For a business owner, reputation management is not getting easier.  Twenty years ago it would have been really hard for a single customer with a bad experience (or just sour grapes) to single-handedly take down a business. But in this age of the Internet, it just takes one angry customer with knowledge of ComplaintsBoard or a strong Yelp profile to influence the decision making process for thousands of potential customers.

And it doesn’t just stop there, not even close.  Take a look at the job posting below on Fiverr; you can pay someone $5 and they’ll lodge complaints at all your competitors.  Or worse, your competitor could pay this person to lodge complaints against you.  If they do this a few hundred times you could have a crises on your hands that could break your business.

If you have an online reputation problem already, you know what a headache they are.  They are incredibly difficult to fight and consume lots of time, money, and energy.  If you don’t have any reputation management issues right now, perfect, don’t just wait for one to happen – be proactive!  Here are 3 easy tips you can act on today to help build up your positive online reputation.

1.  Ask for Good Reviews

Every business has big fans.  There are always those clients who are just extra appreciative of the work they received.  We used to ask these people for a testimonial for our website, but now we ask them for a review. Testimonials on the website are great, but you only need a limited number of those because of course you are going to have positive reviews on your own website.

However, you can never have enough positive reviews on Google Places, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc.  Those little star ratings that show up in the search results are very quick indicators of quality, so the more five stars you can stockpile, the better.

Review sites like Yelp frown on asking for reviews, but who cares?  That is like them saying, “A business owner should never ask a satisfied customer to tell their friends about the business.”  Sure, don’t incentivize or give discounts for reviews, but by all means, ask for them!  Put a link to Yelp and Google Places in your email signature, mention reviews to satisfied customers, and even have a few of your friends who are also customers submit a nice review for you.

2.  Monitor Social Media

What starts out as a throwaway social media status update can snowball.  A tweet complaint today (like the one below) could turn into a blog post rant tomorrow.  A few days later, that post could rank on Page 1 of Google for your brand name, and if you weren’t monitoring, you’d have no idea where it came from.


If you aren’t actively monitoring, you can easily get started today. If you are on a budget (like zero budget), you can use these free tools and a few hours of configuration to get things rolling:

  1. Google Alerts
  2. Trackur Free
  3. Hootsuite
  4. Social Mention
  5. Backtype
Those tools are great and each deserve their own blog post, so you could certainly get pretty far just using them to monitor your brand.  However, if you are looking for a comprehensive solution, there are about a million different companies trying to make names for themselves with their own social media monitoring tools.  Some that we can recommend based on our experience are Ubervu, Trackur, and Radian6.
The keywords and phrases you monitor should include your name and any manager/executive names, your brand name(s), and product names.  If you have any other trademarks or web properties, be sure to monitor those as well.
By monitoring for these key words and phrases, you shouldn’t be caught off guard by anything.  But don’t just monitor, interact. If someone has a problem, fix it.  If someone compliments you, thank them.  Build a strong community of advocates – you’ll need them when something bad inevitably happens.

3.  Link Build to Positive Content

This is an SEO blog, right?  So we all know the value of links here.  But typically when we talk about link building, we are talking about link building to our own properties that we want to rank well.  In Online Reputation Management, it is a bit different.  Rather than just building links to our properties, we also build a lot of links to other properties.  How about an example…

The local newspaper has just done a great writeup on your small business and it is published in their online edition.  You’re smart about proactive reputation management, so you immediately start building links to that article so that it ranks well for your brand name.  That way, when people search the brand name, they find your company and positive content about your company.  By doing this early and often it is a lot harder for negative content to come along and start ranking for your brand queries.

To find more content like this, look at what is ranking on pages 2, 3, and 4 for your brand name queries.  Google likes this content already, so you might be able to bump it up to page 1 with just a few links.

Pro tip:  You can be a little more liberal with the quality of links you point to other people’s sites.  If you are trying to bump up a strong domain like a newspaper or social media profile, you can point some really low quality links at it without risk, and they often are enough to get it to move up.

Anytime you find a positive piece of content about your brand, product, or services, be sure to sprinkle a few links to it.  Think of it as an investment in protecting your brand’s reputation.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Online Reputation Management as an industry is growing at an amazing clip.  What was once a very niche need is now very mainstream, and you’ll often hear commercials on the radio and TV offering these services.  The reason for this rise in popularity is clear; put bluntly:  a positive reputation will help you sell more, while a negative reputation will hurt your sales (or worse).

As they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and I can think of no area that this is more true for than reputation management.  Spend a little bit of time doing the things covered in this article:  asking for reviews, monitoring mentions of your brand, and promoting positive content from 3rd party sites, and you’ll make it much more unlikely that you’ll have a reputation management crisis of your own to cure!