10 steps to protecting your brand online‏

By Paul Morris

By Paul Morris

1/ Figure out what and where to monitor

Sounds simple right? Not necessarily! It is obvious to monitor your brand name, popular missspells and your URL however ensure you monitor other equally important brand related searches such as: public facing figures, product names and product URL’s not only on Google but also in industry forums and conversations, competitor sites, overall brand sentiment and images/ videos.

2/ Monitor the landscape

There are plenty of monitoring tools out there and so there is simply no excuse after you have figured out what to monitor to actually monitor it. Some good tools I use are Radion 6, Google alerts and Buzz Stream.

3/ Have a plan

When you do find a problem related to your brand you need a plan on how to deal with it. An approach to negative comments could look like:

*Investigate the facts internally before doing anything

*Always take the high ground and never engage in a bun fight

*Be nothing but honest e.g. do not lie about the situation (if your company is wrong then apologise and do something about it) and do not create ‘personas’ to support your situation as if you get found out you’re in a world of pain!

*Explain what you have done, or will do, to rectify the issue

*Offer to resolve the complaint personally and from someone senior. Ideally you often want to take the detailed discussion offline

*Rally your support network (friends, clients)

4/ Engage with key influencers

Due to the way the SERPS (search engine result pages) work there are increasingly more on theme blogger and key influencer sites/ profiles that will show up for your brand and relevant keyword searches

As a result ensure you have a social media outreach programme that searches for and engages with key bloggers in your niche (also do not forget other channel influencers here such as those on Twitter – something like Klout.com can help score influencers). This gets them on side and potential gets them to comment positively about you.

At my current agency I worked with the Social Media team for blogger outreach on the Very.co.uk brand and it worked a treat.

Ignore influencers at your peril – as Spirit Airlines found to their peril

On a related note ensure you outreach correctly. Make sure you outreach to the right people at the right time in the right tone and with the right medium (you get the right point right?).

5/ Do something amazing

The stories of Zappos customer service are the things of legend but this story truly takes the biscuit for a company who is just brilliant at being nice/ PR.

6/ Deal with negative search results

If you find there are negative reviews/ comments out there coming up for key brand related searches then you need to do something about it. If you have tried to speak to the negative site about it and there is no way of removal or putting your side of the argument across then tactics for demoting that result include:

*Create sub domains / start a blog to dominate the first page of Google

*Keep creating news and get added to Google News (I have lots of tips on how to do this but that’s another post) so you are showing up within Google’s new Freshness index to push the negatives down the SERPS.

*Ensure your site links are updated and optimised

*Try to get a Wikipedia page authorised or optimise your current Wikipedia page

*Use Press Releases e.g. PR Web to promote your business and get the good stuff out

*Engage in PPC ads that further shunt down negative reviews

*Build links to sites that are neutral or positive towards your brand to hopefully elevate them above the bad stuff

*Optimise your Social Media profiles e.g. Flickr, LinkedIn and Google+ profiles as they may also show up above the bad stuff

7/ Do not ignore offline

Digital marketing does not exist in a vacuum. By putting your heads together I’m sure there are ways your entire marketing department can help avoid negative press to begin with or deal with it when it happens. Here is a good story of how a local grocer dealt with negative PR that includes offline marketing

8/ Share your insight

Posting your comments on industry forums is a great way of reinforcing your reputation. You just need to do it in a really open and honest way and be super careful not to interrupt conversations just so you can get your brand mentioned. Be genuinely helpful, offer great customer service and your reputation will improve as a result. Some other tips for engagement are:

*Do not over use signatures

*Excessive site linking is not good

*One or two word comments is of little use….

*…As is quantity over quality e.g. patting yourself on the back for engaging in 40 conversations well rather than having engaged in 10 conversations excellently

*Ensure a thorough understanding of the post theme before commenting out of context

*Do not dominate the thread, or indeed forum, as others need the chance to air their opinions

*Most of all ensure you add true value to that medium as otherwise what’s the point?

9/ Encourage positive feedback

Positive feedback should hopefully flow naturally however it does not always happen that way and you can always push things along a little. One instant tip is to use a site such as TrustPilot.co.uk who is effective at getting reviews from your customers about your business.

10/ Innovate

Use innovative ways to promote your brand in non obvious ways. Examples I have used in SEO are widgets, infographics and gamification hence read my infographic and gamification/ widgets posts for more information on how you can produce interesting and engaging content that rubs off well on your brand.