5 Steps to Protect Your Brand Online
Few things have been so beneficial and transformative for small businesses as the internet. Within a click, you can connect to global audiences, do product research, find new employees, and much more.
Unfortunately, the internet isn't all great. While it may take years to build up a good reputation in the digital world, it only takes seconds for it to come crashing down. Bad reviews, hacks, and website hacking are just a few of the things that can go wrong.
That's why we've put together this guide of the five essential steps you need to follow to protect your brand. Read on to learn everything you need to know.
Why Protecting Your Brand Is Vital
You don't have to think too long about all the things that can go wrong. As business people, we all know it's just a matter of time.
But it's important to stress just how sensitive businesses are to these things. Let's take one of the most damaging events that could happen—a cyber-attack. Did know that 60% of businesses fail within six months of a cyber-attack.
There are many reasons for this. First and foremost is the reputational damage that occurs. If you're lucky, the cybercriminals didn't directly do anything to damage your brand name like a post inappropriate. But you still have to deal with the huge blow to your customer trust.
It's not fair the businesses should be blamed for being victims, but, at the same time, everybody knows the risks of the digital world. That's why even huge names like Marriot and Equifax are still having a difficult time recovering from the damage. They are the lucky ones, however. They have billions at their disposal and built-in customer bases, so they'll be fine.
On the other hand, small businesses are the ones who struggle in the aftermath of one of these attacks.
Even though you know it's important to protect your brand, don't delay any longer. There's too much to lose.
1. Get Serious About Account Security
Admit it. You recycle some of your account passwords. Everybody does it. In a personal setting, this is already dangerous. You're putting your email, social, and other accounts at risk.
But in the business world, it gets even more damaging. Hackers are clever. It doesn't take much for them to figure out ways to break into your network or devices. It's easy enough for them to guess that if you have a password in one place, you might use it or a variation of it elsewhere.
With brute force techniques, they can guess thousands of password combinations in seconds and crack into account. The worst part is, you don't know when your original password might become exposed.
Hackers generally aren't lurking behind you watching what you type. Although that is possible, they generally obtain login credentials by hacking insecure websites and databases.
That's why you need a unique, lengthy, and secure password for each of your online accounts. It cannot be anything somebody would guess like "I Like Pizza." Instead, it should be a unique combination of numbers, letters, special characters, and upper and lower case like "FpTsB@44xEHF."
Naturally, you might be thinking, "how on earth would I ever remember that?" This is where a password manager comes in. Password managers help you create, manage, and store passwords in a highly secure digital vault. Best of all, however, you can use them to make logging into your accounts even easier. It's a total win-win.
With a password manager combined with biometrics and 2FA, you can rest assured your accounts are much safer. While you're at it, invest in other cybersecurity tools like VPNs, antimalware, firewalls, and everything else you need to stay safe.
The simple way to cover security threats is to use Aura, a comprehensive digital threat protection platform.
2. Keep A (Digital) Eye Out
The average business might be listed on Google, Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, and so many other places. This is all-important for increasing your visibility. But you also need to pay attention to these platforms since they're among the first things people see when searching for your company.
This is why you need Brand Monitoring software. There are tons of great options out there. They all share an overlapping ability to monitor the web and social media for any mention of your company so you can react accordingly.
This might be responding to a negative review, answering feedback, or even finding a new backlinking opportunity.
Quickness is key, so be ready to respond at a moment's notice. As a bonus, you can also use these tools to keep an eye out on your competitors.
3. Trademark Your Brand
Trademarking seems like something only the biggest companies would do. You don't want a hacker or competitor to get a hold of your brand. And here's the thing—trademarking isn't very expensive.
You can get the whole process done for a few hundred dollars. That's not much to pay for protection. You don't want to be like Google, which couldn't even use "Gmail '' for its name in the UK since somebody already owned it. Ouch!
The same also goes for web presence. You've got to secure it .com, .net, and other variants of your domain. If your business is really starting to scale, you should also consider the naming variants. One example where Google got it right was purchasing domain names like "Gooogle.com and "Gogle.com."
4. Get Serious About Rankings
As a business, you probably know a thing or two about SEO. While you definitely want your site to be optimized and want you to rank for your keywords, don't forget about your business itself.
Many people will interact with your site through direct URL input but via Google search. If you're not on the top listing or worse on the front page of results, then it not only will be difficult to find you but will also look suspicious.
You also need to pay attention to your competitor's PPC strategies. It's extremely common to bid for other company's names so their ads will show up above your organic listings. Imagine somebody wants to go to your page only to get swept away by one of your rivals.
Work hard to include your brand name throughout your site and keep an eye on PPC ads. It may be worth it to spend a few bucks to keep your brand intact.
5. Be Proactive and Responsive to Threats
The worst thing you can do is nothing. If somebody is threatening your brand, it is unlikely they will go away. Naturally, prevention is the best medicine. If you've followed the first four steps, then you should already be in pretty good shape.
But there are also cracks in the armor that fraudsters know how to exploit. You'll have to assess risks on an individual basis. But you do need to respond to all of them.
The biggest question is whether you pay to have something stop. Reporting these bad actors to the authorities likely won't too much. You're on your own.
In general, it's not a good idea to pay. Once you do, you've opened yourself up to even more attacks and may even become complicit indirectly in illicit activity.
The best bet is to work through the channels available. It will take time to undo the damage, but it can be done. But be transparent with your customers and partners. They should find quickly so they can take steps to protect themselves. In fact, if you do fail to disclose this information, you may eventually be liable for any damages that occur.
Protecting Your Brand in The Digital World
We're not here to scare you, but the threat is real. SMEs are the most common target for cybercriminals often because they have so much to lose.
That's why you need to get serious about brand management. Own your digital channels, invest in security, be proactive. This is how you ensure the safety of your brand now and in the future.