Preserving your reputation is important for a new business, especially in an industry too often targeted for criticism by people ready to call “scam” at the drop of a hat.
Since anyone can say pretty much what they want about you online, your reputation can easily be damaged by negative reviews and blog posts. The more negative reviews that are posted about your company, the more likely they are to show up near the top of a Google search. That can discourage prospects from doing business with you or becoming distributors.
How can you avoid this? If you’re forming a new company, you can do a lot to make sure you always present a good image to people who find you through a search engine. Start out right by following these five tips:
Tip #1: Be concerned about your online reputation from Day One
Even before you begin selling your first product or holding your first opportunity meetings, you need to start thinking about your online reputation -- because this is what can determine how new prospects will perceive your company, and how you get written up in the press.
These days nearly everyone will do a search on your company if someone approaches them about you. For a younger audience, doing a Google search on everything is practically second nature. And since many people carry web-enabled phones, they can do a quick search even while a friend is talking to them about the opportunity.
If you are not keenly aware of what someone is going to find out about you on the web, and if you are not constantly monitoring and managing your online reputation, you stand the chance of losing a lot of prospects.
Tip #2: Know that you will eventually get complaints or criticism online
At some point, even if you do everything right, someone is going to write a negative review or comment about your company online. Maybe it’s someone who just doesn’t like the idea of multi-level marketing, or a prospect who was “pitched” a little too enthusiastically by a friend. Or even one of your own employees who had to be let go because of poor performance.
Whatever the reason, someone will post a complaint about your company. It may be a legitimate customer service issue that’s easily handled, or an illogical rant that lumps your good company with the bad apples of the industry.
Knowing in advance that this will happen helps you prepare for it and take it in stride. Criticism is just part of being in business, so there’s no need to get overly concerned or panicked about it.
Tip #3: Don’t respond to negative reviews
When you see a negative review or blog post about your company the instinctive reaction is to post a response to set the record straight. I understand the human need to respond, but you have to consider Google’s point of view. Here’s why.
Search engines rank various websites high for a few reasons, one of which is relevant content, especially when that content is updated on a regular basis.
When you post a comment or review on a website, you are in effect giving it new content. And if you get into a back and forth discussion with someone on a review site about your company, Google thinks “Ah, this must be important, so we’ll rank this website high for searches on this company name.”
Now when someone does a search on your company, they are even more likely to see the negative review. You want to avoid that. In fact, you want the websites with negative comments to slip further down the Google ranking so they don’t appear on the first page or two of a search. The next two tips help you with that.
Tip #4: Create multiple websites
It’s not easy to make the negative review sites change their content. It’s rarely worth the effort to contact them, barring any legal issues of outright slander or libel.
But the most effective strategy isn’t to deal with them directly. Rather, it’s to get sites with positive content to rank higher than the negative sites. And if you have enough of those, the negative sites get pushed off the first page of the search engine results.
To that end, you need to create multiple websites for your company. Don’t put everything onto one corporate website. Instead, set up different sites for different purposes.
For example, you can have a site for new distributors, a site about your charitable giving, a site about conferences and meetings, a site for photos, and perhaps a site that’s all about your main product or service. This gives you a nice stable of websites you have control over.
One suggestion: Include the name of your company in the domain name. This makes it more likely to rank high for a search on your company name. For example, www.CompanyNamePhotos.com.
Tip #5: Keep the websites ranking high
Now that you have a handful of websites you own, work to keep them on the first page of a Google search. As I said above, the goal is to rank the positive sites higher than the negative sites.
This is where I use search engine optimization on each of the sites I want to rank. I’ll look at the content and the meta tags, determine how Google is perceiving the pages, and create back links to the sites so they are seen as more popular to Google.
What you can do -- and something to work on from the start -- is keep the pages populated with fresh, relevant content. Make this part of your marketing or PR duties, so this task doesn’t get neglected. You can also encourage your distributors to link to your sites from their websites -- the more links you have, the better.
Online reputation management is part of your corporate PR strategy, and something you need to work on every day. If you can get the pieces in place when you start your company, you’ll be in much better shape to handle any threats to your online reputation. In fact, with the right effort you may never see a negative review or blog post on the first page of a Google search.
That’s how you maintain a good online reputation from the start.