Monthly Archives: January 2014

Protect Your Brand: Easy Hands-On Ways to Manage Your Online Reputation

by Gail Z. Martin

I’ve talked about the networking value of recommendations on LinkedIn.  Gathering online recommendations via LinkedIn is also a way to solidify your online branding and actively manage your reputation.  Don’t be shy about asking former co-workers, bosses, colleagues and clients to provide a recommendation if you had a positive working experience with them.  That’s part of the LinkedIn culture.  You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of recommendations for your current role, but you may want to also actively seek out recommendations for prior roles to bolster your credibility and show the depth of your expertise. is similar in some ways to LinkedIn (extensive profile, forums, online networking), but it goes further to help you actively manage your brand and reputation.  Naymz has what it calls a “RepScore Ecosystem” where you aren’t just asking for a recommendation from former colleagues and clients; you’re asking for them to provide anonymous feedback on your honesty and ethics.  Naymz also has its own “Reputation Monitor” to provide you with yet another stream of information regarding what’s been said about you online.  Naymz also lets you know when your profile has been visited, although it does not tell you who checked you out.

What happens when a negative comment is posted on a ratings site and you can’t get it removed or retracted, but it’s not serious enough to sue for defamation?  One tactic is to make the comment more difficult to find by increasing the searchability of other, more positive content.  The Internet favors recent and highly targeted information, rewarding it by pushing it to the top of the search results.  This pushes older content off the first pages of results, and few searchers bother to go more than one or two pages deep.

How do you do this?  One tactic is to ask your clients and professional friends to add ratings of their own (you don’t have to disclose the reason behind your timing for the request).  You can spiff up your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on your most relevant sites, like your home page and your blog, assuring that they jump to the top of the search results.  Or, you can hire a PR agency or reputation management firm to make positive posts on your behalf on a large enough number of sites that the sheer volume of new positive mentions pushes old copy off the first page of search results.

Use this last tactic (hired guns) with caution.  Mobilizing actual clients, friends and even family to post genuine testimonials or positive reviews is still authentic and organic, even if you reminded them to do so.  (Never offer rewards in exchange for positive comments.)  Hiring people to manufacture testimonials is unethical, and you’ll be found out eventually, which will send your online reputation plummeting.  If you do decide to use a publicist, a better tactic would be to post a wealth of factual, but positive, information (such as verifiable high satisfaction ratings or award announcements) or repeat testimonials or positive reviews from legitimate clients and reviewers.  Just creating a blizzard of new, positive, highly relevant and keyword-optimized informative posts can go far to push down a negative review.

Yet another reputation management tactic involves making it difficult for anyone to create a profile or Web site using your name or products by claiming them yourself.  Some people make it a practice to buy up all of the domain names available for their own name or their products, such as the .biz, .tv and other domain suffixes.  This keeps cyber-squatters from purchasing these domains and attempting to sell them back to you later at an inflated cost, or using them to create fake sites purporting to be from you.  If you consider this tactic, remember that you’ll have to pay domain registration fees annually, so buying up dozens of URLs that you never intend to use can get expensive.

If you don’t have the time to actively monitor and manage your reputation, there are companies that will do it for you.  Some of these specialize in particular industries, such as hospitality or construction, while others serve a variety of business types.  Services range from monitoring and reporting to assistance in handling complaints or dealing with malicious comments.  Fees vary according to the services provided.  If you decide to use a monitoring and response agency, do your homework before making a commitment, and check out the reputation of the company online before hiring them to work on your behalf.  Some reputation management companies have been caught using unethical strong arm techniques against people who have posted legitimate complaints that were well within their constitutional rights.  There’s a big different between hiring someone to help you keep an eye on what’s being said and employing cyber goons to intimidate or harass consumers who have merely stated their opinions.              The best way to protect your online reputation is to always deal ethically, both online and offline.  Keep your word, don’t overly hype your products, and deliver what you promise.  If something goes wrong, do everything you can to make the situation right.  You’re far better off putting effort into delighting customers and running a clean operation than to invest resources into cleaning up avoidable messes or attempting a cover-up.  Nothing stays hidden for long in today’s online society.  Honesty (and vigilance) are your best online reputation management tools.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin


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Online Reputation Basics: Manage Your Brand and Reputation in a Google World

You’ve created an online presence for yourself via your Web site, Facebook and LinkedIn pages, blog, Twitter feed and other Internet activity.  This presence becomes part of your personal and professional branding, which is why it’s so important that everything you post online is consistent with the professional image you want to project.  Yet at the same time, other people are free to tag you in photos, mention you in their blogs and Facebook posts, refer to your company and products in articles and reviews, or re-tweet your Twitter content.  You control what you post yourself, but how can you possibly track everything posted by others, including people you’ve never met?

Google Alerts is a first line of defense.  It’s a free tool that enables you to track keywords any time they show up on the Internet, and those keywords should include your name, company name and product names.  Any time your keywords are used, Google Alerts sends you a report which includes a link so you can see for yourself.  It’s not perfect; I’ve found it to work well for content on blogs and Web sites and less so for content on Facebook and other social media sites, but it still snags a tremendous amount of information and is useful as a basic reputation management tool. is also valuable as a reputation management tool.  Social Mention fills the holes left by Google Alerts by focusing specifically on social media, and covers an impressive variety of site types.  While no program will capture everything, Google Alerts and Social Mention used together should give you a very comprehensive picture of what the market is saying about you (and how much they’re talking about you).

If you’ve been online very long, you’ve discovered that lots of people have a name that is the same or very similar to yours (and perhaps to your company or products).  One way inaccurate information finds its way into the Internet data stream is via mistaken or confused identity.  Most of the time, these mistakes are honestly made, and can be cleared up with an email or a clarifying post.  If you find that you’re frequently being confused with a particular person or company, you may want to add a note in your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) stating who you’re not.

People in the public eye (which includes prominent business people as well as writers, speakers, and educators) may sometimes be the victim of pranksters who set up unauthorized sites to detour legitimate Web traffic, make a negative statement, or just cause havoc.  This is especially easy to do in social media, and the result can be a site purporting to be written by you that is making statements you would never make, statements that could be damaging to your brand and reputation.

One way to assure that people are finding the real you is to use a site like provides a landing page that shares all your sites: social media, Web sites, blogs, etc.  Using a landing page like Zoolit enables you to give readers a way to verify whether or not a site that purports to be from you is really yours.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

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Online Reputation Protection: 4 Reasons to Care What Google Says About Your Business

Productivity takes a hit if you have to spend time cleaning up a mess.  The bigger the mess, the more time gets wasted on clean-up.  Needless to say, preventing or containing messes can boost productivity and give you peace of mind, which enables you to keep your focus on your top priorities.

That’s why it’s so important to know what’s being said about you and your company online, and who’s saying it.  “Reputation management” refers to being aware of what is being said about you online so that you can work to remove inaccurate or defamatory content, respond to legitimate complaints, and capture positive comments and testimonials.  The term can also refer to techniques to reduce the impact of unfavorable content via search engine optimization techniques.

Let’s be clear: If you’ve done something unethical or have shoddy business practices, you’re better off cleaning up your act and making restitution than trying to suppress legitimate negative comments.  And as discussed in the chapter on online directories, other people have a right to their opinions and to speaking those opinions online. They aren’t required to like your products and they may say so publicly.  Reputation management should never be seen as a way to cover up bad business practices.

That said, it is important to understand how you and your company are viewed in the marketplace so that you can make course corrections as needed or reap the benefits of glowing reviews.  And, inevitably, incorrect information will make its way online, so it’s also important to have a way to become aware of erroneous content and straighten out misunderstandings.  We perform all of these tasks daily in the real world, without really thinking about it.  Reputation management is just the online equivalent of staying plugged into the grapevine to see what others are saying.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

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Online Customer Reviews: Harness the Power of Yelp and Amazon to Grow Your Business

While directories like Yelp permit customers to add comments, there are also plenty of other sites that specialize in reviews.  These include dedicated review sites like, which covers a wide array of consumer products, and more specialized sites reviewing movies, books, camera equipment and other niche interests.  As newspapers and magazines have cut “soft” news, such as reviews, online sites have sprung up to fill the gap.  Some of these sites, such as, are from a well-known expert (in this case, Chicago Sun Times long-time movie reviewer Roger Ebert), but many are written by citizen-journalists out of a passion for the subject.

Love reading?  You can start with reviews posted by readers on, and even read best-of lists compiled by other Amazon users.  But if you want to go deeper, you’ll find dozens—perhaps hundreds—of blogs and review sites in your favorite genre or non-fiction topic dedicated to book reviews.  In many cases, the reviews are the opinion of the site owner and will be colored by their personal likes and dislikes (which is part of the charm for readers).  In other cases, the review site will recruit reviewers who agree to submit reviews according to the site’s guidelines.

You’ll find review sites for cameras, camping equipment, board games, computer peripherals, video games, luggage, sound equipment—just about every hobby under the sun.  Some sites have only a few hundred readers, but more established sites can get millions of hits from a legion of dedicated readers who turn there first for information.  So, how do you get included?

Begin by reading the site carefully.  Many sites explain how they acquire the items they review.  In some cases, reviewers speak solely from their own experience with items they buy and use themselves (you’ll find this true for many book review sites, for example).  Other sites have a policy for receiving free samples from companies, and will disclose that the items were sent free of charge instead of purchased.  Big review sites (such as have a budget to purchase items for review, to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.

Next, read the reviews to determine the personality of the reviewer.  Some reviewers try hard to be impartial, citing both the positives and negatives.  Others enjoy trashing everything, or take a very snarky tone.  That’s part of their personality and it draws their loyal readers, but it may not be a good fit for your product.  Know what you’re getting into before you try to place your product with a reviewer.

Follow the site’s guidelines for requesting a product review.  They may want you to query first before sending the actual item.  Some sites will review certain types of products only on a seasonal basis, or may have designated months for different categories of items.  If so, their guidelines will tell you how far in advance to submit your request and/or items to be considered for a review.

Should you only shoot for reviews from large sites?  Not necessarily.  Smaller sites, blogs and social media review pages may not have millions of readers, but they probably do have a loyal core of followers who could be valuable early adopters and spark buzz.  These sites are usually more approachable than some of the very large review pages, and may provide quicker turnaround.  Treat every reviewer with respect regardless of the site of his or her following, and be sure to follow their guidelines to the letter.

Realize that when you submit your product for review, you agree to accept whatever they post.  Reviewers are not required to like your product just because you sent it to them for free.  Even a positive review may include some criticism just to be balanced.  It’s also possible that a reviewer may write a negative review, especially when the review is highly subjective, such as reviews on books, restaurants, food items, and other products dependent on the user’s tastes.  You can’t demand that a negative review be withdrawn unless it is truly vulgar and profane or meets the legal definition of slander, which can be difficult to apply given the protection afforded to journalists, even for unpopular comments.  Where user comments on a directory might be removed by the site administrators, when you’re dealing with a review site, you’re usually dealing with the owner whose “product” opinion.  That’s why it’s so important to assess the personality of a reviewer before submitting items for review.

Getting a great review online can provide tremendous visibility to consumers who might not otherwise have become aware of your product or service.  Excerpts from great reviews can also be quoted in praise of your product, and links to positive reviews can be posted on your site.  (Never copy the entire review without the writer’s permission, since reviews have copyright protection.)  While there is some time and effort involved in compiling a list of relevant reviewers and sending off items for review, you can receive tremendous promotional value for a relatively small investment in time and shipping costs—a truly productive way to market your company!

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

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