I really enjoy teaching people/clients about everything they can do to help them with their brand awareness and management, but there is something that does frustrate me. A majority of the time when I am working with a brand new (online) business owner, and I start to talk to them about the not-so traditional ways of marketing like Social Media to help them with their reputation management, they do not take me as serious as they need to be.
I want this to be the warning for every new to Internet business owner who is reading this post!
The reason a majority of the major businesses online have a reputation management problem is because they did nothing to combat it from the start. Lets face it, the bigger and bigger you get, the more people you are going to have that want to bring you down. It happens, and I don't care if you are the "happiest place on earth" (like Disneyland) you will never be able to please 100% of the people 100% of the time. There will be problems, and you have to be prepared.
These new-to-Internet business owners tell me that they do not need to worry about their brand right now, because it does not make a difference and nobody knows them (or about their brand) anyway. Are they planning on failing, before they even get started? This kind of thinking could not be more wrong!
I can name a handful of companies off the top of my head like Wal-mart & Coca Cola who probably wish they had controlled their online reputation when they VERY FIRST went live online (if you visit the Google search results you can probably figure out why).
You may not be big now, and there may be no one searching for you at present, but aren't you planning on it? If you control the first several pages of search results for your brand now, while no one knows about you, it is much easier and cheaper (to do so) then when you get big. I mean ALOT cheaper, (if it can even be done). There are some companies (that I know of) spending up to 10K a month just to help push down negative results.
Why not take care of this problem now, while you are smaller and the cost is a lot less?
Think about this - what if you are a company that dropships products, and you have 1000 satisfied customers, and you have one customer that did not get his/order on the delivery date you stated on your website. After investigation, you find out if was the postal (or shipping) company who was at fault, but yet the customer writes a negative review about you (before you even get a chance to make things right on a problem that you could not control), and your brand. Is this fair? It is not fair if that article ranks in the top 10 of the search results when people type in your brand name when you have had 1000 other happy customers. Think of how much business a negative result could cost you. However; It is your fault though, if it does rank because you did not do anything about it when you first created your business, and didn't give a second thought to brand/reputation management.
If you can control the SERPs right now when you are new, and much smaller, this will not even be an issue years down the road because you have established your brand (for years now) and people only see the stuff you want them to. It will be really hard for a negative article to creep into the top 10 search results with all the content and pages that you have been establishing for the last several years.
Here are my suggestions -
1. Domain Names - Go and buy all the domain names that you can with your brand name in it. (of course all of the usual like .net .biz .org etc) but you can even be creative and use your name other ways too. Then write unique content for each one of the domains, and provide product information, product testimonials, maybe even some news feeds from related sources, or other related product review sites. Just do your best to establish these sites with good content, link building and Social Media as much as you would with your main domain.
2. Press - Pay someone who is a professional to write some amazing press about your business, have a contest, or launch a specialty line (something newsworthy) and submit it the proper sources like PR Leap (who allow anchor text links), Marketwire or oldie (but goodies) like PR Web. The most important thing you can do with press (for reputation management), is make sure you use the brand name you want to be found for (when people search out your name or brand) in the title of the press.
3. Create Social Media Profiles - You want to look for three things in a social media profile - Number One - Do they allow you to have a static URL (ie - www.squidoo.com/BRAND-NAME-HERE), Number Two - do they allow you to space for content, and Number Three - do they allow you to create links inside the content, and do those links pass any juice? You need to make sure you treat your profiles pages like you do (or should) the content of a website by mixing up the content and rotating the anchor text links you create. Specifically for reputation management purposes, these sites that allow profiles (or static URLs) do well:a. Stumble Upon
Now there are many other methods that I use (and that can be used) for reputation management, but using all three of these methods mentioned above can really help establish your site for some time to come (especially if you keep it up, and don't stop working on it). Controlling your reputation and brand this way is also going to cost you a lot less, then trying to clean up something negative after the fact.
I wrote this post to answer the question of those wondering why they need to worry about their brand, and reputation when they are brand new to online business, and I hope this helps clarify, even a little!