Last year, Pepsi put out an unfortunate ad that went viral in a mere matter of minutes — and not for good reasons. What was intended to be a message of peace and understanding backfired completely, and the internet was there for every second of it.
Within a blink of an eye, Pepsi, a world-famous, internationally-loved brand was condemned by the online community and dubbed “cancelled.” Anyone who dared to be seen with a blue can in their hand experienced the same, brutal fate.
Similarly, we all remember what happened to United Airlines after a video leaked of a man being forcibly removed from one of their aircrafts. The social media uproar was enough to annihilate the brand entirely.
But the follow-up, non-apologetic “apology” letter from the United Airlines CEO only added more fuel to the fire. Months later, United is still fighting to regain their reputation and win back customers.
These complete and total reputation “failures”, spurred by online and media attention, are becoming more prevalent. The general population has raised the standard of what they expect from the brands they love, and are more willing to call out unfavorable behavior.
Has your brand faced a similar predicament?
It may not be on such a massive scale as with Pepsi or United, but even one negative Yelp! review or poorly-worded blog post can cause a tidal wave of negative consequences for your business.
In this article, we’ll show you how to manage a healthy online reputation while staying true to your brand and the customers you serve.
What Is Online Reputation Management (ORM)?
Simply put, it is the way your brand is seen online. That includes everything; from how customers find your business and how they learn about your company; to how you can develop the optimal online presence to connect you with the most customers.
ORM also involves how your brand reacts to crisis, deals with difficult situations, and ultimately repairs and strengthens its image.
The biggest misconception about ORM is that it’s all about reviews. While it’s true that online reviews are a key source of information, consumers are becoming more and more skeptical of their legitimacy.
Reviews are just a piece of the puzzle; and if the rest of your online presence falls flat, even the best reviews can’t save you.
Why Is It Important?
According to a recent study, there are at least 18 different ways Google can find your brand (not even including social media).
Think of the last time you typed something into Google. The search results gave you plenty of options, including images, videos, advertisements, review sites, instant answers and more.
If a customer wants to learn about your brand, they have plenty of avenues to do so — great news for you, because it means you have just as many opportunities to impress them.
Now more than ever the online experience is customized to the user. Online searches are tailored to the user’s language, location, device, previous searches, friends’ searches and so on.
Marketers have to get on board with the digital revolution if they want to stay alive.
No One Is Searching for Your Brand.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s true. Unless you’re a big name brand like Walmart, IKEA, Apple, etc., no one is searching for your brand.
Your customers are searching for a solution, service or information.
Before connecting with a brand, customers will gather the information they need; so that when they do reach out, they’re ready or almost ready to make a purchase.
ORM factors into the equation by how well you’re able to position your brand online.
When someone searches for a solution to their problem, does your business come up?
Is your online presence making the best use of keywords and phrases that customers are searching for?
Brands can differentiate themselves from competitors by creating a strong online reputation using important keywords that customers frequent in their searches.
Keep in mind, the majority of searches do not include a brand name — they include a solution.
For example, “best dishwasher repair”; “cheapest landscape maintenance near me”; or “good pizza in Dallas.”
What Can Cause a Bad Online Reputation?
A misconception about online reputations is that reviews are all that matter; or they are at least the most important factor. In fact, people are pretty suspicious of good reviews.
That’s not to say good reviews aren’t important and that you shouldn’t be asking for them. However they don’t carry as much weight as you’d think. Articles are more meaningful and credible in the eyes of a customer.
One negative article can cancel your whole customer journey. The reason being that unlike reviews, which are all grouped together, an article is a singular entity; therefore, it carries a lot more weight.
Because people are so skeptical of good reviews, they turn to other sources of information for more credibility:
- Your website
- Online Articles
- Press Releases
- Social Proof (how are you involved in your community and with your customers)
- Images & Videos
If you already have negative content out there, it must be either removed or suppressed.
If the content cannot be removed, work on enhancing your online presence by focusing on promotional opportunities to highlight the good and mitigate the negative. One way to do this is by using strategic search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.
Keep in mind, SEO campaigns can take up to 10-20 weeks to elicit results.
How to Create the Right Online Presence for Your Brand
Creating your optimal online presence will depend on your buyer persona.
Take time to reflect on:
- Who are your customers?
- What is their problem?
- How do they research a solution?
- What questions are important to them when finding a solution?
- How are they searching? — think of device, location and wording.
By answering these questions, you’re able to position your online presence along your buyer’s journey — in other words, show up in their search results.
It can be difficult to see your brand through the eyes of someone who knows nothing about you. However this perspective can be limiting and pull you farther away from the reality of how your customers research and find your brand.
As an expert in your field, you need to put yourself in the buyer’s position, as a total novice.
The buyer’s journey is riddled with various search results and data. If you put yourself in their shoes and conduct your own beginner search, you may find that certain solutions, publications, websites, services and brands pop up that have absolutely nothing to do with your brand.
Make a note of these findings, as they could be opportunities for online presence optimization down the line.
According to Moz, the experts in search engine research and software, there are five factors that contribute to optimal search ranking:
- Domain level factors, like number and quality of incoming links from other sites.
- Page level factors specific to a single page.
- Quality and quantity of content.
- Content speed (HTML, markup, structured data.)
- Traffic and site visitors.
The Bread and Butter of Online Reputation Management
There are three phases of online reputation management:
Regardless of what stage your ORM is in, the factors that will contribute most are the quality of your content and quantity of relevant high quality links from other sites.
If you focus on just those two things alone, you will be well on your way to an optimal online reputation.
Online Reputation Management Is Always Evolving
Your ORM is a living, breathing entity. The brands with the best online reputation are those who understand this principle and are constantly adapting and evolving to enhance their status.
Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, A/B testing and natural language generation (NLG) are just a few of the ways that technology will continue to drive and inform your online reputation. These entities work to ensure that the best performing information or messages are promoted first on search results, and that less relevant content is demoted.
If your online reputation follows the guidelines of optimization, you’ll have no problem standing out from the crowd and getting noticed by your customers.
Our team of expert content creators can help you optimize your online reputation to grow your business.