Web Presence – What is your Digital Presence and What are People Saying About Your Brand?
It is 2015. The Internet has evolved and has moved beyond its nascent stage. Today, your average Web consumer is much more savvy. They will look at multiple public facing facets of your business, thereby judging your company / business by what they find. And first impression is everything, folks. For that reason, it is essential to make sure you are aware of all aspects of your Web presence and ensure that it is consistent with your target messaging. This two-part article will help guide you through how to make your company’s Web presence as strong as it can be, paying attention to components such as branding, reputation, and the all-important realm of Web marketing.
The challenge for companies today is that the contemporary marketplace has created a cacophony of social platforms, review sites, directory listings, and Web properties to maintain for your business—but just maintaining your website won’t cut it anymore. We all know this and can at times feel overwhelmed by it. Many businesses from small to large end up having a fractured and piecemeal approach to their overall Web presence. The effect of this fractured approach is that it dilutes a business’ brand and can potentially damage its ability to compete and make a sale.
In the first article of this series, we will break down the different components of a business’ Web presence and offer suggestions on the best practices for maintaining and maximizing the benefits of both brand and reputation management for your company.
Branding Continuity - Inconsistent branding is, by definition, no branding at all.
Branding is essentially a mnemonic tool that will invoke a specific thought or feeling when seen. It can be a simple jingle like NBC’s tune, a specific color like Alabama’s crimson red, or it may be a symbol or tag line like Nike’s swoosh and “just do it.” While at its core, branding is simply a way to distinguish a company from its competition, it can represent so much about a company: its culture, voice, integrity, service, product, quality, professionalism, trustworthiness, etc. When done effectively, it not only will distinguish your business from your competitors, but will identify you as superior to your competition.
Unfortunately, many small businesses do not have the resources—or do not realize the importance—of maintaining a comprehensive digital branding profile, and often throw the job at an ill-equipped intern, admin, or entry-level assistant, unaware of the havoc this might wreak.
The solution is simple: take your branding seriously and respect the effect it can have on your business. To accomplish this, there are three options:
Option 1 – Properly train your staff and ensure that whomever is maintaining your Web properties has the tools, time, and ability to succeed.
Option 2 - If you do not have the skills, understanding, or resources to properly train your staff to manage your branding and Web properties, step up and admit it. There are plenty of Web marketing companies out there that would be happy to work with you on getting your digital house in order and properly training your staff. This way, they will be able to ultimately hand off the reins so that they staff can succeed on their own.
Option 3 – Pony up and hire a marketing firm to manage your public facing profiles for you. This is a specialist economy where we thrive by focusing on what we excel in. You do what you know you can excel at, and leave it to a marketing agency to do a superior job maintaining your brand and Web properties. As the saying goes, “A jack of all trades is a master of none,” so let someone be your ace in the digital marketplace.
Reputation Management – What’s the Word on the Web About You?
Your consumers are talking about you…but it is not just them. Your employees, interview candidates, potential consumers and competition are all discussing you too. This can be a scary idea if you have never thought about your digital reputation or even heard of the concept. The good news is that you are reading this article and are beginning to equip yourself for success on the Web.
Your reputation can come from a wide range of sources—from review sites like Yelp, Rate MD, and Angie’s list, to social sites like Facebook, Google+/local/places, LinkedIn, to consumer report sites like the BBB. Even how your website ranks on a Google search can affect your reputation. Admit it—you tend to give the first three listings on Google SERP (search engine result page) a certain amount of trust simply because they rank at the top of Google for their industry. That is why the top five listings on Google get 67.6 percent of web traffic 
But that is not where things end for your reputation. We mentioned your employees and interview candidates earlier, right? Well, you might very well be getting eviscerated on sites like Glassdoor or Indeed that specialize in employer reviews by current, previous, and potential employees. While these sites may not reach the thoughts of a potential customer, they certainly have a chilling effect on recruiting top talent in your industry—specifically, forty-eight percent of potential employees will consult Glassdoor alone in their research of your company before they even apply. This can then place you at a competitive disadvantage if your reputation management is not properly maintained.
So what to do?
As we stated above, you can always try to handle it yourself, hire a company to train your staff, or hire a company to handle your reputation management in its entirety. For the sake of giving you the proper tools, let’s say that you are going to try to manage your business’ reputation yourself. Below are some tips to make the most of your efforts. (Please note—if your reputation is in critical condition, you should seriously consider seeking professional help, as you are more likely to make things worse on your own rather than better. We can all band-aid a cut or ice a sprained ankle, but we know enough not to perform surgery on ourselves. Same kind of deal here).
Go for the low-hanging fruit.
While review sites generally loathe to take down a negative review, they are usually willing comply with a takedown request if the review violates their TOS (terms of service). Take Yelp for example. If someone were to do something such as write a fake review stating they were a customer of yours (when they in fact never were), receive compensation for the review, make threats to harm, stalk or harass you or your business, or violate any laws in the process of writing their review, you would have a solid case for removing it and a good shot at being successful.
Take the high road.
It is ok to address and reply to negative reviews, but remember: NEVER be drawn into an argument or dispute of facts, ALWAYS be gracious and professional and ALWAYS try to offer a solution. If someone has used expletives and a nasty tone in their review, then great—they’ve already lowered themselves and have done most of the work for you (what work have they done??). It is also ok to dodge and weave some reviews that may be too radioactive to address.
Maintain a good ratio.
We all know there are a few wackos out there, and it is ok if someone has ground an axe against your company. As previously stated, if they fly off the handle by cussing and writing irrationally, all the better. At Capisco, we recommend a 10 to 1 ratio of positive to negative reviews. People will take a couple bad reviews with a grain of salt as long as you have a solid group of positive ones. The only time a negative review becomes truly damning is when there are not enough good reviews to outweigh it—or even worse, when there are several negative reviews that are fact-based and all corroborate the same negative experience with your business. When this happens, you do not have an issue with your reputation, you have an issue with your customer service, policy, or product…. Time for some mea culpas and to turn your concerns and reputation efforts inward.
Ok, you most likely don’t have the skills to handle this one on your own. To be honest, this is a bit of a grey-hat SEO technique. An SEO company that knows its game can actually generate and rank a litany of Web properties that will result in pushing negative review sites to the second page of Google when someone searches for your business name. As the joke goes, “where is the best place to hide a body? The second page of Google”…rim shot please! Yes, we know that this is a bit of dirty pool, but it’s hardly unethical (well…maybe a bit unethical—but all is fair in love and commerce). Besides, this should really be used as an absolute last resort.
If you want to engage in SERP suppression, the best place to start is to create a multitude of Web properties and juice up your business name wherever you can in those listings. Honestly though, if you are at this point, you probably should have called us a long time ago.
When it comes to brand continuity and reputation management, following the steps highlighted above will provide your company with the clearest roadmap to success. We hope you take away a few tricks of our trade and begin applying them to your company. Be sure to tune in next week for the second installment of this article, as we delve deeper into web marketing and what you can do for your company to dramatically improve your web presence. As always, feel free to shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
if you have any questions, comments, or the overwhelming desire to talk to an experienced and successful web marketing company. Thanks for reading!