Web U: Raising the Bar
Enter Online Reputation Management. Now that it's so easy to tell the world that you had Cheerios for breakfast, your dog has fleas and that you're late for work because you had to tell everyone about the Cheerios, you can also tell the world how much you hate a company or a product. You can rant and rave all you like and quite possibly wind up with a first page ranking for that company or product's name. Needless to say, brand owners don't like this, and we have a whole division in the online marketing industry devoted to online reputation management.
But let's say you're on a tight budget and can't call in the professionals. There are several things you can do on your own that could gain you some significant ground on page one for your brand search results.
Company Profile Pages: There are a variety of Web sites online that allow you to create business profile pages. Many of these sites are very authoritative and often will easily gain you a new listing in the top 10. Go grab your brand-name pages on MySpace, Wikipedia and other sites like that. Set up a Facebook group around your brand as well. Some other great profiles waiting to be claimed and registered reside at Wink, Blogger, Spock (personal search), LinkedIn and Google Groups.
Blogging: WordPress, Blogspot and Typepad are hugely authoritative. Register your brand name with each of those providers as a subdomain and set up a testimonial blog supporting your brand. This should be very different from your corporate blog if you have one. Don't simply duplicate your current blog's content.
Link Building: Odds are that you currently rank well for your own brand so you don't need links for yourself, but there is most likely some good press on you (or at least neutral press) on the second page of the search results. You can anonymously help out those folks on page two with some link building and push them to page one with the hope of displacing bad content.
Press Releases: This is the most often overlooked channel in reputation management. There are several online press release channels that will push your news or announcement to various authoritative Web sites. These sites will quite often pop on to page one for you. It's not a terrible idea to hire a professional to write your releases for you to make them more compelling for pickup on the best sites for ranking purposes.
Forums: This is the really scary one, but you can go get involved in forum threads that are negative about your brand. Be very, very careful when you do this. It is extremely easy to inflame the discussion instead of turning it in your favor. Always be friendly and consider a refund or some other "buy off." Once again, be careful to frame it as doing the right thing for the customer. If there is any whiff of a true "buy off," you will only compound your problem.
So there you have a few easily managed and affordable tactics to manage any reputation issues you come across online. Wouldn't it be nice if your happy customers posted praise even half as often as unhappy customers post complaints?