I recently had the opportunity to interview Don Sorensen, president of Big Blue Robot, a well-respected reputation management authority, to discuss the status of online reputation management. Sorensen recently presented at the Financial Times Future of Marketing Summit discussing online reputation management and he has successfully guided numerous companies and CEO's through the process of improving their online reputation. With so many opinions out there on the subject, including, "Is online reputation management dead?" I asked him what points he could share that would help companies successfully improve their online reputation.
Sorensen advises, "Online reputation management is very much alive and inevitable in this digital age, it's time for companies to improve their reputation management strategy or suffer the consequences. Businesses need to understand the inherent significance that a positive online reputation has on their company and its bottom line." So what is the key factor? "Take control and improve your strategy."
Why would someone want to bang their head against a wall? It hurts, it wastes time, and it looks pretty silly to boot. But many companies are metaphorically banging their heads against a wall with their reputation management strategy. Although the search world keeps changing, these companies still employ the same tactics they always have in an attempt to mold a great search engine results page and solidify their online reputation with continually diminishing returns.
Why are companies using the same reputation strategy they have used for the past number of years? In most cases Sorensen suggests it's because they don't know they need to change, or they simply don't want to put the effort into creating a new strategy.
"If you aren't changing your reputation management strategy to reflect the current trends in search, get ready for some headaches. On the other hand, if you'd like to try something different, I have some substantial reasons to update your strategy." According to Sorensen, it is much easier to take control than react to negative situations online. Sorensen outlines a path.
The Google Crackdown
Ever since the Panda and Penguin updates Google has been going after content farms and link spam much more aggressively. And they'll continue to do so in the coming years. Not only are their algorithms getting more complex, but Google is handing out warnings and penalizing sites that don't more strictly adhere to their policies and guidelines for quality sites. If your reputation management strategy has employed questionable tactics in the past, now is the time to change up your strategy to avoid penalties that could leave you open to attack.
Sorensen recommends doing a Google search on your business name, be familiar with first-page results and learn why certain websites consistently take top spots. Also, set up Google Alerts for your company and brand names. This way you can monitor what is going on online.
The Growth of Social
Just a few years ago it was still okay for a company to ignore the social web. Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites were considered immature and unproven. But that is no longer true. In fact, the fastest growing demographic for Facebook is the 55-plus crowd. Today, social needs to be a part of any marketing strategy and is essential to successful reputation management. Social profiles are easy to create and they take up space in the Google results, improving a company's online reputation.
In addition, Google is increasingly relying on social signals to determine page rank. If a company is not using social at this point, it's time to change. So how do you take advantage of this? Sorensen advises companies to secure social profiles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Tumblr and Pinterest. He also suggests creating a YouTube channel with at least three to five company or product videos, being sure to title the videos first with the company name. He also recommends assigning a member of the marketing team the task of posting news, ideas and short commentary on all of the social media profiles.
The Rise of Mobile
Many experts in the industry agree that 2013 is the year of mobile. A larger portion of the population is using smart phones and other wireless devices to access the internet. This means that a larger portion of users are taking advantage of mobile devices to search for company names as well as upload and create reviews and other content on the fly. Google has already begun optimizing results for content that is mobile friendly. Companies need to be more vigilant about online reviews affecting brand-targeted searches, and it's time to get on the bandwagon with mobile.
The World is Changing
There is a reason we don't see beeper stores anymore. Technology has moved on and the culture with it. Look for trends and be ready to adapt to those trends or your online reputation may suffer. Sorensen says one specific way to address this change is to develop an active public relations strategy and use major press sites like PRWeb or PRNewswire.
Stop the Headaches
History has proven that companies and individuals who were unwilling to change and try new strategies and new technologies have dried up and failed (remember MySpace?). It's a new playground, time for renewal and change. Take this opportunity to update your reputation management strategy. Become a thought leader by having your executives write insightful blog posts about your industry, create an online forum for customer support and be actively involved in charitable giving and create a separate website to highlight your work.
Online reputation management is far from dead. It's do or die. Bottom line, take control of your reputation online now, and it won't come back to haunt you in the future. Social media is a way of life and is finds its way into all aspects of our lives. You can either decide to proactive control it, or allow it to do the same.