OK, go to your Google page and write in your company's name. What do you see on the first or second Google page?
If you don't see anything about your company, it has a big problem. If you see negative content, it has a bigger problem. If you see a favorable article, review or comment (no ads, please), congratulations, your employer goes to the head of the class, in terms of knowing how to manage its online reputation.
But for those companies that fall into the former categories, they have some serious work to do to either elevate their profile or remove unwanted and, perhaps, damaging content on the Internet.
In today's digital age, companies can no longer operate under a cloak of secrecy, as their actions will eventually turn up on search engines or social media venues.
Irate customers and disgruntled current and former employees also may post false or inflammatory remarks online about a company. That means it's extremely critical that companies do as much as they possibly can to create and maintain a positive online reputation.
Research conducted on online behavior confirms the impact of the Internet on reputation.
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 65 percent of Internet users use online search as the most trusted source of information about companies and people. Seventy-nine percent of companies place equal weight on both online resources and personal recommendations, according to the BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey.
Most large companies have allocated significant resources to ensure their good reputation remains intact in the online world. They have to come to realize that a lack of a presence or an unfavorable image on the Internet could be potentially harmful to their business.
But many small and mid-sized businesses either invest very little or nothing at all in building a favorable online reputation. The reasons vary: they may have a lack of money or understanding of the importance of digital reputations, or maintaining a presence on the Internet is viewed as a frivolous operational need, or perhaps they are making a deliberate attempt to stay in the shadows, etc.
Whatever the reason, companies that fail to manage their online reputations as a top priority are only hurting themselves. They are at risk of losing potential customers, investors, job-seekers and others who regularly go online to check out anything they can find about a company. If their search turns up nothing or something unfavorable, odds are high that the company will never hear from them.
So how can a company improve its online reputation? Here are just a few tips:
- Push down negative content on search engine sites with press releases, blogs, white papers, infographics, and other company-published materials.
- Increase Google rankings by getting your company’s content on third-party websites.
- Boost online brand recognition with a strategy of securing consistent media coverage of the company, with an emphasis on creating neutral to favorable publicity.
- Contact editors of publications to remove any inaccurate or misleading information of the company.
- Actively monitor the company’s activities on search engine sites and social media venues, allowing a quick response to serious inaccuracies or criticisms.
- Offer customers the ability to express their comments on social media sites, and use favorable customer comments to support branding activities.
Building a strong digital reputation requires hard work but it’s essential for companies-- big or small-- which can live or die by on how they are perceived by others. Whether it’s raising one’s profile or suppressing damaging content, companies can greatly benefit by adopting certain online practices that will lead to a better reputation in the marketplace.
[The author is Marc Weinstein, CEO of Ascent Communications (www.ascentcomm.net), a marketing/public relations agency specializing in creating results-driven communications for technology companies.]