they see.
When a user sees a diverse set of sites and types of information on your company that isn’t all branded or promotional, they’ll feel like they are getting an objective and well-rounded look at your company. But how do you create that natural feel to a search engine results page? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Create a limited number of official websites or blogs
How many websites would you expect a “normal” company to have? Probably one, maybe two, depending on the company. And most companies will only have one or two official blogs. Users will find it natural and normal for these properties to have information on the company and to promote it. Any more than that and a user will start to get suspicious about your intent and wonder why you need 15 company blogs. Keep it simple and natural, and you’ll look better in a Google search.
2. Promote informational sites
One thing users are searching for when researching your company is 3rd party, non-biased information. For example, if you do a search for McDonalds, you’ll probably see some news articles about McDonalds in the results. If neutral or positive information or news stories exist about your company, promote those stories through SEO to get them to rank higher in the search results. If you can move those stories to the top, users will feel like they are getting an un-biased look at your company.
3. Create natural social media profiles
We all know that social media is becoming a big factor in SEO, and since Google likes to present a variety of platforms and opinions in its results, it’s only natural that your company should create social media profiles that are appropriate to your company image. It seems normal for most companies to have a Facebook and Twitter account, but is it appropriate for your company to have a MySpace, Formspring.Me, or Flickr account? If you manufacture business envelopes, maybe not. But if you design plastic jewelry for teenagers, it might be worth looking in to. The point is to be natural and appropriate. If you have unusual social media profiles or multiple accounts on the same service, users will be suspicious of your brand and your intentions.
4. Cut down on self-promotion
We all have to advertise, but when a user searches for your company name, they want to see a variety of opinions that don’t seem to come from your company. For example, press releases are great for releasing information about your company, but if they are simply puff pieces that only gush about how awesome your company is, how many people love you, or how much money you’re making, users will be turned off and start looking elsewhere for information. In that same vein, too many gushy testimonials have the same effect. Keep your presence on the web positive, but not over the top, and you won’t appear spammy or unnatural.
The key to online reputation management is to appear as if your reputation is not being managed at all. The more you can help the top ten search results look natural and organic, the better chance that users will stay on page 1 and not feel the need to see “what else” is out there. And that’s exactly what you want.