Protecting your brand or business on the internet is one of the most important things you can do. Some businesses take the "if they aren't online, they don't need to worry about it" approach -- which is the absolute worst thing you can do.
Whether you are a small business, a startup, a local shop, an online brand or even a Fortune 500 company... what it said online and represents your name is extremely important. The good news is that no matter what level of business you are currently at, the path to start monitoring, improving and protecting your business online all starts with the same basic steps.
To help with this process, we've laid out a simple five-step formula for you to follow.
1 - Claim Your Business on Google, Yahoo and Bing
The majority of searches on the internet start with Google. This means when someone is looking for a new restaurant, brand coupons or even user reviews, they will likely see a wide range of choices in addition to seeing your own websites.
Google knows the importance of localized results and they have gotten much better at this over the last few years. Businesses and brands now have the ability to claim their business and be set up with a verified listing, which also comes with many benefits.
It's not just Google who offers such services. You will also find similar features through sites like Yahoo, Bing, TripAdvisor and Yelp. We recommend you claim and verify your business with each of these sites.
2 - Brand and Customize Your Google+ and Social Profiles
Social media is all the buzz lately and there is definitely an importance to having social profiles on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others. However, without the proper customization and branding -- it's just another profile.
Take the time to customize the look and feel of your social media and profile pages so they match the colors and theme of your brand. This way you are not only establishing your expertise and authority on social media, you will also have a platform in place that continually grows your branding over time.
3 - Setup Online Alerts and Monitoring for Your Brand Name
Just as important as knowing where your site ranks in the search results, is knowing where, why and when your name is being mentioned elsewhere on the internet.
This is something that simply can't be done through manual research. You could Google your brand name and see what comes up, but what about on social media, review sites, forums and more?
One of the best ways to start monitoring your brand name mentions online is through the use of Google Alerts. It's a free tool that will notify you through email every time a new site is indexed into their search results that includes your personal or brand name.
For more indepth monitoring and services, refer to this list of recommended tools.
4 - Have an Active Online Presence and Engage with Your Audience
Creating a social profile is one of the many first steps in protecting your brand online, but you can't just stop there. In order to have an effective brand and marketing plan in place you will need to make sure you are active on each social network as well. The last thing you want is to create a bunch of profiles, build up your following, then have your audience sitting there with nothing to do -- or even worse, feel like their requests and comments are being ignored!
For best results, we recommend focusing your efforts on top social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, as this will allow you to reach the most people while also not spreading yourself too thin on content creation and engagement.
For more guidance on how to increase your social activity and engagement, CoSchedule has a great list of 21 tips that every brand and business should follow.
5 - Increase Review Participation and Brand Loyalty
Last but not least, online reviews are one of the most influencial means of engaging with your audience. Sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, PissedConsumer and others offer thousands of reviews to millions of site visitors daily. The big question is... what are they saying about your brand?
If you aren't actively monitoring and responding to online reviews and complaints, it can come back and hurt you. At the same time, it's also very important to make sure you are bringing in new customers to leave reviews as well. This can be done through social media, email and even on your site. It's also recommend that brands collect and post testimonials and reviews on their own sites, as this will give them total control over how their brand looks online.
In short, make it easy for your audience to find where they can leave a review, and let them know you appreciate their time and effort.
Your Online Reputation is at Risk 24/7/365
While there are many benefits to using the internet to grow and brand your business, it's also an enviornment that is constantly changing in all directions possible. For this reason, it's extremely important for you to have as many positive reviews, site properties, claimed businesses and verified accounts as possible.
There is no telling when a random complaint or media disaster might come your way, but with each of these elements in place, you will be more prepared and ready to take action.