The web has become the number one resource for most individuals who are conducting research on a new product they are seeking to purchase or a new company with which to conduct business. The convenience of the internet along with the large amount of information instantly available at one’s fingertips is the main reason many choose to use this medium.
Many businesses capitalize on this fact and go to great lengths to make their websites visible in the search engines. Getting their company or product name to page one can virtually skyrocket sales. But what happens when that product or company name gets to page one due to a negative review? Unmonitored, it could literally break a company.
It is for this reason that reputation management is one of the fastest growing businesses online today. Managing a company’s reputation online has become just as important as promotion and marketing and if you are not taking a proactive role in this area of your business, you may find out the hard way just how quickly it can ruin you.
Getting started with a reputation management program can be quite easy once you know how.
Monitor the Web
The first step in this task will be setting up systems which will help to monitor the internet for negative information. Keep in mind these systems can also be used to locate positive information, so you can make double use of your efforts.
There are many conversations occurring online each day and attempting to follow all of them separately could be a 24/7 job. Information can be found in numerous areas including blogs, forums, review sites, social sites, and newsgroups. Monitoring each area of the web individually could be a nightmarish task for anyone to undertake. Thankfully, this type of ‘hands on’ monitoring is not necessary. There are several tools which can be used to do the job for you with minimal effort on your part.
Here are a few ways you can monitor activity online:
- Google Alerts – Google Alerts are free to use and allow you to set up predefined alerts which will search the internet for content based on your search criteria. Once the specific information is located, an email is sent to you with details on the content; a brief summary of the item and a link to the original location. You can set up an unlimited amount of alerts, but you will need to have a Gmail account in order to utilize the free service. Google Alerts allow you to utilize very specific terms such as company name, product names, and names of CEOs and other members of management. Results can be set up to arrive “as-it-happens”, daily, or weekly so that you can monitor based on your needs and availability.
- TweetBeep – Social sites such as Twitter and Facebook are often the sounding board for disgruntled employees and irate customers who are just dying to talk about their bad experience with YOUR company. Tweetbeep helps you to monitor one of these social networks, Twitter, regularly for such negative information. Also a free service, Tweetbeep allows you to set up alerts for certain keywords, hashtags, or Twitter usernames. When Tweetbeep identifies a tweet that matches your parameters, you will receive an email with the details. Right now they only offer a daily recap option and you are not able to monitor as it happens, however, Twitter itself can be utilized to do the same via their SEARCH tool. By using this you can monitor tweets as they happen. Keep in mind though, you must be physically monitoring this in order to catch any mentions as they occur and not everyone has time to lend to this. This makes Tweetbeep a great alternative.
Several other services similar to these exist and can be located by searching for ‘web monitoring tools’. Not all are free to use, but many of the paid ones offer more options such as text alerts.
Contact the Source
If you do come across some negative information about your company, you will need to address it immediately. Since many individuals researching new products will conduct their research online, they will use specific keywords such as company name and product names when looking for reviews and chances are if you found it, so will they.
Seek out the owner of the website and try to determine how the information came to be. Was it a negative product review by a well-known blogger or maybe a forum post telling of a bad experience a consumer had with your product? Whatever the case, you must contact the owner of the website and see if you can negotiate the removal of the negative information. Keep in mind that you will have to present very solid facts which counter the negative information you are looking to have removed. Most website owners will not simply remove information just because you ask them to. They are providing a service to their visitors and do not want to seem partial by removing certain information by simple request. On the same note, most are reasonable individuals who will act rationally when presented with facts.
Pay For Removal
You may also be able to pay to have the negative information removed, although this practice can be a very slippery slope. Many bloggers are well aware that companies will pay to have negative information removed, so they purposely post such negative reviews in the hopes they can receive a cash settlement to remove it.
Before you go to such measures, it is wise to search for others who may have had similar issues with this particular blog or forum owner. If they have a reputation of doing this, and you pay them to remove it, then the negative information becomes a commodity and you could just be setting yourself up for similar activity in the future.
It really depends on the location of the information and the type of negative information in question. Use your best judgment and common sense and if you feel you are dealing with a shady website owner, simply walk away.
Using SEO Practices
If all else fails you may be left with having to deal with the negative information in-house through the use of SEO practices. This would take the form of creating and distributing positive reviews and company information to combat the negative. Through a campaign of article marketing, press releases, forum posts and blog commenting, you or members of your staff can fill the internet with this positive information in the hopes of burying the negative, or at least outweighing it.
This practice can be effective over time, but it is very time consuming and requires the use of your own resources or outsourcing another person to do the work for you. In either case it will cost you, however, if all other options have been exhausted, this may be your only choice.
If you do decide to take on a positive PR approach yourself, do keep in mind that you don’t want to flood the internet all at once. Many search engines frown upon ‘too much all at once’ type practices and it is better to drip content into the web rather than flood it.
Monitoring and defending your reputation online is a necessity in the fast paced world of digital information. Do not overlook the impact such negative information can have on your bottom line. Take a proactive approach to your reputation management by implementing a solid monitoring program today.