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Online Reputation Management Basics

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As much time and effort that marketers put into improving visibility within search results, not all search engine ranking pages (SERPs) are good. Increasing numbers of companies are experiencing the sharp edge of the sword from disgruntled employees or customers taking advantage of the amazingly simplistic process of publishing content to the web.

You may recall such situations as “Dell Hell” or Googlebombing “miserable failure” for examples.

Because these references occur within the search results, many companies percieve search engine reputation management as a SEO problem. But displacing negative search results only treats the symptoms of the problem. It’s not a cure.

While other companies see tarnished brand issues as more of a public relations issue, it’s important to understand that sometimes it’s the PR firm that is at the root of the problem. Look no further than the Edelman and Walmarting across America situation for an example of that.

Negative search results are not limited to standard search engines either. Blog search engines, video sites like YouTube, social news such as Digg and news search can be affected as well. See Google Blog Search for examples of the recent comments about Microsoft from former employee Robert Scoble.

Negative commentary can have a significant impact on brnads that companies have spent years and immense resources to build. It pays to protect those brands where ever consumers can interact with them.

No company wants to experience a situation like Kryptonite locks so what can businesses do? Here are three fundamental concepts to master when dealing with search engine reputation management: Monitor, Optimize and Engage.

What to monitor?

  • Brands
  • Products
  • Company
  • Key Executives

Include modifiers: “sucks” “scam” “kudos”

Types of content to monitor include: News Search, Social Media/Tags, Standard Search Results, Blogs and Forums.

Where to Monitor

  • Google Alerts – google.com/alerts
  • Yahoo Alerts – alerts.yahoo.com
  • RSS feed subscriptions to search results Technorati, Feedster, Yahoo & Google News, BlogPulse
  • Social Media via tags: tagbulb.com, tagfetch.com, keotag.com

Optimizing is most effective as a preventive measure rather than a reactive measure. However, reactive optimization for displacing negative search results is what most online reputation management services focus on. It leaves the company chasing after the various dissenters and does not put the brand in a position of control.

Treat the Symptoms

Companies that want to protect their brand visibility on the web would do well to make optimizing their brand content a best practice. Optimizing all digital communications including: PR, marketing, SEO, HR, investor relations and related electronic content that is publicly available on the web as well as social media: text, images, audio, video will produce more branded content in the SERPs. Doing so doesn’t necessarily put the brand in control, but it’s a much better situation than scrambling after the fact.

Engage – Address the Cause

Once a negative mention has been identified, here are steps in dealing with it:

  • Research the situation – is there merit?
  • If not, provide the facts and ask for corrections
  • If yes, then offer to discuss
  • Be ready to respond with your own blog
  • Be honest, be transparent and LISTEN

Results can be a anything from a positive turn around to a loyal brand evangelist.

Implementing a proactive monitoring campaign provides insight into the kinds of content interactions audiences are having with your brand. When identified and qualified, situations need to be addressed directly. At the same time, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and companies need to implement holistic brand content optimization as a best practice. The more branded content in the search results, the more diluted any negative brand content will be.

What kinds of search engine brand protection situations have you encountered? I’d be curious to hear what tactics others have used and what kinds of turn around situations have resulted.

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Online Reputation Management Basics
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About Lee Odden
Lee Odden is CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing and public relations firm in Minnesota that specializes in search, social and online PR consulting and training for companies worldwide. Odden has been cited for his internet marketing expertise over the past 10 years by the Economist, Forbes and U.S. News and contributed a chapter to the book, "Online Marketing Heroes" published by Wiley. For the past 5 years he has also been the editor of TopRank's Online Marketing Blog, a Technorati 100 favorite blog and one of the top marketing blogs according to Advertising Age. WebProNews Writer
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