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Content Drives Reputation Management

Reputation Management is a SEO ProblemThe Internet provides innumerable opportunities to promote yourself, your brand, your products and services. However, this empowerment works both ways. You have nearly unlimited opportunity to promote to and interact with customers, but your customers and potential customers have the same options as well. They can praise you, or damn you. It’s the latter that can set off a social media firestorm that can influence search engine results in a very negative way.

The Internet makes it very easy for people to post negative comments about you or your company. People will make comments from the anonymity of the Internet that they would never say to your face. If this happens you will have to deal with it in one of two ways:

  • You can be prepared by proactively managing your reputation.
  • You can re-actively manage your reputation and scramble to plug the dike.

Preventative Measures

So, how do you deal with it? You’ve heard that the best defense is a good offence. This holds true in war, and is certainly true when you are personally under attack, or when your company is being maligned by individuals Call Lexington eBusiness Consultingthat can’t readily be identified. How do counter an offensive that comes out of left field? You prepare beforehand – you make sure that you:

  • Develop a robust content strategy. Good content gives you defensive advantage.
  • Understand how search engines work – the insight gives you advantage.
  • Proactively monitor your brand using alerting services and sentiment detection tools. This allows you to respond to threats in real-time.
  • Develop a competent SEO plan that allows you to quickly bury negative commentary.

Before we get into the dynamics of these two approaches, let’s take a step back and examine some of these factors that impact your ability to manage your reputation.

The Content Variable

It would be easy to look at this as just a search / SEO problem, but that would not be entirely true. The most critical factor is whether you have a comprehensive content strategy or not. Google is very clear about what it values in a website. They like content rich websites that provide high-quality consumer experiences. Websites with sparse contents rarely do well in search results, and no amount of SEO (even from the best SEO firms) will compensate for the lack of high-quality content.

Negative Content

When you take a look at negative comments, they tend to be short blurbs of one to two sentences, often not more than a paragraph. This, from a search engine’s perspective, is not really high-quality content in terms of content richness. If there’s not a lot of it, and it was posted at a low-quality / low traffic site, it may never actually show up in search results that the public actually looks at (first three search results pages).

All bets are off if the comments are posted at high-quality / high traffic platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. The probability that negative commentary can spread from these platforms is much higher.

Google, Bing and Yahoo will not remove negative commentary from their search indexes just because you’re annoyed. You can call, threaten and hire a lawyer, but they will not do as you ask unless the information posted can aid in the execution of a crime. The only type of information you can ask to be removed from a website includes Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers.

Social Content Strategy

A company might say that they don’t care if they have a presence on LinkedIn or Facebook, thinking it doesn’t matter – because they won’t generate any business from these platforms. But this is a shortsighted view. Having a good company profile associated with all these platforms aids in generating a body of positive content associated with your company. You may not earn a dime from this effort, but it would be a good proactive exercise on your part to create a presence on all the important social media platforms. For example, when you do a search on an individual’s name you often see LinkedIn and Facebook results on the first page. This is because LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook have a lot of authority associated with their domain, and rank well in search results.

Rule-of-thumb: Commit to a comprehensive content strategy that is developed and deployed on a scheduled basis. If you don’t commit to a comprehensive content strategy that includes social media as well, you will have a much harder time dealing with negative attacks.

The Nature of Search Technologies

The more you understand about search relevancy the better off you are when making decisions about your social media, SEO and content strategies. For example, it’s the nature of search engines to ingest text – without text, search engines are useless. Search engines are also borderline useless if there is very little text to ingest. It’s very hard for a search engine to figure out what you do if your webpage has only three sentences on it. The existence of comprehensive high-quality text on a page allows search engines to do a better job of determining what the page is all about – this is simply the nature of how search technologies work. This fact conceptually is what also makes it possible to minimize the impact of negative commentary.

Common Words

One of the search variables that may impact you in a positive or negative way is how common (or rare) the words are in your company name, product name or personal name. For example, if your name is John Smith you have 68 million search results available to you to mask a negative article. If you happen to be named John Smyth there are only 1.45 million search results, which make it much easier for negative commentary to float the top of search results.

Rule-of-thumb: The rarer the words in your company or product names, the harder it is to bury negative content.

A second area where this concept comes to play is the recent trend where start-ups string together a series of phonemes to make up an entirely new word. Take the word Zoomflyt, it has 245 results in the Google index. With a company name like this you will enjoy all the goodwill associated with building a brand around it. The downside is there will be little other content while you are building your brand, and if anybody mentions something bad about your company you will own that negative comment lock, stock and barrel in a very visible way.

Regardless of how rare your keywords are they can be positively manipulated if you have a content rich website and a well-developed social media ecosystem in place.

Search Results

Search engines generally will only list one search result from a domain. This in practice means that if there are ten negative comments about your company in the index from that site, nine of them will not show up in the search results display. In a case like this you have to ensure that there are several comprehensive high-quality comments at the website to compete with the negative comments showing up in the search results. This is why responding to negative commentary is very important. If you take the high road and say nothing-they win.

Google’s Indexes

Google has many specialty indexes. The most widely used is called the universal index, but they do have others that deal with:

  • Breaking news – contains content that is tagged as news, but is removed after 24 hours.
  • Local businesses
  • Mobile
  • Images
  • Blogs

You will want to know if the negative commentary is in just a single index or in all the indexes. For example, if the negative commentary was originally posted about a company that is a local business, rather than a nationally known business, you will have a different set of SEO requirements for dealing with that commentary.

Proactive Reputation Management

There are three major components required for a proactive reputation management program. Implementation of these tasks will provide you the option to respond in near real-time to negative commentary. These three components include a:

  • Tracking program – collecting what is being said about you or your company in near real-time. You also have the option to archive all this textual information in a text database so that you can conduct future analyses.
  • Data analysis – analyzing the data to detect negative sentiment and identify other potential problems.
  • Response – responding positively to the negative commentary does two things. First, it shows your customers that you care about their problems, and you’re doing something about it. This helps to keep it from going viral. Second, it increases the amount of positive content that is associated with your name in the search engine index.

In the long run it’s easier and more cost-effective to proactively manage your reputation. It’s standard fare today for people to search for information about your company, or about you personally. Employers, business partners and potential dating partners do this routinely.

If something undesirable happens, the goal is to get on top of any negative content as early as possible so that you can address the customer’s concerns, and limit the fallout. This is much easier to accomplish if you are proactively managing your reputation.

Alerts

Most people occasionally do searches on their own name, but do not do this in an organized way on a scheduled basis. If you fall into this class, negative comments about you may take weeks or longer to come to your attention, giving the problem time to fester and take on a life of its own.

The very first thing you need to do is set up an alert for your personal name, company name or product name so that you are notified any time these names are mentioned anywhere on the Internet. Google also has a “Me on the Web” tool that is designed to notify individuals when their name shows up in new content. These are free services; it would be unwise not to use them.

There are many alerting services available to you. Here is a short list of options for consideration.

  • Google alerts
  • GigaAlerts.com
  • Yahoo alerts
  • Tweetbeep.com

Alerts from publishing companies and press release aggregators.

Social Monitoring

If your company is operating in a social ecosystem that is generating an enormous amount of content and commentary, it’s very easy to miss negative content until it’s too late, and you find yourself in the middle of a firestorm. There is a way to deal with this, but it costs money and time to implement the solution. There are a number of sentiment detection tools that can be trained to identify negative commentary in blogs, Twitter streams and user forums. These Machine Learning tools are very robust, and can parse information streams in near real-time. An upside to these tools is that they can also identify positive commentary, which gives you the opportunity to aggregate all the good things that are being said about you or your company.

Before we get into the dynamics of these two approaches, let’s take a step back and examine some of these factors that impact your ability to manage your reputation.

Social Monitoring and Sentiment Detection Tools

Some of these services are free, some cost a lot of money. Depending upon your needs, the free services may be enough. However, if you need to monitor your brand in real-time, the free services will not meet those requirements.

Reactive Management

Reacting to negative commentary well after the fact can be an exercise in herding cats. There are so many moving parts that you have to deal with that you will end up reacting in a whack-a-mole fashion.

To start, you will require knowledge of, and will have to work within a number of interrelated disciplines. These will include many of the following:

  • Develop a SEO strategy (search engine optimization) 
  • Develop a social media strategy
  • Develop a content strategy
  • Engaging a law firm
  • Understanding search technologies
  • Develop a content syndication strategy
  • Executing a public relations plan
  • Engaging an image consultant
  • Hiring a reputation management firm

To read the rest of this article send me an email (with your business email address) at: Mark@MSprague.com, or call me now at: 781-862-3126 and I will send you the complete white paper.

Lexington eBusiness Consulting

About Lexington eBusiness Consulting

Mark Sprague’s 25 years of product development experience, which includes expertise in Search Engines, Information Products, SEO platforms and Social Networking applications provide in-depth expertise to help you refine products and services, and improve your websites performance by:

  • Developing a superior data-driven SEO strategy for your website.
  • Understanding your customers’ search behavior and normalizing it to your content strategy.
  • Understanding how search engine technology practically impacts SEO and content strategies.
  • Understanding how search technology impacts content in a social networking environment.
  • Developing a superior user experience based on sound information architecture, usability and coding standards.

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Mark Sprague,  CEO
580 Lowell Street
Lexington, MA 02420

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Reputation Management: The basics «
    Nov 05, 2012 @ 16:58:54

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