In 2023, your online reputation is one of your greatest assets - and potential risk areas. If you do not have a reputation management strategy in place, your reputation will be determined entirely by what others say about you.
In order to carry out an effective reputation management strategy, you need a plan. In this article, I will talk about the basics when it comes to reputation management, what makes up your online reputation, and how to audit and influence your own online reputation.
What is a reputation management strategy?
A reputation management strategy is a blueprint for influencing the narrative about you, your brand, or your business online. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to reputation management, but any effective online reputation management (ORM) strategy will be multifaceted and take into account anything that may influence your reputation, be it positive or negative.
What makes up your online reputation?
Your online reputation is made up of anything about you online. This can include:
- Owned assets, such as your website, blog, and social media profiles
- Reviews on platforms like Google Reviews, Yelp, etc.
- Social media conversations around your business, brand, or products,
- Content, such as news features, long-form reviews, videos, podcasts featuring higher-ups at your company, etc.
I say that your online reputation is made up of anything, as opposed to everything, because another critical factor in your online reputation is where these things rank in search results. The top three results for a Google search average roughly over 50% of clicks. As you go lower in results, this number drops off quickly, with those in the tenth spot earning nearly 0% of clicks.
Prior to the introduction of continuous scroll, as little as 0.63% of users went to the second page of Google. Although the discrepancy between the tenth and eleventh spots may be slightly reduced, results below the fold - the top five Google search results - are not likely to receive nearly as many clicks on average.
While anything that is indexed - meaning it will show up in Google search results - can technically be found, it is unlikely that users will search the incredibly specific phrases to find the results ranking lower for your branded keywords. What’s more, links that rank well for one keyword often rank well for several others, so users are likely to see similar results for related searches even as searches are refined or made more specific.
Where to Start: Audit Your Online Presence
Before you can begin developing your reputation management strategy, you need to know where you stand. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses, opportunities for quick or long-term wins, threats to your reputation, and how you stack up against competitors can help you prioritize your action items and ensure that you are addressing the most foundational or pressing issues first.
To audit your online reputation, open an incognito browser with a cleared cache. First, search for your name, or your company or brand name, and take note of what you see. Things to look for include:
- Relevance of results: are the results that populate for your keyword relevant to your or your business, or do other people and businesses come up?
- Suggested and related search: what terms populate after your keyword in the search bar or at the bottom of the first page of results? What kind of information are they looking for? Are they generally positive, negative, or neutral?
- Google features: does your business have a knowledge panel or Google My Business listing? Is there a People Also Ask (PAA) box and, if so, are the questions negative or positive? What kind of information are those questions seeking out? Is there an image or video bar populating for your business?
- Reviews: do you have Google Reviews, Yelp reviews, or other review platforms ranking? What is your overall rating? How many reviews do you have?
- Press coverage: have you received press coverage? Is the publication local, national, or international? Are the articles generally positive, negative, or neutral? How old are the articles? Do the articles focus primarily on your business, or is your business briefly named?
- Where do results rank: do your owned assets rank at the top of your results? If not, what is outranking them? Are your top results generally positive or negative? If you do have negative results, do they rank above the fold? Where do results rank in other tabs, such as the news or image tab?
Once you have assessed the results for your exact match keyword, run through other related keywords. Consider searches that customers may use to find you (a product name, a shortened version of your brand name, etc.) as well as search terms that could bring up certain kinds of results (such as “[company name] reviews” or “[company name] lawsuit”). There are many phrases and ways that users can find information about you or your business online, so be sure to include any relevant terms.
In addition to auditing your Google search results, you will want to audit social media conversations around your business. Take a look at the conversations on your business’s pages and search your keyword(s) with various websites to see prominent posts about your business (such as “[business name] reddit” or “[business name] facebook”).
When you have completed your audit, answer the following:
- Is the overall sentiment positive, negative, neutral, or a mix?
- Are the properties that rank for your branded keywords related to your business?
- Are there any properties that are missing that you would like to rank for you?
- What are the topics that positive coverage highlights?
- What are the topics that negative coverage highlights?
Completing a comprehensive audit, and organizing the information in a way that is easy to access, read, and update, can give you a jumping-off point for your reputation management strategy and insight into the landscape of your online presence.
What if you are experiencing a reputation crisis?
If you or your business is experiencing or anticipating a reputation crisis, formulating and executing your own reputation management strategy can be overwhelming and ineffective. In times of crisis, you may benefit from working with an online reputation management firm. An ORM firm will have experts who will help assess your reputation, develop a strategy, and carry out that strategy to help you recover.
If you are interested in learning more about what a reputation management firm can do for you, schedule a free consultation with Status Labs to talk through your options.
Reputation Management Strategy Roadmap: 10 Steps to Safeguard Your Online Reputation
Proactive ORM can protect you and your business from reputation threats and allow you to have an impact on your own reputation. Though no ORM strategy is one size fits all, knowing the foundational steps anyone should take can help you begin to formulate a strategy for your business.
1. Determine your goals
Once you have audited your online reputation, you will need to determine your goals. These goals should encapsulate your highest priorities, quick wins, proactive steps you can take, and long-term goals that will take consistency and time to complete.
In addition to these categories, you should consider the work that will contribute to each goal to assign the best team or team members to the specific tasks. For example, improving the performance of your website may take more technical knowledge, while developing the content calendar may require more industry and customer knowledge.
2. Claim any relevant online properties
If you haven’t already, be sure to claim or create any properties that you will need to build out your reputation. Social media profiles (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, etc.), company profiles, Google My Business and knowledge panel, etc.
The more owned assets you have, the more influence you have over how your business is presented online. Not claiming or creating these assets can be a missed opportunity, particularly properties such as Facebook or Linkedin which generally rank above the fold in search results. Additionally, many users will expect you or your business to have these profiles, and may be less interested in frequenting your business if they cannot find you on these platforms.
If you are still building your social media strategy or your branding language, you can create the profiles and set them to private until you are ready to carry out your social media strategy.
3. Build a strong website
Your website is (hopefully!) your first result in Google search results and your first impression on prospective customers. Customers will also often go to your website to learn more about your business or find answers to their questions. If you do not have a good website, you may risk losing customers if the website does not perform well or have the information that they are looking for.
To create a strong website, you need to consider both the search engine for the more technical aspects of building a website, as well as the experience users have when they go to your website.
Building a strong website takes understanding and time. To learn what you should consider when building or improving your website, read here.
4. Identify your audience
In order to create an online presence that helps you retain and grow your audience, you will need to identify the audience or audiences you are targeting. Depending on your audience, different platforms, styles of content, and information will be relevant. For example, if your audience is younger, you may want to spend time developing a TikTok strategy, as over 80% of TikTok users are between the ages of 18 and 34. But if your audience is older, TikTok may not be a very valuable property for you to invest time into.
Knowing your audience can also guide your content strategy. A law firm would likely want to create content that is more professional in tone and informative about the area of law you specialize in, whereas brands that are more recreational or entertainment-focused (such as makeup or toys) may want more whimsical, approachable content.
5. Develop a content strategy
Speaking of content: content is core to an effective online reputation management strategy. Quality content, whether it is written content, YouTube videos, or podcasts, can improve your website’s SEO, establish you as an authority in your industry, and give you a greater opportunity to represent your brand online.
To create valuable content, brainstorm a few themes that encapsulate your industry, business, or products and services. Consider the information that your customers search for or questions that come up often in your industry. When you create content, regardless of the medium, make sure your content is informative, and thoughtful, and highlights your unique perspective.
To learn more about creating high-quality content, and why that matters so much in 2023, read here.
6. Establish your social media strategy
To carry out an effective social media strategy, you will need to be consistent, both in your messaging across platforms and in how often you are posting and engaging on the platforms themselves, as consistency across profiles can increase revenue by over 20%.
Secure usernames that include your company’s name or branded keyword and are the same across all platforms. In addition to posting regularly (at least once a week), but sure to engage with users and respond to comments. Similar to your content strategy, your social media strategy should be established before you start posting.
7. Look for opportunities to be featured
Earned media is one of your greatest assets when it comes to building a strong online presence, but it can be difficult to secure. Earned media is coverage of your business that you have not paid for. Earned media can help you improve your SEO, increase your audience reach, and increase the legitimacy of your business.
To learn more about earned media and how to secure it, read our guide here.
8. Take a look at your competitors’ results
One of the best ways to find new opportunities or identify areas for improvement is to see how you stack up against your competitors. In the same way you audited your own reputation, audit your competitors. Do you have similar properties ranking, or are your competitors leveraging different properties? How do your reviews compare to your competitors? How do their site structures compare to your own? Have they been featured in publications that you haven’t? What topics do they write about on their blog?
In addition to identifying opportunities for improving your own online presence, staying up-to-date on your competitors’ online presence can help you stay aware of your industry as a whole and refine your overall strategy.
9. Develop a response strategy
Knowing how - and when - to respond can save you many headaches later on. Whether the review is good or bad, many reviewers expect a response when reviewing a company. Many expect a response within a day of their own review being posted, and companies that do not respond to reviews can actually experience damage to their reputation.
What’s more, having a plan in place for how to respond can protect you when responding to negative feedback. If you have a way to respond, you are less likely to respond emotionally or make the problem more significant. A strong, actionable response can actually turn a negative review into a positive one, and have a positive impact on your reputation.
10. Listen to feedback
With so much feedback online - on social media, reviews platforms, and in the news - it can be tempting to turn a blind eye and continue doing things as you’ve been doing them; however, the feedback you receive about your company online can actually be a valuable resource to guide your reputation management strategy.
Not only is listening to online conversations around your business and industry important for keeping up to date on your reputation, but feedback can help guide you to better serve and align with your audience. Small changes in your operations can have a positive impact on your audience, building a good rapport, trustworthiness, and increasing customer loyalty.
To be sure you’re not missing anything, read reviews regularly, set up Google Alerts, pay attention to and ask for customer feedback in private channels. By staying in tune with your audience, you will be able to anticipate and respond before things get out of control.