Today’s world is constantly connected, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This means what we say as individuals and as representatives of our workplace matters. At the same time, the Internet is ubiquitous and for both individuals and businesses, the narrative created online about them is hugely important. What others say about you online can make or break a personal reputation and bring down a business or brand.
Other people’s perception of you and your business begins with the front page of Google. When your name, brand or business is entered into Google, no matter what, the first few links dictate who and what you are.
Online reputation management is a specific strategy to weaken or eliminate any negative online chat, and to promote the positive. This puts you in the best possible light when people search your name online.
When people search your business or your name online, you must ensure there is a good first impression right on the front page. Search engine results can be anything from media headlines, blog posts, social media posts, online reviews and anything else that flags the name of you or your business.
If the first page results are positive, people will want to use your services. If they’re not and the front page of search results are packed with poor reviews, bad press and negative headlines, they won’t. It’s as simple as that.
A lot. The true impact of online reviews is massive:
Additionally, 68% of people will pay more for the same service or product if they are reassured by positive reviews that they will have a good customer experience.
Keeping on top of online reviews and having a credible, workable strategy in place to respond can mitigate harm done by negative impressions.
And negative content, reviews, press and social media trolls can absolutely harm your business. Almost half of businesses have either suffered the damage caused by negative press coverage and reviews or are concerned about it. This is up from 29% in 2014 to 46% today.
A problem with online reviews, of course, is that they can be unsubstantiated, completely false, part of a negative campaign by trolls or similar. This leaves businesses vulnerable and in need of a clear review management strategy.
It’s not just reviews that need to be monitored. In today’s online world, every business should run regular online audits. This means reviewing the impact of social media posts about them, online reviews, any blogs, media articles or other comments online. The importance of online audits can’t be understated.
More than half of businesses say that they have been adversely affected by unsubstantiated reviews, while negative content of some kind has cost one in 20 UK businesses more than £500,000.
Online Reputation Management experts Igniyte found that a fifth of companies are concerned about their Google page 1 results. On the flipside, highly visible, easily searchable positive results on Google’s front page can influence reputation, perception, consumer behaviour, individual and business success.
The CEO of a business has both an individual and a business reputation to maintain online. According to business executives, the reputation of their company can be directly linked with the reputation of their individual CEO.
And consumer online searching affects local businesses too. A staggering 97% of consumers say that they actively search online for local businesses, and 12 % do this every single day. Almost 90% will go through this comparison process for every purchase they make.
Should a brand respond well to a consumer complaint, 45% will post a positive online review or other interaction (for example, social media post or blog). Almost the same amount will share the experience with their friends. Every step a company or individual makes online is important.
As well as individuals reflecting their company reputation through their online posts, how people appear in search results impacts their prospects.
Social recruiting is a fast-growing sector with virtually every business and recruitment consultant using social recruiting in some form. This means that everything an individual displays publicly online, whether on social media channels, networking platforms such as LinkedIn or through a pattern of online reviews is scrutinised.
Statistics show that almost 75% of recruiters have identified successful candidates using social media platforms. And almost the same number of employers use social media to actively screen these candidates.
This extends further too, with many companies (particularly in the finance sphere) obliged to conduct statutory ‘Know Your Customer’ checks on new and existing customers, which have their own KYC GDPR considerations.
Interestingly, it’s not a good strategy to simply have zero online presence. Around 57% of employers are far less likely to call a candidate for interview if they can find no online presence. And just over half decline to hire candidate directly because of their social media posts.
It works the other way too. Almost 70% of candidates will consider rejecting a company if it has a poor reputation online.
There are clear and identifiable benefits of online reputation management:
Part of taking control of online reputation management means actively building an effective company reputation. As well as removing any negative content or implementing the right to be forgotten, there are a number of ways businesses can achieve positive online content.
Creating a strong online portfolio that includes online brochures, white papers, blogs, corporate websites, social media profiles, professional profiles for platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Crunchbase can all boost online reputation. They must always include regularly refreshed content that is high quality, unique and relevant.
A social media response strategy is important for a business concerned about its online reputation. Social media evolves all the time. It is used by companies and brands to sell products and services, but by increasingly sophisticated customer expression too. To keep clients and customers happy all the time, it’s vital to have a proper response strategy in place.
Simply put, the more front-page search engine results by the business the better. This allows companies and brands to control what people searching you online see. In conjunction with a great website, you want to see the positive reviews, social media posts, PR, articles, profiles and media coverage.
More companies are coming to the realisation that online reputation is vitally important and worth protecting. From a survey of 500 decision makers and business owners, more than half say that their business has been adversely affected by negative online content.
One of the biggest areas of concern is what competitors say online. Another is malicious postings by ex-employees, current employees who are unhappy or bad online reviews from customers. Another major area of concern, of course, is any negative media coverage that is flagged up on the first two pages of Google search results of the brand or business name.
As online reputation management becomes more essential at a global level, it’s important for businesses to actively monitor their online coverage. Companies can take positive steps to influence and in some cases control what appears on the Internet about them. This helps to properly reflect the brand or busines values and keep track of untrue, malicious or unwanted information appearing in online searches.
As well as monitoring what others are saying, businesses must also build a sustainable and positive online presence. The repercussions and impact of a poor online reputation range from loss of revenue to loss of face. By developing and managing a positive online reputation, businesses are more likely to impress clients, customers, stakeholders and associates.
Online reputation management should be strategic and thorough and should not only come into play when there is a crisis. And it should entail monitoring.
Search engines periodically alter the way they rank websites, so as a business you must monitor your search results. Type the name of the company or brand into Google using a private search page and review what it looks like. You will see the difference from week to week.
To ensure social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn rank well on Google, you must include specific key phrases with the appropriate company name and content.
If there are positive online news stories from any press (national, international and local) then these links will boost the profile of your company if the name is within the title and body copy of the story.
Failing to actively monitor images, content and comments across search engines, forums, social media sites and blogs is one of the biggest mistakes many companies make. Monitoring the online sentiment aimed at the brand or business can help to understand competitor and customer behaviour. Use Google Alerts for key search terms, such as the business name and you will get automatic notifications of mentions.
A fifth of business leaders are unhappy about the way their company is perceived due to their Google page one search results. The way people communicate online changes all the time, and there are growing risk factors for businesses with the following online issues:
The way businesses use social media is extremely important. A flippant or inappropriate comment can circulate very quickly. Businesses should be aware of the risks surrounding confidentiality, potentially using false or defamatory information and other risks. If the information then goes viral, the company’s reputation will be severely damaged, and they lose control of their online reputation.
It’s vital for businesses to monitor what is being said about them online. Heavily used reviews sites, such as Trustpilot, rank highly on Google. This means that what people say on them is very visible to the general public. The majority of information published online about businesses by customers is via independent websites and blogs. Companies do not have control over these. Negative comments from customers can be turned into a positive in terms of online reputation management if businesses use them in the right way, take action and rectify the problem.
What happens if a journalist publishes a negative article about a business? While we all know that media should be objective and carefully fact checked, this doesn’t always happen. If the article is factually correct, then removing it from online searches is difficult. The best way to tackle it is to concentrate on getting positive press onto the Internet to push it down the rankings.
However, if the link is to an article that is false, there are procedures to follow. Businesses that have strategic and sustained media campaigns are usually better placed to get rid of negative press from the first page of Google. This is because the negative links have to compete with all of the positive press. This can be generated through PR outreach, but also by publishing high quality articles on the company’s website and social media channels. This strengthens the company’s online reputation and improves the Google search listings.
As the Internet is for everyone, there is little a business can do to stop someone starting a negative online campaign against them. While any slanderous material can be reported, the damage is already there in terms of online reputation. Many review sites, media sites and blogs will not respond to any request for content removal. The Google Removal Tool can be used but only where the content is judged to be clearly defamatory or through legal proceedings. The right to be forgotten can be used if the negative content uses data unlawfully. You can find our article on the right to be forgotten under the GDPR regulations here.
Whether your name is being searched because you’ve applied for a job, own a company or for any other reason, what people find online will influence what they think of you.
People who want to know more about you will look at your professional profiles on sites like LinkedIn and Crunchbase and will look for your social media posts too. They’ll also notice if there is any news coverage about you.
Try Googling yourself and notice the results on the first page of Google. Think of these as the headline to the general media story about you as a person. Consider whether these links truly reflect you as an individual and whether they should be altered to better represent you.
A properly managed online personal reputation shows individuals in the very best light possible. This means they benefit from a credible yet highly visible online profile. This generates trust in others, whether they’re clients, peers, customers or colleagues. A curated but honest individual online reputation attracts new opportunities and acts as a safeguard against any negative press.
Actively building up a positive online reputation protects the individual from negative headlines. This is because anything negative has to fight against all the positive links, coverage, videos, articles, blogs, reviews and comments. Protecting your personal online reputation can, therefore, reduce the risk of ever having to deal with an individual reputation crisis.
Any negative Google front page results concern individuals, but the flipside of this is that any positive links will influence other peoples’ perception of them in a positive way. This matters whether the individual is job hunting, selling something or wants to be seen as a thought leader in their industry.
Employers do check the online reputation of a candidate. And more than half won’t hire you if something concerning to them can be seen on social media channels or Google’s front page. It’s not all about Google, of course, there are other search engines to consider too.
But whichever search engine is used to look at you as an individual, remember that Google, Bing and any other don’t care about your personal reputation. Algorithms will pull up bad links (if they are there) as well as good and depending on the results can completely drown out any positivity.
All of this is why it’s essential to take control not only of your business online reputation, but also your personal online reputation.