In the digital age, how a brand is perceived online has monumental implications for both individual and corporate success. Search engine reputation management, the strategic presentation of online content to foster a positive brand image, has become a crucial aspect of brand sustainability and growth. By curating what appears in search results related to your name or business, you can better control your public image and mitigate the harmful effects of negative content.
To optimize your online presence, consider using these proactive and reactive search engine reputation management strategies:
- Define the scope of your online presence,
- Create a website that is optimized for search engine optimization (SEO),
- Claim all social media profiles and business listings,
- Proactively monitor search results and online mentions,
- Improve customer service and address customer concerns,
- Ask satisfied clients or customers to leave a positive review,
- Manage other search engine results such as Bing and DuckDuckGo,
- Respond to negative content in a timely and professional manner,
- Reach out to negative reviewers or hosts of negative content,
- Report content for Terms of Service violations,
- Work with a content removal attorney to remove damaging content, and
- Work with online reputation management professionals to suppress search results.
At Minc Law, we have extensive experience working with individuals and businesses to bolster and monitor their online reputations, remove damaging content from the internet, and minimize reputational risk.
In this article, we will delve into essential strategies for maintaining a favorable online presence, responding to negative content, and the role of legal recourse in certain situations.
Understanding Search Engine Reputation Management
In our modern world, the line between our online presence and our real-life existence is increasingly blurred.
With many of our interactions, transactions, and engagements taking place in the digital space, our online reputation has become a critical component of our personal and business identity. This underlines the growing importance of search engine reputation management, a practice that is now virtually synonymous with our everyday reputation.
What is Search Engine Reputation Management?
Search engine reputation management, or SERM, is like a toolbox that people and businesses use to manage their image and reputation on search engines. It can also be used to fix a reputation that has been damaged by false or negative content. SERM is a protective measure that can shield individuals and businesses from the adverse impact of a poor online reputation.
SERM is one component of online reputation management (ORM), yet its importance has grown due to its direct influence on search results. This service not only enhances awareness about search engine rankings but also educates users on activities that can improve their ranking.
What Role Do Search Engine Results Play in Shaping Online Reputations?
Search engines play a pivotal role in sculpting online reputations, given that they are the primary gatekeepers of digital information. They determine what content is seen and unseen, shaping the public perceptions of individuals and businesses based on the results shown for specific search queries.
How Can Search Engine Results Impact Individuals?
For individuals, the importance of monitoring search results cannot be overstated. Unfavorable content can easily circulate online, and if not addressed, it can be difficult to repair the damage to your personal brand. As a result, it is important that your intended image dominates the first page of search results.
Taking an active role in managing your online reputation can help clear up any false information and rise above negative content. This way, you can ensure your online image is positive, truthful, and accurately represents who you are.
How Can Search Engine Results Impact Brands & Businesses?
SERM applies just as much to corporate brands as it does to individuals. It is essential to make sure the information that is easily found online about your business creates a good impression. Nowadays, most of us are skilled at presenting a great image on social media. We edit images, select the best highlights of our business, and only share the news that shows our business in a good light.
This is increasingly important as potential clients, partners, and even employees often look at social media profiles when considering doing business with us. But what happens when someone types your business name into a search engine? What do they see on the first page of the search results?
What is the Connection Between SEO & Online Reputation Management?
The relationship between search engine optimization (SEO) and online reputation management is deeply intertwined. Both strategies aim at enhancing one’s online image, particularly on Google, the world’s most widely-used search engine. By adopting effective reputation management practices and optimizing content for SEO, you can increase your visibility and foster a positive online image.
Reputation management and SEO should be viewed as two interrelated parts of a successful marketing strategy. When businesses prioritize these practices, they can maintain a positive online presence. This can lead to greater brand recognition, enhanced trust from customers, and, ultimately, increased revenue.
Often, a search engine is the first point of contact a potential new customer will have with your brand. For online reputation management to succeed, a brand needs to influence what is displayed in search engines when a user searches for something related to the brand. This is where SEO plays a crucial role. An effective SEO strategy focuses on maximizing the value of the available space on search engine result pages, ensuring a positive and controlled first impression of the brand.
Proactive Search Engine Reputation Management Strategies to Build Your Brand
Proactively managing your brand’s reputation through SERM strategies is a vital element in maintaining a positive online image. By implementing these strategies, potential damage can be mitigated before it ever occurs, and the understanding of what needs to be worked on or improved becomes clear.
Identify & Define the Scope of Your Online Presence
The first step toward managing your online reputation is to have a clear understanding of your existing digital footprint. This involves identifying the scope of your online presence, which can be achieved by Googling yourself to discover what information is readily available about your or your business on the internet.
Follow these guidelines to efficiently search for yourself on Google:
Full Name Search
Start with a Google search of your full name, including any titles or suffixes you might have.
Conduct Location Search
Try searching your name in combination with your location. This could reveal more specific results.
Approach It From the Defamer’s Perspective
Think about what a person wanting to harm your reputation might search for and use those queries. This helps to uncover potential negative content.
Use Different Search Engines
Use different search engines, not just Google. Different search engines could present varying results.
Use Search Modifiers
Use search modifiers to narrow down results. For example, putting your name in quotation marks can provide more precise results.
Search Related & Linked Websites
Look at websites that are linked to your name or business or those you frequently use.
Set Time Constraints
Set time restraints for your search results to find recently posted content that could impact your reputation.
Conduct a Reverse Image Search
Conduct a reverse image search to find where your images might appear online.
Use Incognito Search
Use an incognito window to view unbiased search results that aren’t influenced by your previous search history.
Utilize Google’s Built-In Features
Make use of Google’s built-in features like Google Images, Google News, and Google Videos to locate different types of content associated with your name.
Conduct a Phone Number Search
Google your phone number to uncover any unwanted associations.
Seek Out Word of Mouth Feedback
Do not forget the importance of offline interactions. Ask friends, family members, or colleagues if they have found any concerning information about you or your business online.
Create a Website That is Optimized For SEO
An SEO-optimized website is an essential component of a positive online presence. It can serve as a powerful extension of you or your business and provide control over the narrative surrounding your brand.
Here are some key practices to follow:
1. Publish Strategic, Substantively Rich Content
The quality and relevance of your content is the primary driver of search engine rankings. Ensure the content is created specifically for your intended audience to increase site traffic and improve your site’s authority and relevance. Sharpen your writing skills and position yourself as an authority in your field.
Another significant aspect of content creation involves the strategic use of negative keywords. By creating content around these terms, you can mitigate their impact on your reputation. It is possible to turn negative search terms into a positive narrative, shaping your online image.
Make Sure to “Refresh Your Content”
Both your audience and search engines value fresh, up-to-date content. Keeping your content current is considered one of the strongest indicators of a site’s relevancy. Therefore, set a regular schedule to review your content and make necessary updates. This practice can help keep your site relevant and engaging, reflecting positively on your online reputation.
3. Implement Metadata Across Your Site
Metadata is essential information about the contents of your webpage, which is usually placed between the <head> tags during the website design process. If you are using a Content Management System (CMS), this data may have been pre-filled for you.
However, you must review and update your metadata as your site evolves. Accurate metadata helps search engines understand your site better, improving your visibility and enhancing your online reputation.
4. Create a Website That People Cannot Help But Link to
A website that is rich in authoritative and informative content is more likely to attract links from other websites. This not only enhances your SEO but also bolsters your online reputation. Strive to make your site’s content link-worthy by including relevant links within your text.
Rather than using generic “click here” links, use descriptive links that contain keywords. Descriptive links improve your search engine rankings and the ranking of the page you are linking to. It also enhances the user experience for all your readers.
Designing a website balanced with SEO is an art that gives your brand a competitive edge. By incorporating SEO practices into your website design from the start, you establish a strong foundation for search engines to recognize your site whenever you publish content. But remember, SEO should not be a one-time thing. It should be an ongoing process, continually improved and updated over time.
To incorporate SEO into your web design, consider these steps:
- Create high-quality content,
- Add social proof,
- Ensure your website is easily readable,
- Use headers,
- Use and update your metadata,
- Practice internal and external linking,
- Be sure to index your site’s pages,
- Make your site mobile-friendly, and
- Optimize your website for performance and accessibility.
Claim All Social Media Profiles & Business Listings
Both individuals and businesses can greatly benefit from claiming their social media profiles and business listings across various platforms. This process grants you control over the information presented about you or your company online.
In the case of businesses, it can also allow you to manage your profile, respond to reviews, and receive notifications about changes in your average rating. Every platform has a unique claiming process, so it is advisable to review instructions for each site, starting with prominent platforms like Google and Yelp.
While word-of-mouth reputation is valuable, matching this with a solid online reputation is vital in today’s digital era. This is because people increasingly rely on the internet to make informed decisions about individuals or businesses they interact with.
Optimizing your online presence involves implementing SEO best practices, using specific hashtags and keywords, and socially tagging relevant products or accounts. These techniques can increase the range of information that appears when someone searches for your name or your business’s services on search engines.
Importantly, maintaining an active online presence is critical. Be sure to post regularly, create engaging content, and keep your listings and accounts updated with the most relevant and current information.
Please see our comprehensive resource ‘The Business Owner’s Guide to Review Management’.
Diligently Monitor Search Results & Online Mentions
Keeping a keen eye on search results and online mentions of your name or business is integral to maintaining a positive online reputation. Here are a few methods you can use:
Google Yourself in Incognito Mode
Regularly Google your name or business in incognito mode. This gives a more authentic representation of what others see when they look for you online, free from personalization based on your search history.
Create Online Alerts
Make use of tools like Google Alerts to monitor online mentions of your name or business. This way, you will be notified anytime your selected keywords are mentioned, letting you respond swiftly if needed.
Review Social Media Accounts
Consistently check your social media accounts for mentions, comments, and direct messages. Engaging with your audience and addressing concerns promptly can greatly contribute to a positive online image.
Utilize Digital Risk Protection (DRP) Services
Consider employing digital risk protection services like Minc Law’s DRP. These services automatically monitor the internet for potential threats to your online reputation, allowing for early detection and response.
Improve Customer Service & Address Customer Concerns
Maintaining a positive reputation for a business is not just about managing your online presence; it also involves offering high-quality products and services and addressing customer concerns effectively. Here are some key points to consider:
- Products and services: what you offer is the primary reason consumers engage with your business. Poor products or services can quickly damage your reputation, especially if dissatisfied customers share their negative experiences online.
- Employees and customer service: talented, satisfied employees contribute to the quality of your offerings and provide better service to customers. A positive internal reputation can help retain these employees, improving your company’s reputation and attracting more customers in the long run.
- Safety: unsafe products, services, or business practices can harm your reputation. Ensuring safety and practicing non-discriminatory employment can keep criticism at bay, enhancing your company’s online reputation.
- Finances: financial stability reflects positively on your reputation. Businesses that offer quality products or services, and maintain satisfied employees are more likely to be profitable, fostering trust in your brand.
Remember, a positive online reputation starts with your in-person interactions. Ensuring satisfaction in all areas of your business can prevent negative online feedback.
Consider Asking Clients or Customers to Leave a Review
Encouraging your customers to share their experiences can not only provide valuable feedback but also bolster your online reputation. If you are unsure how to encourage reviews, here are some suggestions:
- Ask: while it can feel awkward, especially for small businesses or entrepreneurs, many customers are more willing to write reviews than you might think.
- Develop a system: to relieve some of the awkwardness of asking and to ensure you do not miss any opportunities, develop a review request system. For example, your customer service team could set a reminder to follow up two weeks after each purchase to solicit feedback.
- Target happy customers: if you want to boost your overall rating, focus on the customers you know had a positive experience. One strategy is to send customer satisfaction surveys to all customers, then encourage those who responded positively to leave a more detailed review.
- Personalize your requests: a personal touch can go a long way in building rapport with your customers. Instead of bulk emails, send a personalized email to each customer, using their name and thanking them for their business, then ask if they would leave an honest review.
Cover Your Bases by Managing Other Search Engine Results
While Google often gets the spotlight, it is important not to overlook other search engines when managing your online reputation. Search engines like Bing and DuckDuckGo also hold considerable user bases, each with its unique algorithms and search habits.
Establish a Bing Places listing for your brand, similar to your Google My Business listing. This will ensure your business is accurately represented in Bing search results.
Unlike Google, DuckDuckGo prides itself on user privacy and does not personalize search results based on user data. This makes it essential to monitor the first page of DuckDuckGo for your brand phrases regularly.
By ensuring your proactive search engine reputation management strategies extend to all major search engines, you are not just preventing potential damage; you are also seizing opportunities to improve your brand’s online visibility.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive guides explaining ‘How to Push Down Negative Search Results on Google’ and the ‘Top 9 Benefits of Online Reputation Management For Your Business’.
Search Engine Reputation Management Strategies to Address a Negative Digital Footprint
If you identify negative online content, it is crucial to tackle these issues effectively. Each piece of negative content should be handled carefully to not escalate the situation or harm your reputation further.
Respond to Negative Content, Feedback, & Reviews
Reacting to negative content requires a careful and considered approach. Handling negative feedback or reviews correctly can mitigate the impact and potentially turn a negative into a positive.
The Do’s of Responding to Negative Online Content
- Show empathy and understanding: acknowledge the individual’s feelings and experiences. Even if you disagree with the details, understanding is crucial for resolution.
- Take the conversation offline: try to move detailed discussions away from the public sphere. Offer to discuss the situation privately via a phone call.
- Provide a solution: where possible, offer a resolution to the issue raised. This not only shows the client but also other viewers that you are committed to customer satisfaction.
- Thank the reviewer: regardless of the content, thank the individual for their feedback. It demonstrates your commitment to improving based on customer feedback.
The Don’ts of Responding to Negative Online Content
- Get defensive: it is easy to feel attacked by negative content, but getting defensive can escalate the situation and harm your reputation further.
- Ignore the content: unaddressed negative content can damage your image. It is essential to address issues promptly and effectively.
- Do not engage in arguments: public arguments can harm your reputation. Keep your responses professional and focused on resolving the issue.
- Reveal confidential information: remember that confidentiality obligations apply online, particularly for medical and legal professionals. Never disclose any information that could violate privacy laws or professional ethics when responding to online content.
If you are a medical provider or legal professional, it is important to keep confidentiality and ethical considerations in mind when responding. For further reading, please see our comprehensive resource explaining how medical providers can respond to negative online reviews.
Reach Out to Negative Reviewers or Hosts of Negative Content
Upon identifying websites or individuals contributing negative content about you or your brand, a proactive strategy could involve reaching out to them. These might be reviewers or operators of blogs, social media accounts, forums, or other platforms hosting negative content.
When making contact, it is important to craft a non-confrontational and persuasive request. A polite and understanding message can often go a long way toward convincing someone to remove or edit negative content. While maintaining a respectful tone, it is also crucial to clearly express your concerns and how the content impacts you or your brand.
Also, be sure to consider your audience. Tailoring your message to the specific person or platform you are addressing can significantly increase the chances of receiving a favorable response. However, the process of requesting content removal is complex and fraught with potential pitfalls.
Online platforms are typically protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which makes it difficult to take legal action against them. In addition, inappropriate or aggressive requests can inadvertently draw more attention to the content, a phenomenon known as the “Streisand Effect.”
Due to these potential repercussions, it can be beneficial to seek the guidance of professionals experienced in online reputation management. They can help navigate the process effectively and reduce the risk of unintended negative consequences.
Report Damaging Content For Terms of Service Violations
Every online platform has a Terms of Service (TOS) or similar agreement that users must comply with. If you identify content that breaches these terms, such as hate speech or explicit imagery, you have the option to report or flag it for review. Following a review, the offending material may be removed by the platform if it violates the rules.
However, it is essential to remember that popular websites and social media platforms handle an enormous volume of these requests. As such, your report may be overlooked or not thoroughly investigated. In these cases, working with an experienced attorney could potentially expedite the process and increase the likelihood of successful content removal.
Please see our comprehensive guide explaining ‘How to Get Something Taken Off the Internet’.
Work With Content Removal Attorneys to Remove Damaging Content
When facing negative online content, partnering with internet defamation attorneys can offer a strategic advantage. These professionals are well-versed in laws related to copyright, harassment, stalking, defamation, and obscenity, and they can leverage this knowledge to facilitate content removal.
By enlisting their expertise, you can navigate the complex landscape of online reputation management more confidently and effectively, increasing the chances of mitigating damage to your online image.
Please see our explainer on why you should hire an attorney as your online reputation expert.
Work With Online Reputation Management Professionals to Suppress Search Results
When you have made efforts to remove damaging content from search engine results without success, it may be time to consider the assistance of online reputation management (ORM) professionals. An ORM agency can be invaluable if you are unable to dedicate the time required to monitor your online presence, create content, or implement effective SEO strategies.
Suppressing negative content is a common strategy used by ORM professionals to reduce the impact of unwanted online material. This technique involves the strategic creation and promotion of positive content designed to rank highly in search engines. The objective is to outrank and thus suppress the negative content. Typical ORM tactics include:
- Monitoring and responding to reviews,
- Sharing positive content on social media and blogs,
- Claiming all online profiles, and
- Adjusting social media privacy settings.
Before choosing an ORM professional or agency, it is important to do your homework. To learn about potential red flags and how to find someone who is the right fit for your situation, we recommend reading our comprehensive resources, ‘How to Choose an ORM Consultant’ and ‘How to Choose an Effective & Ethical ORM Company’.
“I am so happy with the first class service I received. Thank you for helping me re-claim my good name!”
Feb 5, 2023
At Minc Law, we provide customized ORM services for individuals and businesses. If you would like to explore custom pricing and services for your brand, reach out to schedule your initial, no-obligation consultation by calling us at (216) 373-7706 or filling out our online contact form.