If you’re doing business on the Internet, then reputation management is something you should be concerned a bit with. In the current climate of very popular social media and other user generated content based websites, a bad rep can bite you hard. People review your site, link to it, talk about it and even copy it… So managing your web reputation is an important aspect of your online business.
Wikipedia defines reputation management as the following:
Search Engine Image Protection (SEIP) Also known as Search Engine Reputation Management (SERM), combines the science of Search Engine Optimization, with technical and marketing expertise, for the sole purpose of protecting your name and reputation from undesired public information accessible via internet search results.
An excellent and free way to get started in managing your reputation is by using free Google alerts. Google Alerts is a free tool taht will email you when a specific set of criteria/queries you setup is found within Google’s index. The queries are a set of search terms you pick with matching options which are checked against the Google index, and when there are new pages containing those search terms an email is sent to you.
Upon opening Google alerts you are presented with some options for setting up your alert. These options are:
- Search terms
- Type of search (News, Blogs, Web, Comprehensive, Video and Groups)
- How often (as it happens, once a day and once a week)
- Delivery to (email address or feed)
Common ways to use Google Alerts to manage your reputation include:
- Watch for your business name
- Watch for your domain name
- Watch for very unique blocks of text from posts or pages specific to your content
- Watch for your phone number
- Watch for your name
- Watch for SKUs, model numbers and specific product names (great for price research)
Once you get these setup you will begin getting emails from Google regarding indexed pages containing your search queries. You are also probably going to freak if you have a blog and see now how many times your content is copied. When your blog content is used, you should be credited…. This is not always the case. Don’t get too worried about this, as most site’s will run your content very briefly and the likelihood of another site ranking with this duplicate content is very slim.
What do you do if you have been slammed?
This is really the point of reputation management and what we are really looking for. So you get a Google Alert, and some guy in Timbuktu has really talked some trash about your company / product / site. What now?
The first order of business is to determine if this page is ranking for your search query (business name, domain name, etc.). This is easiest enough to determine with this free rank (SERP) tool. If the content is not ranking, then you might just wait and watch. If the slam content or bad review is ranking, you should take action to protect your reputation on the web.
The very first order of business is to contact the webmaster or site owner and request that it be removed if it is slanderous or untrue. If they decline, aside from legal action, there isn’t much you can do.
Next step is to make specific moves to lower the search rank and visibility of the content. There are many ways to accomplish this task. The easiest way is to use social media to discredit or vote down the page. You can have some friends do this as well. In keeping with this theory, you will also probably need to vote up, the other pages in the same ranking results. Yes, even and especially is the pages you are voting for are not yours. Face it, you need to rank pages over this bad reference and the best pages to beat it out are on the same search page!
Flooding the search results with fresh new content or Google Bombing is another way to combat the ding in your reputation. This isn’t hard to accomplish overall and can have a very fast and positive result to remedy the situation.
Google Bombing: The practice of using anchor text to make a page show up in the SERPs (Search Engine results) under keywords that are out of natural context for that page.
While this seems very dubious, the actuality is that this same nasty trick can be used to bury a result you wish to make go away. Very simply your need to use the anchor text of the query to promote a page to bomb or reduce the search rank of the offending page. Once again, these best candidate for a Google Bomb is the pages listed on the same page for your search terms. To do this, you will need to create a bunch of links pointing to the page you want to promote using the search terms as link text.
Creating these links is not so hard, forum signatures, related blog comments and other user generated content and participation opportunities will work just fine. The better the link, the better the results. Take note to choose a page from the results with good ability to rank, (fresh, authoritative .. etc) the once you have created these links, once again use your social bookmarking to promote the pages with the links to the page your are promoting.
While this isn’t very difficult, you may someday find yourself in a situation where you cannot seem to move this offending result… Then you probably want to seek professional reputation management help.