13 August 2014 By Northern Lights
In last week’s blog about online reputation management, I looked at the importance of online branding, how to check your online reputation and how to respond to negative comments.
In this instalment, I dig deeper and look the rising tiding of cyber extortionism, safeguarding your brand online and, most importantly, how to improve your online reputation.
5. How do I handle online blackmail from cyber extortionists?
Because of the importance of online reputation management and the impact it can have on brands and revenue, there has been a significant rise in people posting negative comments and then demanding money to remove them.
Inevitably, these people can be hard to find and punish as they are often in other countries and the legal framework surrounding this form of extortion is still confused at best. Often, the comments or revelations are based in truth but date back over considerable time.
Many pay to avoid attracting attention to the issue, but there’s no guarantee you won’t be made to pay again. In these instances, it’s a case of fighting back online with effective online reputation management. Specialist Michael Fertik of Reputation says it’s about “paying the sheriff” – a competent online reputation management specialist – to beat the extortionist at their own game and push this malicious content off page one.
6. How do I safeguard my online brand?
The golden rule with all things online is to keep it polite, professional and inoffensive. The whole world can access your online profile and it’s easy to cause offence through cultural differences.
The first step is to set up a few free alerts – Google Alerts, Twilert, etc – for your name or brand to keep tabs on anything being posted. That way you can quickly respond to any complaints or comments and minimise the impact.
Secondly, is to keep posts professional. It’s always important to inject some personality, but remember you are speaking to a wide audience, not just your best friend or a few close colleagues. If you are using private and personal social media networks, set the privacy settings as high as you can and don’t post lots of photos and personal information. Put simply, don’t overshare because it can easily be shared again and again.
In business, it’s also worth having clear social media guidelines for staff about what they can and cannot say on social media. Make it clear that if they want personal social media accounts, they don’t mention working for your brand; otherwise anything they say will also impact on you.
7. What can I do to improve my online brand?
Restoring your reputation online can be a long and arduous process. While negative comments can come crashing onto page one with a pace that makes your head spin, the speed for removing those links with positive comments and news can make a glacier look positively spritely.
The key is having a clear strategy for taking ownership of your own search engine results page and developing good quality content to populate it. Google loves quality content and is looking for online material that is frequently shared, linked to and commented on. By developing Wikipedia entries, your own website and a blog and by being social and joining professional organisations and interacting with them, you will soon start to control what appears on page one.
Most importantly, develop a Google+ profile and business page if necessary and share all of your content through the platform as these will dominate the listings. Google is desperate for everyone to embrace the plus platform and is heavily over-ranking any content posted on it. All “+1s” and reviews will also be shown alongside Google local information and maps.
It is also equally as important to get others to interact and link with your brand and share their own positive thoughts and comments. It’s worth incentivising customers and clients to write reviews or share content through discounts or prize draws, but make sure they are genuine reviews and don’t be tempted to fake them.
Remember, just because the results are good today, that doesn’t mean they will be tomorrow. Topical events, social media trends and Google’s constant battle to update its search engine and outwit those trying to dupe it, will have an impact on your online reputation and what appears on page one, so constantly monitor your brand and keep posting quality content.
8. What should I post online to improve my brand?
Quality content is all about sharing insights, advice and experiences that others will enjoy, learn from and then want to share with others. That starts with your own website and then needs to extend into blogs, other recognised online platforms and a range of social media profiles.
As with all online content, it needs to be search-engine optimised. To do that, consider what your customers are typing into Google to find the services you offer and then make sure those words are used repeatedly in all online content you produce. In the case of this blog, those words are “online reputation management”, “online brand” and “personal branding”.
It’s also important to include clear information about who you are. With your website and blog include some personal details to make sure it links directly to you. With social media, make sure all profiles are fully completed or Google won’t rank them as highly. And, with all online content, make use of Google authorship so every piece is clearly linked back to you.
You also need to be posting content regularly and interacting with other people, sites and platforms. While that may sound daunting, it needn’t be. We always recommend posting a blog a week that links back to other relevant articles you’ve produced and any other relevant, quality content online. That blog can be hosted on your website and then you can use your social media platforms to link back to it. This provides posts for all platforms and also helps to improve rankings by sharing it with a wide audience.
One word of warning. Don’t be tempted to post the same blog on multiple sites as Google will spot it is duplicate content and penalise you.
9. Working offline to improve your online brand
One of the key elements of improving your online reputation is getting others to post stories and comments about you. That comes back to traditional PR.
An active public relations strategy will help to ensure online portals that are trusted by Google, such as newspapers, post news about you or your company online and help to improve your rankings. Similarly, by being generous with your time or money through guest speeches or event sponsorship, you will also help to get your name and brand mentioned by a variety of organisations.
By developing fertile and valuable offline relationships, those same relationships will soon develop into positive online interactions.
10. Don’t wait for a crisis to analyse your online reputation
All too often, people and businesses only start to look at their online reputation when the damage has already been done. As I’ve outlined over these blogs, a poorly managed online reputation is a missed opportunity. By not only ensuring you have a positive image online, you are also actively ensuring you are easily found and that results in more business.
Inevitably, sometimes you become embroiled in a crisis through no fault of your own and that will have to be addressed. I’ve written here about crisis communications before, but with regards to online reputation management, you must ensure that all online portals are closely monitored during a crisis and responded to quickly, sensitively and in a way that will minimise long-term impact on your brand.
None of us are strangers to the perils of online reputation catastrophes, but the online world still holds far more benefits for your brand. By carefully monitoring what is being said and then by working to develop the profiles and create the content you want, you can use your online brand to create a far more prosperous future.
Online reputation management can be a tricky process and if you have any questions, please post them below and I’ll do my best to answer them.