Most business owners are in the habit of occasionally searching for the name of their business or brand, via search engines like Google. If you’re not in that habit, then you probably ought to be, and in fact, you should do it frequently. You can rest assured that clients, and potential clients alike, are also doing their due diligence, checking up on your brand before making any kind of purchasing decision. As such, the information Google reveals about your brand is utterly vital.
Suppose a consumer searches for your brand and finds a Google search results page filled with information about what outstanding products you have, and how honest and ethical your standards of service tend to be. If that’s the case, then Google is clearly helping your brand to shine, and that’s bound to be great for business.
Then again, consider that, if the brand is tarnished with a litany of bad reviews or consumer complaints, then that could spell trouble. The brand’s online reputation is damaged, and you will likely see declining sales, lost customers, and other adverse effects.
All of this is to say that controlling the way your brand is presented on the Web—what some refer to as “reputation management”—is utterly crucial.
What Reputation Defense is All About
This may sound daunting; the task of controlling everything that is said about your brand on the Internet is surely a tall order. The good news is that you don’t have to control everything that is said. You only need to worry about what appears on the first page of Google search results.
Study after study has revealed that the average Internet search user never clicks beyond that first page of search engine results. It’s that first page—the first ten results—that establish the online identity of your brand. Controlling the online reputation of the brand, then, is just about controlling the results shown on Google’s first search results page.
What’s more, making strategic use of social media can help populate those first ten listings, and assume total control of the first page.
Populating the First Page
The ultimate goal of brand reputation management is to ensure that you own or have some control over the first ten Google search listings, so that any negative reviews or consumer complaints are relegated to the second or third or fourth page. A great place to begin is by stocking up on social media accounts, attached to your brand name. If you control those accounts, and if the accounts are on the first page of Google, then you’re well on your way!
Begin by signing up for Facebook and Twitter accounts that include the exact name of your brand; these will surely be high-ranking Google listings. You cannot stop with simply signing up for the domains, however. You must also use them to generate content. Social media accounts that produce regular, fresh content will rank better, and stay atop the Google rankings more consistently, than an abandoned or content-free social media account.
Facebook and Twitter are fairly obvious social media accounts, but what about some of the second-tier social networking sites? Here, there lurk some surprises. For example, many brands will create YouTube accounts, as a way of achieving Google rankings, but YouTube accounts rarely rank in Google’s first page. Believe it or not, a Vimeo account offers much better Google rankings.
There is also the matter of photo sharing sites. Most of these accounts simply do not offer the kinds of Google rankings that brands need. If you are going to join a photo-sharing site, make it Flickr—the only site of its kind that consistently ranks within Google’s first two pages.
Finally, starting a blog is a great way to seize one of those spaces in the Google Top 10, but a couple of cautions are in order. The first caution is that, as with social media accounts, a stagnant blog will not yield the rankings you need; you must post new content to it on a regular basis. Second, blog with WordPress, not Blogger or Tumblr. Simply put: Google likes WordPress, so it is going to deliver those first-page rankings.
And What About Google+?
Naturally, Google+ is going to be vital for success in Google, as you can bet that the search engine will award its own social platform with a prime ranking position. Once more, though, don’t settle for simply signing up for a Google+ account. Actually use its +1 feature, encouraging friends and followers to hit the +1 button on your blog entries and corporate website. This will produce better rankings for those pieces of content—ultimately helping you tighten your grip on Google’s first page of search results!
Remember that controlling those first ten listings is effectively taking your brand reputation into your own hands—and social marketing can be a powerful tool in gaining that control.