Managing a brand’s online presence is individuals and businesses need to do starting right now.
Do you know what people find when they google your name or your company name?
The information people find when they research a brand name is the essence of online presence.
Going forward, managing online presence will be part of a successful brand. Some would argue that managing an online presence is already a crucial part of success.
There is an opportunity for you to get control of your online presence. While others sit back and let others control their reputation you can take control and sustain the success of your brand.
It’s an opportunity to create an online presence for your business that brings in new business.
Here’s how you can do it.
The History of Online Presence Management
As the Internet came to prominence some 10 to 15 years ago the act of managing online presence began gaining importance.
Managing a brand’s reputation has always been important. Bad press, poor service and others factors have always been issues facing brands.
What changed with the Internet, though, is information had the ability to spread quickly.
In the past, people could talk to one another about issues they had with a company. There might be a newspaper that released a poor review about a brand. This certainly disrupted brand reputation, but nothing like the scale of information spread online.
Today, it’s common for people to use search engines, like Google, to research brands. If someone is considering making a purchase from your company it’s not uncommon for someone such as an HR executive to use the Web to research a candidate.
This progression is the reason brands are taking control of their online presence. It’s not important to simply have an online presence, but to have a great one.
Brands started noticing issues when they would perform a search for their own name on Google and find results that were less than appealing.
Here’s an example from the large retail company in the USA, Walmart.
The search is for the term “Walmart blog”:
Obviously, no brand wants to see the word “sucks” next to their brand name, but there it is as the second result on the page.
These issues happen on search engines and now on social media. It’s important for brands – both companies and individuals – to create their online presence so they can control what is found when people find brand information online.
How to Create an Ideal Online Presence
Owning a Source of Information
The most important step you can take to creating your online presence is becoming the source of information for your brand.
In other words, you want to own the content around your brand. You want to own your brand.
The obvious way to do this is to create a website.
Create a website that describes who you are, what you do and how you can help your target customer. Answer any questions your customers have when they are considering your services. If they have hesitations make sure to address those with content on the site.
Google has actually been putting more emphasis on creating a great branded website.
Here is an example when you search for the ecommerce retailer, Amazon:
You can see that Amazon owns the entire results page. Google will give you the top result, which is paid, if you pay for it. They’ll also give you a top link for your brand website along with sub-links to other important pages on your website.
Another important aspect of owning the source of information online is to create a source of continuous information and updates.
A common way to accomplish this is with a company blog.
Large companies use blog as the main source of information about their company. Google is an example of a company that has multiple blogs that are the source of official information from the company.
Even if you’re publishing one post a month it’s enough to let people know that your brand is active and alive. You’re providing consistent information.
A blog can also give you a platform for addressing any issues that arise. You can give an official response and build the authority of your online brand through your website and blog.
We’ve already touched on the role search engines play in your brand’s online presence.
You can’t control everything about the results shown in search engines, but there is quite a bit you can to do influence what ranks high for terms surrounding your brand.
The first step is creating a website, which we’ve already discussed. From there it’s important to fill that site with helpful information and form a plan to create ongoing content.
You also want to create social media profiles. Google and other search engines are giving more emphasis to social profiles especially to their own property, Google+.
We’ll touch on social media more in the next section, but there are a couple more important points.
A good way to control the information that shows on search results is to contribute content to authoritative sites. This might mean working on PR for your company. You could contribute a quote to an article for a popular media website. Even a quote in a story can build your authority. When people see that you are associated with large corporations and publications you gain credibility and your online presence grows.
Press can also work against you. If a popular writer has a bad experience with your company their review can be online forever.
What you can do is try to first correct your business practice. From there you have to win over your customers. Work to get better reviews of your products. Contribute guest articles to popular websites showing your expertise. You can even address the issue that caused the bad review.
People will give you a second chance if you’re open and honest.
Additionally, the best way to fight off negative people is to build a strong community of people that love you and will defend your name.
Create your Google+ page. You can see how important this page is by searching for personal brands and for company brands. Here are two examples.
Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOmoz:
SEOmoz, an SEO software company:
You can see the content on the right side of the results page. This information comes from Wikipedia and from Google+.
You can also see that Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites are given high rankings by Google.
Creating an online presence is one of the reasons why it’s important to maintain activity on social media sites. You want to share information on these sites so Google can see that your brand is active online. Google trusts its own sites like Google+ and they trust other social sites like Twitter. When they see your brand information there they feel like they can trust you.
Online advertising is getting more relevant and more precise.
This presents an opportunity for brands to establish an online presence.
For example, let’s say you visit the site WebMD. After you visit the site you then venture to other sites. If those sites have display advertisements you’ll likely see ads for WebMD. They ads kind of follow you around the Web using technology called cookies:
You can use display advertising to give your brand more presence online. If a new person visits your site you can give them reminders about your brand as they visit other sites. It’s a way to increase sales and to establish your online presence.
When we think about online presence we often think about text, but your online brand is about much more than textual content.
Visual content is also represented online and the most common images are photographs.
It’s easy to understand the importance of personal photographs for your personal brand. We saw that above in the search results for Rand Fishkin.
Your social profiles help establish your visual brand. Your website can do the same. Your brand logo on your site along with photos of employees helps establish your brand as a real company with real people.
It’s important here to make sure that you control the photos you upload or tag on any website including social media.
Once photos are uploaded online they are difficult to get rid of. You have to assume that once a photo is online that it will never be taken down.
If you have photos that you don’t want online you can reach out to the person that uploaded them or you can work to build a stronger presence around the photos you feel put you in a positive light.
Email has a couple different ways of affecting your online presence.
The first way you can establish a strong online presence is to build an email list of your own. People live by their email inbox online. It’s the source of much information. By building a list of subscribers that trust you and have given you permission to email then you can send information that builds trust around your brand.
You can start by sending updates from your company through email. You can start by email your customers and expand to potential customers.
Additionally, your company email address establishes trust for your brand. When you use your domain email address for social media sites like LinkedIn and Google+ you are showing those sites that you are officially part of your company. As your brand grows on their networks you will gain authority in their eyes and so will your brand and all email addresses associated with your brand.
Part of creating an online presence is establishing your physical location.
If your location is important to your customers you should have it easily displayed on your company website. You should also share this information with Google through Google+ and Google Places.
Other social media sites like LinkedIn will establish your physical location as well.
The more your physical location is made available by you the more customers can trust that they can find your brand at that location.
We’ve gone over what you have to do to build your online presence.
It’s an opportunity for you to build a brand authority that is trusted and in some cases even more trusted that your competition.
Own your brand online. Create a strong website around your brand. Provide fresh content that gives people the impression that you’re active.
Also establish your brand on social media sites especially Google+.
It all leads to a strong online presence.