Brand Reputation Management; Managing Your Online Reputation with SEO

In the days before brand management entailed extensive online efforts, companies and corporations had things a bit easier. With television, printed press and radio being the 3 biggest media platforms before the internet, big companies could simply dish out their big bucks for positive brand advertising, press releases, and radio commercials. These companies had much more control over combating negative events. Brand name rivals rarely could get away with random slander and libel. Companies could usually recover quickly from a “shocking” news story, bad review, or even a televised, hour long 20/20 investigative story – like the behind-the-scenes story that revealed the horrible health code violations of Pizza Hut and other chain pizzerias in the 90′s.

Did that 20/20 story sink Pizza Hut’s business – then or now? Obviously not, since it is still going strong. However, the internet is a much different animal. Negative events can happen anytime, and are largely out of a company’s control. Can a brand control if and when there will be reputation-damaging blogs and articles that start popping up in the search results of their brand name? Can they control whether or not consumers read those damaging blogs and articles, and decide to take their business elsewhere?

These kinds of factors about internet search and search results make online brand reputation management critically imperative. While it can take effort to boost a company’s SERP ranking, it takes much more effort to combat top ranking negative or damaging search results attached to a company brand name. Any business owner can panic when a Google search of their brand name returns first page results with even a few articles, blogs, or social media content that directly or indirectly advises users against the brand. Even a top ranking positive blog or review can be overturned if the comment section is filled with heated, angry comments -whether true or not.

Below is a review and discussion about online brand reputation and brand management, and how SEO plays a major and necessary role. The following discussion will also identify strategies for online brand management, and the various ways negative or damaging content makes its way into top ranking SERPs. Once negative or harmful content is identified and researched, then a company can begin to use online reputation and brand management to combat the negative content. In addition, the following will review negative Google Suggest terms that can severely damage a brand name – such as “brand name + scandal.” Lastly, you’ll find below how to identify and implement approaches and strategies that can turn brand reputation around.

Brand Management Online and How SEO is Important

If you are still being schooled on the topic of SEO, then you probably wonder, like many others – what does SEO (Search Engine Optimization) have to do with brand reputation and management? Well, in a word – everything. Without upkeep of SEO implementation, no matter how beautiful or valuable your company brand, or how much your website sparkles of potential high conversion rates – if SEO does not make your site visible, and can’t be found through search – then online brand management will not get very far.

As search users, we consciously or subconsciously assume that brands, companies and services found at the top of search results are the most successful in their field, business or industry. Those who are placed there obviously have good SEO methods, or else they wouldn’t be there. In order to manage an online reputation, you first must have one – which means consumers and customers must be able to find you. Without visibility, good SERP rankings, and a little buzz within appropriate, relevant online platforms – brand reputation management is nonexistent, because there is no reputation. SEO must be the first step for any company’s online brand reputation management.

Additionally, the very meaning of online reputation management is to maintain a positive image of your company or brand name on the web, and to combat negative events as they arise. This can only be done through SEO methods. The content from links found on the first several SERP listings, is that which people not only read, but also tend to trust or believe. They are equivalent to current affairs, daily news and conversations. What is on the first page of search results for any given search is what will shape user public opinion about the topic or subject of the search. If “Jane” conducts a search for “best online shoe store” – the first ten results are going to shape Jane’s opinion about the best place to buy shoes. The same will be true for related search terms like, “best shoes online,” and “best shoe e-store.” A smart online shoe company will optimize all relevant keyword phrases possible, which gives them a better chance at consistent high ranking in SERP for all relevant searches for online shoe purchases.

The same applies to your business or company brand name. By maximizing keyword phrases related to your brand name, while also keeping highly competitive keyword phrases at a minimum, even smaller businesses can work their way up to optimum SERP rankings for targeted search terms. However, it’s important to remember that SEO is an on-going, constant necessity for any website to maintain visibility and good search engine rankings. Just as brand reputation management requires efforts of consistency, so do the tools and methods that establish that reputation.

Rival Tactics and Disgruntled Consumers

Unfortunately in today’s competitive market and economy, some businesses use unethical and underhanded approaches in attempt to steal consumer brand loyalty. This can be done all too easily, with the amount of blogs that have open comments, and social media steadily gaining influence in SERP.Unethical methods for defaming a brand name frequently include posting malicious, untrue, or otherwise damaging comments on any number of blogs, which are then linked back to high profile sites, with an anchor text to the blog such as ” scam.” When enough of this term becomes searched for and found in search results, something very damaging can happen: Google will list that term in their suggestion box as a user types the brand name. More on that will be covered a bit later.

Other methods that circulate negative content for a brand name is when just one or two disgruntled consumers – which every business is bound to have – write negative reviews, post blogs or use social media to spread their dissatisfaction. This can often spread very quickly, given the nature of the internet. It spreads all the faster when users publish negative content on social bookmarking sites and microblogs like Digg, Tumblr, Del.icio.us. – this often causes the company to lose even more business. Even more destructive is when a rival will as far as to create one or even many social media pages solely dedicated to slandering a brand name, disguised as disgruntled customers. Is this legal? No. But given the anonymity of the internet, most usually get away with it.

So, how does a business neutralize all that negative content out there, especially when it ranks high in SERPs for the company brand name search?

A good way to explain the answer is through example and step-by-step solution.

Google Suggestion and Its Risk to Brand Management

Brand name companies often face a severe problem and lose business due to the Google Suggestion box. For example, when “scandal” or “scam” are one of the first Google suggestions given when a brand name is typed in – this can quickly build negative circulation.

This is not to say that Google suggests these terms to purposefully harm the reputation of certain companies. “Scandal” would not appear in the suggestion box if it were not typed in by users. Brands do not necessarily have a lot of search users that are searching for “Company-Brand-Name + Scandal”- but at some point, all it takes is just enough to make it into the suggestions box. And, if enough rival competitors know this, and are willing to use dirty methods, they can even potentially help that suggestion along. Once the term “scandal” is in the Google Suggestion as the brand name is typed, users usually click on the “scandal” suggestion simply out of curiosity. This in turn, raises the “scandal” suggestion to the highest term, because Google interprets the increased number of clicks on that suggestion as being the most relevant related to the brand name. When consumers start to type the brand name into Google search, and they see “scandal,” as the top suggestion, many of them will click on it. As a result, they are scared away from the purchase or the company business.

Online Management of Negative SERP Content

SEO efforts in full force need to be applied in order to take back control of brand reputation and management.
The way to do this is to carefully examine all aspects. Begin with what needs to be changed. While most people might start planning how to remove the word “scandal” from Google suggestion tool, this would entail a ton of effort, take a lot of time, and in the meantime the business will continue to suffer – and even then simply removing the suggestion word “scandal” may not necessarily be the best fix.

Instead, focusing on what appears in top ranking SERP for the search “Company-Brand-Name Scandal,” is an approach that allows for much more control over what users find under the term “scandal” when it is attached to the brand name.

Since company brands tend to be high ranking to begin with for their target terms, it means they already have pre-existing content online to work with. In addition, new content also needs to be added strategically.

Using Pre-Existing Content for Re-Establishing Brand Reputation Management

Examples of pre-existing content that can be used to target and optimize for the “Company-Brand-Name “Scandal” keyword phrases are:

- News articles and positive high-ranking reviews

If the company has been reviewed or mentioned in a news article, even though the article does not contain the actual target keyword, creating an anchor text from additional high-ranking sites to the news article, can often be enough to get it ranked within the top 20 results.

- Blogs

Inevitably brand companies will already have one or more blogs devoted to any number of niches and subject areas. However, this also includes any positive blog posts that also have zero negative comments, or better yet, have comments disabled. This prevents any negative comments from being made to a top ranking result in the future.

- Sub domains

It is possible that a brand may already have sub domains. If not, sub domains can be created to either address the accusations or negative events directly, or indirectly with keyword optimization. The best approach is probably the former, so as not to feed any “cover-up” stories.

- Wikis

Not all companies will have their own wiki page within an industry niche, but this is a very good content source in the case of negative content circulation. It may be a good idea to be proactive and have an industry or niche wiki page created for your company, so you’ll have this among your arsenal of SEO tools. By inserting the target keyword phrase naturally into the content of the wiki page, you’ll easily have another positive link that ranks high in SERPs.

- Social media pages

This can also fall under new content as well, depending upon the approach. While new Tweets and statuses would be considered “New content,” if there is business page set up under Facebook, this can be used to address the issue and use the target keyword phrase, and also be part of the interlinking system. Social bookmarking sites and microblogs can also be used to reinforce positive websites and use for interlinking.

New Content to Use for Brand Reputation Management

- Website Content

This is the most obvious tool for optimizing the negative keyword phrase, since Google usually places brand name website at the top of SERP for a brand name search. Generating good quality articles with information and naturally used target keywords is the best approach.

- Articles and Article Directories

Some webmasters may be reluctant to use eZineArticles, Squidoo and Hubpages since the Panda updates. However, if good quality articles have been consistently published on these sites in relation to the company brand name, there is nothing to fear. Using unique articles for each article site, and natural use of the keyword phrase(s) is the best approach.

- Create New Sites

By creating other sites with a .org and .net address – such as http://www.Company-Brand-Name.org, they can be populated with as much new content regarding the negative keyword phrase as necessary. It may even be a wise idea to create website pages with the target phrase in the URL, such as www.companybrand.org/company-brand-scandal.php. This is especially the case for a .org site, since Google seems to gravitate toward .org domains over some others.

- Social Media

If a brand name is popular enough, they just may be able to use social networking to turn the scandal around into something that reflects upon the company positively. For instance, if a company can begin a campaign against libel and slander on the internet, it just may catch on enough for the brand to win back its audience and reputation. While it may not become a viral sensation, it could be enough to not only reinforce positive brand name search results, but it could also initiate other positive searches that include the brand name, and potentially help push the “scandal” suggestion down to a less visible ranking.
As a proactive approach, social media should always be used to circulate positive efforts being made by the brand, whether through charities it supports, awareness campaigns, or other positive groups that can be populated and built quickly. These efforts can combat negative content proactively and successfully, when the right approaches are used.

- YouTube Videos

This is a fantastic way to promote positive information and content about a company brand. This can also fall under both existing and new content to use in SEO methods, because old videos can undergo content moderation, and new videos can be posted. Be sure to include plenty of text with the video that contains natural use of the targeted phrase, so Google can index the video.

In regards to YouTube videos, they must also be monitored the same way search results are. Because any brand, large or small, can be attacked at any time, it is important to keep an eye on YouTube videos. For example, KFC has been the subject of many, many negative YouTube videos, which film everything from dirty health violations to cruel treatment of chicken, and employee scandals to irate customers. Due to the sheer volume of negative videos, this is a prime example of bad online reputation management, and what not to do. Again, it is wise to be proactive, and publish a few videos once in a while that portray the brand in a positive light, while also monitoring the videos others publish about the company or brand.

Results

When these strides are taken through an aggressive SEO campaign, to combat negative events and content about a company brand which circulates the internet, the negative content is pushed farther down in SERP, while positive content replaces it – even when that “scandal” suggestion appears with a typed search for the brand. By replacing good, positive content for the keyword “Company-Brand-Name Scandal,” the company then regains control of online brand reputation management. It is in this way that SEO is vital not only to regular brand reputation management, but is also the main weapon of defense against damaging content and loss of business.

Brand reputation management is a critical part of any online company, and the implementation of ORM (online reputation management) is no simple or quick-fix task. Contact us today and we will build a custom brand reputation management strategy for you.

November 14, 2011

Written by Duran Inci

Duran Inci is an Internet Marketing Expert with over 10 years experience in E-business, including all forms of lead generation (including Search Engine Optimization) and web promotion. Duran has built and managed all aspects of Internet Marketing & E-commerce operations including, e-business planning, analytics, network integration and strategic partnerships. Duran has a strong history of building revenues through effective e-commerce strategies. The exceptional breadth of Duran’s technical skills ensures that Optimum7 clients have the best, most current tools available to maximize impact of their online marketing campaigns. He leads our entire development team in our Miami office.

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