I was asked recently by a company interested in my skill sets about search reputation management and I essentially said it is all about listening. Knowing how to listen and knowing where to listen and knowing what tools to use to listen are all critical. The reason is, there are so many places where your company, brand, or name can be discussed, but trying to be everywhere at once is a challenge, so it’s important that you use as many monitoring sources as possible to keep as on top of it as is humanly possible.
But more importantly, it’s also imperative to consolidate or use as many aggregators as possible. Here are some of the ones I use to listen and why I think they are important in just the listening aspect. Once I get past the listening, then I will show you the tools I use to specifically manage and drive down a negative online reputation. Your methods might be different and I understand that, but these are just mine.
Google Alerts and Google News and Google BlogSearch– I absolutely love these because of the simplistic nature and the ability to tie it into igoogle/reader/email alerts.
Another monitoring tool I have been using a lot of lately has been Filtrbox. The results are not where I would like them to be on a consistent basis, but that might just mean I need to tweak and adjust them some.
I’ve also used Trackur, it’s a pretty robust tool that can track any news mention of a particular term but… it also searches over everything from images, blogs, news sites, and videos. Great filters.
Some others I’ve used are Blogpulse to track conversations but not as extensively, as well, I’ve obviously used Delicious to see who’s book marking our sites and Keotag for a down and dirty quick look to see who is tagging certain key words.
Don’t discount the usage of tracking your reputation on forums and BBS sites. I met these guys Twing, at the Web 2.0 expo up in New York and they have a sweet product. Prior to meeting them, I had been using Boardtracker, which I still use from time to time.
With the 10 tools/Sites I have mentioned you can have a pretty good handle on monitoring the online reputation of your company or business. If you desire more, then you can set up RSS feeds from other sources to pipe in the information that you desire. Speaking of Pipes, I’ve been playing around with Yahoo Pipes as of late but haven’t really formulated an opinion on it yet. Finally I’d be remiss if I did not mention Radian6, another monitoring type of company, but more on a social media level. I have done a few twebinars with them in which they hosted the event.
My thoughts on this are simple: Identify the point or source of pain and then you can begin to treat it.
By Listening, we can now determine the amount of management that will be needed to drive down the noise. In some cases the noise may be contained quickly and effectively with a few choice blog posts or articles or comments. But in some cases, it requires a larger and more concerted effort.
Now To manage and drive down a bad reputation, there are certain things that are a must and if you have not done these things yet, then you are way behind the eight-ball so to speak. First and Foremost, I would like to see/audit your current website. Is the message working? Is the content serving the right purpose? Is there any content that’s worth it’s weight? Sure most will admit that having a website is sufficient, but a website that doesn’t work for you, for SEO, or for your customers is useless. Even more-so, if it’s with reputation management in mind. So lets see what we can do right off the bat that may improve your company’s web presence just by improving a website that might be hurting. In some instances, just optimizing a few more pages either better, or for the first time may be enough to at least drive negative press off the first page of the SERP’s.
However, another way to continue to push down a negative reputation is to create a blog-site. A free one, no less. It doesn’t have to be a robust, busy, “chock-full of stuff” type of site. Just a site that has the right key-words, tags and page elements will do. And who knows, if you allow it, maybe it will become another viable channel of doing business for you? This effort is completely measurable as well because of the analytics associated with some of the Free services like Typepad and WordPress. Again blog sites are very search engine friendly. Speaking of analytics, you better have something in place, I’ll assume you do.
Once the blog-site is done you have a couple more website options. You can create some micro sites devoted to your company, product, or keywords and or you can create sub domains. Either way, the more pages you can get out there that have more to do about what is right with your company than what is wrong, the better off you will be.
The great thing about all of these suggestions is that they are completely measurable, can happen very quickly, and you can adapt or change your tactics on the fly. The proof is there for the client to see.
Taking a cue from what social media has to offer, I would highly recommend creating a social media presence via LinkedIn, Ning and Facebook, Flickr or YouTube or a Podcast. Doing none of them is not a good thing. Of the group, obviously if we’re talking corporate presence I would go with Facebook first followed by Ning and Linkedin. Since LinkedIn is more of a personal networking, branding type of social site, I would rank it a tad bit lower. With Facebook, you can create a group devoted to your company. With YouTube, Flickr, or a Podcast, you can create audio visual elements of photos, videos or audio, tagged with key words and company references which will all be search engine friendly and also increasing the company reputation.
I’d also suggest creating a wiki devoted to your company as well. You could even created a wiki-how on something that your company might do. Search engines love wiki results.
One thing that seems to work rather well, actually 2, are creating or writing articles that you can submit about a topic that can be linked backed to you and your company. This is huge in pushing down negative elements. The other is PR Press releases. There are at least 20 Free PR sites out there in which you can create a PR release that can become SE friendly quicker than you can say Widget.
Speaking of widgets. If I wanted a viral reaction to my company, my product or my service, I would look into the creation of a widget that can be shared and virally spread to users. SpringWidgets allows you to create a Free widget which you could then drop on all of your social networking sites in which you have a presence. I know it might not be relevant to everyone, but when it comes to managing a bad reputation, I have to look at this challenge almost from a Guerilla marketing standpoint. Everything is fair game, in other words.
One last option would be to create a Google page devoted to your company through Google sites. Google sites is a way to create CMS type of web pages that the public can actually see and that are searched on. Anything that originates through, Google, has to be Google friendly, right?
In conclusion, managing and monitoring your reputation online are 2 very separate but equal acts that are uniquely joined at the hip. To ignore one for the other or vice versa is not highly recommended.