As a search marketing professional, I admit I’m guilty of “Googling” myself. I’m interested to know what shows up in the search engine results when I enter my name. While I may not have to deal with negative Web sites or content appearing in search results, larger companies do. Look no further than Starbucks. In a Google search for “Starbucks,” a handful of negative listings appear in the top 10 results. Knowing that negative listings can have a huge impact on your reputation and brand, organizations and individuals alike should consider integrating an online reputation management (ORM) program into their existing marketing strategy. The essential elements of an effective ORM program are outlined below.
Create a Foundation
It all begins and ends with a News Room. Search engines like content typically reserved for the media: press releases, FAQs, management bios, coverage, etc. As you build out your News Room, make sure you have relevant content to address any specific issues (i.e. the Starbucks Iraq email) and that your press releases and related content are optimized for search engines.
Start a Conversation
Once your News Room is populated with optimized content, engage the online influencers. The first step is to identify relevant online publications, blogs and portals. Begin tracking these sites and looking for opportunities to post comments on relevant articles. Be prepared to get into the conversation by posting comments on detractor blogs and linking back to your own press release or blog. Keep in mind, many publications and blogs syndicate their content to other Web sites which appear in news search engines, so even unknown sites can generate a high level of visibility. As you explore the Web, don’t forget to monitor consumer-generated media outlets like newsgroups, threaded forums and wikis. Although not generally as popular as blogs, these alternative outlets should be monitored closely, as they too tend to appear in relevant search engine results.
Build Then Buy
Similar to traditional advertising, online advertising offers an opportunity to control placement and message. Utilize Google AdWords and related pay-per-click (PPC) programs to get your message out in a timely manner. PPC ads can be posted virtually instantaneously and provide an opportunity to share your message with people interested in specific topics or issues. For example, Starbucks might purchase the term “Starbucks email” to direct those interested in the email that circulated around the Internet about their alleged lack of support for troops in Iraq, and direct them to an official press release confirming it was a hoax. While Starbucks is currently purchasing the term “Starbucks email,” it’s an ad for holiday gift cards. The ad could be seen as insensitive by viewers and create a negative perception of the Starbucks brand.
An integrated online reputation management program ensures those looking for information about you or your company will see favorable content in related search results. The result is a stronger online reputation and a lasting brand. What does Google say about your brand?
Kent Lewis is President of Anvil Media, Inc., a search engine marketing agency based in Portland, Oregon.