Gini Dietrich

Eight-Step Process to Clean-up Your Online Reputation

By: Gini Dietrich | April 1, 2014 | 

Eight-Step Process to Clean-up Your Online ReputationBy Gini Dietrich

Yesterday, Sean McGinnis wrote an interesting post about online reputation and how he ended up in porn (oh the things you learn about your friends when they guest blog for you!).

One day, he Googled himself to discover an adult movie called The Fluffer had been released…and the star character’s name was none other than, you guessed it, Sean McGinnis.

An SEO expert and web strategist, he set about to take back the rights to his name on Google.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy.

Negative reviews, untrue comments, and trolls are pushing their way to the top of search rankings so, when someone Googles you, they find all of these negative things said about you online that might be 100 percent false.

Cleaning up your online reputation is now a very real thing—and just one person, or one movie, can ruin for you fairly quickly.

The proper process goes a little like this.

Conduct an Online Audit

Likely you already know what’s there, but it doesn’t hurt to do a Google search, see what is being said, and where it lands in search results (second listing, first page or third listing, second page).

Do this both logged into your Google account and logged out (or you can open an incognito window in your browser without having to actually log out; do this in Chrome by going to “file” and then click on “new incognito window”).

Logged-in results will show you what your friends, colleagues, peers, and clients will see, and incognito results will show how the rest of the world perceives your online reputation.

It’s important to have both.

Use terms such as “I hate COMPANY NAME” or “COMPANY NAME sucks.”

Also, do searches on key employees or executives at your organization.

Create an Online Reputation Strategy

Based on what you learn from the audit and what internal and external implementation resources are in place, put together the company’s online reputation strategy—and make sure it’s tied to your goals.

The very first thing you should do (if you haven’t already) is set up Talkwalker alerts to let you know when someone says something about you online—positive, neutral, or negative. 

Then write down what it is you’re trying to accomplish (push one review from the first page to the second or fill the first page of search results with positive information about your organization) and get to work.

Create a Clean-up List

With the online reputation audit complete and your strategy in place, now comes the clean-up.

As you create the list, read the reviews, read the comments on blogs and in discussion forums, and read all other negative things people are saying about you.

Aggregate all of that information into one place to help you decide if your products need to be tweaked, your customer service needs to be enhanced, or your operations need some work, particularly if there are negative comments about the same things over and over again.

More often than not, people just want you to respond to them. They want to be heard. When they post something and it goes unanswered, their fire is fueled.

As you create the list of things that need to be cleaned up, make a list of sites where your team should respond to complaints.

You will want to create some pre-approved messages for your team to use when responding—such as, “I am so sorry to hear about your troubles with our company. If you’ll privately send me your phone number or email address, I’ll be glad to help you offline.”

What this does is show anyone else who reads the complaints that you are responsive, but takes the conversation offline where you can be helpful.

In the best cases, the person will go back to the site after you’ve helped them and post how grateful they are for your help.

Assign a Person or a Team to Do the Work

They will need usernames and passwords, branding guidelines, sign-off on copy/images, and the power to make changes without a laborious approval process.

There is one thing you should think about when you assign a team to do the work, particularly for those who are responding to customer complaints, these people are representing your organization in a very public forum.

Just like you’d only send experienced people out to meet with high-profile clients or to close a big sales deal, you want your clean-up representatives to have enough business experience to make informed decisions.

That’s not to say an intern or a young professional who has great social media expertise can’t help—they can.

You just want those people to be supervised by someone who has the expertise to make the right decisions devoid of emotion and defensiveness.

Begin the Clean-up

Some of this is painful because you’ll need to work with the social networks’ customer service departments to reset login data, delete a profile, or take down an untrue review.

This could take weeks.

According to the social networks, you are guilty until proven innocent. They assume you’ll say and do anything to take down negative reviews…especially if they are true. You have the burden of proof on you and they’ll make you jump through a gazillion hoops to make sure you’re telling the truth.

Be patient. Follow the messaging outlined above. Create compelling content that is written both for humans and robots. The negative reviews will move.

Build Your Online Reputation through Social Media

There was a time when social media didn’t make sense for every organization. Now, though, it is the best and most efficient way to connect with your customers and prospects.

There is one social network every organization should be on, no matter what you sell: Google+.

Not only does Google rank you higher if you use their social network to promote your content, it helps to push down the negative content if it has been shared on Google+.

Google also now allows you to connect your social networks to your analytics so you can see not only which are the biggest drivers of traffic to your site, but also what keywords they used to find you, what conversations (or pictures, or links) drove them to you, and what they did once they arrived.

Content is Prince

Like Sean, you may find a fictional character has your name.

Or you may find untrue reviews, blog posts, or stories.

But many of you will have negative reviews that are, unfortunately, true.

The very best way to manage these is to create content that is interesting and valuable, and something people want to share.

You cannot delete the negative information.

The best you can do is push it off of page one results.

Implement the Strategy

Once you’ve cleaned up the organization’s online reputation and figured out how you’re going to use content to build a strong reputation, it’s time to put your strategy into action.

You’re about to become transparent.

In the past, we had the perception that we are in control of our reputation even with an issue or crisis.

The curtain has been pulled back now, and the only way to participate in the conversation is by being transparent: You’re opening yourself up to criticism and feedback.

  • Allow employees to talk about your products or services publicly.
  • Establish a one-to-one communication channel where customers can engage and converse with you in real time every day.
  • Proactively ask for feedback.
  • Don’t hide criticism: Address it publicly.

Once you’ve decided to be transparent, honest, authentic, and human in your online conversations, the content, brand ambassadors, influencer marketing, customer reviews, and a solid product or service will help you cross the marathon finish line.

Warren Buffett famously said:

If you lose money for the firm, I will be understanding. If you lose reputation, I will be ruthless.

An organization’s online reputation, today, is only as good as its search results.

This is an excerpt from the newly released Spin Sucks. Buy your copy today to get more information, read case studies, and put more tips in your online reputation arsenal. If you email me your receipt, I will send you some of our most popular webinars, worth $200.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Every single time I hear/read about ‘cleaning up’ one’s online reputation, one of my favourite songs pops into my head. So, in the spirit of this post, I’m sharing: The Clean Up Woman. #soulbabysoul

  • belllindsay  I. Just. Wow.

  • ginidietrich It’s an EXCELLENT song!!

  • belllindsay Stay off my blog!

  • ginidietrich I’m kind of a big deal, Gini. #groovy

  • belllindsay GET OFF MY BLOG

  • ginidietrich belllindsay  You heard the grouch. First her lawn now her blog. Go!

  • This is so very important since so much of our lives and how we are perceived is now centered around the online world.

    Your reaction here is so very important.

    My brother in law is a contractor and recently, through a site in which you hire contractors, he received his first-ever negative review. His feelings were hurt and he asked me to handle a response. I wrote a response to the review, which was posted no the site. He called a few weeks later dumbfounded because people told him they were hiring him because his response to the bad review was so professional, polite, and sympathetic.

    Online reputation is not only trying to manage or push down that which is just flat out wrong or inappropriate. It is also how you respond to criticism.

  • ClayMorgan ginidietrich belllindsay  I just started with the blog. The lawn is next.

  • Shouldn’t we just all sign up for 8)
    It’s funny I made a joke on Shelly Kramer’s blog that had a SXSW review about Pete Cashmore. I guess it’s good to get so big you can’t manage your online rep. It will mean your rich and famous. 
    For us little guys it is important so clients or employers see the good stuff and not the bad. The biggest advice is make your Facebook account !00% private,

    About 3 years ago I googled some friends from high school and college. Two had major incidents with the law. One was busted with his dad for insider trading and fined almost 1 million and barred from wall street for 18 months. One was involved in an Arizona real estate scheme. Don’t be them!

  • ClayMorgan I used to help a gourmet dessert client respond to bad Yelp! reviews. I helped turn many into future brand advocates. But one guy was a jerk called my client a biatch 3 times. Yelp! refused to remove it. So those ublic responses are important.

  • I was familiar with this content, having read Spin Sucks, but it definitely bears repeating.

  • ginidietrich ClayMorgan I don’t care *la la la* I’m going to Mexico *la la la*

  • belllindsay ginidietrichClayMorgani need a woman to clean up around here. They are more natural than men when it comes to these things.

    runs and hides.

  • belllindsay ginidietrichClayMorganyou knew this was coming

  • Howie Goldfarb ClayMorgan  Yelp! is practically the Mafia of social media. Extortion is the name of the game for them.

  • BillSmith3

    belllindsay   A Seriously groovy and very appropriate tune for this blog post. Lots of take away points here, especially in the repair phase which is never fun. 

    I’ll get off Gini’s lawn now

  • I think it’s important to remember when facing the public, “The mike is always on, the film is always running and FACEBOOk IS NOBODYS FRIEND!” I know what I am about to say now is very basic and I apologize for it but – BUT – the use of foul language especially the “f” word will quickly put an end to my doing business with you! And never forget I WILL look you up on facebook before dealing with you because chances are good you’ll be there chatting away about ships and shoes and sealing wax and cabbages and kings naively  believing I am  not out there assessing your character.

  • biggreenpen  I’m hoping those who haven’t read the book yet see this content and can’t wait to pick it up!

  • Howie Goldfarb  People don’t realize you can post things privately and publicly. I’m very strategic about how I use both. It’s great advice!

  • ClayMorgan  That is SUCH a good example! When Marketing in the Round was published, we responded to a few of the bad reviews and people ended up buying the book because of the way we handled it. It’s worth the extra effort.

  • jdrobertson  I agree with you. We don’t allow cursing on the blog, in fact. It’s against our social media policy.

  • ginidietrich biggreenpen Hope so too!

  • What I love about what you lay out here is it involves your entire team! Everyone has to be on board to make this successful, just like in any other digital communication effort. Way too often people try to attempt organizational reputation repair in a silo and it falls short. Every player represents the organization to it’s external audience, and need to have a clear understand of the process and goals of the clean up campaign. 

    (VERY unimportant side note, but whenever I say the word ‘silo’, I start singing in my head the Neil Diamond song ‘shiloh when I was young…I used to call your name, when no one else would come, Shiloh you always came…AND YOU STAAAAAAAYED’)

  • ginidietrich you are one of the most strategic people I know and that is a huge compliment from someone who love strategy.

  • Hmm… is this the excerpt I helped you with? Sounds like my job details on our blog every day.  😉 
    I’m definitely glad you wrote about this in your book! What many people are slowly realizing is that they’re losing business simply from what people are finding in the search results. It doesn’t even matter if the results are true or not. What anyone finds there they tend to believe as the golden truth. 
    This also brings to mind the worries of Negative SEO and the like, where competitors purposely sabotage a company with anonymous and false information. And they leave false trails just because they know people will believe what they find as if Google could do no wrong. 
    Even one mention of “this company + scam” will make anyone naturally curious as to why someone went out of their way to write that about them. 
    But anyway, I’m excited to see your book! I’m thinking of stopping by Barnes & Nobles tomorrow after work to see if they have a copy. I’ll definitely be emailing you my receipt! You just hang tight!  🙂

  • LauraPetrolino  The ears!! They bleed!!!

  • Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich ClayMorgan  HAHAHAHAHA!!

  • LauraPetrolino  I…just …wow.

  • JRHalloran  The ones that are in real danger are those who refuse to believe anyone is searching for them online. There are many, many business leaders who think their businesses are exempt from online searches. I kind of love being the bad guy and pulling out The Google to prove them wrong.

  • KateNolan

    And I just went and obsessively created Talkwalker alerts for our company, the variations in our name, our competitors, their name variations and our company principals. I feel a little bit stalker-ish now, but I’ll definitely be doing an inventory and putting some plans in place. We generally haven’t seen much online “chatter”, but better to be prepared when/if it happens!

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