Have you ever been to a store and had just awful service? A sales person ignores you, or worse, is outright rude? Maybe you had to send back your meal at a restaurant three times because your food was cold? It’s happened to all of us at some point and, if you’re like me, ten minutes after you’ve left the store or paid the check at the restaurant, you’ve come up with the perfect, eloquent response to make your displeasure known. The only problem is that the moment has passed—your opportunity to make your feelings public is gone. So you go home wishing you could turn back the clock and speak your mind when you had the chance.
But, with the prominence of internet message boards, blogs, consumer review sites and social networking sites today, we all go home to a whole host of platforms to voice our concerns, issues and displeasures before the frustration wears off. These tools are so much a part of our daily lives that, in many cases, our friends, family and colleagues know more about our daily lives through the internet than from face-to-face interactions. My cousin, who I see in person maybe three times a year, knows where I ate dinner last night from my social networking profile and where I shopped for clothes through my blog.
So what does this all have to do with SEO? When consumers complete any transaction with your business and return to their daily lives, they interact online. I can Twitter about my terrible waiter, or blog about the service person who just left me waiting for 20 minutes. Imagine that your website ranks number one for “Indianapolis fine dining restaurant” in Google search results, but my blog post, “My nightmare service at Your Restaurant,” describing the terrible service I had at your restaurant, ranks number two. What affect will that have on your business and your reputation? What I say about your business, what any consumer chooses to share online, becomes content that search engines can display to the world.
If you can spare about 10 minutes out of your day, you can effectively and efficiently monitor your reputation online. What others say about you and your business can be just as influential as what you say about yourself. To truly have effective and successful SEO, you need to monitor what else is influencing your search results.
5 Minutes – The Daily Summary
Set up daily, comprehensive Google Alerts for your company name, your website address, the names of public figures in the company (c-level executives, board members, etc.), exclusive product or service names and common misspellings of all of the above. These alerts arrive in your email everyday and give you a quick snapshot of what appears all over the web for those terms, whether it be blog posts, news stories, content on websites—even message board content and posts from consumer review sites will often appear in your Google Alerts.
Take 5 minutes every day to scan the summaries you get with your alerts. If you see something you think may be about you or your company, visit the site and read the full post or article.
Bonus: If you want to add a few minutes to your daily routine, here are two things you can add to your reputation management to-do list:
Start a PR Report. Using these Google Alerts, keep a log or spreadsheet of all mentions of your company, what publication or forum they were in, and the date. It adds only a few minutes to your routine but, at the end of a month, quarter, or year, you can look back and see what publications or news outlets are interested in your company and who is talking about you consistently. This can help with planning traditional and online advertising as well as adjusting or starting new public relations efforts.
Monitor the Competition. Set Google Alerts for local and regional competitor’s names and keep up with what the competition’s online reputation. Learn from the mistakes of others and keep track of how others in your industry are perceived and how their business evolves.
5 Minutes – The Social Media Search
Google Alerts are great, but you have to double check. You can search the content of blogs and other social media content, including social networking profiles, quickly and easily using sites such as Serph or IceRocket. Simply run queries on the same terms you have set for your Google Alerts, and add a few more here and there just to test out what terms give you the most relevant results. Do the same searches specifically for message boards with BoardReader and see what people are saying on message services like Twitter, and on message boards all over the world. Results are displayed in chronological order so, if you do this every day, you shouldn’t need more than a few seconds to review what new items have popped up in the last 24 hours. As always, if it’s about you or your business, take the time to go and read the content.
Bonus: A couple more minutes can help you make better informed business decisions. Try this if you want to take advantage of your online reputation management routine:
Watch the Trends. Whether you’re BtoB or BtoC, selling products or services, blogs and social networking content is a great way to see how people respond to the products you sell, services you provide, and learn about consumer expectations. Run queries on the names of the products you sell and see what people think. Try searching service types and learn about consumer experiences and expectations. Learn about price expectations, quality and purchase trends. Use this information when adjusting purchasing or sales strategies—it’s not stuff you’ll find in a typical report or industry publication.
And Finally, Tips for Success
To assure that you’re successful in monitoring and shaping your online reputation, there are two very important tips to remember. First, get involved in the conversation, and second, don’t get caught up in the negative.
When you see online conversations about your industry, your products, or your company, use the opportunity to learn from your consumers and get involved in the discussion. Whether it’s posting questions for consumers to message boards or commenting on the benefits of a product line on a blog, create content that is positive for you and your company for search engines to find and display to consumers.
Participate positively—don’t get caught responding to the typical, negative comments and complaints. They happen, and they can be difficult to accept and to see, but if you get in the habit of responding to these you’re actually making the comments seem more credible and serious. Concentrate on participating in positive conversation and creating content for search engines that would counterbalance any negative that might appear on the web. Proactive is the best approach.
For more tips and tools to help you quickly and efficiently monitor your online reputation, take a look at 34 Online Reputation Management Tools or this Online Reputation Management article from SEMPO.