Building a business is complicated enough that it’s tempting to overlook reputation management, or at least leave it until things are up and running. This is a mistake. Today’s entrepreneurs need to take their online profile seriously from the start. It doesn’t take long for a new company to attract unflattering comments on the internet and a single negative result ranking on page one of a Google search can cost the business as much as 22 percent of its revenue.
Entrepreneurs face a number of challenges when managing their reputation. It’s important to work on building a corporate brand that is known and recognised by clients. At the same time, as the founder and/or CEO of the company, an entrepreneur’s own personal reputation is what establishes credibility for the entire organisation.
Online Reputation Management (ORM) is a must for any new business, whether you’re working in B2C or B2B services. Corporate clients can be just as particular as private individuals and they often have more knowledge and expertise when it comes to evaluating companies. Professional reputation management services can help entrepreneurs establish their own personal reputation within the industry, even while they are still working on building a name for their brand.
Assess the Situation
ORM begins with a baseline evaluation of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for the term you’re targeting. The simplest way to do this is to sign out of all personal accounts and run a Google search on your full name, including any variations or misspellings you think a client might be likely to enter. Are there embarrassing photos or personal status updates ranking on the first page? If so, it’s time to go through your old accounts and delete anything that doesn’t further the professional image you want to present to clients.
If results are posted or shared by someone else they may be harder to get rid of. Simply asking the account holder to delete the material may be effective in many cases; otherwise site rules or legal protections where you live may give you the right to request removal. This can be complicated and time-consuming, so it will be helpful to work with experienced professionals if there is a lot of negative content.
Create a Personal Website
As an entrepreneur, you’ll be the public face of your company and customers are much more likely to trust a new organisation if they know who’s behind it. Along with the company site, it’s a good idea to establish your own personal website and branding, where potential clients can learn your history and prior career experience.
A personal website should include the following elements:
- Optimised URL – The URL needs to include your full name to rank more easily on a Google search.
- About Page – This should be a professional bio written in the third person. Use your full name naturally as a keyword.
- Blog – It’s important to have an element that’s updated regularly so there is always fresh content on the site. A professional blog is a good place to express you opinions on industry related topics and show you have real authority in your field.
- Call To Action – Include CTA buttons that send customers to the company website or any professional social media pages you update regularly.
- Contact Info – Make sure potential clients know how to contact you, whether it’s by phone, email or social media.
Set Up Professional Social Media Profiles
After you’ve created a website, the next step is to build professional social media profiles. Unlike personal accounts, these pages should be set as public and there should be a professional bio in the about section, essentially a condensed version of what’s on your website. Keep the page up to date with regular postings on career related topics, as well as any personal interests you feel make you relatable to clients. Avoid posting about controversial topics that could attract negative comments or alienate some clients.
It’s a good idea to lock down accounts in your name and the company’s name on as many sites as possible; this will prevent these profiles from being taken by someone else who has an interest in damaging your reputation. Social media profiles are easy to rank with Google and help to fill up the SERP with positive results that push negative content onto later pages. If you don’t update one of the profiles regularly, add a link and a CTA sending customers to a site you use more often.
Verify Your Google Listing
Claiming your business listing with Google tells the search engine that your company is real and you are the owner. It will be easier to keep location and website information up-to-date and you have the opportunity to appear on Google Search, Maps and other applications. This is one of the most important steps to making sure customers can find your brand online.
Manage Online Feedback
As much as you’d like to believe otherwise, you’re going to get negative publicity, comments and reviews on the internet. Counteract this before it becomes a problem by setting up a way to track and respond to feedback as it appears. Take negative comments as constructive criticism and explain what you’re doing to improve services. Create a CTA and encourage as many customers as possible to leave reviews; this will help to ensure there are positive as well as negative comments. As leader of the company it’s a good idea to respond to some reviews personally, if possible, so customers know you take their opinions seriously and hold yourself accountable for problems.
Consistently offering quality content on your blog and other pages will help to establish credibility with followers and clients. Express your opinion on a variety of industry related topics and offer information that that makes it easier for customer to use your products and services. Create a relatable personae by sharing information on sports, hobbies and other non-controversial personal interests. Blog about any volunteer work you do or charity causes that are personally important to you.
Try to build a reputation through mentions on third party sites as well as your own pages. Comments from industry influencers carry more weight than what you say about yourself, although they are more difficult to achieve. Attend conferences and network with colleagues and competitors to get your personal name and your brand name better known throughout the industry.
Contact the Reputation Defender team for more advice on building a credible online reputation.