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.

SEO for Online Reputation Management

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, 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.

Keys to Avoid Over-optimizing Your Reputation Management Strategy

You’ve seen the original Disney cartoon, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, right? In it, Mickey is the apprentice to a powerful sorcerer, but he longs to do magic on his own. So when the sorcerer leaves their cave dwelling, and orders Mickey to clean up the place, Mickey decides to try a little magic himself. He enchants a broom to clean up and fill the cistern full of water, while he goes and takes a nap.

When he wakes up, the broom is doing such a good job at filling the cistern that the cave is flooding. He tries to stop it, but when he fails, he chops the broom into bits. But instead of stopping the broom, all the slivers of the broom grow into brooms themselves and continue the job they had been enchanted to do, filling the cave with water, nearly drowning Mickey in the process.

Likewise, a reputation management strategy can take on a life of its own if we’re not careful with it. And it can do such a good job that it actually starts to harm the site we were trying to get ranked. Sometimes, when Google and the other search engines look at the optimized juggernaut we have created, they see our enchanted brooms and may suppress our rank and even de-index our sites (in extreme cases).

So in order to avoid these penalties, there are a few things we need to keep in mind so that the optimizing we are doing in the name of reputation management doesn’t get out of hand and end up hurting us.

1) Diversify anchor text

In online reputation management, we have the inclination to ensure that all the links we build to the sites and content we want to rank are branded terms—our company name, product name, and other company-specific terms. In a natural link profile, any given site will have a high number of branded anchor texts linking to it. But there will also be a lot of “link noise.” Link noise is the term for anchor text that doesn’t have any specific relation to the site it links to. For example, phrases like “click here,” “this link,” or “source” are common link noise. So make sure that you diversity your anchor text so that it appears to be natural to search engines, and you’ll avoid any trouble.

2) Forget about keyword density

The search engines have gotten pretty good at detecting when certain websites are keyword-stuffing in order to rank better. Although, in the past, reputation management managers have tried to put their branded term in the website text at a 2-4% density (2-4 keywords for every100 words on the site), today it’s better to simply use text that sounds like a normal person wrote it—and not a search engine optimizer.

It’s still important to use your company name and other branded terms in the text, just don’t overdo it. If your text starts to sound like it was written for search engines and not real people, back off a bit, and let your prose flow more naturally.

The Sorcerer Returns

When Mickey finally realizes he is in over his head (literally) and begins to drown, the sorcerer returns, dries up all the water, and puts Mickey back to work cleaning up the even bigger mess he has created. What we’re trying to avoid, as online reputation managers, is making a big mess in the first place. If we can stick to natural link building practices and not let our efforts get away from us—in the end—we won’t have to clean up an even bigger mess after the search engines come back and see what we’ve done.

Reputation Management as a Spork: 3 Questions to Ask to Improve Your Online Strategy

Reputation management is a spork. Just like a spork is a hybrid between a spoon and a fork, reputation management is like a hybrid between SEO and marketing. On the one hand, reputation management is about optimizing the right content so that it will rank well for your company-branded search results. At the same time, it’s about targeting the right type of people with the right kind of content so that they will form a very specific opinion about your company in only a few seconds.

It’s the marketing side of reputation management that often gets lost in the shuffle of creating a really great results page for your company. It’s easy to implement a series of strategies that build links to positive content for your company, but it’s a little more difficult trying to ascertain who exactly is searching for your company and define the best content to give them.

When it comes down to it, as a reputation management professional, you need to ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. Who is searching for my company online?
  2. What are they looking for?
  3. How can I give it to them?

Who Is Searching For My Company Online?

Before you can figure out the type of content to fill a branded search results page with, you need to know who you are targeting. When you know the average age, income level, social status, and other information about your customers, you’ll be able to better understand the type of content they need in order to make a positive judgment about your company.

What Are They Looking For?

Once you know who is searching for your company online—generally, the customer base your are targeting with your products and services—you’ll be able to better assess what kinds of question they are asking and what they want to know about your company. It’s also extremely helpful to look at the search traffic that is leading to your site. What are the keywords people are using to find your website? And what are the most heavily visited pages on your site?

For example, if you sell children’s toys, your customer base consists of mothers in their mid 30s, and you find that one of the most heavily trafficked pages on your website is the page describing manufacturers, it stands to reason that people searching for your company online may be concerned about where your toys are made. Do a little more digging and may find that there is a large contingent of mothers who may be concerned about the plastics and paints used by your manufactures—either for health or environmental reasons.

Of course, not all questions may this cut and dried. But when you know who your customers are and what they are searching for, you’ll know what kind of information to give them in order to keep them on the first page of the search results

How Can You Give It to Them?

When you know what they’re searching for, give it to them. And give it to them quickly. In the example above, you’ll want to quickly reassure customers that your products are safe for their kids and for the environment. If they have to click through 3 pages on your website before finding that information, chances are that many of your potential customers have already clicked away from your site and are searching elsewhere.

Instead of burying that information deep in your website, create a subdomain on your website (that will appear as a separate search result) that speaks specifically to that question, reassuring customers that your products are safe. Or you could go a step further and create a microsite that addresses that question and then points customers to your website for more information.

The quicker you can give your potential customers what they are looking for with a branded search term, the more likely they are to trust you, and the less likely they are to look for that information elsewhere.

Control Your Message

One of the most important aspects of reputation management is to control your own message so others don’t do it for you. When you know what your customers are searching for, and can fill that need for them, you control the perception of your company as well as the search results they see. And that’s when you’ll truly have a grasp on your reputation management strategy.