What’s the worth of your name and reputation?
Reputation can make or break any company or individual; one blistering review that surfaces on the first page of Google can undo the many years of hard work to get to where you are today.
I am the guy that companies sneak in through the backdoor to fix their screwed up reputation online, when all other options have been exhausted. And yet you have not heard about me and you don’t see me overtly advertising my services anywhere. There’s a reason for that; I’ll tell you more about this later.
It’s an absolute bloodbath out there, and it’s a matter of time before someone (a competitor, pissed off customer or disgruntled employee) brings the war to your doorstep.
You had better get ready, and what I am going to share with you in a series of mini guides that will give you the basics on protecting your online reputation.
Why Am I Doing This?
I am not writing this article to sell you stuff.
In fact, I don’t hustle “online reputation management” deals for a living. To pay the bills, I do this thing called “lead generation”, and I do that for property agencies and developers.
Despite the somewhat fancy term, what it means is that I get a stream of eager buyers to the doors of the agents or the sellers.
I like to think that my leads have better quality than the ones you get by advertising at property portals. The fact that agencies are happily paying my fees (yes, I charge 200-300% more a month than the most expensive property portal in town does in a year) means that they are making good money off my leads.
I am good at generate good leads because I understand Google.
Unlike job seekers who typically go to JobStreet.com, a majority of property buyers default to Google for their searches; they don’t go directly to property sites (people who go straight to sites like iProperty are typically agents looking for co-brokering deals).
When a such-and-such property portal flaunts its million-visits-per-month statistics, they don’t tell you that the numbers are made up from sloppy seconds from Google (and from deal-hunting agents).
What this really means is that Google has got the Malaysia property industry by the cojones. Whoever who masters the Google game will have the keys to the kingdom.
And that’s why I am in business.
In short, for me to make money, I need to have complete mastery of Google – how it works, how it ranks sites, how the beast behaves in the onslaught of spam.
Additionally, the viability of my business depends on the online reputation of the properties and developers that I advertise for. I have to thus ensure that my clients and their products look good in the search engines – even BEFORE I set up a lead generation campaign.
In real world terms, if there are negative reviews, competing sites and other crap about my clients, I get them pushed off the first two pages of Google (virtually nobody looks at the bottom half of the second page on Google and beyond).
And I am going to show you how I do it.
The First Step You Need To Take…
…is to ignore your own site.
This may be counter-intuitive, but bear with me.
Put your site on the back burner for the time being. Instead, do some research and find out who are controlling the SERPs (search engine ranking positions) in your niche.
Do a simple search on Google. You’ll often find a number of sites which rank especially high for a good number of the keywords that are relevant to your category; these are what we call “Authority Sites”.
Here’s an example…
Imagine that you’re a widget making service called WidgetName. When you do a Google search, you see these results:
- WidgetName (Your site)
- WidgetName is dog poo
- WidgetName sucks
- I got scammed by WidgetName
- WidgetName’s founder tortures puppies
Doesn’t look too good now, does it? Ideally, you want the first page of Google to look like this:-
- WidgetName (Your site)
- WidgetName rocks (friendly authority site)
- WidgetName is awesome (friendly authority site)
- I like WidgetName (friendly authority site)
- WidgetName brings me breakfast in bed and does my laundry (friendly authority site)
These are two extreme examples, of course. Chances are that you’ll stumble upon sites which may be ranking for your target keywords which have no mention about your product or company at all. You’ll want to list down these authority sites and start reaching out to them.
Follow these steps:-
- Get to know who owns those authority sites. Check the Contact Us page, and if there are no details available, use this tool: http://whois.sc/
- Reach out to them. Wine and dine them. Be nice. Develop a rapport and be in their good books.
- Casually ask if they’d write an article on you and post it on their site, focusing on the keywords that you want to dominate. Better still, provide them with a top notch article that they can copy, paste and publish at their site with minimal hassle.
Watch out: do not offer financial incentives for a backlink as this violates Google’s webmaster guidelines.
Let’s say you’re a car manufacturer, and you are launching a new model. You might want to reach out to Paul Tan since his blog has got a good presence in the SERPs. If you’re a big time property developer launching an upmarket condominium inside the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) area, then you’ll want to a placement inside the KLCC Condominiums Database (http://klcccondominiums.com.my/). Selling enterprise IT solutions? Get to know Cat Yong, buy her coffee and ask her nicely if you can write for her.
You get the drill.
Setting up an outreach program is out of the scope of this article. For sample outreach email templates that I use, get in touch with me.
Google is still wide open for a lot of categories of Malaysian businesses. If you don’t exploit these opportunities, then your competitors will.