Reputation Management for 2017

Every year, reputation management becomes an even more important part of building a successful business. In 2017, it’s almost impossible to attract clients without an online presence, and entrepreneurs who fail to take control of their company’s reputation early will find themselves at a disadvantage.

Reputation Matters

People are expressing themselves more than ever on the internet and they’re also increasingly turning to other people’s comments to decide if a product or service is worth buying. 64 percent of marketing executives worldwide say “word of mouth” advertising is more important than other forms of marketing. On a personal level, we’re often taught not to worry too much about what others think of us, but what people say about your business will have real consequences when it comes to revenue. Company leaders can’t afford to not pay attention or to not care. They must take an active role in promoting the company through all internet platforms.

5 Reputation Management Questions to Ask in 2017

At ReputationDefender, we assist businesses with building or maintaining their online reputation. Reputation management is a growing field that changes regularly as search engine algorithms are updated and SEO techniques evolve. Yet there are some basic elements that every entrepreneur should consider if they want their company to keep expanding in 2017.

Here are five basic reputation management questions, as well as some of the ways companies can answer them:

  • What are people saying about my business? – There’s a lot of negativity on the internet. People are comfortable saying things online that they wouldn’t say in person, and sometimes this manifests as unreasonable rants about businesses or services they feel have let them down. As a business owner, it’s easier and more comfortable to just avoid reading these comments, especially since they tend to detract from our confidence in the company. Unfortunately, the last customer’s rant may be the first thing the next person researching your business sees. If you can’t delete the comment, you can at least respond politely and appropriately, so that it will be obvious you’re not the party being unreasonable. Sometimes customers also complain about real issues, so it’s crucial to take comments as constructive criticism and use them to improve.
    1. Google Alerts – A Google Alert for your name, the brand’s name and any related keywords will let you know any time someone leaves a comment on the website or another review site. This will allow you to respond appropriately.
    2. Social Media – Unfortunately, Google doesn’t index social media pages so if someone rants about your company on Instagram or Facebook it won’t be picked up by a Google alert. There are lots of social media listening tools, like Geopiq for Instagram, Reddit Keyword Monitor Pro, Hootsuite and Reputology, just to name are few. Some are free, while others come with a minimal cost. Of course you still won’t be able to respond to a private social media post, but the more tools you have at your disposal, the better the chances of catching a bad comment or review before it does too much damage.
  • What are people saying about competitors? – Don’t feel guilty about eaves-dropping on your competitors. The internet is a public place, so the information is available to everyone, just as your reputation is available to competitors. If online reviews give your top competitor four stars and they only give you three, which business will the next client choose? Probably not yours, unless there are some other mitigating factors. It’s as important to follow competitor’s reviews and comments as your own, so you can see what appeals to customers and work on imitating it. Give customers a reason to pick you over your competitor, whether it’s a different service, a better price, or just higher quality.
  • Is your website attracting clients? – The official company website is the key to attracting clients. It needs to be professional, informational and easy to navigate. It also needs to be optimized to appear at the top of the search result page for your brand. Most website platforms will offer tools to analyze traffic and let you know whether you’re attracting clients who spend time reading material. If the results are unsatisfactory, consider getting a professional SEO audit to figure out what isn’t working and improve on it.
  • What is not managing your reputation costing you? – Many entrepreneurs think that reputation management costs too much or takes too much time. However, once damaging material appears online, it could reduce profits almost immediately, especially if there isn’t already positive material ranking right alongside the negative reviews. The time and money it takes to build a positive reputation is much less than the cost of trying to fix a damaged reputation after the fact.
  • Do I need a professional reputation management service? – This question has to be answered individually for each company. Large companies may hire their own reputation management team as a division of online marketing. Small or midsize companies should consider working with a professional service unless one of the founders already has experience with reputation management or SEO. Many entrepreneurs may feel they can go it alone to start with, but reputation management can be very time consuming and as the company grows there will quickly be too much to do. Working with professionals from the start will help to give the company the best chance of success.

For more information or answers to further reputation management questions, contact our experts at ReputationDefender.

Combat Online Crime – Five Ways to Improve Your Company’s Cyber-Hygiene

Cyber-crime is a growing problem that has begun to invade almost every part of the internet. There are numerous ways criminals can attack individuals and businesses online, from traditional fraud or theft, to leaking personal data and hijacking websites through ransomware or distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. At ReputationDefender, we help businesses shore up their defenses against these threats which can damage the company’s reputation and leave its leaders struggling to regain control of personal data.

Unfortunately, not every battle is winnable. There are many targeted online attacks, called Advanced Persistent Threats (APT), which are carried out by a massive organization (often a nation-state) with a lot of resources at their disposal. The latest big DDoS attacks also have the ability to knock out huge swaths of the internet for a short period of time, and they are very difficult to defend against.

Most Online Crime is Preventable

However, the majority of cyber-crime instances occur as a result of human error or systems that aren’t secure. People who fail to practice basic hygiene are more likely to get sick or spread disease to others and the same is true of online viruses and malware. Companies that succeed in blocking most access channels will send hackers on to easier targets. Basic cyber-hygiene won’t protect against every threat, but it will make it much less likely that your company will be one of the unlucky ones.

  • Education – A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and in this case that means the employee with the least amount of tech experience. Reduce the risk by educating everyone with computer access in basic security protocols, such as password strength and phishing scam recognition. Make sure anyone with home access is running security software.
  • Use Available Resources – There are a number of online sites that have a lot of information on cyber-security. In the UK, the Get Safe Online site offers valuable resources for companies and individuals who want to protect their privacy. Do not assume that you know everything; read the experts’ advice and then share it with other staff members.
  • Update Regularly – Microsoft, Adobe and other office software offer regular updates and security patches. It is extremely important to make sure someone is in charge of installing these; they’re often designed specifically to close vulnerabilities that criminals have learned to exploit.
  • Invest in Security – Viruses and malware are constantly changing. At some point, technology from ten years ago simply won’t protect against modern threats. Up-to-date security might seem like a big investment, but it’s nothing to what the company will lose through direct stealing or reputation damage if it’s hacked.
  • Perform Internal Audits – Security issues do not go away if you ignore them; they get worse. It’s worth hiring a professional to perform regular audits so you can diagnose the company’s weakest areas and work on fixing them.

Ultimately, combating cyber-crime will take a concerted effort amongst international and governmental agencies to track down these individuals and eliminate all the different ways they can attack. However in the short term, companies can accomplish a lot by making sure their own security practices are first rate.

Why Do I Need to Know About SEO?

With Google’s algorithmic changes aimed at putting the user experience first, page optimization has become increasingly focused on content. Manipulative black-hat techniques, such as link generation and keyword stuffing, have fallen into the background, whilst well-written content and traditional marketing techniques have become key.

Yet the latest slogan, “Content is King”, undermines the important role technical SEO still plays in ranking a page. It’s true that well-written, original content is a must for today’s algorithms, yet with everyone on the internet focused on creating quality material, expert page mark-up, crawlability and optimal load-speed, these features are also needed to rank a page high on the SERP. At Reputation Defender, we help brands to build their reputation using all aspects of SEO; from quality content creation to running technical audits that analyze how the page is performing.

A Basic SEO Checklist

SEO isn’t something companies can just ignore. A thorough SEO check-up is a necessary part of building a website, since all the time and money will be wasted if Google can’t index the page and rank it where a potential customer will see it. Even for a small website, an SEO check-list constitutes a comprehensive task. Here is a basic overview of some of the most important areas:

  • On page SEO – This includes basic attributes such as the page title, meta description, headings, keyword usage and keyword density. A sitemap will help Google and other search engines navigate and index the website, while a Robot.txt file tells bots which pages to crawl. Text to code ratio, page requests, CSS and Google analytics tags must also be analyzed.
  • Speed Test – Page load speed is an important ranking factor for Google, so SEO needs to consider HTML page size, (around 33 kb if possible) and use Gzip code compression if necessary. Pages should contain a caching mechanism to load faster; the use of flash items should be avoided if possible since this will slow the page down. A Site Loading Test also needs to perform to verify load time.
  • Server and Security – Check URL and IP canonicalization to ensure that each page has its own unique URL and IP. Analyze security issues such as directory browsing, harmful botnet access and server signatures. The website should be “on the green side” for safe browsing, otherwise it could infect customers with a virus, making them unlikely to return.
  • Mobility – To succeed on today’s internet, websites need to be optimized for mobile devices and include Social API’s for major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc).
Auditing a Site

There are many reasons why a page that seems to be well-optimized may not be ranking. It could be due to content, website traffic, incoming links or other off-page factors, but this will be impossible to prove without first checking technical aspects related to indexing and ranking. Bad URL’s, incorrect internal linking, duplicate content or Schema marking are just a few of the reasons pages could fail to rank on the SERP.

Most SEO’s use software to perform a technical audit. These programs can crawl the webpages in a similar way to Google bots and highlight the issues that could be causing a problem. These are three choices site auditors might want to consider:

  • Screaming Frog – One of the most popular programs that is easy to use and free up to 500 pages.
  • ISS SEO Toolkit – A Microsoft based program that is slightly more in-depth for those possibly with more advanced SEO training.
  • SEMrush Site Audit – A valuable tool for analyzing site changes.

Software choices often depend on personal preference as well as the size and complexity of the site.

Technical Requirements of SEO

Today’s SEO’s need a lot of different skills, so good work usually results from collaboration between different members of a team. Writers and content editors need to develop articles that will draw in clients and encourage them to browse further through the website. Marketers promote products, construct a company image and establish connections. But without technical SEO analysis all these efforts will be ineffective at promoting content and building a positive online profile.

These are just a few of the topics modern SEO needs to be familiar with to analyze a page and improve SERP ranking:

  • DOM (Document Object Model) – A structured representation of a web-page that enables it to be read by scripts and programming languages.
  • Structured Representation of Data – An organized way of representing data that relies on protocols laid out on schema.org.
  • Critical Rendering Path – The method by which a page loads and is constructed or rendered into the browser.
  • Log File Analysis – Using the record of server requests to analyze how the site is being crawled by search engine bots.
  • JavaScript Framework – A popular website program that presents challenges for crawling and SEO.
  • HTTP/2 – A new web protocol that Google has been developing. It is likely to replace HTTP/1.1 which has been in effect since 1999.
Managing SEO Needs

Company founders have a choice to go it alone and become an SEO expert as they develop their website, or to invest in professional help. Time and financial constraints often create a part, as well an entrepreneur’s natural aptitude for this kind of work. However, as the company grows, the workload will almost inevitably become too great for one person and most organizations will need to invest in a professional team with the skill set to handle all aspects of SEO. Whatever the size of the company, no one should ignore SEO. It’s a vital part of building an online reputation and establishing a credible, professional image on the web.