“So, I Googled myself and read the comments section, thinking I could get some tidbits of what people really think of me. No human being should ever read the comments sections or ever Google one’s self at any time.” – Sandra Bullock
Just like Bullock, many CEOs are often taken aback when they Google their own name or the name of the company they lead. What they find isn’t always flattering. It could be hostile and mean. It might not even be true. But there is it for the world to read. What they read could cost you in lost business or damage your brand’s reputation.
However, there are things you can do to manage your online reputation so you are not at the mercy of your company’s critics. Start by following these three steps:
Step No. 1: Accept the fact of online reviews.
Short of outright slander or libel by the reviewers online, people can say just about anything they want. You really don’t have much legal recourse to make the negative postings go away. People have a right to complain, and online it’s easy for unhappy customers to vent their frustrations and share their opinions with the whole world.
When you see a negative review about your company the instinctive reaction is to post a response to set the record straight. While it’s natural to want to respond and defend yourself, under most cases you should resist.
One way a search engine rank websites high is because it determines the site has relevant content that is fresh, or updated on a regular basis.When you post a comment on a website, you are adding new content. And if you get into a back-and-forth discussion with someone on a review website about your company it can hurt you.
Google will see the website has a lot of information about the company, so they will rank the website high for searches on their company name. When someone does a search on your company, they are even more likely to see the negative review. Your goal is the opposite—you want websites with negative comments to slip further down the Google rankings so they don’t appear on the first page or two of a search. The next two steps help you with that.
Step No. 2: Focus on getting positive content.
A major part of online reputation management is trying to push the negative websites off of the first page or two of a Google search. You can do this by posting positive content and getting those pages to rank higher than the negative websites.
Your marketing or PR department needs to make online reputation management part of their job. They should always be looking for, gathering or creating positive content that can be used to continually update your websites. Don’t put everything onto one corporate website. Instead, set up different websites for different purposes. Or, get interviews or articles about your company on highly respected websites. Social media sites usually rank highly for your company name so make sure to register your company name on all of the major sites.
Step No. 3: Push positive websites higher.
In the online world, your reputation is all about who owns the top-ranking results in a search for your company name. You want those results to be your websites—or at least be shared only with websites that have good things to say about you.
If you can do that, then the negative websites will be pushed off the first page of a Google search. And since very few people look past the first page of a search, those negative websites may as well not exist.
The best way to accomplish this is with search engine optimization to push the positive websites higher. Carefully review your websites’ content and the meta title tags to be sure they contain your company name. The magic of ranking higher in Google is relevant content and gathering a links from other websites that point to your websites.
While it’s not easy to get all of the positive websites to rank higher than the negative websites, it’s worth the effort. Online reputation management is not always easy and it can take many months of steady effort to achieve. Still, consider the alternative of letting complaints and negative reviews dominate the search results and destroy your online reputation.
If you choose to hire an agency or consultant, ask them to show you success they’ve had with other clients. This can be simple such as a before and after screenshot of Google results showing they have made a positive impact.
Of course, there are more details to managing your online reputation than this, but the above steps give you the basic outline of what you need to do. Just keep in mind that your company’s online reputation is one of the most important factors in determining its success.