Word of mouth marketing is still the most cost-effective way to get and keep customers.  And today’s word of mouth marketing often comes in the form of a Google search.

Just look at your own behavior.  The first thing you do when you want to learn about a business is to search for their name on Google.  Even if all you want is a phone number or address so that you can get directions — your first stop is Google.

The next thing you might notice about the business you searched for is Google reviews, or maybe some blog posts and product reviews.  And this is the root of reputation management.

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What is Reputation Management?

Reputation management is a fancy way of saying that Google is your home page. For a small business, a positive online reputation is everything and a bad review can make a huge impact on how many new customers you get.

When you show up first on a Google search result, you’re more than likely going to have traffic to that site or landing page. More click-throughs and visits ultimately mean more reach and more customers. Those are the kinds of results most business owners would pay through the nose for.

In all actuality, ascending the ladder of the search engine results pages (SERPs) for personalized content won’t mean we’ll be the only ones at the top. And even when we’ve done all we can, there’s no real guarantee you’ll be ranked first.

How do you combat those issues or get to the top in the first place? You should be focusing on reputation management.

Reputation Management vs Bad Press

Reputation management is important for all businesses, regardless of whether there’s negative or positive chatter out there. Google and potential customers will recognize your brand authority over time as you develop and position it as an authority, which will organically enhance your SERPs.

It’s not uncommon for companies to pay for negative reviews of their competition. Sometimes those negative reviews will be the first to show up when a company is researched online.

If a negative review is the first to show up when a company is searched, any potential customer will be directly impacted by it. Often, it ends up deterring people from going to that business’ site or purchasing a product from them. Top search results are often seen as more authoritative so even a negative title tag can have a big impact.

Recently published unflattering reviews can quickly jump up to a higher search spot because of when they were published and the keywords used in them.

Solving that problem is tricky. Unless you own the negative article or comments about your business, you won’t be able to remove it, and Google won’t be removing it either. One way to combat this situation is to find alternative solutions to raise positive content above the negative.

Getting on Google’s Good Side

Getting a business to show up on Google in a beneficial way is the first step. Luckily, we can suggest a variety of ways you can do it:

Get Good Reviews

The bottom line is that earning Google reviews will benefit your business. Period. It’s a two-fold, win-win sort of situation: positive Google reviews improve and stabilize your credibility among web-browsers, and it lets Google benefit from the users coming on their engine to research you.

Contact customers you have a good relationship with to get good reviews. Talk with them about how they feel about their interactions with your company. Ask them if they would be willing to write and submit a review of your company.

If your customers don’t know how to leave a Google review, here’s how you can send them a direct link to your Google review page:

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  1. Search for your company name.
  2. Click on the “reviews” element of your profile.
  3. When the window opens up – go up to the address bar and copy the URL
  4. Paste that URL in an email and send it to your customer.  When they click on the URL, they will go straight to the review window and click on “write a review”

Create Meaningful Content

Content marketing is crucial. Create good content that is easily marketable. This can look different for different companies but in general, that could include regular blog posts and posts on social media. Developing a presence online will give you a shot at establishing your authority, demonstrating your expertise in a given area, and building a good reputation and connection with your consumers.

It takes time to develop good, reliable content, but don’t view it as a back-burner idea—even if you have to contract out for blog posts or articles. Get started on it today because if your goal is to achieve the greatest number of early Google results you can, developing your branded content is the best way.

Work Around Negative Content

Let’s face it, you’re going to get negative reviews or someone writing a negative article about your business.  The best way to manage that is to make sure that you have enough positive content and engagement to overcome and overwhelm any negative content.

Here are some specific suggestions to handle negative content:

  • Look into specific keywords in use. Their content might appear for several keywords. Use a tool such as Moz’s tool to check.
  • Make your content more worthwhile and informational by focusing on similar keywords to displace the negative ones.
  • Use backlinking to draw attention to positive search results.

Best Practices for SEO

At the end of the day, an emphasis on reputation management and best SEO practices are going to come together to give you the best results. There are countless of SEO guides out there, but strive to:

  • Make it easy for the search engines to crawl the entire text of your website (enhance crawlability).
  • Use alt image tags and other SEO keyword optimization practices: these are the keywords you want to rank for so that images from your website show up when someone searches for your keyword phrase.
  • Optimize your site loading speed – Make your website faster

At the End

Understand how your brand is being presented in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Do whatever you can for your brand to ensure it is being represented accurately. Play the long-term game and maintain a level of content that is high-quality. Do what you can to be aware of your brand mentions online.

Trying to figure out how to improve your SERPs and rankings on Google’s first page? A digital marketing company might be the way to get the edge on the competition. If your business is contingent on a good search engine showing, then getting there is worth whatever it takes.