The following is an overview of some of the basic, fundamental processes you can work on to begin a proactive online reputation management campaign. It can be quite difficult to cut through all of the “noise” and misinformation out there regarding this evolving and often controversial topic. The heavily-researched and heavily-scrutinized methods, processes, and company resources mentioned in this section should hopefully be extremely useful for companies and individuals that are looking to understand the basics of the online branding “ecosphere”. This constantly-updated “Starter Guide” should essentially serve as a very helpful information resource for businesses and individuals that are seeking to not only monitor, but have a direct and meaningful impact on their overall online presence.
Clear distinctions will be made for the differing processes of business and individual reputation management where necessary. Much of this basic online reputation management (ORM) information discussed can be applied to both business and personal scenarios, but there will be cases that call for differing strategy suggestions, and hopefully we can clearly highlight those within this guide. As mentioned on our homepage, the majority of the suggested tactics and resources for productive and proactive ORM campaigns are essentially online branding strategies. These basic and advanced branding strategies become necessary when attempting to have an impact on your how you appear to other people online. In other words, online marketing strategies are necessary to effectively “optimize” your online image in the largest search engines in the world.
Table of Contents
- Step 1. What All Has Been Said About You Online?
- Step 2. What All Is Being Said About You Online?
- Step 3. What You Can Do About It – “The Best Defense Is A Great Offense”
- Exact Match Domains
- Buying Domain Names That Include Your Keywords And Popular Neutral Or Negative Phrases
- Look Into Using A Google Plus Profile And Google Authorship
- Business Directories
- Social Media Websites
- Press Releases
- Article Directories
- Video Sharing Websites
- Image Sharing Websites
- Audio Sharing Websites
- Presentation Sharing Websites
- Document Sharing Websites
- See If You Can Acquire A Wikipedia Page
- Take Advantage Of Online Resume Websites
- Post On Online Marketplaces
- Post On Relevant Online Forums
- Conduct Paid Advertising Campaigns
- Post On Question and Answer Websites
- Build Your Own Public Lists
- Take Advantage of Content Curation Websites
- Take Advantage Of “Tagging” On The Websites That Encourage It
- Promote Your Brand By Hosting A Public Event
- Keep Track of All Your Website URLs That You Develop and Promote Them Regularly
- Leverage Pre-Existing Positive Website Content When You Can
As a “Digital Marketer/Webmaster/Web Entrepreneur”, I FULLY recognize the importance of analyzing “keywords” and “key phrases” that are relevant to any particular project I may be working on. What matters to you is that “keywords” simply represent how you are referred to, represented, or identified online. So if you are an individual, some “keywords” that matter to you first and foremost are phrases involving your full name. If you are a company, some “keywords” that matter to you would be phrases and comments involving your business name.
There are several smaller as well as enterprise-level paid and free online tools out there to help you monitor certain phrases being discussed online. The pros and cons of these said tools can and will be discussed at length within this guide and throughout this website. For those interested in keeping things simple, Google provides a basic free tool for reputation monitoring purposes: Google Alerts. If you want to be notified when relevant content and discussions are happening online, having Google do the alerting is a reliable choice, as they represent the majority of the web. Plus, their search engine algorithm craves new content and discussions, so it is constantly on the hunt for relevant information about businesses and individuals. This can be advantageous or disadvantageous of course. Discussions that are relevant to you as an individual or discussions that are relevant to your company can be positive, neutral, negative, true, false, etc.
The key point though is that Google’s search engine platform, and others like Bing, both directly and indirectly allow others to attempt to establish what is relevant when it comes to a business or an individual. Nothing wrong with the free market approach you say? Sure, in the offline world the free market approach works for the most part because people and companies are usually heavily-influenced by legal guidelines and ramifications, and they’re held accountable for things like slander. In other words, it is very difficult for an individual or a company to be the judge, jury, and executioner of another individual or company’s reputation offline. However, things are vastly different in the online world of search engine result pages, where the cumulative online “discussions” regarding your business or personal identity determine what is relevant regarding your company or what is relevant regarding you as an individual. There is no standard judgment process or a recognized, regulated dispute process such as in the real world where people can get a chance to clear the air, share their side of the story, or get their message heard by the masses. I think most people would agree that ethics and morals are a rarity in the online space as well, so this is why it is increasingly important to be proactive when it comes to your Internet presence.
If there is information out there online that is relevant to you as an individual or information relevant to your business, Google will likely be the first to know about it and place it in their search engine index. The search engine index contains the list of website results people see when they type in your name or the name of your business into Google. Something that can often be very unfortunate for individuals and companies is that the Google algorithm seems to especially love highly-controversial topics and what can simply be described as “drama”. From a search engine’s perspective, “controversy” indicates natural human user engagement and social significance on some level. Google’s engineers that work on their search engine strive to design an algorithm that identifies and rewards natural human behavior within a web environment.
In my opinion, the problem with Google here is that we all know controversy and drama doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the truth about an issue, company, or individual. And we all know that negative information spreads a lot faster than positive information, regardless of the validity of the information in question. People are more likely to share negative experiences than positive ones as well. This is human nature and people just love gossip, so therefore Google and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo love gossip as well. The Google search engine is essentially a mass media syndication platform. As such, Google can be used for “positive”, “neutral”, or “negative” purposes by anyone. Knowing this, it is important to take a proactive approach to creating and attempting to control the information out there that is relevant to you or your business. Do not let someone else out there in the world have the final say on what is relevant about you or about your business. Take control of your online image to the best of your abilities. No individual, company, or governing regulatory body is going to assist you in this matter. It is unfortunate to see so many businesses and individuals with visible online image problems. However, it is even more unfortunate to see so many companies and individuals very often have no idea that they have an online identity issue. Recognizing problems and potential problems is an important first step to beginning a proactive and productive ORM campaign.
Before you setup Google Alerts for real-time keyword monitoring though, you can perform some quick searches in Google using their advanced search operators. These types of “advanced” Google searches will help you know what people are saying about you or your business, who is saying things about you or your business, where they are saying things about your or your business, etc. You can think of this process as a “Quick Scan” for reputation management problems and potential branding issues.
- First, you need to start with the obvious. Open up Google.com
- Type in your business name or your full name and click the button labeled “Google Search”.
- Before you do anything else, click on the top right gear-looking icon and select “Search settings”
- Make sure you have “No filtering” selected under “SafeSearch filters”
- Select “Never show Instant results” under “Google Instant predictions”
- Select “100″ under “Results per page”
- Select “Do not use personal results” under “Personal results”
- You will probably want to select “Open each selected result in a new browser window” as well.
- Now you can click “Save” to go back to the main Google search results screen.
With Google showing you 100 results per page, it makes it much easier to copy, print, analyze, organize, and do other productive things in my opinion. You will notice that Google may show you several numbered links at the bottom of the listing pages indicating how many total pages there are. What I often find is that if you click on that final number, Google will take you directly to the very end of how ever many search engine results pages they have, and this is usually a lower number of pages than they originally give you. So if you see that Google is giving you 22 supposed pages, don’t necessarily be alarmed. If you click the page number 22, you might actually be taken to page number 8 for example, as scrolling to the bottom of the “last” page Google provides you reveals the following message:
In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the ### already displayed.
If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.
Feel free to click “repeat the search with the omitted results included” link to see if any different search engine listing results come up that are important to you or your business whenever you are given this option by Google. It really does pay off in the long run to be extra thorough when examining these types of issues, as many potential problems are easier to resolve the sooner they are identified.
Now it is time to select Google’s “Advanced Search” by again clicking on the “gear-like” icon located in the upper-right side of the main Google search screen. Some of the “Advanced Search” options that Google provides on this page are very helpful for analyzing your online presence.
The “all these words” section is exactly the same as a normal Google search. So this is the field where you would input your personal or business name to find the regular Google listings out there that align with exactly what the general public sees when they go to Google and type in your name or business name. If you want to drill down into the results even further, it is recommended that you perform the same exact keyword searches you completed in the “all these words” section within the “this exact word or phrase” form field. This form field is used when you want Google to provide you with all of the relevant web pages that mention this exact keyword phrase in the exact order you’ve placed it. So this search will often provide very similar results to a normal Google search, but will often provide some slightly more “specific” results that are relevant to your particular ORM campaign.
Advanced Search also contains a “Then narrow your results by…” section that acts a filter of sorts, and this search filter can help you find additional relevant information out there about you or your business in an organized, efficient manner. The filters that are probably the most useful for brand management purposes include the “language” filter, the “region” filter, and the “last update” filter. The first two are self-explanatory and allow you to search through the Google results that are based around your language and location preference. The “last update” feature allows you to quickly search through web pages containing your relevant keywords, based on how often the web page is updated and active. This can help you determine potential priorities. For example, you could choose to only look through web pages containing your keywords that have been updated within the past week or the past month if you wanted to examine potentially relevant recent statements and current discussions.
Another very useful option is the “site or domain” form field located within the ‘Then narrow your results by…” section. Many websites that collect details about businesses and individuals such as social networking sites, community forums, directory websites, business review websites, gossip blogs, and other similar types of sites tend be massive in size. If you happen to find information relevant to your name or business name on certain types of websites, it would be wise to use this form field to discover any other additional information that is posted on the same website. Using this form field within Google “Advanced Search” is usually quicker than attempting to use most website’s own built-in internal site search.
Not only is this “site or domain” form field extremely useful for searching out all of the relevant information listed within a single specific website, it is also extremely useful for searching through web pages of a specific type, such as .EDU websites that are associated with universities, or .GOV websites that are associated with the various government entities. For example, if you or your business is associated with certain academic institutions or government organizations, you may find this search filter especially helpful in discovering relevant information in an organized and efficient manner.
Let’s talk about the various types of websites and media that one may typically encounter when going through this whole process.
- Business and Personal Information Gathering/Aggregation Websites (Pipl, Spokeo, other general and local public record websites etc)
- Community-related Discussion Boards/Forums/Directories (Topix, City-data, Local TV and Radio Station websites, StreetAdvisor, Ask.Metafilter, Patch, etc)
- Business Review Websites/Discussion Boards/Directories/Forums (Yelp, RipOffReport, Insiderpages, Citysearch, Business Directories, etc)
- Individual and Corporate Social Media Pages (Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, etc)
- Individual and Corporate Blogs
- Question and Answer Websites (Yahoo Answers, Quora, etc)
- Wikis (Wikipedia and other Community/Business-related Wikis that people can add information to/edit information easily)
- Images (usually pulled directly into the search result pages from image-sharing websites like Flickr)
- Videos (usually pulled directly into the search result pages from video-sharing websites like Youtube)
- Google Places Results/Google Plus Profile Results (Local business listings with map, business description, and business reviews that are posted directly on Google and reviews pulled from other popular business review websites)
The majority of these types of websites are free and open. So this should be good news for people that want to control their online image, right? These types of websites usually allow a person to follow-up and write their own feedback and responses to the information that is being posted and/or discussed. OK, easy enough right? Well, the bad news is that sometimes, due to the nature of how Google and other search engines LOVE ranking anything that looks like drama, conflict, negative news etc, combined with human nature’s common desire to tell the whole world if one feels they’ve been wronged one time, and yet tell no one if one feels they’re treated appropriately on a regular basis…let’s say that JUST responding and posting your own information on these websites is often not going to achieve your desired results in the long run. In fact, in certain scenarios, actually attempting to respond to people using these types of websites may make things more difficult from an ORM perspective. Don’t worry about this now though. For now, you just want to identify these types of websites out there and the relevant information that shows up when searching Google for your name, business, and other important related keywords. We will discuss different methods of dealing with these websites in other sections of this guide and throughout our website.
In my experiences, going through the Quick Scan process outlined above to identify ORM issues and potential issues can be a real “eye-opener” for people, to say the least. Many people have no clue that these types of websites are out there discussing their personal or business identity, and very often people are completely unaware of the relevant ongoing conversation that is taking place online. These discussions, media etc are all available publicly to view should anyone search for your name or other related information online. A restaurant owner will surely be interested in reading what people are saying online about their food and service, just like the owner of a carpet cleaning business will certainly be interested in reading what people have written about his employees regarding their customer service while they’re out on jobs. Of course “John James Doe” of Smithville, Virginia will be equally interested in what people have to say about him on these types of websites, especially considering he just graduated and is applying for jobs locally and nationally. He knows potential employers will be researching him through Google, so it is a good idea to get a glimpse of what hiring managers will be reading when they type in things like “John James Doe Smithville VA” into Google, etc.
So, having a common personal name like John Smith, or a very common business name like Main Street Deli, can actually work to your advantage in some cases. There might be so much similar information out there online (could be positive, neutral, negative), that anyone who chooses to research your information will likely have a very difficult time finding information that is specifically relevant to you. However, with Google using your geographic location as a signal for what search result pages to display, among other more advanced signals, it is clear that even having a ridiculously common personal or business name is not going to necessarily “hide” any potentially undesirable websites from someone with a little bit of Google web researching experience. So no matter who you are and how common your name is, the key is to stay proactive and address any issues or potential issues with a variety of different techniques that have proven to be effective over the years.
So You Mean To Tell Me ANYONE Can Go On These Websites And Write Anything They Want About My Business or About Me Personally? Yes they can, but the good news is that many of these types of popular websites are heavily moderated and have strict policies in place that address and often remove outright slanderous information and other outrageous, offensive claims, general defamation etc. (IE: “this place is pile of sh*t believe me!” or “the owner here is clearly sleeping around with the staff”). The bad news is that due to the current “vagueness” of the Communications Decency Act, a lot of slanderous, outrageous, and offensive stuff stays in the public eye of the Internet. Another issue is all of the different laws in different states and countries regarding free speech/online speech etc.
The Communications Decency Act (“CDA,” 47 USC 230, Wikipedia) states that website owners cannot be sued for posting defamatory content written solely by their users. We often refer to this as user-generated content. Let me point out here that the CDA is a VERY positive thing because it protects webmasters from being sued for things that are entirely out of their control. There will always be people willing to post dumb lies on websites when given the chance, and a webmaster should not be held accountable for that untruthful information as they didn’t create it or post it. So if you discover undesirable information posted by other people on local review websites, or blog comments posted by others discussing you on local community blogs, you may not necessarily have any legal options to pursue as this type of information posting by website users is commonplace and thus is permitted under the CDA.
It is a different story if you discover defamatory discussions that are proven to be created entirely by the owner of a specific website. However, it is often comments and discussions posted by users of certain websites, rather than comments/discussions posted directly by the website owners that businesses and individuals seem to have the most problem with when it comes to online reputation management. So, most websites and their owners are immune to liability from a “defamation” perspective under the CDA guidelines. When are they not immune? When can website owners potentially be held “accountable” for the information posted on their websites? There are certain circumstances where website owners risk losing their immunity under the CDA provisions. Webmasters risk losing immunity when they begin to alter, develop, collaborate, or change user-generated content. The main questions that are still unresolved in the previous and ongoing court cases is “where do you draw the line between creating and editing?” And similarly, “how much of a change or edit to user-generated content needs to occur in order for the webmaster to be held liable?” We can only hope that upcoming court cases will provide a much clearer set of answers and associated guidelines to address these two extremely important issues impacting millions of individuals and businesses all around the globe.
So, relying on legal help for ORM issues will not necessarily become a final solution for most folks anytime in the near future.
Crazy or vulgar accusations regarding someone’s business may not get through the moderation on some of these websites composed primarily of user-generated content, but enough seemingly-genuine bad online “reviews” can certainly quickly ruin a company’s reputation online and offline as well. The fact is, in many business industries jealous competitors will even go as far as having their friends and family members register accounts on these review-based websites, and have them leave terrible, disgusting reviews on their local competition’s pages. Coming from the “Internet marketing world”, you wouldn’t believe some of the things I have seen over the past few years. As they say, money rules the world…and this applies to everything related to online advertising of course. I have seen cases where there have been genuine-sounding reviews, all seemingly from different people at different times, complaining about certain restaurant dishes that a particular restaurant has never served. People very often go to great lengths to make others look bad on these types of service review websites that list local businesses. These business review websites usually show up all over the top search results on Google whenever you try to find local services, so the posted reviews and comments are likely being noticed by lots of people.
Learn more about setting up an effective online customer review system by clicking here.
Now, a lot of people just think “well, some of these reviews would just be laughed at right away if they were read by regular patrons of this fine dining establishment”. Well yeah, but here’s the thing you have to ask yourself: What about all of the people looking for a new place to eat? In my experience, this demographic is going to be the one browsing these types of local business review websites like Yelp in the first place. This is what makes brand management so crucial for service-based businesses.
The regular customers of John over at John’s Plumbing know he is super reliable, honest, and an all-around helpful guy. However, for someone who’s toilet is constantly messed up and overflowing so they’re browsing a review website like Angie’s List, they are probably going to adhere to the advice being posted by the users on these websites. Why else would they be looking at a review-based website? So it is truly unfortunate when for example, Jason from Jason’s Plumbing along with his friends begin writing terrible false reviews all over these local business review websites. “John always shows up late it seems like. He has done this well over 5 times now. Also, what is up with this guy’s hygiene, I mean, c’mon seriously. He made my bathroom smell worse than before I called!”. Horrible stuff like what I just described is happening every day throughout the popular business review websites and throughout the Internet in general.
As a final step in this “Quick Scan” process, I would recommend repeating the “Advanced Search” process described above, but substitute other relevant and potentially relevant phrases connected to your name or the name of your business within the “all these words” section. Also put these relevant keywords within the “this exact word or phrase” form field. So what would be some relevant or potentially relevant key phrases related to your business or personal identity? Well, let’s say you’re an auto mechanic shop in Santa Rosa by the name of Pete Doe Auto, and you’ve already conducted the “Quick Scan” process for your business name, as outlined above. So, some relevant keywords to look for that are being mentioned in online discussions would be things like “Santa Rosa auto repair” and “car repair Santa Rosa”, “Santa Rosa mechanic” etc. For another example,let’s say that you’re “Jerry Doe” from Ohio, and you’ve already completed the “Quick Scan” process outlined above using your name. Next, I’d recommend completing the same process using relevant keywords like “Jerry Doe Centerville Ohio”, “Jerry Doe Miami University”, “Jerry Doe Centerville High School”, “Mayor Jerry Doe”, “Jerry Doe Smithville Blues Band” etc.
All of the results you get by going through this entire “Quick Scan” process should really give you a solid grasp of what others may be discovering about you or your business. The additional stage where you conduct advanced Google searches using relevant keywords will help you to get an idea of what is being talked about online regarding specific business industries. These advanced searches will also reveal a lot of information about an individual’s past education/career/recreational/legal history. Businesses in particular can use these types of relevant online discussions to find out what their target demographic is talking about online, or perhaps complaining about online. This is often a great chance for a business to reach out and fill the community need, based directly on what the community is talking about. This is a fantastic opportunity to come up with a unique selling point as well. In the marketing world, this is the “holy grail” in marketing a business. In other words, what makes the business special and separates it from the local or national or international competition? Why should customers use that business? What is their unique selling point?
Let’s again use the fictitious example of “Pete Doe Auto” in Santa Rosa. When going through the entire “Quick Scan” process and looking at all of the Google search result pages, Pete will probably notice tons of review-based local business directory websites. When reading the comments, he might begin to notice a trend. For this example, let’s assume Pete notices people are leaving feedback regarding poor customer service at just about every local auto shop. People are saying these mechanics are haggling them, being generally rude, being unreliable, etc. Pete can use this “community sentiment” to his advantage. He can use the information he gathered from his “detective work” and heavily emphasize customer service as his auto shop’s number one priority. Maybe he could launch a new employee policy and add some different employee guidelines for greeting customers and explaining their services. Even simple stuff like offering kids candy and toys, and adults coffee and refreshments can go a long way. Simple stuff like this can help bolster additional positive online feedback that will eventually bring in new customers that read this positive feedback being posted to these local business review websites on a regular basis. Maybe Pete will introduce a new advertisement and promotional tag-line along the lines of: “We don’t haggle for upgrades, we get you in and out and moving again!”
**Once you’ve completed the searches using all of your relevant keywords, you can then copy the Google listings with screenshots, print them out for further review offline, etc.
This process will help you follow discussions that are relevant you or your company. Google Alerts is an incredibly simple way to monitor your presence online on a “real-time” basis. I usually refer to this as the ORM “Monitoring” phase. You’ve already completed Step 1, so you’ve seen tons of different types of websites, likely all heavily based on user-generated content where people leave their feedback on businesses or on individuals in various ways. What Google alerts will help you out with is “nipping things in the bud” in a timely, effective manner. So if someone leaves some particularly “nasty” feedback about you on a blog comment somewhere, Google Alerts will let you know through e-mail for instance. Or if someone begins trash-talking your business on a local business-review website stating all sorts of false claims regarding your employees, you’ll know about it fairly quickly.
Let’s go through the very easy process of setting up Google Alerts for online identity-monitoring purposes.
Go to Google.com. Once there, look at the top header area of Google (Google changes design frequently) and you’ll likely see a bunch of links that say things like: “+You”, “Search”, “Images”, “Maps”, “Play”, “YouTube”, “News”, “Gmail”, “Documents”, “Calendar”, and finally “More”. Click “More” and that should display a drop-down menu. On that drop down menu, skip all of the options like “Translate”, “Mobile” etc and and select “Even more” located at the bottom of the drop-down menu. Now a new Google page should pop up with all sorts of interesting sections, options, and icons for you to choose from. What you’re looking for is a section labeled “Specialized Search”, likely located towards the bottom of the page. Within the “Specialized Search” section you should see a bell icon titled “Alerts – Get email updates on the topics of your choice”. Click on that and you will be taken to a page with some blank form fields. Alternatively, you can visit Google.com/Alerts.
Within the “Search query” form field, you are going to want to enter your name or the name of your business. Then have that Alert sent to your desired e-mail address. You are also going to want to input any and all relevant and potentially relevant keywords you used throughout the Quick Scan/Advanced Search process (IE “Santa Rosa auto repair”, “Santa Rosa mechanic”, “Jerry Doe Smithtown”, “Jerry Doe Smithville College” etc). Ensure all of your Alerts are sent to your desired e-mail address.
For the other form fields, “Result type” you can set to send you “Everything” or set it to only send you Alerts for specific types of new content or media. I’d recommend having it send you “Everything”. As for the “How often” form field, I’d recommend setting it to “As-it-happens” first and foremost. However, depending upon how “popular” or common your business or individual name is, and how popular/common your other relevant keywords are, after awhile you might just want a consolidated e-mail each day, rather than tons of e-mails throughout the day. I’d recommend experimenting with the settings in the “How many” form field depending on your keywords popularity/commonality as well. Try setting it to send you “All results”, and if it is too much “noise” to weed through, set it to send you “Only the best results”.
These Google Alert settings can all be managed through a Google account, which I recommend getting for this purpose if nothing else. With a Google account, you can setup your Alerts to be sent to you as feeds that you can read and monitor directly within your preferred RSS reader. I’ve been using Feedly.com to manage all of my RSS feeds after Google Reader shut down. I highly recommend checking it out!
If you decide to JUST use your e-mail address and not use an RSS reader to manage this whole process (which I do not really recommend), you will need to confirm the e-mail Alert within your e-mail address after clicking “Create Alert”. For this type of data-heavy research, I just find something like Feedly’s interface much easier to use than wading through tons of e-mails. Try experimenting with different options and see what works for you.
Once you’re signed in under your Google account, in my experiences the best thing you can do is setup two Alerts for the exact same names/business names/keywords. Have one alert sent to you directly via e-mail, and the other Alert sent directly to your Google Reader for even easier review, organization, and management. By setting up two Alerts this way, you are unlikely to miss any relevant discussions and comments. So, once you’ve spent the time adding in your relevant keywords like your name or business name, your name and location, your business name and location, your industry and location (Chicago Pizza, Italian restaurant Chicago) etc, you will start to receive updates via your Google reader, your e-mail, or both. These updates will link you to different types of websites and web discussions that mention your name or relevant keywords. This Alerts process in Step 2 of our guide is extremely important because it helps you identify reputation problems and potential branding problems very quickly. After all, “Knowing is half the battle”.
In addition to using Google alerts for this monitoring process, you can also try using Socialmention.com (free) and Trackur (paid). Another popular and free alternative to Google Alerts is Talkwalker Alerts. You would obviously input your name, business name, and relevant keywords into these tools just as you do with Google Alerts. You can also try using Twitter Advanced Search to pick up comments and discussions related to your business, name, brand, etc (“chicago pizza”, “best chicago pizza”, “detroit window cleaning”, “window cleaners in detroit”, “john doe auto repair”, “john doe toledo”, “john doe ohio state”…).
There are some other popular social media monitoring tools and traditional media monitoring tools out there that are worth mentioning here as well.
- HootSuite – HootSuite will create a dashboard for you that highlights relevant conversations from around the web. Manage all your social media profiles under one interface. They have a really cool calendar scheduling feature as well.
- TweetDeck – Similar to HootSuite, TweetDeck will help you track relevant posts around the web and let you manage your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles under one interface.
- Sprout Social – Sprout Social is “a social media management tool created to help businesses find new customers & grow their social media presence. Try it for free.” Sprout Social currently offers three different monthly plans, and all of these plans include a free trial.
- Topsy – Topsy is useful if you want to search Twitter for mentions of your name, your business name, and other relevant terms. Topsy features comprehensive tools like social search, monitoring, analytics, and more. They are a certified Twitter partner. Topsy’s massive index of tweets contains over 425 billion tweets, dating all the way back to 2006 when Twitter started.
- Radian6 – Part of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, you can use Radian6 to: “Identify and analyze conversations about your company, products and competitors with the leading social media monitoring and engagement tools. Analyze trends and gain insight into what your customers want.”
- Mention.net – Create alerts for your brand, your industry, your company, your name or your competitors and be informed in real-time about any mentions on the web and social web. You can monitor up to 1,000 “mentions” per month using their FREE plan.
- MetaReddit – Monitor the extremely popular social media website Reddit for any mentions of your business, name, brand, etc.
- Vocus – “Vocus constantly monitors and scans over 130,000 news sources including television and radio stations in 210 US DMA’s and 15 international markets, 35 million blogs and the entire social web, filtering it down so you can quickly see the news that is important to your business.”
- CisionPoint – CisionPoint helps you stay on top of what’s being reported by the leading print and Internet outlets in the U.S., broadcast and cable networks, and key local television markets.
- Metro Monitor – Metro Monitor will let you know when your client or company is mentioned on television news broadcasts, radio news programs, online news sites, or social media networks. Metro Monitor records all the news all the time. On their website they state that their news archive contains the most comprehensive media content in the United States including all television markets.
- TVEyes – “TVEyes makes TV and radio broadcasts searchable by keyword, phrase or topic – just as you would use a search engine for text. TVEyes Media Monitoring Suite is a subscription-based product used by PR professionals, Fortune 500 companies, Political Campaigns, Government Agencies, and anyone who needs to know what is being broadcast on TV and radio in real-time.”
- Critical Mention – “Using the Critical Mention software you can search, track and view critical information from television news broadcasts. Critical Mention utilizes technology that digitizes live broadcast footage, in real-time.”
- Twazzup – Similar to the official Twitter Advanced Search. You can follow real-time tweets, as well as identify Twitter-influencers and trending hashtags related to your industry.
- UberVU – Track your name and other relevant keywords across popular social media channels and blogs. This is a subscription-based tool like Trackur.
You cannot even begin to address issues that you don’t know about, but many people that are influential in your life (potential employers, customers, etc) may know about these issues you have because it is the Internet! Unfortunately, when it comes to ORM, what you don’t know CAN hurt you, and ignorance is CERTAINLY NOT bliss as tons of folks discover ever day when they search Google for their name, business name, or other relevant keywords that might have a direct impact on their quality of life. Businesses can use Google Alerts to stay updated on what is happening within their industry on a local level and properly react to local competitors, and individuals can use Google Alerts to stay on top of online conversations that are relevant to their life interests. You will find the possibilities for Google Alerts extend well beyond basic ORM uses, so they’re worth experimenting with.
Bottom line, if you want to get a good idea of what is being said about you or your business online, setup an extensive Google Alerts “coverage list”. Use relevant names and related keywords within this “coverage list”. Identify any issues by using the specific processes I outlined in Step 1 and Step 2, and use the strategies suggested in Step 3 below to take action.
The digital marketing world is very often all about leveraging different web properties and different types of web media in an attempt to increase web traffic. The same concept applies to reputation management campaigns. You want the people that are searching for your name or for your business name in Google to ultimately view website listings where you control the content being displayed, and not some third-party. You need to maximize your exposure in what we call the “organic” search results. These are also referred to in the digital marketing industry as the “natural” results of the search engines, as opposed to the typical Paid Ad Results you usually see on the top or sides of the search engine result pages (SERPs).
So, the best thing that you can do in just about any campaign is increase the number of “web properties/websites” that you are in complete control of. You want to essentially publish and syndicate as much “positive” content as you can, and along with using some basic branding techniques, you will be well on your way to a very proactive ORM campaign. The basic idea is to consistently publish websites that you feel properly represent you as an individual, a company, a brand, etc. Google loves brands if you haven’t noticed, SO BUILD YOUR BRAND AND DON’T LET OTHERS DO IT FOR YOU. This “branding” process is becoming more crucial FOR EVERYONE as the search engines evolve. The search engine algorithms are now actively looking for “brand signals” and things of that nature. Don’t worry, all this talk about algorithms and brand signals makes things seem crazy complicated, but I will break down some basic steps you can take to begin branding yourself in a positive manner on the Internet.
Now, I realize that many people just have one or a few “negative/problem” websites that rank in Google and elsewhere and show up when people search your name or your company name. So why is all this “branding search engine algorithm geeky stuff” important to you if you just a have a few Google problems? Well it is important because a lot of the time in many people’s cases, going through the “branding” processes I suggest below will be the most effective, efficient, and least costly “solutions” in terms of money and time. These processes can be part of a “solution” to any Google problems you might encounter in the future too. The web is always changing, especially Google and the way they rank websites, so I use the word “solution” VERY lightly here. When many people hear about a “solution”, they think something might be the magic bullet and they can just push a button to achieve their desired results.
These branding processes and techniques are VERY far from a magic bullet or magic button to success as they require a bit of time, patience, and work. The great thing about these basic strategies is that they will help your online reputation going forward, so it would be wise to complete some of these processes whether you have current ORM “problems” or not. ORM is becoming more important every year for everyone out there. In fact, Google and Bing (Microsoft) have written about the importance of managing your online reputation, and they both continue to add new details to these pages.
Often the techniques discussed below will help you control a lot of the top Google search results for searches related to your name or business. For those of you with some current branding problems, these processes listed below are often successfully used to “bury” unwanted/undesired/crazy/negative/etc website listings extremely far back in the results. The key is to push the undesirable search engine results far enough down where no one is going to read them and make judgments based on them. So you can see the direct benefit you get when you begin increasing the number of all of the web properties/websites out there that contain your desired information as it relates to your name or business name. The more “virtual real estate”, or more fittingly, the more “SERP real estate” you control, the more control you have over your brand. By doing this and dedicating time to a proactive ORM campaign, there is less of a chance for any potential negative/undesired search engine result pages to keep showing up in Google and elsewhere when people search for your business or search for information about you as a person. Of course nobody completely controls Google’s SERPs, but you will often find there are specific processes to achieve your desired results by using specific content targeting and distribution strategies. In other words, you need to create your own brand signals…AND LOTS OF THEM!
One aspect to remember about the strategies suggested below is that you will want to be including your name or the name of your business in the “Title” section of all these web properties/websites/brand signals. Following that advice, for the actual content of these websites, you will also want to include your name mixed throughout the unique content that you publish and distribute. Once you have completed these branding strategies using your name, you may find it necessary or desirable to repeat the same techniques using unique “Titles” and “content” that contain your other relevant keywords. Alternating your focus on including certain keywords depending on how important they are to your overall online presence is your best bet.
For a lot of scenarios, simply including your relevant keywords (your name, location etc) in the unique titles and in the unique content of your web properties will do more than enough to achieve your desired ORM results over the long term. These web properties will become a solid foundation for your future branding purposes and will assist you in “burying” undesirable website listings deep into the Google index. The websites you develop and control will help by pushing any unwanted listings down several pages deep where it is safe to say no one will be viewing them when they happen to search for your name or your business.
So, for an example where additional work may want to be done, Jerry Doe at “Jerry Doe Auto” might go through the suggestions below and use his business name “Jerry Doe Auto” in the title of all his websites and throughout the websites’ content. Now he notices a few weeks later that when anyone searches Google for his business, the majority of website listings displayed are web properties that he built and that he has full control over. But, what happens when people search for something like “Santa Rosa auto repair” or “mechanic Santa Rosa” in Google? Well, his web properties that he created using his business name and other relevant keywords in the title and in the content may not show up nearly as much as he’d like them to. Jerry notices that there are several reviews posted on business review websites that mention all of his competitors as the ONLY trusted places in town to get your car repaired. Jerry and all his regular customers over the years know this is simply not true. Jerry wants everyone that searches Google for “Santa Rosa auto repair” and “mechanic Santa Rosa” to know that his business is a trusted option for them as well. A good start for Jerry to accomplish what he wants would be to complete the below processes heavily focusing on using the keywords “Santa Rosa auto repair” and “mechanic Santa Rosa” and their related variations IE “Santa Rosa car repair” etc all naturally mixed in throughout his web properties.
NOTE: Anytime that you embed images on the web properties that you build, be sure to use applicable image optimization in the HTML code. Here is an example of what I am talking about:
<img src=”Your Image URL” title=”The Title of Your Image Including Your Business Name, or Personal Name, and Relevant Keywords, etc” alt=”Description of Your Image Including Your Business Name, or Personal Name, and Relevant Keywords” />
By using appropriate image code such as above, you will have an even greater chance of appearing in the Google search results and the image search results. Google usually loves to rank media high in the search results for search queries based on individuals, brands, businesses, etc. So by including images and the appropriate descriptive HTML code, you will likely have an additional opportunity to control high-ranking Google real estate. This strategy will work better for certain scenarios and industries than others, but it is certainly worth doing if you are already going to be building web properties and adding images anyways.
But what do you write about? Don’t have much to say? Sure you do. You can talk about your business, your life, your industry, your local community, your profession, your accomplishments, your company’s accomplishments, etc. Answer the Five W’s and the H, Who are you, What do you do, Where do you do it, When do you do it, Why do you do it, and How do you do it? That should give you a good foundation to build out from when you begin creating and distributing content on various web properties.
I’m not going to go into major details on the content, because this will differ for everyone and every business out there. If there is bad/negative content out there sitting in the Google search results being viewed by people that are using this material to make judgments about your brand, just think about all of the positive things you can talk about and let people know about. The best part is, once you know the type of information that you want to begin distributing on the Internet, you can actually outsource the majority of the content writing to a skilled freelance writer and outsource the distribution process to different reputable services and freelance providers. Having a professional write and distribute your content will allow you to focus on your own business and your own life, so it is worth the cost in my opinion.
If you have plenty of time you may want to complete these steps yourself. However, I do not recommend this as you will probably get “burned out” very quickly from all of the tedious writing and repetitive work that goes into developing and distributing online content and media through all sorts of different types of websites. Your best bet is to write a few thousand words about yourself and/or your business and include other relevant keywords you’ve used in the previous two steps of this guide. Maybe make an outline covering all of your topics/keywords that you want to discuss so you can give these to freelance content writers. No need to go and make stories up or anything, just give writers some basic topics/keywords to touch on and explain how they relate to you and/or your business, and then give the writer some creative freedoms and you’ll be on your way to having loads of unique content that you can begin distributing to different types of websites. I will touch on a good place to find writers and digital marketing services below.
At this point I want to mention that if you would rather just spend the money than your own time launching a proactive brand management campaign, all of the suggestions discussed below can easily be implemented by an outsourced worker or team through an online freelance website. This is especially helpful if you are not really familiar with basic online marketing strategies and terms and are busy running your own business with very little extra time. You can just discuss some of these strategies with potential workers and they should be familiar with what you’re asking for. Only work with people that have experience implementing these types of branding techniques.
You are looking for someone or a team that is VERY familiar with up-to-date digital marketing strategies. If you are located in the U.S. you can get a lot of work done for a very affordable cost by outsourcing to freelance workers and companies in the Philippines, India, etc. It is at least worth trying these services out as they can save you a ton of time in the long run, but you do need to spend the time hiring the best performers and weeding out the poor-performers, just as you would with any offline employees. Be sure to discuss some of these strategies mentioned below as a starting point to building a proactive campaign. Competent workers will be familiar with the many branding processes below.
Do not be afraid to try tons of different freelance companies and workers out. In fact, you may very well have to do just this to completely achieve your desired results. Still, for MANY business owners and individuals, working with freelancers that are more experienced in digital marketing is probably the best way to go. Rather than attempting to handle everything yourself or everything “in-house”, it is often just better to refer the branding work to professionals and get on with running your business. It just all depends on your specific situation and what you’re comfortable with doing.
In my opinion, the best place to find virtual workers and virtual companies that are experienced in the latest online reputation management strategies is Odesk. So you can sign up there and then start discussing with your potential virtual employees how you’d like to begin implementing some of these branding strategies, and go from there. As discussed above, you will need a fair amount of unique content that adds value to the Internet if you want to make an impact online. Odesk is great for finding freelance writers familiar with writing for ORM purposes, so you can find some excellent writers on Odesk that will provide you with unique content that you can place on all of the websites that you build.
Like I said, I’d recommend providing your writers basic guides and outlines of material they should be discussing. This should help keep your costs down as the more material you can provide them with, the less time the writers will need to spend researching, and thus the jobs should cost you less money in the long run. Any marketing material you have, like fliers, brochures, mailers, press mentions, etc you should give to the Odesk writers for content ideas. If you’re an individual, give them everything you have about you. Things like your resume, your portfolio, your life experiences and accomplishment, etc can be turned into unique and engaging content.
Give the freelance writers something to work with, you are shaping your own image here. You don’t want to go through this process only to create a brand that you’re still not happy with. Shape the message and shape the image. Put your positives out there and let the writers work their magic by naturally adding in all of your relevant keywords like your name or the name of your business, your location and other relevant keywords, etc.
I’d recommend using a domain registrar such as GoDaddy and registering domain names that contain your name or your business name and relevant keywords.
You would want to buy domains like “http://www.YourBusinessName.com/.net/.org” and/or “http://www.YourName.com/.net/.org” etc.
Also, where appropriate, you can take advantage of using subdomains on all these websites that you build. Subdomains are typically used by companies and individuals to advertise specific products and services. So, you could have your main business website at “http://www.YourBusinessName.com” or personal website at “http://www. YourName.com”, and then you could have several subdomains located at “http://www.YourPrimaryService.YourBusinessName.com”, “http://www.YourOtherService.YourBusinessName.com”, “http://www.YourPrimaryProduct.YourBusinessName.com” or http://www.YourPortfolio.YourName.com” etc. So why create subdomains rather than just additional pages on the websites you build? Often, subdomains just give you another chance to show up in the search engines for your name, brand, and other relevant keywords. Subdomains seem to be treated a bit differently than pages/subdirectories by the search engines, so it makes sense to use them in certain cases.
IMPORTANT: Ensure all the websites in your control are MOBILE FRIENDLY. Your websites need to show up correctly in smart phones. Doing this will also help with search engine indexation and encourage further brand exposure moving forward into the future.
Along with using a domain registrar, you will need something to host your websites. Note that you do not have to worry about hosting “3rd Party” websites that are mentioned below like web 2.0 websites, press release websites, business directories, article directories, video sharing websites, etc. I recommend using HostGator to host your websites with domain names that contain your business name or your personal name, all of your relevant keywords and phrases, etc. Any relevant keywords you used during the aforementioned “Quick Scan” process, I would recommend buying a domain with that keyword, publishing unique “positive/desirable” content on it, and hosting it with a company like HostGator.
You want to ensure that you post unique content on these “primary” websites that you build. Update these web properties with unique content regularly. You should consider using a blog to post this updated content. To make things easy, use a popular blogging platform such as WordPress.com, so you end up with something like “http://www.YourBusinessName.com/blog” or “http://www.YourName.com/blog”.
PRO-TIP: If you are providing unique, relevant, and positive content, you do not have to limit blogging in this manner to just one website. Many popular individuals and businesses operate several different types of blogs on different websites and different platforms. Many businesses have several authors blogging for them across different websites, and you will find that many individuals operate blogs on their own websites and social media channels and contribute to other popular blogs and community-driven content platforms.
The more websites you control, the better chance you have of raising your brand awareness through the targeted distribution of unique, relevant, and valuable content. Targeted content distribution leads to more potential search results that convey your desired message. In other words, you are producing more “search engine real estate” that you have full control over. This new “real estate”, also known as “all of your websites”, will help you to push down and bury potentially unwanted and undesirable search results that are affecting your online identity.
You want to make sure that you use your relevant keywords throughout the title and content of the websites, as well as labeling any images you upload with your relevant keywords as well. Any videos that you use on these properties, be sure to use your relevant keywords as the titles of the videos too. Any type of content/media used should be labeled with your relevant keywords for the best results in my experiences. You want to avoid “keyword stuffing” where people just include every relevant keyword on page and the content makes no sense. However, including your name, business name, and other related keywords naturally in well-written, unique content is a great way to achieve desirable results.
While completing the beginning steps of this guide, if you discover that certain keywords are associated with your name or your business name in the Google search results, you may want to buy the domain names that include these specific phrases. Negative phrases can show up as associated with your business and personal identity in Google “AutoComplete” too. Chances are you have personally seen “AutoComplete” happen if you often use Google to search the web. This is where Google instantly completes your search query for you by recommending specific searches phrases based on what you are currently typing. Sometimes Google will add certain popular neutral or negative words to searches involving business names, like “reviews” or “scam”. So you might buy a domain name like www.YourCompanyNameReviews.com or www.YourBusinessNameScam.com etc. At first this seems kind of a counter-intuitive to do stuff like this, I mean why own the negatives?
Well, many times when there is a large amount of money involved, such as in many business industries, things like competition, jealousy, and greed can be a powerful motivator for people to do bad things. An example of this would be certain business owners doing something like registering domain names that include their competitors names along with these types of negative phrases. Usually a local business competitor would then rank these “negative” web properties containing “negative” information all over the front pages of Google.
Imagine a business owner’s surprise when his family members tell him that when they search his restaurant name in Google all they mostly see is websites like “DontEatAtJohnSmithsCafe.com” and “JohnSmithsCafeIsDirty.net”, all filled with negative comments that don’t appear to be remotely true? If you happen to notice that this type of thing is going on in your industry, it may be wise to purchase these negative domains containing whatever negative phrases you notice are being displayed in the search result listings along with your business, as well as purchasing domain names containing any negative phrases being suggested by the Google AutoComplete feature when you start to type in your business name, brand, personal name, etc. At the very least, by owning these “negative” domains, you are in full control of what content is displayed on them. You don’t need to put content on these types of websites, just keep them so no one else can use them against you.
So this helps to prevent any competitors from creating basic “hate” or “rant” websites and blogs that rank well in the search engines for keywords that are important to you. Buying these types of “negative” domain names is an extra “advanced” step that is not necessary for many businesses. It can however help in certain scenarios, so it is worth mentioning in this basic ORM guide. Going along with the same thought process, a business may find it useful to buy “neutral” domains to prevent unwanted parties from harming their brand in the future as well, such as www.CompanyNameReviews.com etc.
Creating a Google Plus page and utilizing Google Authorship can help Google connect your online content with your real-life identity and brand.
If you’re a business, focusing on getting your brand active on business directory websites can help you control the top Google results for your relevant keywords. Sign up for the following websites and fill out all of the profiles accordingly: Business Directories. Consistent interaction that adds value to these websites will give you the best long-term results. Make friends with other users on these websites, share relevant and valuable content and other media, update your business profile regularly, etc.
Business directories want you to submit important information about your business, such as your BUSINESS NAME, ADDRESS, and PHONE NUMBER. This important business information is commonly referred to and abbreviated as “NAP” information in the marketing world. This type of business information is commonly called a “CITATION” when it appears online in business directories and other websites. The most important part of utilizing business directories is to keep your business information (NAP) the same on all of them. For example, let’s say your business address is “4321 University Street” and you use that address when creating your listing in a business directory. Don’t submit your information as “4321 University St.” or “4321 University St” when you create listings in other directories, try to use the EXACT same NAP format of “4321 University Street” in ALL of the directories. The same advice applies to your business phone number too. Try to keep your business information as uniform as possible for the best long-term results.
If you are planning on doing this specific branding process yourself, I’d recommend using Roboform Pro. Roboform is an application that will help you auto-fill in all of the various forms on these business directories. If you are planning on outsourcing this branding strategy by using a worker or a company through a website like Odesk, you can still purchase Roboform Pro and then give your virtual worker(s) your license to the software. This way, the Odesk worker can use this software and it will drastically cut down how much time they have to spend filling out these repetitive online forms. This will in turn save you money. Many companies and workers with good ratings on Odesk already use software such as Roboform for these tasks, but if they do not, I highly recommend purchasing it for them to use.
You can find even more relevant and potentially high-ranking business listing sources by simply typing in your local competitor’s phone numbers in the Google search box. An example search might be “(123) 555-9999″ or “123-555-9999″ or “(123)555-9999″ or “1235559999″ etc. Be sure to rotate through all of the different phone number formats as shown in the example, as Google is known to show different results for different phone number formats. You can also perform a search using the business name and brand in quotations to uncover additional online business listing opportunities. Try doing this process with your competitor’s addresses as well.
So Bob Doe the plumber would gather a list of his top 20 local competitors and search their phone numbers in Google within quotation marks, rotating through the different number formats. Bob would analyze which websites his competitors have business listings on, and try to get listed on those websites whenever possible. Then he we would do a Google search using his competitors’ names, ie: “Tony’s Plumbing” or “Smithville Plumbing” etc and see if any other business listing resources show up. Be sure to set your Google results to display 100 results per page to make things easier to analyze when going through this type of process.
Another branding strategy you can implement with business directories involves using Google Alerts to monitor all of your competitors different listings. We discussed in Step 2 how important it is to know what people are saying about you or your brand. We explained how Google Alerts can notify you when certain keywords, phrases, names, businesses, and brands are mentioned all over the web. To discover which websites your competitors are creating business profiles on, you can use this same “Google monitoring” process.
In addition to creating Google Alerts for all of your competitor’s business names, you can setup lots of Google Alerts to monitor all of their business addresses and business phone numbers. Like we mentioned above, make sure that you setup a separate Google Alert for the different phone number formats and the different address formats. Let’s say your competitor’s street address was “9876 East Oak Drive” and their phone number was “333-222-111″. You would setup alerts for “9876 East Oak Drive”, “9876 East Oak Dr.”, “9876 E Oak Drive”, “333-222-111″, “(333) 222-111″, “333222111″, “333.222.111″ and so on. So whenever your competition finds a great website or community and decides to register their business and create a profile, you will receive a Google Alert. Now you can always keep an eye on your competition’s business presence! You’re also ensuring that your own business is listed in the same relevant places and achieving the same online visibility. You might not be able to get listed everywhere your competition is listed, but you’ll likely be able to create profiles on a lot of the websites and communities you encounter using this method.
Recently, some incredibly useful tools have been developed to help businesses discover new websites where they can submit their company information. These tools accomplish some of the manual tasks I discussed above in an automated fashion. Tools like these are helpful because they can save a lot of time during your research. Some of these tools offer excellent business submission packages too, but as I mentioned, it is usually cheaper to get things done through a website like Odesk.
- Whitespark Local Citation Finder – Good for discovering additional relevant business listing sources. Easy to use, organizes listings in a useful way, and shows local-specific and industry-specific sources.
- BrightLocal CitationBurst – Described on their website as an online tool where you can “Submit your business to hundreds of high value directories and citation-sites in one go!” The online service claims to offer business submissions to their “Unique database of over 1,000 ‘citation-generating’ sites”. You can choose only the sources that you want to use and they will suggest certain websites based on your location and business. Someone from their team of 25 “Citation Managers” works directly with you and submits your listings directly to the relevant websites. They provide interactive reports on the work done too.
- Getlisted.org – Offers an easy-to-use search feature that will help you find potential local business listing opportunities. They also provide a lot of useful information within their “Learning Center”.
This next ORM strategy works for both businesses and individuals, and the strategy is using an online service called Know’em. This service will help you launch a massive online branding campaign by claiming tons of unique social media websites using your desired brand/name, and the service will publish some basic content on all of these web 2.0 properties that will help get them indexed in the search results as well. You can then follow this process up by developing unique content and adding this unique content to all of these unique web 2.0 websites.
You can think of these as “micro sites”, or “feeder sites” that you will be syndicating all of your positive content to. The key to this step is the volume of websites you’ll be creating, and the fact that the search engine algorithms love to rank many of these types of social media websites in the top positions of their search results “by habit”. Know’em offers several different sized plans. If you have the means I would go for the largest package they offer as it is well worth it in my opinion. Controlling hundreds of web 2.0 properties with content that you control all ranking in the top positions of the search results creates a very useful branding “foundation” for yourself. Just moving forward with this step can often solve many people’s reputation issues because all of these newly-indexed web 2.0 websites will often push down any “negative” search results that appeared previously.
Many times, this process will help people completely bury undesirable search results for the long-term as well. The point is, doing this process is worth it if you want to take control of your reputation as these properties are very useful in the short-term and long-term. When completing this process, be sure to include your relevant keywords in the content as well. These would be obvious things like your name, company name, where you’re located, services offered, your history, your accomplishments, etc. Include any keywords you found to be relevant when performing the “Quick Scan” process suggested at the beginning of this basic guide in Step 1.
Here are some examples of popular brands using social media websites to increase their online exposure:
- Subway – http://www.facebook.com/subway, https://twitter.com/SubwayFreshBuzz, http://www.youtube.com/user/subway
- Target – http://www.linkedin.com/company/target
- Bed, Bath, and Beyond – http://pinterest.com/bedbathbeyond/
- Calvin Klein – http://calvinklein.tumblr.com/
The Know’em service helps you take advantage of the common social media websites the companies above are using, but it also includes HUNDREDS of other potential content distribution channels that can be used for brand management as well. Social media websites like the ones listed on the Know’em site seem to be popping up everyday, and it can be hard to select the right ones to use if you are limited in time and other resources. If you are just starting to build your social profiles for your brand, you might want to focus on just a few of the popular websites out there. For a lot of people it is very easy to get overwhelmed by all of the social media websites available and all of the different opportunities they present. When you are getting started with branding and reputation management you want to ensure that your initial efforts lead to visible results in search engines like Google. Some of the popular social media websites that tend to rank on the first few pages of Google fairly quickly include:
I highly recommend having a company like eReleases write and distribute press releases containing all of your relevant keywords as well. There are plenty of free websites that will accept your press releases, but the benefits tend to not be as good as when you use a professional service that distributes your press release to highly-authoritative sources. Google loves these highly-authoritative media sources and loves to rank their content in the top positions of the search results. It would be wise to take advantage of this branding technique while it is still very effective.
Be sure to include relevant location information as well. Don’t just use “John Doe Auto”, but also “John Doe Auto Palm Springs”, “Palm Springs Auto”. If you’re an individual don’t just use your name, but also include your location. Any keywords and phrases that are important for your brand you will want to include within the content of the press release, in a completely natural manner of course. Any keywords that were used in the “Quick Scan” process described in previous steps, I would try to include within the press release. Use your most important keywords in the titles of the press releases, these would usually be your name or business name, your name or brand with location information, etc. You can always just use experienced Press Release writers and distributors on Odesk as well, as there are LOTS of them.
Here are some websites that will accept, publish, and distribute your press release for free. I would recommend using a paid PR distribution service for optimal results, as these free websites just don’t have the same ranking power as some of the highly-authoritative press release websites.
Free Press Release Websites
Here are the big press release distribution websites you may be interested in using, as they will help you fill up the Google search results with “positive”, syndicated messages.
Paid Press Release Websites
Along with press releases and social media websites, the Google algorithm loves to rank unique, well-written, and informative articles high in the search results. The algorithm often ranks websites that contain high-quality, user-submitted content. You can write about topics related to your business, or your career, or your personal accomplishments. You can include relevant, important information about yourself or your business in the article. Use appropriate titles and headlines to spread awareness about your brand and increase your exposure.
Once again, your best course of action might be to hire an individual or a company with good ratings and good feedback on Odesk. There are many virtual workers and virtual teams that focus on high-quality article writing, blogging, and content distribution for ORM purposes. Test some different services and websites out by submitting great content, and then you will know what sources give you the best results.
Most of the popular websites that accept user-submitted content will let you create an author profile page. These author profile pages often rank high in the Google search results. On your author profile page you will usually see an updated list of all the articles you have written for that particular website. Most author profile pages on popular article websites like this let you write about your personal details or business details. Be sure to fill out your author profile page completely with information that you would like people to know about you or your business.
Here are thirteen free websites that you can start submitting your content to:
Another creative way that you can mass-syndicate unique and valuable content is by developing lots of short, promotional and/or “positive” video content. Once you have video content created, you can start distributing this video content to all of the popular video sharing websites out there. Video sharing websites like YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion seem to get a lot of attention from search engines and they often show up near the top of the search results for lots of different search queries. Popular video-sharing websites can be used for branding purposes if can consistently contribute high-quality content. “High-quality content” does not necessarily mean you need to use professionally-produced videos, it means that you need to be provide value in your videos.
Again, please note that you do not need some big video production budget and you don’t need to hire some videographer. You can even make simple videos using PowerPoint presentations and other FREE online services. Find someone on Odesk that will take your desired, existing “positive” content and produce short videos with it using free online services or software. Then submit your video to all of the different, popular, video-sharing websites out there. Be sure that you include your name or the name of your business and any other relevant keywords within the Title and/or the Description of all of the videos that you submit. Some video sites let you caption videos with relevant keywords. Some popular websites also provide video transcriptions and let you upload text transcriptions. Many video-sharing websites let you use keywords as tags for your videos. Take advantage of any opportunity to include your name, your business name, keywords, and relevant content.
Here is a basic list of popular video-sharing websites that you can start with:
Image-sharing websites can be used in the same way that you use video-sharing websites for your ORM campaign. Produce some “positive” images yourself or with the help of others. Include your name or the name of your business and all your relevant keywords within the Title and Description of all your image submissions. Submit your unique and relevant “positive” images (with your name/keywords in the Title/Description) to all of the popular image-sharing websites. Profiles and images on many image-sharing websites will show up very quickly in the search engines, so don’t skip this process!
List of popular image-sharing websites:
Audio-sharing websites can be used for brand management too. These types of websites can become powerful content distribution channels. You could record your audio message in musical form. You could use your already-available commercials for your audio files. You could use audio from your previous presentations or media appearances and include music, etc. You have many options here. Since you are likely producing videos and images in one form or another, save time by leveraging content that you have already produced. For example, image files and audio files can be used to make a video file, or video files can be used to make image files or audio files etc. When you create new content from older content in this way, you can increase your overall brand awareness by distributing that content in different formats and on different types of file-sharing websites.
List of popular audio-sharing websites for musicians, bands, and more:
PowerPoint presentations and slideshows should not be limited to business meetings and college classrooms and other offline environments. You can create your presentation slideshows using PowerPoint or a similar free alternative. One free alternative to using Powerpoint would be using Google Docs within the Google Drive service. Once you’ve got your presentation files together, most of the following websites will let you share your files with the world. Spread brand awareness and distribute multimedia messages that you can control. Be sure to use your name, brand, or other relevant keywords in the presentation’s title when you upload it to these websites. The content of your presentation should mention your name, brand, or other keywords too. Some of the following websites may want you to convert your presentation files to PDF format before uploading.
List of popular presentation-sharing websites:
Websites that allow you to upload and share your documents are very useful for spreading your brand’s reach and delivering your message. Collect all of your promotional material and “positive” content. Next, create engaging and valuable documents for your target audience. Share relevant details about who you are in your documents. Include your name or brand in the title of your documents and mention your name or brand within your documents. If people find your documents to be interesting enough and valuable enough, they might start sharing them on other websites and on other content distribution platforms. Your documents might show up at the top of the search engine results when people search for your name or brand.
List of popular document-sharing websites:
If you can get a Wikipedia page created about yourself or your business, it will almost always show up on the first page of Google whenever someone performs a search query that includes your name or your business name. You should be aware that Wikipedia is also publicly editable, but it is heavily moderated, so usually only relevant and accurate updates are published. See if creating a Wikipedia page is an option for you here:
- LinkedIn.com is THE professional networking website. If you have a presence on only one of these resume websites, LinkedIn is where you should be. Try to fill out your profile as completely as possible and ensure that you’re connecting with other people in your industry. They have an “Endorse” feature that seems to help with networking. Show off your accomplishments and link to your other portfolio websites, social media profiles, etc.
- Facebook.com can be a great way to show off your resume because it seems to always show up when people search your name online. Fill out Facebook’s “Information” tab and set it to Public. Be sure to keep your “Privacy Settings” to Friends Only to avoid any other unwanted information, images, or videos from being visible to strangers.
- AboutUs.org is a website directory that is just like Wikipedia in a lot of ways. Both websites can be helpful for online branding purposes. You can create and edit a web profile page for your website and business that includes your name and other keywords. When you develop a complete profile page for your website on AboutUs.org, it will likely rank very high in the search engine results for your business name, your name, brand, and any other relevant keywords you choose to include.
- About.me is an “online resume” website that you can use to showcase your accomplishments and display the services, events, websites, and organizations you are associated with. Take advantage of this website and use as much relevant information about yourself as you can when you complete your profile. Your profile on this website will likely show up on page one of the search results when people search your name and relevant keywords. Use About.me as a personal website to share your biography and tell your “story”. You can make it very easy for other people to find where you are at on the web, and this will help you build your personal brand.
- Flavors.me is extremely easy to use as a “web business card” and “personal portal”. The creators of Flavors.me describe the website as “the easiest and most stylish way to create a unified web presence”. The interface includes a drag-and-drop page builder that makes things pretty simple. Make sure you include links to your other websites and social media profiles.
- Zerply.com will let you create a professional online resume and help you connect with other industry professionals. You can easily show off your work portfolio and ongoing projects. Zerply.com asks users to “share what you’re making with the world’s best makers”.
- Re.vu is a web-based resume site that is very visually appealing and it looks like it has a lot of potential. You can create your own page in minutes by connecting your LinkedIn account. Re.vu will then pull all of your relevant professional information from your LinkedIn account and display it on your new web-based resume. They offer a unique feature that will let visitors to your page download a copy of your resume. The website’s About Us page says: “[Re.vu is] The cure for the common resume. Modern technology makes it possible to design a dynamic, interactive, and visual resume that is significantly more effective at representing the whole person than a common resume alone.”
In addition to Wikipedia, online marketplaces such as Craigslist and Backpage (Gumtree in the UK) usually have a “advertise your services” or similar section. Be sure to include your name, business name, as well as any relevant keywords in the title and content description for the advertising page URL that you create. Once you’re alerted that the ad is live, be sure to copy the URL somewhere so that you can promote it with relevant links in the near future.
Online discussion forums, especially industry-specific and location-specific online forums, are fantastic ways to develop positive content that is likely to be “distributed” thoughout Google and other search engines. The fact is, online discussions often rank very high in the search results for name searches, business name searches, and brand searches. So if you can have some control on the content that is displayed in the search engines from relevant online discussions, you should certainly go for it.
Online forums provide a great way to spread awareness of your online identity and brand. Many forums offer you a “Signature” area where you can specifically advertise your brand as well. Providing a link to your website in these “Signature” areas of relevant forums can be a good idea. Local-specific and industry-specific online forums are also particularly useful in that they allow you to interact with your “community”. It could be your professional community, the local community, an academic community, more of a hobby or sport community or anything of relevance to your own online reputation. Again, the more content you develop and distribute, and the more popular content “channels” you access and start to use, the more potential prevention control you have over a “crisis” negative search result appearing on the front page of Google and other similar issues.
This tip is really only applicable in certain scenarios, but it is worth discussing in this basic guide. Let’s say for example that you begin to notice several negative search results appearing on the first page of Google when someone searches for your name. What you can do is start up a Google AdWords campaign that is filled with positive titles/headlines/content (read more about demos and guides for AdWords). Using ads containing positive messages and linking to webpages containing positive messages can really help push the bad reviews down in the search engines, but they also give you a chance to DIRECTLY address negative information/accusations/etc “front and center”.
Counteracting negative statements with paid advertising (referred to as PPC/Pay-Per-Click advertising) has to be done in a very professional manner in order to avoid making any branding issues worse than they already are. Pay attention to your main message and address all of the relevant details in a clear and calm manner. Keep things short and simple. I repeat for emphasis, KEEP THINGS SHORT AND SIMPLE. Of course, you do not need to be responding to a crisis in order to use PPC advertising for branding purposes.
The main purpose of PPC advertising is usually lead generation and brand exposure, so it naturally usually works out great for reputation management (especially for those with larger budgets and marketing teams). So you will want to use your name or your business name, brand, and all of your relevant keywords when setting up your advertising campaigns in AdWords. When people search these names and keywords in Google, they will see your ads. You pay every time someone clicks on your Ad. If you are using PPC to respond to negative issues, use the same keywords and keyword phrases contained in the negative reviews/negative websites/etc. This will ensure that your ads will likely get seen alongside the negative listings and this will give you a chance to share your side of the story.
The great thing about Google AdWords is that you can create an advertising campaign in minutes and start to get your message out there where you want it to appear (for relevant searches like your name). So PPC advertising in many cases is MUCH quicker and it can be MUCH cheaper to use compared to other strategies that might require you to produce larger volumes of unique content for example. The “downside” of this technique is that it is usually a “short-term” approach for most people, it can be costly, and it is not likely to provide an “adequate” proactive brand management foundation on its own. It is just one more basic technique that can be added to your ORM toolbox.
In addition to online marketplaces, popular question and answer (Q&A) websites give you another potential opportunity to show up on the first page of the Google search results for your name, business, brand, and relevant keywords. A good strategy in many scenarios would be to register an account with these types of websites and search through the relevant questions that have already been posted. Post your name, business name, and keywords within the title and content of an answer when appropriate, and you will often find that these “question and answer” URLs show up when someone searches for your name. You can also approach things from the reverse and usually achieve similar search engine results. You can post questions that include your name, the name of your business, and any relevant keywords within the title or content of the question. Just remember that these question and answer pages are public, so your questions can be answered by anyone and your answers can be commented on by anyone. Be sure to copy the URL of your question or answer somewhere so that you can promote it on your other websites. The list below includes some popular Q&A websites:
Some websites are specifically designed to let their users build lists of things. Users of these list-sharing websites can then share their lists publicly. You can create a public profile on these websites that includes your name or the name of your business. Then you can create public lists that include your name, brand, and other relevant keywords. These type of list-sharing websites often rank pretty high in the Google search results. Your lists can be about your interests, professional and personal accomplishments, etc. You could even build lists of links to your other web properties and social media profiles. I would focus on the following websites:
The following websites allow you to create your own profile page that mentions your name, your business name, or any other topic you want to talk about. You can collect content from all over the web. Collect other relevant, high-quality content in your industry and collect media that is relevant to your brand. Collect your other interesting websites and social media profiles, and collect other people’s interesting websites and social media profiles.
Curate quality content that represents yourself, your industry, your brand, your business, and your community. With these types of websites you can then share your curated content with the world in a visually-pleasing manner. Showcase your accomplishments and other noteworthy things about yourself, but make sure your collections highlight other things besides yourself or your business. I would focus on the following content curation websites:
- RebelMouse.com (consolidate all your social media profiles into a “social front page”)
Tagging your website(s) with your name, business name, brand, and other keywords in Delicious and similar sites also works well.
Pages tagged with “Google” on Delicious
Pages tagged with “Bing” on Delicious
You will notice that the tag keyword (Google) shows up in the actual URL of the Delicious page: http://delicious.com/tag/google. This is very helpful for search engine ranking purposes. In addition to submitting and tagging your website(s) and web properties with your relevant keywords in Delicious, remember to submit and tag any press releases, articles, and any other media you’ve distributed online. Be sure to submit and tag the pages that contain “positive” or “neutral” content about you with your name, business name, or other keyword you want the Delicious tag page to rank for.
You can also accomplish a similar strategy by tagging your submitted photos in photo-sharing websites like Flickr, and tagging your submitted videos in video-sharing websites such as YouTube. Just remember to use tags with your name, brand, and relevant keywords.
If you’re using WordPress.org (self-hosted) or WordPress.com to build your website, make sure you create appropriate tags with your name and brand. Tags will make it a lot easier for people to find the content that you want them to find. WordPress discusses using tags in this link.
The following websites can be very useful for branding and reputation management. Hosting a public event can be a lot of work, but it can lead to huge rewards when it comes to local offline and online exposure for your brand. Think about hosting a simple and informal event that is open to the general public. If you register at these websites you can create a profile that includes your name, business name, and other keywords. If the title of your public event refers to your name and other keywords, your event listing pages on these event websites will often rank towards the front of the Google results. You should create your own event listing page on your own website first (something like YourWebsite.com/YourSpecialEvent), and then submit that URL to these types of websites. If you end up hosting an event, be sure to consider listing your event page on the following websites:
- Google+ Events
- Facebook Events
- Yelp Events
- MeetUp.com(contact your local group leaders and get permission to post your event)
- Lanyrd.com(if your event is essentially a conference)
- Patch.com(if they include your city)
In addition to these national websites, you can usually find some local websites that will list your event as well. Try using the following advanced Google search queries to locate some local event listing websites:
city inurl:event inurl:submit
city inurl:event inurl:add
city “submit event”
city “submit an event”
city “submit your event”
city “add event”
city “add an event”
city “add your event”
city “submit your workshop”
city “submit your course”
city “submit your class”
city “submit your conference”
Just replace city in the above examples with your own city and your own city followed by relevant keywords. Check the first few pages of the Google search results for each search query. Local event websites can often rank at the top of the Google search results, especially when people in your area are the ones doing the searching. Since you are already putting forward the effort to host a public event, you will want as many people to know about it as possible and this extra step can help you with local visibility.
After completing all of the above steps you should now have a solid list of hundreds if not thousands of web properties within your control, all filled with “positive” unique and valuable content related to your brand. You should keep track of all of these individual URLs (I.E.: “http://www.yourbusinessname.com, “http://www.yourname.com”, “http://www.myname.whateversocialmediawebsite.com”, “http://www.whateverwebsite.com/pressreleases/yourpressreleasetitlecontainingyourbrandname” etc). Now on a regular basis you are going to want to promote all of these web property URLs that you have developed. Join active online discussions that are relevant to your brand and share content across all of the websites you now have a presence on. You will likely get some “attention” from the search engines if you are providing value and truly interacting on all of these different types of web properties.
The great thing is, all of the websites used in these methods we discussed in Step 3 of this guide all have form fields where you can place URLs. So including links to various web properties and connecting your various web properties is easy and can be very effective, especially when you have unique, high-quality content on these websites. There are many ways to promote your web properties that are fairly inexpensive. If you can, I recommend working with a virtual freelancer on Odesk or a virtual team to discuss more specific branding strategies and social media techniques that will help you connect with others and promote your brand across a wide variety of channels.
In addition to regularly promoting all of your web property URLs that you have been developing for your ORM campaign, you can also promote any website URLs that mention your name or business name in a positive light. For example, if your company has been mentioned in a news article on the local news website or if your company already has press releases out there online. You could build links to these specific URLs on your various web properties. Often these URLs will move upwards in the rankings and help bury any negative search results several pages deep where they are unlikely to be seen by anyone. Maybe you’ve won awards and been mentioned in college newspaper websites or worked on community events, played on local sports teams, worked with local organizations and charities etc. As the Internet becomes more powerful and increasingly intertwined in people’s lives, there is a chance that, whether you’re a business or an individual, you have SOME “positive” or at the very least “neutral” web page content about you out there. If this is the case, use these website URLs to your advantage and try promoting them along with developing and promoting new “positive” web properties as discussed above.
When it comes to reputation management campaigns, branding techniques will vary wildly depending on individual client needs. We discussed many of these specific techniques here in this guide, but it should be noted that this entire write-up is meant to serve as a beginner’s guide. Confident Brand’s other guides and other areas of the site discuss different branding approaches and other advanced digital marketing strategies. Be sure to take advantage of the constantly-updated suggestions mentioned in this guide and others on ConfidentBrand.com for effective, long-term brand management.
Completing all of the branding processes discussed in this guide should be helpful to anyone out there that is interested in starting a proactive online reputation management campaign. If you are currently dealing with reputation issues as an individual or as a business, I sincerely hope that you will find these processes to be helpful in addressing your issues. Thanks for reading and I encourage you to share this basic guide to ORM with anyone or any business that may find it useful!