Online reputation management is critical in a time when more and more customers, employers, potential dates, and others will ‘Google’ a person or a business before engaging with them to any degree. People tend to want to understand the good and the bad of those with whom they are consorting, and negative commentary about a person or business that finds its way to the top of search engine results can have a negative impact on things like sales (for the business) or employability (for the individual).
Here, we take a look at SEO tricks that businesses employ that can be detrimental to their online reputations, and ultimately, their business’s success.
Don’t hide keywords that name your competitors.
Some businesses, in order to assist in search engine optimization, will double down on keywords by hiding them in text that is the same color as the background of the web page. Google is quite good at picking up on this, so it’s not a good practice to begin with, but even worse offenders hide the names of their competitors’ businesses to help their search engine results. This is a great way to get sued by your competitors, and most legal proceedings like this wind up having search engine results that report on the lawsuit.
Don’t link to bad sites.
If you link to sites that employ bad SEO practices, have too many links on them, or have been banned from search engines, you can face harsh penalties with the search engines. Be sure to check the links that you do have on your site with some frequency, as domains can change hands and you may wind up linking unintentionally to a site that has gone from good to bad.
Requesting reciprocal links is incredibly annoying.
Most business owners have, at one time or another, received multiple email requests to place a link on their site to a company that has nothing to do with their own. This is a practice many businesses employ called linkbuilding, but it is the wrong way to go about linkbuilding, as you can really tick people off and inspire negative feedback in forums. Instead, focus on writing content in your blog and social media that will have a viral effect, and that people will really want to share and engage with. This will create quality links back to your site that search engines will be far more likely to recognize.
Write your own content, and make it good.
Don’t let a robot write your copy for you–Google will catch it. And when you do write your own content, make sure it’s content that readers can respond positively to–and that you engage with those readers in a positive way. Posting negative responses to your customers’ responses is a great way to engender anger in your community, as well as to create ‘bad press’ that can appear in search engine results.
Cloaking is real no-no.
This is a practice that in particular ticks off your site visitors. They read one thing in the search results and are brought to a page that has nothing to do with what they read in the search results. You are just asking for a negative forum post by a disillusioned visitor warning people against your site if you employ cloaking techniques. You are also very likely to have your site banned by search engines, as they consider this what is called spamdexing, when they are tricked into giving the site better search ranking than it merits.
The reality is this–search engine optimization happens over time and is well worth employing both patience and legitimate practices around. You will do your business and yourself no favors by trying to game the system, and ultimately could really wind up doing harm to your online reputation. This can truly spell death to a business in a time when consumers really want to understand with whom they are doing business.
A 2011 consumer study conducted by Weber and Shandwick indicates that 56% of customers do “research to learn about the companies that make what they buy.” It also states that “more than half of consumers say they are more confident in buying products from a company with a most admired standing (53%) than one with a positive share price forecast (21%).” So note to self–make sure that your online reputation is clean, because your customers are watching you, and your online reputation will more likely than not impact their purchasing decisions.
Cara Aley is a freelance writer who covers a wide variety of topics from digital marketing strategy and online reputation management to health and wellness.
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