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The Preventative Maintenance Approach to Online Reputation Management


Gary Ware


August 17, 2012


Branding, Digital

A number of companies are slipping when it comes to managing their online reputation. They are turning a blind eye to reviews, and only react in crisis situations. With the recent Google algorithm updates, the search giant is focusing on “fresh” content, which means that content from social review sites are dominating search results for branded queries. It goes without saying that when users are considering a product or service they turn to search to consider options, and if all they see are negative results it will sway their impression of the brand. It’s like the old adage says, “It just take one rotten apple to ruin the bunch.” Never fear, Gary is here to give you some tips to keep the negative mentions from dominating your branded search results...
Crap in, Crap Out
STOP! If you have a crappy product, poor customer service, or are trying to cover up unethical business practices, this article is not for you. Your main focus should be on creating great work. Come back after you take care of that, then we can talk.
Brand Monitoring
As I mentioned before, a large majority of internet users turn to search first to research a product or service. Are you aware of what they will find if they search your brand name, or better yet your brand name + scam? If you don’t know what’s out there you can’t fix it. At a minimum you should setup Google Alerts for your brand name that send you notifications daily if queries that mention your brand in a negative light pops up, and a weekly notification for everything else. That way you can address negative situations quickly, and you have a list of positive mentions for future follow-up.
Actively Encourage Reviews
According to a study by The Nielsen Company, 57% of online shoppers say they consider reviews before making a purchase. The down side is the majority of shoppers only leave negative reviews, which will sway purchase decisions. To combat this, you need to do what you can to get your brand ambassadors to leave positive remarks on your behalf. If your community manager hears that someone is having a positive experience, have him or her encourage the customer to leave a review. If you provide a service, have your account managers ask key clients if they would like to leave a testimonial. Since consumers turn to multiple sources for research make sure you are not putting all your eggs in one basket. You should be aware of sites that customers in your market utilize for research, and make sure you are covered on those sites. This will also help to drive quality links back to your site.

If you sell a product, I encourage you to enable reviews on your site. The user-generated content will give your site fresh content, which in turn can boost site traffic and rankings for key product pages.
Take Feedback to Heart
If you come across a negative review, don’t shove it under the rug and act like it didn’t happen. Address it head on. In most cases, your reaction to the situation will have more effect on your reputation than the original issue. If you make excuses rather than address the issue, it will give the impression that that you are hiding something. Also, by responding you are calming down a disgruntled customer, which will hopefully keep them at bay.

Negative feedback can be more valuable than positive as it gives you info on areas that need improvement. Take this as an opportunity to improve your product or service. If you are successful, you will gain a loyal customer that may turn into an ambassador of your brand.
It is Your Responsibility
At the end of the day, it’s your brand and your responsibility to protect its reputation online. Yes, you cannot control what people say, but if are in charge of the situation you can increase your search engine visibility for positive items which will push down the negative ones. Look - no one is perfect and your customers are well aware of this. The best thing that you can hope for is that if someone is evaluating your company, the positive mentions outweigh the negative ones.

Do you have any questions, or tips for successful online reputation management? I encourage you to share your views in the comments.


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Veribo (not verified) on Thu, 2012-08-23 04:25
Thank you for this. Especially important that you make the point about accepting responsibility for your brand. Just vital that business owner understand exactly what is being said about them online. Ignored reviews and comments are ignored potential clients.

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Gary Ware on Fri, 2012-08-24 15:24
 @Veribo Thanks for the comment! I know it's never fun to receive negative feedback, but in this day in age out of sight does not mean out of mind.

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Gary Ware on Fri, 2012-08-24 15:22
 @Jenn Baker Creating mock accounts is a grey area. In situations where you have non digitally savvy customers I would recommend establishing a testimonial area on the brand's site where they can add testimonials themselves, and encourage others to submit as well. From there I would recommend linking to that area any opportunity that you can. That way you are spreading the love from your customers, and sending positive signals to the search engines. Thanks for the comment Jenn, and hopefully that helps!

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Jenn Baker (not verified) on Wed, 2012-08-22 08:30
Great post Gary!  In the case that you have a large customer base that is not digitally savvy, but they are wonderful about sending in thank you cards and letters of you think it's ok to establish accounts where you can post what they've written and just note who it's from (with their permission of course)?

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