Reputation management is the process of monitoring what people are saying or feeling about a business online and ensuring that the reputation remains positive.

Most people monitor social media channels to look for shares, reviews, comments, and discussions of a business.

Mentions and discussions can take place across the whole spectrum of sites on the internet; including websites, wikis, forums, social media channels, and messaging apps such as Messenger.

Comments and reviews can come in 24hrs of the day, 365 days a year. So sometimes, it can be challenging to keep track of everything that has an impact on the reputation of a business brand.

Online, good reputation management is not just about monitoring what people say about a business, brand, product, or service. It is also about whether the company responds and how quickly which will depend upon the comment.

The frequency of monitoring often dictates how well a business performs, particularly if they respond well to negative reviews.

Fortunately, most comments, whether positive or negative, appear as posts, tweets, and reviews on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. These types of comments are easier to respond to and resolve.

The other type of negative reviews typically appears on certain kinds of websites, like the RipOff Report, which posts articles about negative reviews of business services or products.

These are much harder to deal with and can often appear in the search engine listings next to the website listing for the business. These can have an impact on business reputation.

The same type of hurtful comments can also target the names of company owners or employees. So negative or fictitious information can also be posted online and appear in the search engines for these individuals associated with a business.

Protecting your brand’s online reputation

Business owners need to be proactive and keep monitoring for reviews or online comments concerning.

Be transparent and respectful to customers.

Acknowledge any faults or problems and rectify them as soon as possible.

Always respond to reviews and comments, both negative and positive.

If necessary, be prepared to seek legal action to deal with malicious negative, offensive remarks, and posts.

Negative SEO

Negative SEO happens when another party deliberately affects the rankings of a website. This type of SEO can take the form of malicious backlinking campaigns or hacking of the website.

Google pays attention to websites that have been impacted by negative SEO. Sites will drop down the rankings in the search engines, and in some cases disappear from the top 100 spots in listings.

Negative SEO involving malicious backlinking campaigns commonly result in the website associating with porn or pharmaceutical sites and have links to products such as Viagra. Google can demote or de-index the website until the association with the pharmaceutical and porn sites goes away.

Another variation involves the creation of an excessive number of “anchor text” backlinks pointing to a site.

For example, the sudden appearance of thousands of new links mentioning “blue widgets” pointing to www.thewidgetcompany.com that sells widgets does not look natural.

In this scenario, Google can demote or de-index the website, until the owner can prove the links were malicious, created by an unknown party and ultimately removed.

For a more established website, negative SEO may have less of an impact, because the site should already have an established backlink profile that Google already knows.

It is more likely to happen to newer sites with a less established smaller set of links or ones with a weak backlink profile. Ultimately any site that experiences harmful SEO practices and does nothing about it is at the mercy of Google ranking algorithms.

The other type of negative SEO involves the hacking of websites by unknown parties. This situation happens typically with sites built on content management systems (CMS) that use open-source code. CMS systems include WordPress and Drupal.

WordPress powers over 33% of all websites hosted online in 2019. The sites become vulnerable to hacking if the open-source code is not updated regularly and they lack any protection measures.

If a site is hacked and displays unusual behaviour, Google will either demote or de-index the website. The search engine may re-index the website once the site health returns to normal.

Deploying protective measures can decrease the chances of negative SEO. These include regular updates of CMS code, installation of security plugins, and monitoring the backlinks index for unusual linking activity.

Who instigates Negative SEO campaigns? Competitors, disgruntled staff or customers, or random hackers from anywhere in the world.

While Google is aware of the rise in such practices, it is run primarily by computers and algorithms, not by a sympathetic help desk.

So business owners need to be pro-active to ensure they do not become a victim to such attacks and lose their website rankings.

Whatever happens, it is always handy to have reputation management experts and search engine optimisation specialists on hand. They can monitor and resolve any problems encountered.