The first impression shouldn’t go bad. This is not only the case in real life, but also in the digital world. But what can you do when search queries only display undesired content and attack your own online reputation?
The Bettina Wulff case and the discussion that started on the search suggestions displayed by Google, the so-called autocomplete or suggest function, showed which waves the topic of online reputation can make in public and not only affect companies. If you entered the name of the wife of the former Federal President in the search bar, this was supplemented by various attributions, all of which put Ms. Wulff in a bad light – which she finally took legal action against. After a long discussion, Google has now deleted a few search results.
True or not, her case is not unusual. What appears on the first page of the Google search results quickly puts you in a certain drawer. The searcher forms his own opinion on the basis of this content, which in most cases only reproduces a minimal section of the information available on the Internet. And it is not uncommon for this information to arise not from facts, but from attributions from untrustworthy sources.
Care Product Online Reputation: Companies and People
More and more companies and people are recognizing the scope of this opinion-forming, or the value that the most prominent search results have. Google is the number one information platform on the Internet and is used by countless users as a decision-making aid before buying a product or using a service. The turnover of a company is therefore directly and significantly related to its online reputation, as the company Biesalski & Company was able to determine in its “ Serviceplan Corporate Reputation ” from this year. Critical voices on the first page of search results are a deterrent and leave the searcher with considerable doubts about the quality of a product or the seriousness of a company.
The reputation on the internet is therefore an extremely valuable asset that must be carefully maintained, protected or built up. And this is exactly where reputation management comes in. Many companies have already developed a higher sensitivity for the subject than was the case a year or two ago. It is now becoming more and more evident at the decision-making level that one’s own online reputation has a direct impact on day-to-day business – this applies to the local locksmith as well as to the internationally established stock exchange company.
Oust negative entries from prominent positions
Online reputation management is usually about displacing unwanted content and pages from prominent positions in Google search results. Such a deletion is only possible if you can convince the portal operator to take the corresponding article or comment offline himself. And that only works in the rarest of cases.
First and foremost, there is a comprehensive situation analysis in the context of which certain questions are investigated: Where exactly is the undesired content? How strong are the respective portals? What positive or neutral content already exists about the company? Which pages and content are suitable for optimization? Where exactly is there still need for action? Which channels can providers use? The situation analysis shows how big the effort will be and what specific measures can be used to restore the online reputation.
SEO as a measure
Existing positive content can be used or new content created to suppress negative content. To improve the ranking of the individual pages, typical SEO measures are used, which can be ascribed to either on-page or off-page optimization. The aim of the work on the onpage is to optimize the website in such a way that the web crawlers can index it completely and the search algorithms of the search engines classify the content of the site as particularly relevant.
Offpage optimization, on the other hand, deals with the environment of a website, with the focus primarily on generating backlinks. The more links lead to a website, the more trust Google places on this site and the higher it is listed in the search results for the relevant keywords.
Online PR is the basis: press releases and interviews
But which channels are available to the providers? What options can they use to combat the problem? A basic distinction can be made between publishing and creating new content. As far as publications are concerned, one could write a press release and try to position it on relevant sites.
Another possibility would be to place an interview with a managing director, for example about company goals. Writing and publishing texts goes in the direction of online public relations and is a tried and tested means of establishing positive content online and strengthening a certain brand. The keyword density in the texts plays an important role.
Reputation management in the social web
When it comes to creating new content, two measures are particularly useful: social media and microsites. Company pages on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Co. are not only ideal for customer communication, but also for suppressing unwanted web presences. It is important that the respective profiles are updated regularly, since the topicality also affects the ranking of the websites.
In addition, companies should only post high-quality content that also offers added value for the reader. In the best case, the user is addressed directly, which can quickly lead to a lively discussion. It is also possible to point out events or promotions as well as to run a competition, which may even be shared by individual users on their own pin board and thus achieve a particularly high reach.
You should also secure the corresponding vanity URLs, for example facebook.com/companyname, in good time. All existing company pages on social networks then link to your own website, because there is no more relevant linker domain than your own homepage. The topic relevance factor is crucial for the Google algorithm. The search engine ideally honors corresponding links with a better ranking.
Increase visibility with microsites
Microsites are independent web presences that are primarily intended to fulfill two tasks in the area of online reputation management: They increase the visibility of a company or a brand on the Internet and are ideal for suppressing negative content. The sites are usually not as extensive and general as the official website, but rather focus on a specific area or topic. In the case of a wine trade, it would be possible to create a separate microsite for each location. It would also be possible to have a blog on the subject of wine, on which relevant articles appear regularly.
Companies should only entrust the programming of microsites to specialists, as there are a large number of on-page factors that affect the subsequent ranking of the respective page: type of headings, internal link structure, meta descriptions, title tags, directory and file names , Graphics and keyword density. Incidentally, working on a company’s existing websites also includes their on-page optimization. It is important to analyze in detail where improvements can be made on a technical and content level. Once these have been implemented, the pages will almost certainly jump up on Google.
Active reputation management is required
Negative content in Google search results can result in significant economic damage. For this reason, your own online reputation should always be protected and maintained. This does not distinguish it from the general reputation of the company, only it often spreads faster and easier. Actors should be aware of their reputation on the Internet and its importance at all times and ideally not only act in a crisis situation. Reputation management can also be carried out preventively by creating or strengthening your own web presence. This makes it more difficult for any negative news to get far ahead in the Google search results and jeopardize an already established positive first impression.