12 dos and don’ts for a successful reputation online

When you’re researching a business or choosing a product, what guides your decision? Are you put off by one-star reviews, negative news, and dated or irrelevant social media accounts? Of course you are. And so is everyone else.

Google controls nearly three-quarters of all the search traffic in the world. And it’s the first page of your search that garners the most attention. If there’s negative online content about the company, person, product or entity then people simply go elsewhere.

That’s why a successful reputation online and off must be planned for and cultivated. While I always recommend engaging an expert to plan and look after your online reputation, there are steps you can take to ensure you don’t get trapped by negative content.

You have to take control of your persona online. Here are 12 dos and don’ts to get you there.

Dos for a successful reputation online

  1. Have a strategy for managing your online reputation

An online reputation management strategy is key. Whether you work with an online management expert or create your own, start with collating your online content. Find out what people are saying about you by searching specific terms. These include your own name, your business name and any surrounding branding you have. Armed with this information, create and initiate a strategy to manage your online reputation. A good reputation strategy will include both short and long-term goals, KPIs and activities. Start with what a positive online presence looks like for your business. Lay it out in the same way as you would a marketing strategy so that you have clear milestones and actions.

2. Monitor what people are saying about you

Set up Google Alerts and other tools to monitor your name, your services, your business name and any related services online. Effective tools include Social Mention, Chartmeter and Trackur, which all give you instant updates when people mention you online. You need to know about any online content concerning you or your business. If it’s good news, you can then capitalise on it and spread the word through your own PR. And if it’s negative you can immediately begin to deal with it before it spirals out of control. It’s a good idea to also monitor your main competitors to enhance both your online reputation and marketing strategy.

3. Improve your search ranking

Consider how you can create links to bump you up to the top of the first page of a Google search and activate it. This could include rewriting and optimising your website copy, creating high-quality blog content, polishing and optimising social media profiles, creating a social media content plan, ensuring you have high-quality press releases being picked up by the media, and much more. Every single piece of online content, no matter whether it’s PR, a blog or review management, should be created to rank for your specific search terms.

4. Become an authority in your niche business area

By establishing your name and brand as an authority within your sector, you will create trust, build people’s confidence in your authority and reach a wider audience. This leads to more sales and more positive reviews, content and shared opinions. Use your web content, blog content and social media. Write high-quality articles for your own blog, and for other sites such as Medium and LinkedIn. This will begin to link your name with expert opinion and worthwhile content. Be authoritative but always careful to strike the right tone. Never talk down to your audience. Instead, share high quality, useful and interesting information, opinions and commentary. Ask their opinion and interact with your customers, clients and readers. Real, organic conversations go much further than simply placing adverts or selling in your content.

5. Get expert advice

If you find negative content about you, whether it’s videos, content or images, don’t jump the gun. Your natural reaction will be to defend yourself but reacting with emotion can make things a lot worse. Instead, if you’re not sure what to do, contact an online reputation expert before you do anything.

6. Be consistent and authentic

People want to trust businesses and people they buy from. When you create your strategy, always underpin everything with striving for authenticity, honesty and openness. Think about what you want your personal brand to look like and create a consistent message. Honesty, transparency and openness will build the strongest possible connection with customers. People are happy to use companies that address any problems out in the open, without denial or aggression. How you react publicly online to any problem, personal attack or negative customer review must be consistent, non-defensive, non-antagonistic, professional, calm and fair.

Don’ts for a successful reputation online

7. Ignore customer feedback

If you get a complaint, resolve it quickly, honestly and openly. This will negate the potential for it to turn into a damaging online review. More than 90% of people say that online reviews directly affect their buying choices, and almost as many always check reviews before buying anything or using a service. That’s how important your online reviews are, so manage all problems as they arise to engender customer trust and positivity.

8. React defensively

If you respond to criticism or negative reviews with a highly defensive, pubic rebuttal this will come back to haunt you. Remember that negative reviews roll in for everyone at some point. Even the Eiffel Tower isn’t immune, with a TripAdvisor review saying: “… and then what, you see the city from high up. Big deal.” The point is, negative opinions are subjective, and if someone leaves you a bad review, they genuinely feel they’re in the right. Any public response from you will be analysed not only by the reviewer, but other customers. If you show publicly that you acknowledge and accept the criticism, and that you are working to resolve the issue, this will boost your cred with customers. Don’t devolve into a long, two-way debate with the reviewer. Take it offline as soon as possible.

9. Be too obvious about selling

Selling too hard and too often will naturally turn people off. This means avoiding the temptation to pepper your online comments, blogs and social media content with ‘sell, sell, sell’ content. Avoid being seen as pushy and be willing to interact with people outside of selling.

10. Bring your personal life into your business social media channels

This is particularly relevant if you’re senior management, a business owner or CEO. Separate your business channels from your personal channels. Without exception. And think carefully about your intended audience before you post anything. It’s a good idea to keep away from political debate and any contentious issues on your business channels. But make sure they reflect your personality too. You don’t want a dry, boring tone of voice, but a balanced, nuanced persona.

11. Solely focus on the negative

Your online reputation management strategy should, of course, tackle negative comments or reviews. But it’s important to be balanced. The good stuff about your business will absolutely outweigh the bad, and this should be utilised as part of your strategy.

12. Give up too soon

Managing your online reputation is a long-term investment. Don’t make the mistake of ditching your strategy if you don’t see immediate returns. Your reputation management strategy should run alongside your marketing strategy and be part of your overall business plan. It is not a short-term fix. It’s about building, constantly improving and maintaining a successful reputation.