No matter how small your business, people are writing about you on the web. Monitoring and managing these mentions is referred to as “reputation management.” It’s important even for individuals – to the point that Google recently added a reputation management feature to its user dashboard.
Read on for a quick look at reputation management, and an overview of using either Google’s new feature or Google Alerts to manage your company’s reputation. Most of this can be applied to managing your personal reputation as well – which is especially important for those whose name is intricately tied to their business (for instance, doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc), but is also worthwhile for everyone else.
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Reputation Management Basics
What We’re Looking For
Comments about your company can appear all over the web. Individuals may make comments on blogs, forums, social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and more. Mentions can also pop up in local or industry directories, the news media, or other more official locations.
What might you find?
- Glowing Reviews – Do a great job, and someone might mention that. Monitoring can make sure you see the comment, and give you an opportunity to thank them.
- Complaints – Some people will say bad things – this might be a customer service issue you can fix, or someone unhappy for another reason. Read my article on responding to reviews for some ideas about how to handle these.
- Other Mentions – Aside from opinionated pieces, your company might be mentioned for a host of reasons. It’s good to see these, as it will provide some insight into where you are garnering links, citations, and generally understand how your name spreads around the web.
You will setup reputation management monitoring by choosing keywords to watch. You’ll obviously want to monitor your company and personal name. In addition, you may want to monitor product names, industry keywords, competitor names, and names of key employees. Likely miss-spellings of any of these terms can be useful as well.
For most small businesses, monitoring the names of the company, a few key employees, and any product names will be relatively easy, as there may only be a handful of mentions a week. Adding competitor and industry keywords will increase the amount of time you spend, but might provide some useful insights. Competitor mentions may also alert you to where competitors are finding new links and citations for their websites.
“Me On The Web” – Google’s New Feature
If you have a Google Account, there is an associated dashboard, which provides information about your Google services and privacy settings. The Me On The Web section provides links to your Google Profile and articles to help manage your online identity. There is now also an option to “Set up search alerts for your data.” Click that link, and you’ll get a box that looks like this:
You can just check a box to have your name or email address monitored, and can add additional text alerts. Click “view results” to see if you’re getting the hits you want. Getting alerts “as-it-happens” can be good to try, but daily will be a better choice if you start to get flooded with emails.
When adding alerts with 2 or more words, you’ll want to enclose the search in quotation marks.
Once your alerts are setup, they’ll be delivered to your Gmail inbox at the requested frequency. You can revisit the setup page to add/remove or modify alerts.
If you would like a few more options, Google Alerts may be a better reputation monitoring solution. To get started, visit the site and you’ll see these choices:
You can enter your search term (again, enclose terms with 2 or more words in quotation marks), have the option to preview results, and can again choose the result frequency. The other options include:
- Type – Here you can choose sources such as blogs, discussions, video, etc. For most cases, “Everything” will be the best choice.
- Volume – You can choose “Only the best results” or “All results.” All results tends to return a lot of spam websites (it is amazing how many of these there are, and what garbage they produce). You may want to try “All results,” so you don’t miss anything – and switch later if the spam is overwhelming.
- Deliver to – One of the biggest advantages to using Google Alerts is that you can have results delivered either to your email or RSS reader. Email works well if you’re not getting too many results, but RSS can be easier to manage if are using a lot of alerts (more details below).
Once you’ve setup your alert you’ll be taken to a management screen. Here you can add or edit alerts. If having alerts delivered to a “Feed,” there will also be a link to view alerts in Google Reader, and an RSS icon. If you right-click the RSS icon, and click “Copy Link Address,” you can paste this into the feed reader of your choice (putting RSS alerts on an iGoogle tab is one way to make a nice reputation management dashboard).
Google clearly sees the need for basic reputation management, even for individuals. For businesses, it is even more important – and with a pair of easy to use, free tools, Google has made it possible for anyone to keep track of their reputation online.
These won’t catch everything – in particular, they will often miss new reviews at sites with an existing page about you (Yelp or Google Places for instance). Make sure you’ve claimed your local listings, and most of these sites will alert you to new reviews. They also do not cover much of Facebook, which is largely protected behind login screens – but you will get notices about most new mentions on the public web.
There are a variety of paid reputation management tools (I’ll likely cover some in the future), but for most small businesses, Google’s free options can easily suffice.