Back in the day, it was possible to build a word-of-mouth following for your small business, simply on the basis of offering stellar products and exemplary customer service. Those days may not be entirely behind us, but certainly, developing a strong reputation is harder and more complex than ever before. It is increasingly important for companies to position themselves as authoritative presences within their respective industries — because in the end, that’s how businesses develop visibility among search engine users.
On paper, this may sound simple, but in practice, it is anything but. Even the best, most reliable companies can face struggles as they attempt to build clout and distinguish themselves as industry thought leaders. With that said, there are several avenues that small business leaders can use as they seek to cultivate their online reputations.
How does a business establish its expertise and its authority? One way is to provide consumers with direct answers to their questions. For example, say that a consumer takes to some online forum to inquire about the best methods for green plumbing. If you own a plumbing company, and you provide that consumer with some direct and helpful information, then you’ve already established a positive bond with that potential customer — meaning that, when that consumer finds himself in need of a plumbing service, your company is almost sure to spring to mind.
There are several avenues for positioning your company as authoritative, through the use of Q&A sites. One of the most popular such sites is Quora, where online consumers can offer up their inquiries in a variety of fields and wait for “expert” answers to appear. By positioning your brand as one of those expert voices, you can develop a reputation for thought leadership and industry know-how. As such, it is beneficial to spend some time searching Quora keywords that relate to your field, and to offer some useful content to those making inquiries.
Another way to develop your reputation as an authority is to engage in a guest posting campaign. Here’s how it works, in a nutshell: Say that you own an online marketing consultancy. Your goal should be to position yourself as an authority through submitting guest posts — with your brand name and perhaps even a backlink to your company website — on other authoritative and highly credible blogs within your industry. This provides you with credibility by association!
A good way to go about this is to simply conduct a Google search for some industry-specific keywords, and see what the first blogs to appear might be. Many times, these blogs will offer information about guest posting opportunities. Read the guidelines carefully, reach out to the blogger to offer your ideas, and then get to work crafting a post that will allow you to showcase your knowledge and your skills.
A final way to become known as an authority is to become known as a content curator. What this means is that your marketing and branding activities do not have to focus on self-promotion, exclusively, but rather can encompass commentary on headlines and trends shaping your industry. Use your blog or company Facebook page to opine on breaking news stories, to share tips and tricks from within your industry, or simply to offer some substantive, meaningful, non-promotional content to your readers.
The bottom line is that, if you want your company to be found by today’s search-centric consumers, you need to develop a reputation for authority — and there are several ways to do so. More than anything else, simply focus on positioning your small business as the thought leader within your industry.
About the Author: Mike Zammuto is the President of Brand.com. The company provides services for online reputation management, which in turn gives people and businesses full control over their online search results.