10 Online reputation management tips for your business

When people search for your business, they should ideally find your company website, your social media accounts and positive posts on review sites. These 10 tips will help your efforts to achieve that lofty goal.

That's not exactly breaking news, of course, but it's worth repeating. So many businesses don't pay full attention to their online reputation-how good (or bad) they look in Google searches.

The key to protecting your brand, according to online reputation management experts, is to be proactive, optimise your content appropriately, monitor your search results regularly, be ready to spring into action if something negative shows up and, above all, be realistic about the outcome of your efforts.

Here are 10 online reputation management tips to help your business protect its brand.

1. Optimise your site with your company name

Optimise several pages on your website using what's probably your most important keyword phrase-your company's name-advises Andy Beal, CEO of social media monitoring company Trackur.

Why? Google will likely see your site as the ultimate authority on your company. Being an authoritative on a topic is one of many important signals the search engine considers when matching content to a search query and then ranking that content among other results, Beal says. By properly optimising more than one page for your company name, you'll help keep those pages at or near the top of search results. Not only does this give your site greater visibility in search results, it may also help push down not-so-positive content about your company that you can't control.

The best practice is to use your company name in important places such as the HTML title tag and URL (if possible), particularly on pages that describe your company, such as About Us or Contact Us.

Also, some companies refer to themselves in the first person on their websites, Beal notes; "We build widgets that last" instead of "The Widget Company builds widgets that last." Using the third-person voice is a better option, he adds, because it reinforces your company name to the search engines.

2. Diversify your web presence

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Your goal should be to proactively own as many slots in the Google top 10 search results for keywords you care about, says Don Sorenson, president of Big Blue Robot, which offers corporate online reputation management services. For one thing, it shows your companys dominance in that topic. For another, you'll have a better chance of keeping negative content about your company or its products out of the top 10.

"You'll never be able to just get rid of negative stuff you can't control," Sorenson says, citing examples such as bad Yelp reviews or negative newspaper articles. "But you can at least balance it with positive content you do control."

To achieve top 10 dominance, your Web presence should be spread out among your company's site, related blogs, and social media networks such as LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook Fan pages, YouTube and Twitter. Google's search engine technology views these social network sites as authoritative and trustworthy; both are important factors in how highly content on those sites is ranked.

How to use Social Media to expand your brand

Be realistic. "I've never seen a company own everything on the first page of Google results," Sorenson says. "The only way that might happen is if your company has a truly unique name and there's absolutely nothing else on the Web with that name in it." Even Apple about as dominant a company as you can get doesn't own all the top 10 results when you Google the word apple. Not surprisingly, however, all the top 10 results have something to do with the Cupertino company. None mention the fruit.

3. If you have to choose one Social Network, make it LinkedIn

Social media takes a lot of time and effort to manage. If you must limit your resources, focus on LinkedIn, advises Patrick Ambron, CEO and founder of Brand Yourself, an online reputation management service. LinkedIn profiles tend to rank higher than some other social media network content, and it's particularly important for B2B companies, as many people search on LinkedIn instead of Google for professional services.

4. Get other sites to link to yours with anchor text but don't overdo it

Anchor text is a hyperlinked word or phrase, such as online management tips for job seekers, that when clicked takes you to another Web page. Search engines use anchor text to determine the relevancy of the page being linked to. If several pages on authoritative, trustworthy sites link to the tips article using the above anchor text link, it helps that article rise in search result rankings for that phrase.

Of course, getting quality keyword-rich anchor text links from other sites pointing to yours is difficult, Beal says. Those sites are beyond your control, though perhaps not beyond your influence.