All it takes is one disgruntled former employee, a single dissatisfied customer or a malicious competitor to mar and even ruin your company’s reputation online.
(Really… why are we plagued with malicious competitors anyway? Haven’t they heard there is plenty of room for everyone?)
A reputation challenge can be disastrous for your business and brand, and the damage can sometimes take ages to repair, if you can overcome the damage at all. (Enron people? Granted that was a huge scandal, not just a disgruntled employee attack, but hey… a bad rep is a bad rep!)
Sometimes companies wind up having to rename and rebrand themselves completely just to overcome a poor reputation. That’s definitely not ideal.
That said- there are ways you can protect your online reputation and help to ensure that your company does not fall prey to cyber reputation attacks. (Other than just being a stellar and above reproach business of course, which I know you are!)
Own Yo’ Name
This is the simplest, yet most overlooked way to protect your reputation online. Purchase your company’s name as a domain name and purchase a few closely related domain names as well.
If your company’s name is “Photography by Alan Fisher,” purchase additional domain names like allenfisherphotography.com, and alanfisherphotos.com, for example.
When you own the domain name, you control the information that can be categorized under it.
Search engines seem to give a lot of weight to domain names that directly match a user’s search term, so owning your own domain name is a big key to owning the top search engine listings that are associated with your company.
Obviously this requires a bit of investment, but if investing in your reputation isn’t important for your business I’m not sure how long you will even be in business anyway. Truth.
Be Proactive Instead of Reactive
Flood the Web with positive information about your company. Obviously this doesn’t mean manufacture “good press” or anything shady. However if you have people singing your praises and they give you their permission to use their praise… plaster those bad boys all across the board, wherever you are given leave to!
This will make it difficult for someone’s negative comments about your company to carry weight. If there are 400 pages that list positive information about your business, and one forum comment from a disgruntled ex-employee, that negative information likely won’t even be seen by your customers.
Not only that, if you have pages of positive information about you and your business, even if those negative comments do pop up in results they will be so outnumbered that most folks won’t give them too much thought.
They will see them for the transparent attempt to muddy up your reputation that they are.
Don’t Feed Fires
If you see negative information about your company, don’t respond directly to it. Posting a response to a negative forum post, blog comment, or entry only gives the page it’s published on more weight and credibility, further damaging your reputation while simultaneously resisting your efforts at gaining control of the situation.
To respond to negative information, you must create new pages with accurate information.
This is a much more effective strategy and it still gives you the opportunity to respond to the criticism in a quick, efficient and positive manner, which only makes you look even better in the eyes of your customers.
Monitor Your Web Reputation Closely
There are online programs that will alert you when your company’s name is mentioned online. Sign up for these alerts and stay on top of negative information before it has a chance to spread.
I like Google Alerts myself.
Simple, free, and effective.
You can also utilize a tool called TweetBeep to monitor your company and brand on Twitter as well.
Regardless of what tools you use, it’s vital for you to formulate a plan to stop the spread of bad press before it starts. This will help to keep negative information from going viral, which is definitely what you don’t want!
When Floundering- Hire an Expert
Please don’t mistake me for one! I can only offer tips that may or may not be helpful to your situation and it’s up to you what you do with them.
Online reputation management can be a time-consuming process. The art of creating new content that will erase (or at least counter-attack) negative information can be tricky. Search engines frequently change their formulas for finding web pages, just to make things difficult.
I highly recommend a professional online reputation management firm to handle the legwork and headaches for you, and especially if you are currently struggling with a negative situation. The faster you can start to mitigate the damage the better your chances of overcoming it.
Be proactive and seek out help to ensure that your company’s name is squeaky clean and protect your online reputation from cyber attacks. That’s the absolute best advice I can give you.
Hey fellow dork. If you found this post useful can you do me the itty bitty favor of sharing it with your pals? Mucho appreciate it! And feel free to share any thoughts or your own experiences and wisdom in the comments below. I’d love to hear it!