An online brand audit, or web presence audit, is an assessment of how your company and your brand appear online.
All too often marketing teams spend more time navel-gazing, looking at their own website, than they spend monitoring key information elsewhere on the web.
Your brand is “out there” whether you are actively managing it or not.
If you have never conducted an online brand audit, you may be unclear with why or how to go about it. Here is a tutorial on what we’re setting out to accomplish:
What Is a Brand Audit?
Every 3 to 6 months, brand owners should schedule a thorough sweep of social media channels—as well as directories and user review websites—for any information about your business.
Small- and medium-sized businesses tend to use a more modest system for scanning the web for brand mentions, like Google Alerts and manual searches.
Why Audit Your Web Presence?
Goal 1. Update incorrect info
There are countless online business directories, covering every possible business industry that you can imagine. Your company could be listed on any number of them without you even knowing. Broad exposure is a good thing, unless these directories are relaying mixed messages, counteracting all your hard work establishing a brand. Inaccurate information about your business on the web could cost you potential customers.
Keep in mind that even the most careful business owner can be misrepresented online. Bad intel isn’t necessarily a result of sloppy work on your part. In our experience, a common reason for this is the limitation of web crawlers.
FYI: Web crawlers are internet bots that search engines use to comb through every webpage (in this case, your company’s page) and extract information. When you search the name of a company, usually that company’s info, address, and phone number will appear on the right hand side, separate from the organic results.
Occasionally, crawlers miss the context of the information on your site. For example, they may detect and extract what looks like a phone number that is actually a fax number (as was the case with one of our clients). As a result, the search engine will display the wrong phone number on their results page.
Goal 2. Align branding
If you’ve spent the time and money to develop a logo or rebrand your business, you’ll want to make sure that everywhere your old logo appeared, your new logo replaces it. Having multiple logos out there will confuse customers, and undermine their trust (even subconsciously), and just looks sloppy.
How you describe yourself in taglines or “about us” copy may be inconsistent as well, depending on when social media or directory profiles were created. Keep them all aligned for a clear, unified message.
The Brand Audit Process
With these goals in mind, you’re ready to begin! Here are the different components of an online brand audit:
We don’t mean this in the spiritual sense—we mean that you’ve got to find your company on the web. To do this, you’ll have to think like a customer; look where they would look. The fastest, easiest way is to just type the name of your company into a search engine. We recommend turning “private browsing” mode on for your preferred web browser. Search results are often personalized based on your search history, location, etc., so using private browsing is like looking with a fresh set of eyes.
Tip: Even though more people prefer Google, don’t forget to check search engines like Bing and Yahoo. As of the latest iOS update, Bing is the search engine used by Siri on the iPhone, as well as Facebook.
Also search for your business on user review sites like Yelp and the social media heavies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+. (Despite being, well, not the most “popular” social network, Google+ profiles are important because they sync with Google Maps and the larger Google search network.)
Claim your profiles
Most online directories will give you the option to claim ownership of your company page, at which point you can edit the information to your heart’s content.
The verification process often just requires a simple confirmation email sent to your company email address. (Sometimes the verification process requires you to enter an authorization code that is sent to you via a phone call to your business number or a postcard sent to the physical address of your business, so make sure that information is correct before requesting a confirmation code!)
Once you are the verified owner, you’ll have quick access to your company’s account and can update the info and imagery as you please.
Add your business
Even worse than being listed on a directory with incomplete or out-of-date info is not being listed at all!
Many online business directories have the option to add your business to their list. Yelp, for example, makes it super easy to do this, but other directories might not be so simple. You may need to call or email the host of the directory. This requires a little more legwork, but it is well worth the effort!
Address Negative Comments or Reviews
Unhappy customers are an inevitability for business owners. If you come across a negative review or comment on your social media channel, the first step damage control: make things right with the unhappy customer. A late response is better than no response, and every negative review is a customer service opportunity in disguise.
It’s tempting to try to hide a negative review or flag it as inappropriate, but censoring public comments can seriously backfire. Put your best customer service rep on the case to publicly diffuse and repair the situation. On some sites, unless it is clearly a personal attack or completely fabricated, you’re prohibited from deleting a review.
Next, you’ll want to request some positive reviews from clients who you know very well. Everybody loves giving their opinion; loyal customers will be happy to put in a good word for you.
But please, no matter what, DO NOT LET YOUR EMPLOYEES WRITE REVIEWS FOR YOUR BUSINESS! This undermines the credibility of all your reviews and can actually do a lot of damage. In 2013, the New York attorney general busted 19 companies for writing bogus reviews about themselves. One company, US Coachways, ended up paying $75,000 in fines for pulling this shady move.
After you perform the audit, there are a few things you’ll want to do. Don’t let your hard work be for nothing!
Because changes to information on websites don’t always happen instantly, it’s critical that you remember to follow up on the changes you’ve made on webpages and directories.
Cautionary tale: During a recent brand audit for a Tandem client, we found their business in two different locations on Google Maps. After requesting that the duplicate listing be deleted, we soon found that Google had removed BOTH locations from the map. Fortunately, this was corrected after reaching out to a Google rep. Be vigilant with change request follow-ups.
Continue to monitor directories and pages that feature your business information. Drop in regularly on sites and directories that have reviews in order to stay engaged with your customers.
Develop a social media content plan
Make a simple plan for keeping a steady stream of content up on your Facebook account—even pictures of your team at work, or company events. If your company has a social media account you should make sure you use it, even if it is just on occasion. Nothing looks sadder than a social media account that hasn’t been updated in a long time. An abandoned company account gives the impression that the business is no longer active. Like this one:
You wouldn’t think so by the look of their Twitter feed (their last tweet was in 2010), but this company is actually alive and well.
With 255 million active users per month, Twitter is one area where you’ll want to lead, be followed, or get out of the way.
LinkedIn is another site where, even if you’re not posting regularly, it’s critical to your company’s image to have an up-to-date page and link your team’s personal profiles correctly to the page.
(See “How To Use LinkedIn for B2B Marketing” for more info on what you should be doing on LinkedIn.)
If you have any more questions about brand audits and your online presence, leave a comment below or contact us directly—we could talk about this stuff all day!
Auditing your social media presence can be tedious and time-consuming (you’d be surprised how many business directories are out there!) but critical.
Whether you decide to do it yourself or hire a resource to audit your brand presence, the important thing is that you do it regularly; we suggest seasonally. Don’t put off something as important as how your brand is represented online.
Got any questions, comments, or tips of your own regarding web presence audits? Leave them in the comments section below!