Protect Your Brand… on a Budget

Doctors, lawyers, professionals, small business owners, and even mid-size companies all need to attract new customers and clients one at a time. More often than not, these prospective customers are doing their due diligence by checking out the business or brand in question online before actually venturing down to the store or the office. The Internet has made it easier than ever for these would-be customers to find information about a company, which, depending on the strength of the company’s online reputation, can prove to be a blessing or a curse. Projecting a positive image online, and keeping falsehoods and bad reviews from damaging one’s online reputation, should be part of every business’ marketing budget.

For all of that, though, effectively monitoring and managing an online reputation is not always easy, nor is it always inexpensive. The best option for businesses of any size is to enlist the services of an online reputation management firm. If that isn’t in the budget, however, there are a few simple and straightforward steps that any marketing manager or small business professional can take to keep a brand’s online image intact.

Know What You’re Up Against

The obvious starting point, in defending your business’ online reputation, is to evaluate exactly what that reputation is. This task is simple enough: Simply Google yourself, and see what comes up. (While you’re at it, you might do the same on Yahoo and Bing.) Use your name or company name as a keyword, but also throw in some geographic signifiers. If you’re a dentist in Palm Beach and your name is George Jones, try searches for “George Jones Dentist,” “George Jones Palm Beach,” “George Jones Dentist FL,” and so forth. See if people are offering rave reviews of your services, complaining, or saying nothing at all. This baseline knowledge is important moving forward.

Protect Yourself

You may never set out to make professional enemies, but there’s no telling when a competitor or rival will decide to launch a smear campaign against you. Managing your online reputation means erecting a strong defense against such a campaign. Start by snatching up all domains associated with your business. Our dentist, George Jones, would want to try to buy,, and so forth. You may never use these URLs for online content, and that’s fine — but if you’ve got them locked down, that means your competitors can’t try to use them against you.

Get Social

You probably don’t need to be told that social networks are useful for marketing, but it warrants a mention that they are especially useful for online reputation management. You should sign up for an account on every social network there is. Believe it or not, they can be useful even if you use them sparingly, or not at all. They’re great for SEO purposes: When someone conducts a search for your name, your social media accounts will likely rank well on the search engines. They’re good for suppressing unwanted or negative content, then, to say nothing of giving you a place to post some compelling, strong content about your business.

Build a Wall

The concept of “suppression” is an important one in online reputation management. The bottom line is that, if someone posts negative content about your business — whether it’s true or not — there is nothing you can really do to erase it, delete it, or remove it from the search engine indexes. What you can do is suppress it; very few online searchers ever click past the first page of a Google search result, so if you control that first page, and knock all the negative content to later pages, it essentially makes that negative content non-existent. You can take a huge step in that direction even before your reputation is ever attacked, simply by writing up some strong, unique content that presents your business in a positive light, then publishing it to the Web. What you’re doing here is building a wall of positive content to protect your brand from damaging attacks.

Respond Carefully

An issue that many small business owners struggle with is responding constructively to negative feedback. Say some disgruntled customer posts a negative review of your product. What’s the best way to deal with it? Here a high degree of discernment is needed, because your actions could either make things a little better or a lot worse.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with offering a polite, businesslike response, especially if you truly have something constructive and helpful to offer the customer. However, it’s imperative to avoid the mindset of rebutting or refuting a negative review. Then, you’re simply drawing attention to the unwanted publicity — and ultimately strengthening the bad listing’s Google ranking! In this situation, you’re actually making the business of online reputation management that much more difficult.

For really serious cases of defamation, or for companies zealous for building a powerful wall of positive content, professional reputation defense companies can be invaluable; for those just starting out, these DIY reputation management tactics should prove effective.

Rich Gorman is a veteran of the direct response marketing industry and an expert in reputation management and direct response marketing for companies large and small. Rich also works with companies to create reputation repair clearing plans. He shares his thoughts on his blog at

Featured photo courtesy of jennzebel.

Filed in: Advertising, Branding, Feature Articles
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