Rebuilding Wall Street’s Reputation: 7 Key Factors to Focus On

With the national economy taking its time to recover and plenty of recent financial scandals, Wall Street’s reputation has tanked. If Wall Street, banks, and other financial institutions want to rebuild a solid reputation, they’ll need to focus on the 7 distinct perceptions consumers have about them. By addressing each of these areas, Wall Street bankers and stockbrokers can tackle the problem of a poor reputation from several angles.

The 7 key factors Wall Street must address to rebuild reputation are:

  • citizenship

  • financial performance

  • governance

  • innovation

  • leadership

  • products and services

  • workplace environment

Citizenship

Consumers expect companies they do business with and those who hold a lot of power to show good corporate citizenship and social responsibility. Citizenship in this sense is the idea that businesses like those on Wall Street must be actively compliant with the law, monitor and be accountable for their own actions, and have a positive impact on the environment, employees, customers, stakeholders, and the public at large.

Financial Performance

No one wants to buy from, work for, or invest in a company that isn’t financially stable and making a steady profit. Scandals, embezzlement, debt, gambling, poor investments, sour mergers or acquisitions, and other cash-flow problems all reflect a negative financial performance.

Governance

How a company is run can have a big impact on the company’s reputation. Consumers expect a company to be run efficiently, fairly, and responsibly, with strong values and appropriate policies.

Implementing a better system to punish employees involved in scandals and reward those who live up to the company’s values and mission would go a long way to rebuilding Wall Street’s reputation. So would making processes more efficient, policies more fair, and values and mission statements more in line with the other 6 factors.

Innovation

The most successful companies–which, coincidentally, usually have good reputations–evolve and adapt. They are not afraid to update old products and policies, create new ones to match the times, and otherwise innovate in any way they can to perform better and please stakeholders.

Wall Street has stagnated by doing the same things the same way for years. It’s time for them to get creative and change how they play the game to regain trust and rebuild a strong reputation.

Leadership

Thanks to the internet, consumers expect companies to have visible leaders who are experts in their industries and take a stand on important issues of the day. Wall Street executives should strive to be an influence for good and become thought leaders in smart investing, ethical banking and financial policies, and other relevant topics.

Products & Services

Businesses live or die by the strength and value of their offerings. Wall Street institutions must make sure their products and services actually help customers, solve problems, and are appropriately priced.

Workplace Environment

Although this factor mainly affects employees, it makes a difference in a business’s reputation. Consumers expect businesses they frequent to treat their employees well, and an employee’s assessment of the company is more powerful than a random customer.

Rebuilding Wall Street’s reputation will take a lot of work, but these 7 key factors provide the much-needed guidance to get them on the right track.

 

Unethical Corporate Online Reputation Management Tactics to Avoid

Just like some forms of search engine marketing are considered spammy and unethical–known as “black hat” SEO–some tactics you might use as part of your corporate online reputation management strategy are also spammy and unethical.

While brand ethics vary from business to business, unethical online brand management tactics prevent the transparency you need to gain trust and encourage sales. To become a corporate online reputation management wizard, avoid the following spammy techniques like the plague.

Creating Fake Reviews

Publishing reviews under false personas is the same as lying. Creating fake testimonials and success stories is wrong too. Both will make customers, stakeholders, and others close to your business upset.

While creating your own positive reviews about your brand may help push negative content down in search engine results, once the search engines figure out what you’re doing–and they usually do–you can be sure your site will be penalized.

Instead of creating fake reviews and testimonials, call or email satisfied customers and invite them to leave a positive review on a review site you would like to influence, such as Yelp. Regularly reach out to your audience on social media and through email to gather success stories and happy testimonials, and make sure customers know you might use their words elsewhere.

Buying Links

Natural inks help indicate a website’s relevance and authority by telling search engines that other audiences find your content useful. The more links you have, the theory goes, the more relevant you must be.

When you buy links, you interrupt that process and abuse the power links should have.

This black-hat corporate online reputation management tactic has gotten many corporate websites penalized by Google before. It will get your penalized too.

Creating great content and spreading positive content about your brand around is the better way to get links to your main website. Instead of paying for the link, you put in the work yourself. Owning the content linking out and the content being linked to is honest and gives you more control anyway.

Creating Fake Social Media Accounts

Corporate online reputation management has become so crucial in the last few years because social media has made it easier than ever for anyone to say what they think about a company. Because of this, many brands may be tempted to create fake social accounts praising the company to try to balance things out.

Like writing false reviews, this tactic is the same as lying.

If you came across a social account that did nothing but praise a certain company, you would probably be suspicious. You wouldn’t want to follow or connect with them because you know you couldn’t trust anything they said.

Because social networks are designed to help people connect remotely and express their true opinions, they definitely frown on fake accounts and do everything they can to remove the account and ban the user who created it. Social media can be powerful. Fake accounts aren’t worth losing access the social networks where your target audience hangs out.

Instead of falsifying praise for your company, create official accounts for the brand and for each major executive. Be so honest on your official brand accounts that it almost scares you, while being true to the brand voice and message. Encourage employees to include their employment information on their accounts and to share positive things about the brand. Doing these things is the right way to harness the true power of social media.

SEO: The Cornerstone of any Online Reputation Management Strategy

Although online reputation management works in a variety of ways, it often depends heavily on search engine optimization (SEO) to fill the first page of search results with positive content about your brand. Optimizing a webpage to increase its relevance and quality so it appears high in search results isn’t easy, and to top it off, search engines are constantly updating their algorithms to ensure they return the most relevant and high-quality results.

Simply having an abundance of positive content about your brand isn’t always enough. All that positive content needs to be optimized to appear in search results. Search engines use a combination of links from reputable websites and high-quality content–content that is not only positive but also well-written or professional-looking–to determine a webpage’s relevance and authority to a search query.

The more relevant the page is to the query and the more authority it has earned, the higher it will show in search results.

So how do you make the positive content about your brand more relevant, and the websites that content lives on more authoritative?

By using the right tools to give search engines what they want. The more freshness, diversification, and support you can give your positive content, the better. These are some of the biggest indicators of relevance and authority the search engines look for.

Freshness

A website’s freshness means how often it is updated. The more often a site is updated, the more often search engines have to “crawl” the site in order to find and index new content.

You can teach search engines to index your site more frequently if you publish new content regularly. If your site is being indexed often enough, it will start to move up the rankings on search results pages.

Another important component of freshness is what all those regular updates tell the search engines. If the website is worth all the activity of regular updates, then it is much more likely to be a relevant, authoritative resource for searchers.

The trick to maintaining freshness on the webpages you want to appear on the first page of search results is to always be on the lookout for positive content. Your marketing and public relations teams need to keep a sharp eye for any positive content that can be used to protect your online reputation.

Diversification

Diversifying is as beneficial for online reputation management as it is for investment portfolios: it reduces risks and increases the likelihood of gains.

There are two important aspects of diversifying your online reputation management.

The first is using multiple types of content. You can have all the glowing testimonials in the world, but if all you have is testimonials and no case studies or data to back up your results, that starts to look a bit suspicious. And search engines will only return so many results of one type of content, leaving plenty of room on the first page for negative content.

This means in addition to testimonials, you want to harness the power of reviews, success stories and case studies, press releases, YouTube videos, articles about your expertise, and more.

The second important part of diversification is using multiple websites. The more websites you own and control, the more spaces on the first search results page you can potentially fill, with positive content you have complete control over.

Creating multiple websites isn’t as daunting as it sounds at first. Instead of putting all your content in one place online, simply spread it out by assigning a specific purpose and audience to each different website.

For example, a pharmaceutical online reputation management strategy might include a website for consumers and doctors, another for pharmacies and vendors, a separate blog, and another website for publishing survey results and other data.

Diversifying content in these two ways makes your content more relevant and authoritative because each website and type of content appeals to specific audiences and search queries.

Support

Good support means earning plenty of links to your website(s) from many different reputable sources over a long period of time. Flooding your website with too many links all at once is very suspicious and you will almost certainly be penalized for it. And trying to get links from low-quality websites won’t help your rankings, either.

The trick to getting good links is to create content so valuable you could practically sell it. When your content is that unique and useful, it draws attention from the kind of websites you want to link to yours.

Earning links that way takes time, though. When you don’t have a lot of time to devote to getting that support, you can create some of it yourself through press releases, article marketing, and blogging. Just make sure this content is as helpful and valuable as possible.

Building good support for your websites is an important part of online reputation management for two reasons.

First, it improves your off-page SEO, which helps your content appear higher in search results.

Second, the webpages linking to yours can also show up on search results pages, so searchers see even more positive content about your brand.

Getting plenty of support through high-quality links tells search engines that other people online think your content is relevant and authoritative, which strongly influences how search engines rank results.

Freshness, diversification, and support are not the only SEO tools to use in your online reputation management strategy, but they are some of the most important. Implement all three and you’ll be well on your way to presenting searchers with the best information about your brand.

Why Keyword Domains May Not Be the Best Reputation Management Strategy

Online reputation management is both a very easy concept to explain and a very difficult strategy to make effective. It’s easy to say you make search engine results more positive for companies who have been unfairly maligned. It’s another thing entirely to actually do it.

In the early days of search engines, most engines ran on simple keyword match algorithms, so the websites with the most number of words that matched your search (including  the domain name) ranked very well. In fact, in the early days of the web and up until a year or so ago, having keywords in your domain name seemed to be a factor that helped people rank better in the search engines. Both exact match domains (EMD), like keyword.com, and partial match domains (PMD) like, ABCkeyword.com, buykeyword.com, or awesome-keyword.com, showed up regularly and highly in most results.

In terms of reputation management, it was good strategy to buy EMDs and PMDs to get them to rank for branded searches. And it worked pretty well for a long time. However, since the Google Penguin update over a year ago, the strength of keyword domains has been faltering.

It’s not that Penguin targeted EMDs specifically, but that a number of EMD owners participated in spammy and manipulative tactics to get their sites to rank well. And, as a result, they were hit hard by the Penguin update. But Google was only trying to reflect the real quality of websites in their rankings. And if you’re even somewhat savvy with web search, you know that when you search for “casinos in Reno,” and you see a site like buy-casino-viagra-deals.com in the results, you know that if you click it, you’ll probably download a virus.

However, there are also a number of legitimate businesses that have EMDs, so Google—up to this point—has not targeted EMDs simply for being EMDs. The drop in rank for many spammy EMD sites over the past year has been as a result of their own spamminess. But Google has now decided to take a stronger stance against EMDs.

A little over a month ago, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam team, tweeted that an upcoming update was going to affect EMDs. Even back as far as March of last year, Cutts hinted at the fact that his team was looking at a way to “turn the knob down” on EMDs to make results more competitive for sites that didn’t have EMDs. Essentially, he wanted to ensure that domains like petsupplies.com weren’t getting an unfair search advantage over other sites that sold pet supplies but that didn’t have keywords in their domain.

Back in late September, the algorithm update went live and a number of EMDs fell dramatically in the search results. (You can see the impact it had here as measured by SEOmoz.)

The fact of the matter is that using EMDs hasn’t been an advisable strategy for a while now. Not only has Cutts been hinting at it for more than 9 months, but, as pointed out earlier, they aren’t usually viewed as trusted resources in the first place. And now their strength is slipping even more.

Because most exact match domains (petsupplies.com) are extremely expensive, many businesses have resorted to buying PMDs that are less powerful (pet-supplies-wearhousesite.com, suppliespets-discountprices.com, pet-supplies-texas.com, etc.), and have created a deluge of spammy and unhelpful sites that are only aimed at capturing a high ranking position and not at actually helping users. So the reputation of these sites in general isn’t very good.

For your reputation management strategy, don’t go out and buy a bunch of expensive EMDs that you think will rank well for your business searches. Not only are they being devalued but they also have a reputation as bad sites in the first place. Instead, focus on building a solid brand, improving your customer service, build a positive social strategy, and getting noticed for being a positive company with a great product. When you can do those things successfully, you won’t have to worry about your online reputation, because it will already be positive.

 

Reputation Management for People Who Aren’t Good at Making Content

Content marketing is all the rage right now. Every SEO website, every marketing website, and any website that has anything to do with building a business online is filled with talk about content marketing—even reputation management websites. Partly that’s because creating great content is a surefire way to attract links and rank well in a Google search.

In terms of reputation management, if you can make great content across the web, you can get that stuff to appear in the first page of your branded search instead of malicious “scam reports” or links to malicious reviews.

But what if you are terrible at making content? What if you’re too busy running your business and you don’t have the funds to hire someone to make content for you? You can still earn a great online reputation without building a social following, blogging, or making videos. It takes a slightly different set of skills, and it’s hard work, but it can be very effective. In fact, it’s not that different from what you should be doing as a business anyway.

If you want to improve your online reputation, but you don’t want to do content marketing, here are a few things you can try:

1) Start from the inside

Some people may be using content marketing as a way to make up for their lack of a top-notch product or service. Or they may be pushing out so much content that they don’t feel they need to invest in their customer’s experience. But if you have a great product and great customer service, maybe you don’t need to be investing as much in content.

A bad online reputation usually starts with an unsatisfied customer. Whether they are unhappy that your product or service didn’t live up to their expectations or they simply had a bad experience dealing with your company, customers today will take to the web to vent their frustrations. They’ll write bad reviews, rant about your company in a blog post, or even contribute to those so-called “scam report” websites.

The best way to avoid unhappy customers is not to have any in the first place. Listen to your customers’ feedback and criticisms and use that feedback to improve your product and your service. When you have happy customers, you don’t have to worry about a bad online reputation.

2) Ask for positive reviews

If you don’t want to create content, ask your customers to do it for you. If you’re running a successful business, it is likely you already know who your best customers are. If you want more positive reviews online, simply ask your best customers to write reviews for you.

Most customers won’t write reviews unless they have an extremely bad experience or they have an extremely good one. But what about all those people in between? Most customers won’t write reviews simply because they haven’t thought about it. So just open your mouth, ask them to review you, and watch your online reputation start to improve.

3) Build partnerships

This is a bit more on the marketing side, but if you want to build a positive online reputation, you need to get people on the web saying positive things about you and your company. So build some partnerships. For example, if you own a coffee shop, build a relationship with the local bookstore and tell them that anyone who comes in with a receipt from that bookstore will get fifty cents off their next coffee. Ask the bookstore to put that offer on their website and link to you.

Not only will you build your customer base, but you’ll also get a local business to mention you on their website—which could now appear in the search results for your company name. And you didn’t have to make any content to do it.

Essentially, building a positive online reputation should go hand-in-hand with being a good business and building real-world relationships with your customers, other businesses, and more—which is what you should be doing anyway. When you can build a positive reputation for yourself in the real world, your online reputation will follow. So, if you don’t want to focus on making content to combat a negative online reputation, take a step back and build a good reputation for your business in the real world, and the online world will reflect your real world reputation.

Tips for Using Non-Branded Content in Your Reputation Management Strategy

As today’s consumer becomes more web savvy, they are increasingly searching for non-branded, or neutral, information when they want to find out more about your company online. That is, if a potential customer searches for your company name online, and all they see are a number of links that clearly point to content that you control, the potential customer may feel like they are not getting a holistic view of your company.

As a result, they may either move to the second page of the results, or they’ll try a new search for something like “ACME reviews” or “information about ACME.” But that’s not what you want them to do.

When managing online reputation for a company, you want to control what potential customers see and keep them from looking elsewhere for more information. But the only way you can keep them on the 1st page of results for your company name is to make them feel that the information they are seeing is natural and unbiased. And the best way to do that is to promote non-branded content as part of the reputation strategy.

Positive and Neutral

Potential customers will only believe they are seeing non-biased information when they see a mix of positive and neutral content on the 1st page of the results. So search for information about your company that already exists online. Here are some places to look:

1) News Articles

News articles are some of the best content to optimize and promote to the 1st page of the search results. They’re written by a 3rd party and they generally carry a good amount of authority with them. In other words, people find it very easy to believe news stories. And when looking for a story about your company, you don’t even have to find one that focuses on your company—one that simply mentions your company name is fine (as long as the mention is in either a positive or neutral light). In fact, it may even be worth it to pitch a story about your company to a local news agency. If they write about you—instant content!

2) Wikipedia

Wikipedia has pretty high domain authority on the web, which is one of the reasons it comes up so often in search results. If you company is of any decent size, it may be worth asking someone to write a short Wikipedia article about it. Although Wikipedia articles are taken with a grain of salt by most people, having a Wikipedia article show up in your search results give the impression that your company is important enough to have an article written about them. Which is never a bad thing.

3) Reviews

One of the great things about the modern internet is that absolute deluge of user-generated content, in the form of reviews, videos, pictures and more. There are dozens of review sites on the web, and it is definitely worth it to search these websites for reviews of your company. If you find a handful of positive or neutral reviews, build links to those pages and get them to rank for your branded search term. What appears most un-biased to a potential customer than 3rd party reviews of your products and services?

4) Video

Video is a little trickier. Unless you already have a very large customer base, there probably aren’t a lot of videos made by third parties about your company. However, they may exist. If you can find one that mentions your company, build links to it to get it to rank better in the results. Videos have an incredibly high click-through rate and carry a good amount of authority with them. If you find a video that mentions your company by name, it’s probably worth it to contact the person who made it, ask them to put your company name in the description and meta tags of the video and tell them you want to promote it. Chances are they’d like increased views of their video (especially if they’re part of the YouTube advertising partner program), giving them an incentive to help you out.

There are other types of 3rd party, neutral content on the web as well, like business listings, BBB pages, blog posts, and more. But these four types of content above may give your reputation management strategy a stronger boost, so it is definitely worth it to give them a try so you can build a more natural looking results page for your company.