With people consuming more types and volumes of content than ever before online, many businesses are quickly discovering a critical reality: You are what they write.
For any business, its online reputation—how the general public perceives its brand online—is the ultimate first impression. And the difference between a positive or negative (or even non-existent) digital image is based on what content appears when that business gets searched.
“The key is to take control of as much of that content as possible,” said John Gottschall, CEO of Neumann Paige, Inc., a Philadelphia-based reputation management firm, noting that by doing so will allow you to control the messaging as a result. “When most people go online, they’re looking for information, and the search engine realizes that. So it’s going to serve up an eclectic set of results because not everyone is looking for the same information. Therefore, you really need to have content across a variety of different mediums and platforms that will resonate for your target audience.”
Beyond the low-hanging fruit solutions like a company website, social media profiles and directory listings, more scalable examples include being interviewed as an industry expert in a news article, or blogging about trending topics. “The point is that you’re the person dictating the message, not others who may have a different point of view about your brand,” Gottschall said. He added that if one of those avenues is left unaddressed, it could open the door for someone else to control your message, like a competitor, dissatisfied client, or disgruntled employee.
And, like the veritable tree falling in an unmanned forest, if the content isn’t visible to general public, the message won’t make a sound. This means having a basic understanding of what the search engine algorithms are looking for to ultimately determine where something will rank. “It’s not enough anymore to just put a bunch of relevant keywords into a paragraph and then throw it onto the web,” Gottschall said. “It has to be real, engaging content.”
As the behaviors of those online have evolved over time, so has the ranking criteria for these algorithms. Thus, the user experience has now become an extremely important factor beyond just keyword relevance. A page that people are consistently on for several minutes will be considered more authoritative than if they were on it for only a few seconds.
Because of this, simply posting “fluff pieces” and promotional material is no longer going to cut it, and in fact can actually hurt your brand if they’re lacking engagement. “Third party credibility is extremely important,” Gottschall said, adding that the more something is repurposed or referenced via shares, likes, and comments , the more likely it will rise in organic rankings. “You get points for that, so to speak.”
This means the reader should also benefit in some way by consuming the material. What kinds of problems are they looking to solve and how can you address them? What’s the intended takeaway? Is it to inform, educate, and entertain?
One area that every business should make a priority is managing online reviews. Not only does the data indicate how persuasive a trend of positive or negative reviews can have on a prospect, but it’s relatively cheap and at least a one or two review platforms will rank over time in search results due to their authority.
At the end of the day, creating the right type of content for your online reputation is a simple, yet involved, formula consisting of equal parts engagement, credibility, and promotion. All of this will lead to the dynamic first impression every brand is looking for.
And the underlying theme for it all? “Quality and authority both need to be present,” Gottschall said. “That’s what will allow it to rank.”
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