Online Reputation Management 101: How Businesses Can Maintain a Positive PresenceDecember 19, 2012 By Cliff Stein
There's an old saying that all publicity is good publicity. While that may have been true in the glory days of morning newspapers and Yellow Pages listings, it's hardly characteristic of today's marketing realities. The truth is that consumers — eager to protect their resources and make informed purchasing decisions — are more likely than ever to consult search engines before doing business with a company or investing in a brand. What consumers find online has the potential to either make or break a company, regardless of industry or niche.
Business owners and marketing directors would do well to ask this question: When a user conducts a Google or Bing search for brand X, what does he or she see? A list of rave reviews is more likely to end in conversion; a litany of customer complaints is likely to become a missed sales opportunity. For businesses, then, online reputation management is key — and it all starts with crafting a strong, positive online presence.
Playing ball with the search engines
The first order of business is to understand exactly how search engines select their rankings, and how businesses can ensure that they control the top rankings for their brand name. Google is obsessive about providing search engine users with "relevant" content and accurate information, and the other search engines tend to follow suit. Therefore, in any given web search, search engines are likely to award the top rankings to sites that they deem to be closely associated with the brand name in question.
What does this means for businesses? You need to own and control those sites. This means purchasing all of the exact match domain names for the brand in question. Having ownership over the high-ranking domains for your brand is the best way to ensure peace of mind from a reputation management standpoint.
Once those domain names are purchased, brands turn their attention to the ongoing work of keeping those sites favorable in Google's eyes. This is done through creating fresh and compelling content, not shady practices such as keyword stuffing or other instances of black-hat SEO. These practices sometimes work and sometimes don't, but Google is ever zealous for cracking down on them, so they are, at best, a risky and temporary investment. A better approach is to focus on the creation of content that's designed for consumption by human readers, not search bots. Ironically, this is the best way to appease said search bots and to strengthen search engine rankings.