Six steps to a stronger online brand

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A word cloud for the term 'branding' on the screen of a tablet.

Image by NYphotographic, available via CC BY-SA 3.0

When it comes to maintaining a brand, any good marketer will tell you that reputation management is key.

But it’s not just about monitoring what others say about your business; it’s also making sure you know how to prevent reputation crisis by building a stronger brand.

For better or worst, opinions about your brand are out there. Not only the positive ones that show you what you are doing right, but the negative ones that both give you an opportunity to improve, and to contact the unsatisfied customer and make things right. That builds brand loyalty, showing your potential customers that you are the brand they can trust.

1. Set up brand monitoring

One of the easiest tools for this task is Google Alerts. Setting it up is easy and free, and the tool sends you the alerts the moment they come up on the search engine, allowing you to quickly handle any problems that might have happened.

Here is how to set it up:

  • Sign into your Google account and go to the Google Alerts page.
  • Enter your search query, which is the keyword you wish to be monitored. Keep in mind that you can create several of these alerts for different keywords. You can also use advanced and boolean operators to include several queries into one alert.
  • State what kind of results you want, like blogs, news, discussions, etc. Or you can monitor everything, getting all results with your keywords.
  • Select how often you want to get alerts, which can be once a week, once a day or as-it-happens.
  • Obviously, there are numerous uses for this tool including the ability to monitor the competition, industry news or updates relevant to your brand.

    Here are some specific search queries you can try using:

    • [My Name] – to track the mentions of your name.
    • [My Company Name] – to monitor the company name mentions (reviews, forum posts, etc)
    • [mycompanyname.com] – to monitor the domain name mentions; some of the backlinks can also be discovered that way…

    Google Alerts is just one (admittedly best-known) tool to monitor your brand online. There are more, better tools:

    • Brand Mentions is a newer tool sending you daily email digests with your brand mentions
    • Buzzsumo is a great tool allowing you to set up multiple alerts to monitor your online mentions
    • Hooks is a mobile app allowing you to set up alerts to monitor your brand mentions on the go. BestAndroidApps offers a good tutorial on how to set up mobile alerts using the app.

    Hooks

    2. Research your brand-sensitive keywords

    Knowing what your past or future customers are typing in Google when trying to research your brand or find answers to their questions is the best way to understand what your users are struggling with and how to help them.

    Brand sensitive keywords

    I have already written a detailed guide on how to research brand-related keywords here. In short, using Serpstat find all the different keyword variations containing your brand name and then monitor the rankings.

    Serpstat

    It’s a good idea to play with those keywords a bit to:

    • Sort them into tabs (by action to take, for example, “Build a new page” or “Include this section in the FAQ section” are two possible actions to take),
    • Color code (by sentiment: You want to rank #1 for both positive and negative phrases)
    • Tag (by the team to assign to handle each of them, for example, assign some phrases to your usability or reputation management teams to handle).
    3. Monitor your competitors

    Keeping an eye on your competitors is the best way to avoid their mistakes and thus keep your brand image safe. I use two simple tools to monitor competitors:

    SE Ranking offers great competitor monitoring and reporting tools that I think are the easiest on the market. See how your competitors are doing at a glance and notice any important trends, i.e. sudden drop in rankings or quick increase in PPC budget. Make sure to dig deeper once you notice any unusual movement.

    SEranking

    Twitter sentiment search: Using Tweetdeck (or Hootsuite) I always keep an eye on [my-competitor :(] results: Make sure there’s a space before :(

    This search will bring up all your competitors’ unhappy customers giving you a good insight into what not to do to irritate your audience:

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    4. Handle negative mentions with grace

    The worst thing you can do is to register a new account at a forum and try to pretend you are the happy user of your service… That’s too obvious!

    Instead, try not to lose your face and represent yourself: The owner of the company. Be helpful, authentic and respectful. You can’t please everyone but you can surely help them solve their problems.

    Don’t try to get rid of negative sentiment by blocking unhappy customers or deleting their comments. This will backfire!

    A good way to handle negativity is healthy humor, if you know you have a good sense of one:

    Reply to a negative comment

    5. Make sure your visual brand is consistent

    Having a recognizable visual identity is the most effective way to build a stronger brand. People remember your site, logo and message if they keep seeing consistent visual elements over and over again, across different parts of the website, social media channels, email messages, even on other sites (via your advertising creatives).

    Whether you are planning a Facebook ad campaign or a regular email blast, keep an eye on how well your brand visual elements are kept across your assets.

    Here are a few free branding mockups for to use or at least get inspired:

    • Free corporate branding PSD template
    • Branding stationery mockup
    • Branding identity template

    Mockups

    Smartketer claims that display advertising is the best way to establish brand identity and there are some recent examples that confirm the point. So if you have some problems with your online reputation, a smart display advertising campaign may be in order.

    6. Make sure your website is secure

    One of the most frustrating and irritating reasons for a reputation management crisis is a constantly broken website. And it happens more often than you may think! Make sure that your site is fast, secure and reliably hosted to avoid all kinds of reputation management crises we witness again and again.

    Iflexion is a great example handling the website security seriously. Take a look at their security and IP protection page to get inspired. It details all the best practices they are executing to keep their customers safe. If you haven’t yet, it may be a good time to create a similar page to ensure your customers you are exercising due diligence in preventing online attacks and your products or services can be trusted.

    iflexion

    Have I missed anything? Share your own tips to building a stronger, more powerful brand.

    Ann Smarty is Brand and Community manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com and a contributor to Search Engine Watch.

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