Developing a truly effective system by which one can control their online reputation management is like designing and testing a new bridge structure. You have to work out the engineering pitfalls, try it, then get back on your feet and pave the path to a workable technical and stable system which gives the result you need so that it works 100% of the time.
Online Reputation Management is a science, with procedures and actions which balance on the edge of a pin. If not done right it all comes crashing down with no results, or worse, negative results. What we are talking about is really black hat online reputation management. We covered this a few days ago, but will go into more detail here.
The “Quick Fix”
It still amazes me how many people get tied into the “quick fix” schemes offered by shiny new companies who talk about BIG things for little money. “Setup 500 social profiles for just $100!” or “Get 50,000 real Facebook likes for just $1000!”. Buying thousands of backlinks, thousands of twitter followers and many other cheap, black hat methods.
Short-sighted is the executive, business owner or SEO company who buys into to this.
If there were a quick fix for online reputation damage then everyone would be doing it. And if it was effective it would be as expensive as it is valuable.
The no-no’s of online reputation management
Let’s set-aside ethics for a moment and just take this bridge analogy used above. If you build a bridge out of cardboard and styrofoam you are going to have a disaster the moment someone puts pressure on it. The same goes with your online reputation.
1. Creating Fake Reviews
Fake reviews will become your Achilles heel. The search engine giant Google has announced that fake “glowing” reviews will be taken down if detected and they have entered into their search algorithm many factors to determine this.
Fake reviews can also be embarrassing and have a very negative effect on your company. Many review websites do a quarterly or annual inspection of the quality of their user reviews and if they catch you out it can be quite a hit on your brand.
2. Using black hat SEO to build links
A sure-fire way to get yourself sandboxed by Google and undo all of your hard work is to try build “quick links” through spam techniques. Your will find many companies offering you thousands of backlinks for abnormally low rates. Watch out for these as they may seem to give you a temporary boost, but one for one, websites practicing in black hat link building will be found and penalised.
3. Content cloaking
4. Buying Social Followers
Not only is this pathetic, but is also indicative of the brand’s ability (or lack of) to communicate. Have you ever seen someone who has fake friends in real life? Remember that guy who had the nice car and people pretended to like him? Well, when he got in trouble no one was there to help because he had no real friends. The same goes with social media. In a moment of crisis, you will feel very lonely when one rogue journalist, blogger or ex-employee decides to defame you all over the place.
Real followers are achieved through real interaction only. This applies to all social networks and even general business. Proactive reputation management and crisis management requires the building of loyal followers.
5. Lying in a public arena
One of the first laws of PR is you never lie. Yes, there will come a time where you will not want to answer a sensitive question pointed at weaknesses in your existing setup, structure or organisation. But a skilled PR or representative, whether online or offline will know how to deal with that without lying. Trying to boost your reputation with fake reviews, false statements, lies in the press etc will eventually destroy it. When you start attracting a lot of attention, the lies of the past will creep up and bit you. So always be honest in representing yourself.
Quality is the only way
In the end, the answer is simple. The easy way is never the best way so focus on quality publications, communication and services. Do this in great quantity and you will establish a powerful online reputation and will be able to maintain it in a moment of crisis.
Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives. – WILLIAM A. FOSTER