I knew that I’d found a kindred soul in humor when I learned that search engine optimization guru Chesa Keane of TAO Consultants owned the trademarked domain name, www.computergoddess.com. Since then, Chesa has provided a number of my clients with invaluable strategic and technical guidance to improve their ability to survive and/or fend off online reputation threats. I interviewed her to share that wisdom with Media Bullseye readers.
JB: What are the five biggest mistakes organizations or individuals can make about online reputation management?
CK: (1) Thinking that their brand name is all they need or want to promote online. (2) Assuming that just because the complainer is wrong people will be able to sift these negative comments out of their decision-making process. (3) Assuming that they can get the negative commentary if they just tell Google to take it down — not like gravity; what goes up on the Internet, never comes down. (4) Waiting too long to respond. (5) Looking at this type of strategy as an expense rather than an investment. Our strategy not only removes negativity (or diminishes it) but it also increases business. That is, our strategy is a good business marketing approach for online presence from the start — but if implemented after negative online commentary, we are just pushing uphill rather than building a mountain of strong online positive presence.
JB: Is online reputation management just for bad reputations?
CK: No, it is for building business/corporate awareness as well — where no reputation exists at all. We’ve also used our strategies for warding off anticipated reputation problems
JB: What are some of the key elements to this strategy?
CK: Search Engine Reputation Management – creating search engine results that are predominantly positive; creating awareness through industry keywords to overpower negative awareness of branded keywords; and, using multiple points of presence (POPs) – websites, blogs, social media, article publications, reviews, directory listings, etc.
JB: Do these elements work by themselves?
CK: No, the process is a building block approach and timing is very important. We prioritize the most important elements and continue to build.
JB: Is this a costly process?
CK: If you weigh lost business against building positive business or erasing negative reputation which impacts your business in ways that can’t be tracked, it can actually be offset by the positive business expansion and growth.
JB: What are the first steps in online reputation management?
CK: First, stop doing the things that are giving people legitimate reasons to complain. People in our line of work can’t help if those problems aren’t resolved. Next, don’t feed the negativity by responding to complaints at the websites or blogs where the complaint is posted– it is tempting, especially when you read comments that are unfair or patently untrue. You need to respond on your own turf. And finally, SEO your primary/core website, then begin to build multiple POPS.
JB: Can an organization do this on its own?
CK: It depends on their in-house expertise, but they probably need guidance and initial setup. On an ongoing basis, the company should be able to continue what a reputation management professional puts in place.
JB: When is the best time to engage in online reputation management?
CK: From the beginning of your web presence — make sure you are SEO’d (search engine optimized) for your industry and that your branded keywords (corporation or product names) are represented online with more than just a features list; that is, carefully placed testimonials, easy customer service access and response points, and backlinks (links to your primary website/s) from multiple POPs to your products/services/company brands.
JB: If someone is trying to hurt you online by starting their own blog, how long will it be before their blog starts to show up in the first couple of pages of a Google search?
CK: This would depend on how strong your own presence is online. If you have a weak or brand name only presence, it will show up quickly because attacks are always “brand-based” not industry keyword-based. So if you don’t have an industry keyword presence in searches, you can’t offset the brand searches and the negative will pop up along with your branded presence. If this is the case, it could show up in weeks or even days – depending on how savvy the blogger is.
[Chesa Keane, principal of Tao Consultants, www.computergoddess.com, is an Internet consultant specializing in online business marketing and search engine optimization. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international consultancy and author of “Keeping the Wolves at Bay: A Media Training Manual.” Contact email@example.com.