By now we all know how important it is for a brand to control their online reputation, and we’ve heard the myriad of instances where big brands have failed to do so; like the popular I Hate Starbucks example or when Apple failed to take their current iPhone users into account when lowering the price, and a more recent example was the two Domino’s employees doing unsanitary things with food. In all of these instances, had the company been monitoring what was being said online, there may have been time to squash some of the negativity. Granted, millions still go to Starbucks daily, and Apple is still a top brand, but any negative content online can, and will, affect your company’s reputation and bottom line. It’s not something to be taken lightly, even by beloved brands. This comes into play when talking about much smaller businesses/brands that don’t necessarily have the marketing dollars to repair a reputation that’s been tarnished. So, what can you do to help “control” your online reputation? Search. Engine. Optimization.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the best defenses against malicious and negative online content. SEO gives brands the ability to outrank negative content, and potentially push it off of the first page, which is the goal. The percentage of users that navigate past the first page of search results is getting smaller and smaller (roughly less than 5% actually search past the first page of results). As Americans we get irritated by waiting. We want it now. So, if a user is searching for a brand and finds 10 results that are positive or neutral, that will generally be satisfactory.
So how do you utilize SEO to protect your brand? Google is making it easier as the search results are now incorporating more and more types of “alternative” content. Images, video, news and local search results are all included on the first page of results for certain queries. With only so much room on the first page of results, it’s beneficial to get as much branded content ranking as possible. Here are some ideas you can use to obtain rankings for your branded search terms.
- Image Optimization: Ensure all your images are properly named, and include your brand name in the ALT and Title attributes. Utilize Flickr, but be sure to update the title and description to describe the photo.
- Video Optimization: Create video tutorials, marketing videos, product demos, whatever. Place these videos on YouTube, and again, include branded keywords in the video titles & descriptions. It’s always a good idea to place these videos on your site along-side optimized site copy too.
- PDF Optimization: PDFs tend to rank well in the search results. When creating them, be sure to optimize the document properties, which act as the title tag & meta description.
- Social Media Profile Optimization: Creating a Facebook page and a Twitter profile, in addition to the aforementioned Flickr and YouTube profiles/channels will help as well as these profiles can rank for branded terms.
- Press Release Optimization: News stories tend to rank well, but have a short shelf life, so it’s important if you have a reputation problem that you consistently create press releases on a monthly basis.
- Blog Optimization: If you have a company blog, make sure it is optimized with branded keywords, and if you don’t have a blog, get one immediately.
- Local SEO: If you’re a local company with a brick and mortar, utilizing local SEO will help ensure your included in the local listings. These generally show at the very top of the search results page and receive a high number of click-throughs.
OK, now you’ve done all of the above, what next? After creating all of this great content, and optimizing it with branded keywords you’ll want to make sure all of that hard work pays off. Monitor the rankings to see how many of the newly created pieces of content make the first page. This can take some time for the content to rank, so be patient. While you’re waiting, here are some other things you should be doing:
- Monitor social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Is anyone talking about your brand? Join in on those conversations. Sometimes you can learn the most about your product/brand in these situations. Don’t be afraid to take some criticism, and take it cordially.
- Use a free service like Google Alerts to be notified any time new content about your brand is indexed by Google. You can even set up an entire dashboard if you want.
- Use Yahoo Pipes to create an RSS feed that is as customized as you want it to be. Setting this up definitely takes some more technical expertise, but Pipes allows you to filter a number of RSS feeds into one (great if your a hotel wanting to see reviews from a number of different review sites)
- Use Google Blog Search or Technorati for blog mentions
Following the above advice will help you win the battle against those naysayers in the search results. Remember that it’s not only important to push the negative results off the first page to help your reputation, but it’s also important to listen to what the negative comments are saying. Many times the negative reviews and comments are true, you just don’t want to believe them. Listen to your customers, they provide the best feedback possible as they’re the ones using your product. Listen.