What CEOs Need to Know About Protecting Their Company’s Online Reputation

Here’s something that comes up in executive meetings all the time: “Why are people saying bad things about us online and what can we do about it?”

This can be especially troubling to the CEO who founded the company and who has spent long years working hard to build the brand. You wake up one day and find some defamatory remarks online about your company -- not constructive criticism, but outrageous accusations and almost slanderous comments that make your blood boil.

Worse, the negative reviews are on websites that rank high on search engine results pages, so that anyone doing a search on your company will see them. And it’s not just one negative review site, but several, causing your online reputation to suffer.

As a CEO, you need to be aware of your online reputation and know that you can take steps to manage it. You shouldn’t just leave it up to fate or luck or the hope that people won’t post negative comments about your company.

Here are three steps to take to manage your company’s online reputation:

Step 1: Accept the fact of online reviews

Short of outright slander or libel by the reviewers or bloggers online, you really don’t have much legal recourse to make the negative postings go away. People have a right to complain, and these days it’s all too easy for unhappy customers to vent their frustrations and share their opinions with the whole world.

You best reaction is to shrug your shoulders and accept them as a fact of life. No sense in letting them get to you -- not when you have more important things to occupy your mind. And with a good reputation management strategy in place, you won’t have to concern yourself too much with the complaints and rants of a few bloggers.

Step 2: Focus on getting positive content

Part of online reputation management involves pushing the negative review sites off of the first page or two of a Google search. How? By posting positive content and getting those pages to rank higher than the negative sites.

As CEO, you can direct your marketing or PR department to make online reputation management part of their regular duties. That means they should always be looking for, gathering, or creating positive content that can be used to continually update your websites (and yes, you should have multiple websites for this reason).

In addition, your customers should be encouraged to post positive comments about you. You might even create a website devoted to positive testimonials from happy customers.

Step 3: Marginalize the negative content

In the online world, your reputation is all about who owns the top 10 or 20 results in a search for your company name. You want that space to belong to you -- or at least to be shared only by websites that have good things to say about you.

If you can do that, then all the negative reviews and blog posts will be pushed off the first page or two of a Google search. And since hardly anyone looks past the first two pages of a search, those negative websites may as well not exist.

The most straightforward way to accomplish this is by performing search engine optimization on the websites with positive reviews and comments to make them rank higher.

The goal is to get all the positive sites to rank higher than the negative sites, and it can be a hard one to reach. But considering how important your online reputation is, achieving this goal is well worth the effort.

Of course, there’s a lot more to managing your online reputation, but the above steps give you the basic outline of what needs to be done. Just keep in mind that these days your company’s online reputation is one of the most important factors in determining its success.

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