Do you know what your customers, ex-employees, and competitors are saying about you? The Internet allows information to travel faster than the speed of sound, so it’s important that you’re paying attention to online conversations about your company. Anything posted on the Internet about you can have a huge impact on how people view your organization.
When it comes to establishing and preserving your company’s online image, a good, quality website is just the beginning. A great beginning no doubt, but there are a wide range of other things to consider.
Today’s smart consumers use the web to make buying decisions. They do this by first researching a brand by reading reviews and getting opinions from other people who have purchased your product or service. With the explosion of blogs, forums, and message boards, consumers have easy access to posting and reading free information on the web. Without spending a dime, they have the ability to sound off about essentially anything they feel like, and people are reading. All you have to do is enter a search term about a brand and you’ll likely come up with pages of results.
Why not try searching your own brand? Look beyond your own website listings and find out what others are saying about you. Are there any negative listings saying bad things about your brand or your company? Listening to what they say gives you an opportunity to perform damage control so that you can ensure a positive web presence for your business.
Here are some steps you can take to uphold your company’s online reputation.
Step 1. Monitor what’s being said about you.
Assign someone at your company to be in charge of performing regular Internet searches for your company. It can be difficult to continuously monitor everything that is being said on the web, so you need to establish an early warning system to alert you of all news relating to your brand. You can set up free Google and Yahoo Alerts to catch the use of your company’s name in the news. In addition, you can use sites such as Feedster and Technorati to see what’s being said about you in blogs. The person in charge of this important task should track for all names associated with your business, including brand names, company names, product names, and key employee names.
In addition to self-tracking, you should look at other information such as competing brands and organizations, industry terms, as well as general industry news. If your company has an individual in charge of public relations, he or she is the ideal person to handle this online reputation management. However if you do not and cannot afford to hire a PR professional, assign the task to another trustworthy individual.
Step 2. Participate in the discussion.
You have the power to influence online conversations by becoming actively involved in them. Your participation will give you the opportunity to improve the perception of your brand. Take an active part in your industry conversation by becoming a regular contributor to blogs and forums within your industry. Besides blogs, you can lead the conversation about your brand on forums, consumer opinion sites, consumer complaint sites, and social network sites. By being honest and responding directly to critics, you’ll build trust in your audience, even if the truth is negative. If a blog or forum includes inaccuracies about your brand you should send them clarifying evidence and ask them to remove the error.
Step 3. Develop your online assets.
First, make sure your corporate website is fully search engine optimized and appears at the top of results lists for your name and your brand. Also consider creating a corporate blog if you do not already have one. There are many benefits to this kind of forward thinking.
It is important that you publish all of your company’s corporate communications on your website. This type of information can include press releases, articles, testimonials, case studies, and white papers. Optimize these pages for the search engines as well. Submit your press releases to online wire service to ensure maximum visibility, and optimize the releases for your company name and brand.
If you do not already have a paid search campaign in place, it is a good idea to start taking advantage of Pay-per-Click advertising. Include a listing for your company name and/or brand. The combination of high organic listings and PPC ad presence will help you to dominate your search engine space and counter the efforts of competitors who try to infringe on your trademark.
A note about PPC ads and trademark infringement: If you take advantage of Pay-Per-Click advertising, you should be aware of the dangers of trademark infringement. 20% of all online searches are for actual brands. Companies often bid on the brand names of their competitors. So if a searcher types in your brand name in a search engine, they could get results that include ads for your competitors. They might click on your competitor’s ad thinking it’s related to your website, which is a form of bait and switch. You can control this when advertising on Yahoo and MSN, as they offer you the opportunity to prohibit others from bidding on your trademarked search terms. At this time Google does not offer this option. It is highly recommended that you perform regular searches of your brand name and report violators to the appropriate search engine.
The key to managing your online reputation is persistence. You must constantly monitor and take the appropriate action to uphold your company’s image. Only you have the power to prevent the loss of business and ensure the ongoing success of your organization.
For more information on Website Marketing Strategies, call us at 1-800-978-3417 or Contact Active Web Group and let us help you!