Online reputation management involves more than establishing a website and social media profiles. Conversations about brands are happening at various channels around the web, and the loudest of these discussions converge at one important place: the search engine results page. This post covers the basics of reputation management SEO, including the relationship between reputation and search engines, branded keywords, and strategies to dominate page one.
What is Reputation Management SEO?
Have you ever Googled yourself?
Not everyone might admit to it, but it’s doubtful anyone could resist Googling their name at least once or twice.
For most people, the results are typical: a few social media profiles, a company “About Us” page, maybe a quote in a local newspaper. Depending on your name’s popularity, the top results might be about an entirely different person; someone you’ve never met, but with whom you share a search engine results page.
You might’ve Googled yourself out of curiosity, or boredom, or because we put the thought in your mind just now. But there could be a time in your life where someone makes that inquiry with more significant intentions: a manager thinking of hiring you, a college weighing your application, or a potential partner scoping you out before a date.
In that case, the search engine results could have very real and lasting impact on your reputation.
The same goes for brands.
What shows up on page one of the results for branded keywords (searches that include the name of the brand) has a measurable effect on that brand’s reputation. That’s the importance of reputation management SEO, which is search engine optimization strategies and tactics to influence the results for branded search inquiries in order to preserve and improve a brand’s reputation online.
How the Search Engine Results Effect a Brand’s Reputation
It’s Friday night, and you’re decidedly too exhausted to make dinner. But you’re not feeling like any of your go-to restaurants, either. So, you pull out your phone and Google the name of that new place in town.
The first result is the restaurant’s homepage; the second is a link to their menu. Perfect. But there, in place three, is a preview of their Yelp rating:
Rating: 2.5 – 63 reviews – Price range: $40-$60
In an instant, your opinion has turned; there’s no way you’re paying 5-Star prices for a 2-Star meal.
Review sites like Yelp can have an enormous impact on a brand’s reputation online. So can Google reviews, news stories, blog posts, forum discussions, directory pages, career sites, and all the other third party websites that rank for branded search inquires.
The problem is that brands can’t control the content on these sites as they rule their own domains. A well-optimized homepage will usually outrank third party sites for branded inquiries, but customers aren’t as likely to click through if it’s surrounded by negativity on the SERP.
You can ask the authors to remove negative pages, but that can easily backfire and result in an even worse reputation.
So, what can be done about it?
Reputation Management SEO Strategies
Rarely do brands have the power to remove negative search engine results outright. However, it is possible to:
- Use search engine optimization (SEO) to influence the results for branded search inquiries
- Influence the content of third-party review sites
- Publish new types of content to claim more above the fold space on the results page
The goal is to enhance the ranking of positive items in favour of negative ones, either by displacing the negative content or improving it. There are several ways to go about this; we’ll briefly cover three strategies in the sections below.
1. Encourage Positive Reviews
Third party review sites like Yelp (along with industry-specific sites like G2Crowd for B2B software, or HomeStars for trade contractors) are crucial when it comes to reputation management SEO for local service industries.
These sites tend to rank well because they provide relevant information consumers want to see. Authentic customer reviews tend to carry more weight than curated testimonials on a brand’s own website.
It might not always be possible to outrank them, but it is possible to turn these sites into an asset:
- Most third-party review sites allow brands to “claim” and modify their profiles. Take this step and fill out the profile completely, using it as a platform to speak to potential customers.
- Upload enticing, high-quality photos that put products and services in the best possible light.
- Encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews on the site to bolster the score. Great reviews are the most effective way to diminish the weight of negative ones.
2. Publish New Content
With proper placement and optimization, quality blog posts, videos, and images that utilize branded keywords can rise in the rankings to displace negative pages.
YouTube videos are especially powerful in this way, since they can even claim the coveted position zero ranking, claiming valuable above-the-fold real estate.
It’s worth utilizing off-site publishing platforms as well as those on the brand’s domain. Industry-specific news sites, as well as pop news sites like The Huffington Post, can be valuable both for back-linking and reputation management.
3. Get Others to Write About the Brand
Journalists, bloggers, editors, and video creators are always on the hunt for great content. Pitching positive stories about the brand helps to seed the web with a variety of content relevant to branded search inquiries.
Over time, these stories can gain enough traction to rise in rank and claim a spot previously occupied by negativity.
Managing Your Reputation Online
Reputation management SEO takes time. Positive stories cannot displace negative ones overnight; high-quality links need to be developed over time; and legitimate customer reviews don’t always come easy.
But at this day and age, reputation management SEO is absolutely worth the time and effort.
The search engine results page serves as a brand’s first impression to many, many people. Negative results can stop potential customers in their tracks.
It’s like the old saying about planting a tree. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now. Change takes time, so there’s no better time than the present to work on your brand’s online reputation.
Get in touch with us if you’d like to chat about where your brand stands in the digital marketplace.