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Monday, January 6, 2014

The Importance of Online Reputation Management

By Hailey Harper

During the emergence of the industrial age, Andrew Carnegie was able to ruin a rival steel company who could make better steel, faster than Carnegie’s company by claiming that they used inferior substance in the composition of their steel railings. Today, his tactics would have worked even more effectively on the Internet. An online business may experience a barrage of negative opinions from many fronts. They can come from pessimistic bloggers, from dissatisfied customers, or even from business competition submitting anonymous defamatory content to a product review website.

So, an online reputation cannot be left to chance; it has to be carefully managed. Even if a person or a company is professional and ethical, their reputation may still be unfairly tarnished. Readers seldom evaluate whether a poor reputation is justified. Usually they just take things at face value. According to the Society of New Communications Research, customers tend to buy from a company based on what other customers have shared online. They surveyed 300 customers and concluded that 74 percent bought products or services based on what other people’s opinions.

Thus, a virtual online reputation, like a real offline business reputation, can make or break a business.

Why Reputation Management Is Necessary

All optimized content will rise to the top of a search engine’s results pages. Search engine crawlers do not evaluate whether the information is accurate or inaccurate, fair or unfair, true or misleading. They only focus on the keywords chosen, how and where they are placed, and the keyword density. The result is that defamatory content that may not have a shred of truth to it has as much an opportunity to rise to the top as an honest review.

Due to the problems companies experience as a result of customers coming across misleading information, some businesses have specialized in creating reputation management systems. The purpose of these specialists is to control what customer’s see when they are searching for a particular company online.

How Reputation Management Works

While a Reputation Management company cannot control what an unhappy, bitter, angry consumer writes about a company, it can counteract a negative review by providing optimized content from satisfied customers, positive discussions from industry experts, and interesting information about the company. In other words, they add fresh content and positive information to the Internet. Eventually, the negative reviews no longer dominate the top ten searches or even the first few pages of Google for popular keyword phrases used to find the company.

In essence, then, a company can represent itself in a positive light and protect itself from the unchecked appearance of defamatory articles, reviews, and comments about it.

Reputation management is necessary to prevent negative information from propagating on the Internet based on dissatisfied customers or jealous rivals. While it is not always possible to get negative reviews removed, it is possible to have enough positive content to dominate the search engines for a business name.

Hailey Harper is a marketing strategist from Tucson, Arizona. She specializes in business management, public relations, marketing, and SEO.

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