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.

Using Random Affinities for Reputation Management

A little while ago, Ian Lurie, CEO at Portent, wrote about an interesting tactic he uses to get more ideas for marketing as well as better target his own marketing. Lurie uses Amazon, Facebook advertising, Google suggest, and more to find out what random topics come up when he searches for products similar to his (or his clients’). What he is searching for are “random affinities” (and you can read about his methods here).

Random affinities are topics and interests that are shared by a number of the people who all buy the same product or visit the same website repeatedly. Basically, they are things that your customers have in common with one another but have nothing to do with you. For example, Lurie has found that people who like “cycling” also tend to like the Cartoon Network show, Adventure Time. If you were selling bicycles, that might be an interesting insight to have and it might help you sell more bikes if you include Adventure Time references in your website copy or put a picture of Finn and Jake on your local flier.

But what does this have to do with reputation management? Reputation management isn’t just about creating a clean branded SERP, it’s about giving the people who are searching for you a positive view of your company in a way that makes them want to click through to your site, learn more about you, and—possibly—buy the stuff you are trying to sell them.

Essentially, if you can show your users that you are into the same things they are before they even click on your official website link in the SERP, you can begin to build a positive reputation right away. Using the example above, let’s say you own that bike shop and you know your customers are probably into Adventure Time. Part of your reputation management campaign could be to run a contest to give away a new bike with an Adventure Time paint job. Get your contest written up in a few cycling websites, build some links to those references, and then you have yourself a great link in your branded SERP that not only makes your bike shop look great, but it also connects with your potential customers before they even come to your site.

Let’s put this tactic into action. Here are more ways you can use random affinities to your advantage:

Guest Blogging—guest blogging can get boring and tedius, especially if you’re doing reputation management for a company that isn’t extremely exciting. If you can identify some random affinities, then you can shake up your blogging by referencing those topics in your posts or use those random affinities as analogies for your topic. Writing a blog post like, “How Watching Adventure Time Can Make You a Better Cyclist,” and posting it on an Adventure Time fan blog might not only get you a great link in the SERP but could also bring in some new customers.

Infographics—Take your blogging ideas to the next level by creating sharable content like infographics that include references to the random affinity or are outright targeted at fans of the random affinity. Although there could be some copyright issues, make a cycling infographic littered with Adventure Time artwork (or art work similar to Adventure Time). Or, make an infographic about Adventure Time and relate it to cycling. Either way, a great link that connects the two topics will be fantastic for your online reputation.

Contests—Already mentioned above, hold a contest or giveaway that involves the random affinity. For example, what if you created a contest that asked cyclists to send in awesome pictures of them having adventures on their bikes, then give away Adventure Time DVDs as a prize.

The beauty of finding these random affinities is that they open all kinds of possibilities for making great content, getting it published around the web, and building great links in your branded SERP that not only make you look like a positive company but also connect with your audience before they even see your website. And any company that can do that will have no problem building a great reputation, online or off.

Nobody Wants Your Reputation Management

In a 2009 article on his blog, Steven Pressfield (writer, creative extraordinaire) writes about his first job creating copy at an ad agency. And the #1 lesson he learned from that job is, to quote Pressfield, “Nobody wants to read your s**t.” Although you may think that you’ve just written the most amazing Trident commercial ever—no one cares. At the end of the day it’s just gum, or detergent, or floor wax. And most people are too busy with their everyday lives to even bother watching your genius commercial, let alone pay any attention to it.

But, he continues, the idea that your work doesn’t matter to anyone else is one of the most important things to learn about being a writer—that the only way people are going to stop and listen to what you have to say is if you can think like them, offer them something they’ve never seen before, and do it in a way that speaks to their experience.

Although Pressfield is talking about writing, his words could be applied to just about any profession, including reputation management. Think about it: in reality, no one cares how many links you’ve built, how many social profiles you’ve created, or what kind of infographic you were able to get to rank for a branded term. If the link to your client’s Facebook page moves up one slot in the SERP, the world does not stop.

So what do people care about? And why does that even matter to reputation management professionals?

Doing reputation management, you have to think about two audiences, your clients and the people who will be searching for your clients’ names online. Clients just want results. They don’t really want to know how you did it, they just want to be able to search their name online and see that no bad press comes up in the SERP. And users who are searching for your client’s name online don’t care about how search engines work, they simply want to see a fair and balanced result when they search. They just want access to actionable information about the brands or companies they looking for.

In essence, both clients and users want to feel a sense of relief. Clients want to be relieved that they don’t have to worry about their online reputation, and users want to be relieved that they don’t have to go to the second page of results to find the information they’re looking for.

As such, the job of an online reputation manager is not so much about numbers and ranks and algorithms as it is about creating a positive feeling in those that you work for and those that will see your work. This is perhaps the goal that we lose sight of as we go about our daily activities.

Keeping our eye on the fact that no one cares about what we do—as long as it is helpful and useful—can help us focus our daily efforts and prioritize our strategies. The next time you’re in the middle of a campaign, ask yourself, “Is someone go to care about the result of what I’m doing right now? Is this going to make my client and their users feel relieved?”

No one may care about what we do. But if we care about what they want, we’ll be able to build better reputation strategies, execute better campaigns, and ultimately, be more successful at what we do.


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