How Google’s New “Google+ Your World” Affects Reputation Management

If you had any doubt that 2012 was going to be the year that social media takes over the world, those doubts should be expelled by the recent introduction of Google’s new “Google+ Your World” features that more heavily, and more prominently, feature “personalized” results.

For a little while now, Google has been tying your Google+ social graph info into the search results, and we’ve already seen Google+ profiles rise in prominence in the search results—generally outranking Facebook and Twitter profiles (even though Google+ has fewer users). Now Google gives users the option to narrow their results to only their Google+ connections.

Simply put, if a user only wants to see what their friends have said about your company, they can completely skip the general search results and simply search through their personal connections to find out who has +1’d your company, mentioned it, or written a review about it.

For many companies, knowing that people can go directly to their social connections to find out about their company is a bit scary. But if you’ve been playing your cards right, you should be just fine. If not, here are a few things you need to start doing right now.

1) Join Google+ (and make a page for your business)

If you’ve been avoiding Google’s new social network up till now, it’s time to join. And it’s time for you to create a page for your business. If you already have a Gmail account, simply create a Google+ profile and start creating circles, and don’t forget to +1 your business—every +1 counts. The more information Google has about you and your business, the better it will be able to show that information in the personalized search results, helping your online reputation.

2) Add +1 buttons to everything

The more people that +1 your company website and other websites that you need to rank well for a branded search, the better. So make sure you have prominent +1 buttons on your site to make it easier for people to click them. (Notice the Google+ button on this page.)

3) Encourage people to +1 your web properties

Lastly, encourage people to click +1 on your websites. If you have a large company, give incentives to your employees to +1 your sites, and offer specials or other incentives for customers to do the same. The more people that click your +1 button the more your site will gain a favorable light online and with other users around the web. And both of those outcomes are good for reputation management purposes.

Be a Good Company

Slowly, Google is trying to move toward a system where good websites naturally rise to the top of search results without any manipulation necessary. And part of the way they are doing that is by leveraging the power of social networking. If they can show you only the things that your friends have liked or are connected to, they’re more likely to give you the results you are looking for.

However, Google’s goal is in direct opposition to many companies tactics of simply brushing bad press under the rug and turning a blind eye to bad user reviews. But the inclusion of Google+ connections in the results make a strong case for why your online reputation management strategy needs to encompass more than linkbuilding efforts to mold the search engine results page you want. It should go further than basic SERPs, by engaging users through social networks and creating fantastic content for your websites that show users what an amazing, helpful, and friendly company you are.

Search engines will continue to move in the direction of relying more on social signals than algorithms, so now is the time to get on the bandwagon and enter the world of Google+, so you can strengthen your reputation management strategy and rise to the top of any search.

Where Not to Link From: Future-proofing Your Reputation Management Strategy

2011 has been a big year for reputation management and SEO in general. The past year saw some pretty big changes to the way Google evaluates websites for ranking purposes, including an increasing reliance on social networking activity to determine the quality of a website.

And as the online world continues to move forward, become more intuitive, and ever-dependant on the signals of users to determine which websites are the best and most useful, the crutch of old link building tactics will continue to weaken. In terms of reputation management strategy, that means that molding a search engine results page to reflect positively on your company will continue to get more difficult. Forcing reputation management practices away from low-quality link building tactics toward a more careful evaluation of where links are coming from.

So, moving into 2012, here are a few tips on where and where not to link from when optimizing your reputation strategy.

Where Not to Place Your Links:

  • Sites with a lot of ads: The internet exists because we can make money on it, but when advertising overtakes a site to the detriment of its content, Google notices, and downgrades that site, making links from that site worth less.
  • Sites with bad content: Site that are not useful and don’t provide any type of value to their visitors are sites to stay away from. If you look at a site and it reads like it was written for search engines instead of humans, stay away. Users will shun those sites, and so should you.
  • Content farms: There are a number of websites out there that focus solely on ranking high for a wide variety of searches so they can make money off advertising. If the content of the site is not focused, but rather is made up of scattered articles on a wide variety of unconnected topics, you don’t want links from those sites. Google doesn’t like them and is specifically targeting them for search engine manipulation tactics.
  • Crowded sites: Crowded sites are sites that don’t seem to be taken care of by a human. That is, they link to any site that asks (of will pay them enough), they don’t moderate their comments, and their sidebars are filled will irrelevant links and RSS feeds from other spammy sites.

Where to Seek Links:

  • Sites with Quality Content: If a site is focused, well written, and provides useful content—it’s generally a site that a normal human being would consider “quality.” That’s the type of site you want a link from. Quality sites will always rank well in a Google search and links from quality sites will always be more valuable than links from spammy sites.
  • User engagement: One of the marks of a low-quality site is the amount of comment spam that appears on the site. When you are evaluating a site for backlinking purposes, take a look at the comments section. Are real people responding? Is useful discussion taking place? If so, great. If all the comments contain non-specific compliments about the blog  being “great” or “ well written” and they all contain links to irrelevant sites, move along.
  • Social Shares: As social signals continue to rise in importance, it’s important that you link from a site that is popular with users—a site that is regularly shared on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and more. It doesn’t have to have a lot. But if most blog posts have a handful of shares, that can’t be a bad thing.

Future-Proofing

The simple fact of the matter is that the old ways of article spinning, article directories, comment spamming, and more are becoming increasingly less effective. Mass producing a large quantity of low-quality links may be easy, but they will eventually die. And you don’t want your reputation management efforts to go to waste on strategies that will eventually fail you.

Instead, you need to look at the future of search engine algorithms and where they are headed—toward quality sites and content. If you can get links from sites that are popular and provide users with sincere, useful, quality content, you’ll be safeguarding yourself against future changes in the Google algorithms that attack low-quality, spammy tactics. Build a stronger, longer-lasting reputation management strategy today by focusing on linkbuilding from quality sites, and you won’t have to worry about your company’s reputation online.

Reputation Management Should Be the #1 Priority for Public Relations Professionals

In order to get the job you currently have, chances are you applied, went through an interview process, received an offer, and then chose to accept it. But why did you get the job? Was it your background, experience, and impressive resume? Probably. But it also had a lot to do with the interview itself. In an interview you had to look nice, present yourself well, and talk about yourself in a way that made you seem like you knew what you were talking about.

In fact, talking about yourself in an expressive way is key to having a great interview. Someone once gave me this piece of advice for interviewing: “If you don’t talk about yourself, who will?” And the same holds true for reputation management. If you’re an in-house PR professional for a good company, it’s your job to talk about your company; because if you don’t, who will? As such, reputation management should be one of your highest priorities—if not your number one priority. So here are four reasons reputation management should be at the top of your list.

1. Press releases are meaningless

This is not to say that press releases don’t have their place, but there is so much noise in the news media today that another press release is just more white noise. More likely than not, if you send out a nationwide press release, you’ll be lucky if one reporter reads it and decides to write a story about it.

In other words, press releases do no good unless people read them. That’s why, instead of hoping that a reporter will pick up your story, put your press releases to work by optimizing them for reputation management purposes. When you can get your press releases to rank for searches for your company name, not only will more people see and read them, but you’ll be improving your online reputation at the same time.

2. Ads do nothing if you have a bad reputation

Advertising is only useful to your company if you can prove to potential customers that you have a good reputation. If your advertisements are driving searches for your company name, but those customers are seeing “scam reports” and negative reviews in the results. They are much less likely to click through to your website. And all your ad money goes down the toilet. If you can focus on reputation management, you’ll clean the company image, increase traffic, and improve sales conversion all at the same time.

3. No one’s going to toot your horn

Remember, if you don’t show the public what a great company you are, no one else is going to do it for you. When you do community service, give money to non-profits, start a college scholarship, and more, make sure you talk to bloggers and local news outlets, so they’ll write about your company. Once those positive news stories hit the web, promote them and push them as hard as you can, so that they’ll appear in the search results for your company name. When people search for your company online, and they see the positive work your company is doing, they’ll be more than happy to visit your site and buy from you. And that’s what reputation management is all about.

4. Blogs aren’t useful unless people read them

Why is your company blog hidden away in a back corner of your website? Again, no one will know what’s going on at your company unless you show them. For example, you could move your blog to a subdomain, so it will rank separately from your main website. Or push your company news to other websites, so they will publish the wonderful things your company is doing. After you’ve done that, reputation management is about getting those blogs and stories to rank well, so you can build a positive image for your company.

You Can Make or Break Your Online Reputation

 As a PR professional, it’s your job to obtain exposure and coverage for your company. But if no one can see what you are doing (or they’re only seeing negative results when they search your company name), any work you are doing will have virtually no effect. That’s why you need a reputation management strategy that will help improve your image and not undo the work you’ve put into building your brand. Talk about yourself and toot your own horn, or you’ll be leaving the talking to anyone with an internet connection.

3 Ways to Build Your Brand Through Reputation Management

Brand building is a term thrown around at a lot of marketing firms and internet startups. But when was the last time you actually heard someone define “brand building” in a real, tangible way? What does it really mean?

Let’s start with the meaning of “brand.” Your brand is the way that people relate to your products, services, and company as a whole. Essentially your brand is a set of images, stories, and emotions that people associate with your company. Thus, your customers define your brand through what they say, think, and feel about your company. And you can guide the public perception of your company through any number of avenues, like advertising, social media, word-of-mouth, charity work, and more: in other words—brand building. And when it comes down to it, reputation management should go hand in hand with brand building because they’re part of the same strategy to influence people’s perception of your company for the better.

In fact, they’re so closely related that when you are doing one, you should be doing the other at the same time. Take at a look at the ways that both brand building and reputation management share the same goals.

1. It’s about communication

Bad brand building is about campaigns. Good brand building is about fostering a relationship with your customers. And that goes the same for reputation management. The most successful brands build a simple and consistent image for themselves over many years; they don’t simply change every time a new fad comes along. The same is true for good reputation management. You have to stick with it and be consistent, or negative information and bad reviews will creep into your search results. But if you are consistent with your reputation management, you’ll be communicating a positive message to potential customers anytime they search for your band online.

2. Tell a story

Great bands have great stories. And I’m not just talking about a great founding story, but a story people feel every time they think about your brand. For example, when you think about Nike, you think about winning. Winning is a story. The same should go for your reputation management. When you optimize the search results for your company name, keep in mind that you can’t fill the page with all positive information about how great your company is. Instead, you have to build a story around your company by focusing on a variety of messages and platforms. Positive information, neutral information, press releases, news stories, videos, social media profiles, and more—when a potential customer searches your company online, they should see a variety of materials that tell each bit of your company story. When they see a variety of information and links, they’ll feel more confident about trusting you, and you’ll be getting your messaging to them and building your brand at the same time.

3. Stay consistent

Unsuccessful companies change their brand messaging every quarter. This confuses customers who don’t know what to think about the brand and its every-changing personality. On the other hand, successful companies stick with their brand image for a long time. Again, look at Nike. How long has their slogan been, “Just Do It”? Probably for as long as you can remember. That’s the kind of consistency you should be building with your reputation management strategy as well. Make sure that the positive and neutral information you are filling your search result page with are in-line with your company brand. When customers search for your company online, they should have the same experience they’ve had through your advertisements—even if they haven’t clicked through to your website yet.

Reputation management IS building your brand. When customers search your company name online, they will begin to form opinions about your brand according to what they see in the search results. Remember, it’s the perception that your customers have of you that defines your brand, not necessarily your marketing efforts. So get out ahead of the pack by creating a reputation management strategy that connects with your customers. Because if you don’t define your reputation, someone else will.

Online Reputation Management: The New PR

Public relations used to be the best way for a company to manage its reputation and image publicly. A lot of PR consisted of positive press releases and pictures of your organization helping sick children or helping rebuild a rundown community center. But those days have changed. Whereas PR mostly focuses on relationships with major news outlets and putting a positive spin on your company news, less people are reading newspapers nowadays, and more people are using the Internet to research companies. Instead of PR, many companies are now focused on reputation management—creating a positive online image for their company.

Online reputation management is the new PR in the sense that reputation management is about influencing the kind of information users see when they search your company name online. Creating a good reputation management campaign involves many principles of SEO and knowing what kind of online content to promote, why, and how.

To look at the issue of old PR vs. new reputation management in more detail, let’s compare some characteristics of both.

1. Longevity of information

The old PR industry focused a lot of attention on the news cycle. What print publications can you get in? How many people read it? Can you get on CNN, the Today Show, etc.? Old PR focused on cyclical media. Places where your company could make a big splash and then be forgotten about in the space of a few minutes or days. But today’s information stays on the Internet almost permanently. Thus, reputation management is about controlling what information is most accessed and most widely read when a user is looking for information about your company. In today’s online culture, a company can’t rely on the short memories of the public to forget bad press or embarrassing mistakes. It’s all available forever on the Internet. Making sure the best stuff floats to the top is the job of reputation management.

2. Publisher reputation

When trying to get a reputable publisher to do a story on your company, the publisher has a responsibility to their readers or viewers to put out balanced, well-researched information and news stories to protect their own reputation. But today, publisher reputation is almost non-existent. Any fly-by-night, anonymous website can start up at any time and publish complete lies about a company and there is no reputation to uphold. That’s why reputation management is necessary for any large company. Because anyone can publish anything on the Internet, anyone can read it too—and believe it. So, it takes skilled reputation management to massage reputable, positive press and information to the top of a Google search, rather then let anonymous review writers dominate your online image.

3. Connections

If you’ve ever worked with a PR firm, you’ll know that they’re always talking about the connections and relationships they have with certain journalists or publications. Part of the PR game is to form relationships with prominent people in order to get your company news published in large, targeted venues. On the Internet, the only relationships that really matter are links. That’s why a lot of reputation management is based in SEO. SEO strategies used by reputation management seek to promote content that will benefit your company and move it to the top of a Google search, pushing negative reviews and information off the first page.

PR and reputation management are fundamentally two different things. And since more people are searching the Internet for information about your company than scrolling though microfiche of old news stories, reputation management is a valuable asset to add to your public image arsenal. That is not to say that a company should completely forgo PR in favor of reputation management. Rather, reputation management is quickly becoming just as important, if not more important, than PR for the benefit of your company name and image.

 

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