Have you heard the words, “reputation management” applied to SEO before? Well, if you haven’t, you certainly should. Where some corporations might argue that the blogosphere isn’t important, Zappos, the web’s biggest shoe store  would, no doubt, disagree. If you have any questions about how positive the blogosphere can be for links (and traffic), grab a box of tissues and read this post entitled, “I heart Zappos .” The blogger bought a pair of women’s shoes  for her mom. The post is currently ranked #12 in Google for “zappos” (and #9 in Yahoo). Want to learn how you, too can garner link love and traffic for your brand? Here are some great lessons we can learn from this story to help you manage your online reputation…
Bend Corporate Policy When Appropriate: Per the post about Zappos, they typically have a 15-day return policy for their products, even though they pay for shipping both ways. Due to the death of the customer’s mother, they had no problem making an exception given the tragedy the customer was dealing with.
Be Accessible: How many times have you tried to contact a company to lodge a customer complaint? How many hours of your life have you wasted in so-called “phone purgatory”? Unlike the “Spirit Airlines Story , Zappos was easily accessible and had a great response time. By giving your customers a way to easily provide positive (and negative) feedback about customer service issues, it prevents your customers from jumping to conclusions and blogging about it. Remember, that timing is everything.
Be Human: By putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, you will no doubt achieve customer service excellence. When Zappos found out that their customer’s mother had passed away, they arranged for their product pick-up and sent a huge bouquet of flowers. How’s that for reaching out and being nice to someone? Not only did they do something nice, their humanity turned into link bait — because their customer happened to be a blogger with an audience.
Practice Company Values: One of the best ways to preserve your reputation is to take a hard look on how you are selling your customer service. If you are billing “premier customer service,” then do whatever you can to back it up. That way, not only do your customers know what to expect, but they will be eager to refer your company to other individuals. Comments on blog posts like the “I Heart Zappos” showed that her referral drove new customers and traffic to their online store, just because Zappos practices what they preach.
Don’t Invalidate or Ignore Negative Responses: One negative response, if handled improperly, can be more powerful than you think. Type in “Spirit Airlines” and the #2 position in Google is a blog post that declares “Do not Fly Spirit Airlines.” Another big name company, Dell, had a policy not to respond to bloggers that was eventually reversed, but not before the blogosphere picked up on “Dell Hell.” Type that search into Google and find millions of blog posts, articles, and negative reviews all dedicated to talking poorly about Dell. If handled appropriately, you can turn a complaint into a positive experience, to change customer perspectives and get them blogging about you–in a good way.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive: Instead of reacting to when things go wrong, put yourself out there via a personalized email or note to your customers and let them know what happened if you made a mistake. If a customer is that unhappy with your products or services, offer multiple choices to let them choose what works best for them. Keep in mind that, by owning up to your mistakes and read about it for a week in the news, you will prevent getting attention from a group of angry, irate customers (potential bloggers) who then create something like “Dell hell” which will be around for a long, long time.
By keeping these thoughts in mind, and following Zappos example, not only will you preserve your brand’s reputation, but you will also increase brand loyalty. When you think about it, being nice to your customers is a lot like karma. The nicer you are, the more traffic you’ll get and, ultimately, the more links you’ll build.