When it comes to your online reputation, there is simply no better investment you can make. Your first impression and what people find in the search results when they search for your name, can not only be embarrassing, but it can also hurt your longterm personal reputation, job opportunities and of course your brand or business.
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Andy Beal Shares His Best Advice on How to Protect Your Online Reputation
Q: Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into the reputation management space.
A: I have been in the internet marketing space since the nineties, early on, focusing on search engine optimization. I stumbled into reputation management back in the early 2000s, while helping our own company (and clients) protect and monitor its online reputation. By 2005 we were offering specific reputation management campaigns and a couple of years later I wrote my first book on the topic.
Q: What is an online reputation specialist and why are they now so valuable to businesses and brands?
A: We are the protector of your brand. We help you to understand your audience, your employees, your customers, and your detractors. An online reputation specialist understands every aspect of your online marketing efforts, but focuses on making sure that your brand has a strong foundation for your sales, advertising and PR.
Q: As an individual or brand, what is the best way to find out what people are saying about a specific name/brand online?
A: As the CEO of Trackur, I would not be a good brand ambassador if I didn’t recommend our own social media monitoring software. A blatant plug aside, most folks should start with Google Alerts and get an idea of how their reputation is being discussed. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have a better idea of the type of features and reporting you need from something more sophisticated.
Monitoring your online reputation is the absolute least you should be doing. Marketers used to pay thousands of dollars to research firms, just to find out what people thought about their brand. Now you can monitor online conversations, posts, videos, and images and learn what they like and dislike about your brand. You can then adapt your product, service, or message to make your company better.
Q: When negative content, complaints or reviews are found, what is the best action to take in regards to resolving the issue and possibly getting it removed?
A: Early action is critical. A customer complaining on Twitter can quickly evolve into a scathing blog post, 1-star Yelp review, or negative forum post, if they don’t feel you care about their situation.
Be quick to apologize, explain how the situation happened, and then demonstrate how you plan to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Those three simple tactics can quickly turnaround a unhappy customer and turn them into a brand ambassador.
Q: Of all the review sites online, which are most harmful to a brands reputation and how should they be approached?
A: The most harmful is the one that YOUR customers tend to visit the most. A plumber might be able to survive a bad review profile on Yelp, but would go out of business if the same can be said for Angie’s List. In my latest book, Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation, I talk about how to find your Centers of Influence and engage your reputation stakeholders.
Q: How is social media changing the way brands need to monitor what is being said about them outside of the search engines?
A: Social media is often the spark that lights the fire in your Google results page. Most unhappy customers will vent first to their social media network, so it’s vital that you monitor different networks for any negative conversations of your name. I once complained to a florist on their own Facebook Page and gave them a 1-star review. It took them over a year to respond—and when they did, they showed no remorse!
Q: What are some of the best ways to build a protective wall around your brand to prevent future attacks and negative content?
A: Start by offering the best product or service you can. Next, make sure your customer service is equally good. Answer the phone, reply to emails, solve problems quickly. Next, take ownership of your Google reputation by creating positive, relevant, and popular content to fill up the first page of results for your brand. Do this now, so you can crowd out any negative web pages.
Q: Outside of businesses and brands, how are everyday people being affected by negative attacks and what can they do to protect themselves?
A: I help just as many individuals with their reputation as I do businesses. The problem with most individuals is that they have no reputation in place prior to a scandal or attack. They are then faced with a Google results page that is filled with only the negative content. My advice is to be proactive and treat your own name just like a company treats its brand. Build a blog, create an online resume, fill out social networking profiles, etc.
Q: For an individual or brand that wants to take action right now, what is your best advice on how to research, analyze and improve one's online reputation?
A: Start by listening. Get a feel for how people perceive your reputation. In addition, monitor and research the reputation of others that compete with you. That goes for individuals as well as companies. Then focus on building and optimizing web pages to demonstrate your strengths and entice people to do business with you.
Of course, this all hinges on the fact that you are a good company or person. Your online reputation will only ever be as strong as your character.
Special thanks to Andy Beal for taking the time to share his expertise with our audience. Be sure to continue to read OnlineReputation.com for the latest news and actionable tips to improve your online reputation, while also seeing who our latest featured ORM expert is each week!