The first impression and perceived reputation that can be found when someone searches for your personal name, brand or business online can have a huge impact in both your personal and business success.
For individuals, everything from how you run you personal life, take on new job opportunities and how others have a perception of you first come to mind.
From a business and brand perspective, it's more about customer loyalty, bringing in new sales and how negative online reviews and content can influence buyer decisions.
No matter what area of reputation management you are looking at, it's important to appreciate and follow through on the advice given by experts within our industry.
This is exactly why we continue to bring you some of the smartest minds in the industry when it comes to monitoring and repairing your online reputation through our weekly "Ask the Reputation Management Expert" series.
Chris Martin 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: We started out offering reputation management services in 2007 under the name ReputationHawk. It’s a boutique firm where we usually run campaigns for 20-40 clients at a time. In 2010 we started working on automating some of our internal processes and we launched the first version of Repumatic. Repumatic is a streamlined, fully transparent, low cost system that can be used as a Do It Yourself platform or 100% turnkey low cost concierge services.
Q: What is an online reputation specialist and why are they now so valuable to businesses and brands?
A: I think it’s someone who can provide a solution for any online reputation problem or need. I think an online reputation specialist should also be able to provide insights and know where to point people if their service offering is not ideal for the specific project.
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: You can really just take your pick. There are so many solutions for Reputation Monitoring out there these days. You can use Google alerts or something more robust. Andy Beal has a good one with Trackur. In Repumatic we offer free reputation monitoring. We break it up into three categories with a defamation monitor, social, and review monitoring.
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: It’s a tough landscape. First you have to deal with trust algorithms in search engines that can favor sites like Yelp, Ripoff Report and others. Then you have to deal with negativity bias, a psychological phenomena where humans are attracted to negative information. IE Company is great / Company is a scam! (Which one would you click on?) So you have negative reviews on sites that already have high trust scores in search engines and those search engines track users clicking those links. Of course we do that because of our engrained negativity bias, but search engines don’t know that. The web sites hosting negative content just end up with higher relevancy scores. It’s a tough combination for businesses and can drive negative reviews to the top of search results in a hurry.
If you don’t have any negative reviews then keep building your online presence as a proactive measure and hope your luck continues. Sooner or later though as you get more exposure and volume you will end up with a wacky customer or unethical competitor bashing you online.
If it’s a major site like Yelp or Google reviews then hopefully they used bad language. Then it’s just a matter of flagging them for being inappropriate. If not you have to encourage customers with positive experiences to post reviews. This is more in the realm of band aids than permanent fixes. If the post is really damaging and you aren’t that big yet then you may need to consider rebranding under an alternate name. If you do so make sure to build out your online rep in advance.
Most other unwanted publicity can be suppressed in search engines with a strong reputation management campaign. This can however be cost prohibitive. Reputation Management companies typically charge anywhere from $500 - $10,000/Month. The Repumatic service is $199/Month but even that can be a stretch for some small businesses.
If it’s a clear case of defamation and the poster left an online footprint then you can of course pursue a defamation case. Once the case is settled you can send the court order to Google and other search engines with a request to remove the reviews/links. This process unfortunately involves a lot of time, stress, and money and can get a little mind boggling tracking down every scraper site with an automated bot that reposted the content on sites hosted in places like Russia, Taiwan, etc.
Q: Of all the review sites online, which are most harmful to a brands reputation and how should they be approached?
A: Yelp and Ripoff Report have had favor in search engines for quite a while. But it can really be any site. Someone could launch a new site on blogspot and fill it with allegations, photos, etc and it can move into the top 3 under the individual or business name in search engines.
The important thing to remember is most negative publicity can be suppressed. The concept is to make your search results competitive. If your name is Bob Smith Inc. You want to make the Bob Smith Inc search results competitive with new, fresh content on a variety of web sites. Fortunately the negative press is going to get more and more outdated. Even in cases of online stalkers, they grow tired after a few months of posting and move onto something else. Search engines do have algorithms like “QDF” Query Deserves Freshness, so you can use that to your advantage. As long as you keep creating quality content and don’t give up, you should see the unwanted info start to fall onto page 2, 3 and lower in your search results.
Q: How is social media changing the way brands need to monitor what is being said about them outside of the search engines?
A: Any business that is active on social media will naturally be monitoring facebook, twitter, etc. With social media it’s mainly about responding and working with the person that is complaining. Some companies will offer discounts, refunds, etc in return for editing/removing the comment. This has been an interesting development over the last 5 years. Social media can drive a lot of business, but there’s a flip side. For example I was talking to someone that owns a local screen printing business. A customer was in the store shouting over this monogram that she said was crooked. To other customers and employees it looked perfectly straight. But the customer was freaking out. They had to redo it several times and took the loss. Someone in the room heard the story and said “Well I would have been like…” And the owner said “Yeah and then she’ll just bash me on Facebook.”
Q: What are some of the best ways to build a protective wall around your brand to prevent future attacks and negative content?
A: The main thing is to get out of the mindset of creating one profile site with some links to your social media accounts. There are a variety of platforms built around this concept. Yes, that one site will probably move onto your front page in search engines and that one site linking to your social media accounts will provide a very slight boost for those sites as well. But when you search any name, whether it’s in Google, Yahoo, or Bing. There is page 1 with 10 listings, page 2 with another 10 listings, page 3 with another 10 etc. That is the format we have to work with. So you have to get out of the mindset of creating one site that will occupy a single listing and move to the mentality of creating a network of sites that will move into the top 30. Then backlink your positive press with that network. That is how you make your search results competitive and protect yourself from negative attacks. The Reumatic platform is built around this simple truth.
Q: Outside of businesses and brands, how are everyday people being affected by negative attacks and what can they do to protect themselves?
A: For many people it’s something like a DUI and now their mugshot is the first thing that shows up when you search their name. Online stalker type cases are also pretty common as well as misinformation in search engines. Times have changed so much in the last decade. When we want information it’s ingrained in us all to go to search engines. It’s a good idea to regularly search your name and additional keywords like location, company and survey the results. You may find something extremely negative appearing, but it could be someone else with a similar name. Don’t just move on because that’s not you. If an HR manager stumbles across that site and quickly moves onto the next applicant than this listing is officially your problem. You need to start building out more positive content on multiple sites and linking to the sites you want to rank higher. This will put pressure on that site and you should see it fall to page 2, 3 etc over time.
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: If you have some funds to work with and are short on time then hire a reputation management service. If you need to go 100% DIY then remember to adopt the mindset of building a network, not a single site with some links. Remember this one thing and you should be good – I need to create multiple sites on multiple hosts with unique content that I keep updated.
Special thanks to Chris Martin 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!