Traditional marketing and PR are dead. Instead of the one-way “marketer to prospect” street that existed in the past, consumers are now able to communicate directly with one another on the internet – making online brand reputation management an absolute must.
If you haven’t ever conducted an online brand reputation audit before, don’t worry – the process isn’t nearly as intimidating as it sounds. There are a few tasks you’ll want to complete before beginning, but once you’ve laid the groundwork for this type of activity, you’ll find that the entire process can be completed in just a few minutes.
So without further ado, here’s how to conduct a quick brand reputation audit to ensure that the online conversation about your brand is in line with the goals you’ve set…
Stage #1 – Prep Work
Before you conduct your first brand reputation audit, you’ll want to start by establishing goals for your brand management campaign. To do this, ask yourself the following questions:
- How do you want your brand to be viewed?
- What characteristics do you want your audience to associate with your brand?
- What types of customers do you want to reach?
- What specific online actions do you want these customers to take?
- Where would you like to find mentions of your brand online?
As an example, if your company sells a physical product to young adults, you might hope to see positive mentions on popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as good reviews on product rating sites like Amazon or Google Shopping. Alternatively, if you market a service to the elderly population, indications that your brand isn’t being perceived well might come in the form of negative press releases or website reviews.
By understanding who it is that you’re trying to reach with your brand management campaign, as well as where you expect any brand mentions to occur, you’ll be able to conduct your online reputation audit much more quickly and efficiently.
Stage #2 – Conducting the Audit
Now that you know what you’re trying to accomplish with your brand management campaign, it’s time to get started! Check out the following minute-by-minute breakdown for the specific steps you’ll want to take:
- Minute #1 – Check review sites that are relevant to your business. If your company sells physical products, check Amazon, Google Shopping and any other popular retailers where your wares are sold (specifically, target those whose results appear on the first page of the Google SERPs for your company’s keywords. If you’re an offline business, look for ratings on sites like Google Places or Yelp. If you see any negative reviews, respond to them immediately with either clarifications or offers to make things right.
- Minute #2 – Monitor your social media presence using sentiment analysis tools. Combing through a popular social networking search results for your company name or other branded keywords can be time-consuming. Instead, use one of the free or paid sentiment analysis tools listed at the link above in order to quickly get a feel for how your brand is being discussed online.
- Minute #3 – Analyze your perceived authority using Klout, PeerIndex and other similar sites. No matter what industry you’re in, being taken seriously as an authority figure or thought leader can be a powerful way to grow your business. Using websites like Klout or PeerIndex – which attempt to quantify public sentiment for industry figures – will show you exactly where you stand in relation to your peers, as well as help uncover potential areas of branding opportunity.
- Minute #4 – Google your company name, brand name and the names of all your executives to identify bad press. If you don’t already have Google Alerts set up for these specific keywords (which you really should!), take a minute to Google these phrases to determine whether any negative mentions that are ranking well in the SERPs could be unintentionally influencing the public perception of your brand.
- Minute #5 – Check your top-level web metrics. Specifically, take a look at your total website visitors, total social shares, total Youtube views and any other metrics that are important to your business. If your branding efforts have been successful, these numbers should be steadily increasing. Any blips in your data could indicate negative brand mentions that are affecting the way your company is perceived in the marketplace.
Stage #3 – Post-Audit Follow Up
As a result of this quick analysis, you should now have a comprehensive overview of how well your brand is perceived within your industry and across your target consumer base.
If the results of your brand reputation audit are good, that’s great! Set up a recurring calendar appointment to conduct this audit again at least every 1-2 weeks, as bad press can pop up quickly and ruin a company’s reputation overnight if it isn’t addressed immediately.
However, if you uncover any weak areas, take corrective action right away. As mentioned previously, the first element you’ll want to address are negative reviews on popular ratings portal websites. Unfortunately, most of these services prohibit business owner from removing negative feedback, unless fraudulent intent can be proven. If it was a mistake on your end that resulted in a bad review, your odds of getting it pulled from the site are slim.
But while you can’t erase the impact of negative feedback, you can go a long towards improving your brand’s reputation by responding politely and offering immediate resolution to the offended party. Future consumers will see your efforts as remediation as evidence of a company that cares about its customer experience – turning the occasional bad review into a blessing in disguise.
Of course, not even the best apologies can overcome a string of negative reviews. If your brand reputation audit turns up significant, pervasive issues that go beyond a handful of uncharacteristic bad reviews, you’ll need to do some major damage control by reevaluating your company’s policies and priorities to overcome the problems you’ve uncovered.
Beyond bad reviews, it’s possible that your brand management audit could uncover a web review article or press release that positions your company in a bad light – whether due to a legitimate concern or as a result of your competitors’ own branding efforts.
If you see these negative press mentions appearing in the search engine results pages, the type of corrective action you’ll want to take involves carrying out off-page SEO activities that promote your own web pages or sites with positive brand mentions in the SERPs. For specific instructions on how to do this, check out Single Grain’s blog post on a process we like to call “Linkception.”
Realistically, managing your online brand can be a full-time job, given the increasing scope of consumer behavior on the internet. By making ongoing brand management work a part of your company’s promotional strategy, you’ll be able to build your online presence to the point that any future bumps in the road will likely be eclipsed by the overall, total value you’ve built.