WebU: On a Wing and a Yodel

Reputation management with Yahoo

Thank you, social media. The online reputation management business is ballooning because of it. Never before has Joe Schmo been able to instantly reach such a large audience. This presents enormous marketing opportunities, but can also mean a simple customer service debacle can become a messy, public headache for a big brand, or can even destroy a smaller one. The sooner you’re aware of a problem, the sooner you’re able to turn it around.

How are you monitoring your online reputation, if you do? Are you tracking your company, products and high-profile employees? Most online reputation management solutions are costly, tedious and time consuming. If budget isn’t a factor, use a high-dollar service that can summarize attention-worthy issues. If your budget is minimal or you prefer to keep reputation monitoring in-house, you’re probably using tools like Trackur or Google Alerts. If you don’t have the latter, go set up your account now. Seriously, it takes 30 seconds and there’s no excuse for not having it on autopilot:

If you want another cheap and easy way to quickly monitor your online reputation, build up a catalog of feeds that you check daily. Google Alerts tracks important news, blog posts, groups, videos and Web results, but there are still a number of areas that get missed. Locate those, create a feed and make it a ritual to monitor and respond daily.

One of those often overlooked areas with influential and well-ranked sites is Yahoo Answers. It’s outlived Google Answers and still has an active community of users. Below are steps for customizing your feed, which you can replicate on other sites; the possibilities are endless if you get creative.

Go to and click on “Advanced,” next to the search bar.

Enter the keywords you want to track and select “All of these words,” “Any of these words” or “The exact phrase.”

Specify negative keywords. These are words you do not want to appear in the results. If you sell blue widgets only, put red, green, yellow, etc. into the negative keywords and you’ll only receive results for blue widgets.

Select whether the keywords match in “Questions,” “Best Answers” or “All.” In Yahoo Answers, the choice of “best answer” is left up to the owner of the question for four days. If the owner doesn’t choose a best answer in that time, selection opens to the public (hint: one vote after it goes public means you win best answer).

Ignore category selection since users often misplace their questions.

Next, choose the question status. You shouldn’t just be monitoring your reputation, but managing it, so select “Open Questions,” which gives you the opportunity to weigh in on the topic.

Select the date submitted.
Most interaction occurs within a 24–48 hour window, so if you want to monitor your relationship, choose “Within 7 days.”

Now that you’ve customized your search, click “Search.” You’re taken to the search results page, and this is when the magic happens: Scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see an RSS button. Now, you can pop the RSS feed into your favorite feed reader, like Google, Bloglines, MyYahoo, etc.

Rinse and repeat on as many niche sites as you can that return relevant results. Check the feeds daily and respond in a timely and professional manner. Whether you choose to respond as a company representative, as the company itself or as an unbiased party is up to your system of ethics; as you can imagine, each has its drawbacks and benefits.

Todd Friesen is vice president of search at Position Technologies.
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