In this post I will define some components of our strategy we use for some of our clients requiring reputation management.
A lot of our reputation management strategy is built upon what we have learned running the most active property investors forum that has been running over 8 years now – PropertyTalk.com. We get a lot of disgruntled customers voicing their angry and frustration about businesses within our forums so we needed to come up with a way to be a mediator between the customer and the business.
But firstly as I said in my previous post about reputation management – Its not just about SEO. In fact if your strategy is to try and flood the search results on the first page with your content or use “black hat” methods to get zombie sites controlling the rankings then you are in fact only providing a temporary measure that overtime will result in more damage to your brand.
Let me explain.
Trying to control the first page search rankings with quick and dirty guerrilla SEO tactics is like a coiled spring. You have to keep paying people a lot of money to keep the spring coiled as much as possible. You take your hand off the spring and BANG! the negative posts came straight back up. That is of course if Google does not cotton-on to what you are doing and removes your ability to control the search results (called “de-indexing”). Then you’re really stuffed.
A successful reputation management strategy starts off with answering the following questions:
1) Why is there negative sentiment about me or my business?
2) If the negative sentiment is real then what do I need to change in my business to remove the issues that causes this negativity?
3) How can I start to repair (not remove, ignore, attack or hide) the negative posts and comments online?
Ultimately if the negative sentiment is not created and fueled by your competitors then there could very well be a problem with you or your business.
For example – do you provide an environment where your customers can discuss issues with other customers without feeling threatened and where you can address concerns? If not then its logical that customers who do have issues with you and cannot discuss them with other customers (they might actually be confused or just want to know how other customers are solving problems) will go to environments that allow open and free communication such as forums. The issue here is that you are on the back foot already – you do not control the forum environment and most times the negative sentiment has been fueled by other customers and Internet Trolls to such a degree that you will get hammered if you try and come in with an attack strategy and sometimes even with a white flag!
Providing good customer service is not the solution as most customer support systems feed off set response templates that are designed to protect the business not help the customer. This is why customers seek out online community forums where they get “honest” answers.
Another cause of upset customers is that the business is not transparent enough – there are no customer forums as mentioned above or that the education after the initial sale is not there or provided with static and out-dated online help pages. Your post-sale support should embrace social networks, blogs and online forums.
This is what we setup for our clients and with ongoing support from the client it results in less negative sentiment and more positive sentiment – which results in the organic re-shuffling of search results to have the positive sentiment appear first as there is more of it! The added benefit here is you do not have to pay some dodgy SEO company in a third-world country to try and disrupt the natural order of search results which fails almost 100% in the medium to long term.