Reputation is defined as the general estimation in which a person or company is held by the public. A keyword in that definition is estimation, which can then be defined as an opinion or a judgment. Your reputation is simply what others think and say about you. It is the foundation and cornerstone that will determine the success or failure for your organization. While your reputation can be completely established for a long period of time, it can very suddenly change causing significant impact on your company.
As the Internet continues to be the central resource where individuals go to discover information about companies or services, how you manage your digital reputation is vital. There are numerous aspects and websites on the Internet that impact your digital reputation and some of them are:
Consumers and clients alike want to know what company they are dealing with and the quickest way to find this information out is to search the company’s name by using a search engine. The three largest search engines: Google, Bing, and Yahoo! determine based on their web page rankings which web pages and information are displayed and in what order. The objective is to have as many positive or informational web pages populate the results at the top, while any negative information is pushed to secondary search result pages. There are numerous SEO (Search Engine Optimization) companies out there and for good reason, to enable your company to maintain a positive digital reputation.
Better Business Bureau
The BBB is a nonprofit organization focused on advancing trust in corporations by collecting and providing free business reliability reviews. When a complaint is filed against your company it becomes attached to your permanent online file with the BBB. The unfortunate part here is whether your company committed any wrongdoing or not; the information is publicized for all to see on their website which ranks very high in all search engines. While the BBB gives you an opportunity to respond to each complaint and posts your response online, it doesn’t absolve your company of having to continually deal with the permanent mark on your digital reputation.
Message boards or Internet forums are online discussion sites where consumers can post messages and hold conversations. For those who have been in the debt collection industry long enough, you are probably aware of the numerous message boards that publicize unfavorable comments and posts about creditors, agencies, and collectors alike. Some of these message boards are frequented so much by consumers they tend to rank very high in search engine rankings. Over the years, message boards relating to caller IDs have become increasingly popular with the purpose being to report who is calling from what phone numbers and discuss details of the call. While some of these message boards post legitimate complaints about services, there are many out there that have unreliable and inaccurate information that can deal a substantial blow to your digital reputation.
Consumer Protection Financial Bureau
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has indicated its intention of making complaints it receives from consumers against the collection industry public. Consumers simply go to their website and submit the complaint which is reviewed by the CFPB and then a response from the company is requested. From there the consumer reviews the company response and the CFPB reviews and may investigate further. At the end of the process the case may be posted to their consumer complaint database. While this is all relatively new, it is yet to be determined if professional discretion will be involved as to whether or not the complaint goes online for all to see even when there has been no wrongdoing. It will be important for you to monitor the complaint database as government domains seem to have a high search engine ranking.
Now that there is a better understanding of what impacts your company’s online presence, let’s discuss some options available for you to move your digital reputation in the right direction.
There are several industry websites that offer free or pay-for-service press releases that are displayed on their websites and distributed by email. While those types of press releases are useful, using a commercial press release distribution company such as Business Wire or Marketwired is the route to go to really make an impact on the Internet. These companies have several distribution options from a local, regional and national level and they are priced accordingly. These press releases push your press release out to hundreds and potentially thousands of news outlets and websites that start to create backlinks and begin to fill up search results when your company name is searched. In addition, the press releases create additional marketing opportunity from the news outlets to which it gets distributed.
Another option available to promote a positive digital reputation is through social media. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus are the main players in this arena. Take the time to create a page on each for your company and start to get the word out on the happenings within your organization. Utilize these websites as a way to share positive information about your company such as promotions, accomplishments, and philanthropy. There are also websites such as www.ifttt.com which allow you to set up triggers for all of your social media websites. For example, if you update your Facebook page it automatically triggers an update of a dozen or more specified social media accounts your company has to save you time from having to update them individually.
Search Engine Optimization
The best and most advanced option in creating a positive digital reputation is to invest in a professionally designed website with developers that utilize the latest in SEO methodology. Search Engine Optimization is the process of affecting the visibility of a web page in search engines natural search results. The trick is to fill in as many backlinks throughout your website in order to point search engines to specific pages within your company website. The more frequently a web page appears in search engine results, the more visitors to that web page which is a major factor in determining its ranking in search results.
Google Alerts is a service offered by Google which automatically notifies users when a set of pre-defined search terms are matched from any website. Companies can enter their company name along with any search keywords that may be associated with their company for when someone uses a search engine. The notifications are sent only when a match is found and is generally sent by Google through email. Google Alerts is a good way to monitor information about your company when it arises on the Internet.
Managing your digital reputation can be boiled down to two important elements, controlling what individuals see and say about you online. If you are able to utilize the options outlined in this article it will allow you to manage your digital reputation and help control any damages caused by negative or false information posted online about your company. Take the necessary measures to positively and aggressively manage your digital reputation, because if you don’t do it, someone else will define it for you.
Nick Jarman is the Senior Vice President of Diversified Consultants, Inc. Jarman served the last three years on the Board of Directors for ACA International and is the past President of the Missouri Collectors Association.