Brand and reputation management continues to evolve in the modern web era. That’s not a surprise, because SEO, link building strategies, and content marketing have also evolved. We last looked into brand monitoring and reputation management on the blog in 2014 — a world away in web years. So here’s an update on how your company should approach reputation management in 2017.
Brand Reputations in 2017
A lot has changed in terms of the web, web users, and search engines over the last few years. The web is full of even more content of every possible description. If your brand has been around for any length of time, someone somewhere has probably had something salty to say about it online.
However, web users, that is, your customers, are no spring chickens. Today’s online consumer is younger, more tech-savvy, and more discerning when it comes to online information. The massive millennial generation isn’t one to fall for “fake news” as often as their parents were. This is both good and bad. Good in the sense that a bad review by a jilted customer may be ignored; bad in the sense that your brand management has to be on guard against more substantial PR problems.
Search engines have likewise become more savvy, with algorithms that carefully weigh search semantics and provide richer search results for brands and products. Reviews, hours and locations, multiple site pages, Twitter feeds, Wikipedia and Crunchbase profiles, and more, now routinely show up for a general search of a well-optimized online business presence — a fact that could help minimize the effects of a bad press or review. However, the internet’s rumor mill can still get going, generating many bad pieces of ranking press articles from a single item.
SEO Strategies for Brands
The first step to managing your online brand reputation in this 2017 environment is to take SEO seriously. Any strategy should start with SEO for brand keywords. That’s because the first thing a potential new customer does after hearing a radio spot or seeing a print ad is Google your brand name. What they find could be the arbiter of whether they convert.
Your SEO brand strategy has to start with your own website. Build a website structure that gives search engines, journalists, and bloggers plenty of options when linking back to content specific to your brand’s keywords. It should start with these fundamental content pages:
- About Page – Include a full history of your company, personnel, milestones, etc., and include this content for your brand keyword.
- Contact Page – Supply the contact information customers, bloggers, and journalists would need to contact you, again including your keywords. Also, link your social media handles and profiles.
- Media Page – A media page can help counteract those negative search results by offering a stream of positive press releases, third-party press, reviews, etc. Include your keywords.
- Social Media Page – You can use a separate page to again feature and link to your social media properties for search engines, as well as a lead magnet for gaining new social followers.
Location-based search has grown a lot in the past couple of years, which in some ways makes this part of the job a bit easier. We recently wrote about being a Certified Agency Partner with Yext, a firm that helps businesses connect with customers dynamically across the web on more than 100 publisher business listing sites. Beyond the obvious SEO and local marketing benefits, getting listed with Yext offers businesses control and consistency when it comes to their listing info.
Social Media Portals
Social media portals remain a great ROI for brand SEO for two reasons:
- Social media websites are some of the world’s top-ranking sites.
- You largely control the content of your social media profiles.
Robust social media profiles on the social networks most relevant to your business niche can make a strong impact on your SEO as well as on your customer interactions. You could fill an article for strategy tips for each social network, but here are the key notes for each:
- LinkedIn – A LinkedIn presence is a must for a B2B business as it helps you get in front of mid-level influencers and decision-makers. A company profile and detailed products and services sections help your presence rank well and put forth a great first impression.
- Facebook – Nearly everyone is on Facebook, including even the tiniest shoestring businesses. Get the most from your business page by claiming a custom brand-related Facebook URL, building up a follower count of over 1,000, and filling out your profile completely, including contact and location info and visual brand assets.
- Twitter – Like Facebook, almost anyone can start a Twitter. Complete your profile and flesh out your tweet feed with automated tweets for your new blog posts and select keyword-focused tweets from favorite blogs and news sources. Grow your followers by tweeting conferences and participating in industry shop talk.
- Instagram – Product, service, commercial, retail, food, and lifestyle businesses can benefit greatly from an Instagram account. This is another easy-to-setup account that you then fill with imagery, captions, and hashtags. Top business Instagrams do appear high up in Google search results.
- SlideShare – B2B businesses can benefit from a SlideShare profile, which is probably one of the reasons LinkedIn acquired it a few years ago. Presentation assets for clients, conferences, investors, and more, can be shared on the network to build brand credibility and widely distribute positive brand content.
- YouTube – Businesses that use YouTube effectively can really reap rewards. Video is not for everyone, and it’s not well suited for some lines of business, but the right match can result in millions of views and top search rankings for brand content.
Press Release Distribution
Old-fashioned PR has evolved from the good old days, not disappeared. Syndication of press releases and press advisories now takes place online. There are a dozen press release submission sites where you can send your latest brand news, some are free to submit to, higher calibre outfits charge a fee. You can also submit content directly to your media connections, though most reporters’ first move with a story these days is to search the submission sites for relevant PR materials from your brand. For better SEO, engineer these releases with your preferred brand keywords throughout. Many outlets will simply copy+paste sizeable portions of your exact PR verbiage.
But don’t just send your releases out into the aether, monitor via Google Alerts for pickup of your release. The goal of a PR campaign after all is to create a large inventory of positive newsworthy mentions of your brand and brand keywords — before a customer or journalist has the inclination to write a negative one.
Lastly, doing SEO for brand reputation in 2017 means diligent link building. After all, the best defense is a good offense. All your other SEO content work won’t help protect or recover your brand from reputational attacks unless you fortify your positive brand mentions.
Do this by building links from high-authority third-party website mentions. Don’t be afraid to pitch your latest news or milestones directly to any journalists or bloggers you’ve built a relationship with. Email lists can also help generate backlinks from your subscribers.
Effective link building takes effort, but it’s worth it. Backlinks are still one of the top ranking factors for search. Disavow low-quality links and foster relationships with high-authority sites.
SEO Strategies for Reputation Management
When it comes to applying these basic SEO brand strategies to active reputation management, there are two key concepts you need to understand:
- You can’t “push down” specific results, only “pull up” better ones.
- You can “own” negative brand keywords to answer and redirect criticisms.
Pulling Positive Results Up
When a negative search result appears for a search for your business or product, you may call up a reputation management company hoping they’ll be able to push that bad result down and thus surface your positive results. But that’s not really how SEO works.
When an embarrassing search result appears in your SERPs the only through is up — by pulling up other more positive search results for your pages, products, press, and social media. To drown out one or more high-ranking negative result can take some work. You’ll need anywhere from 10 to 20 different positive high-ranking results to bury that bad result on the back pages of SERPs. So in this sense, reputation management is practicing SEO best practices — but on a scale of 10 to 20 pages. Now you see why you need all that positive content out there.
Tackling Negative Results Head-On
When a PR disaster happens, you may think combating it will be like bailing water out of the ocean. It can certainly feel that way. But this really does work.
Take the recent PR debacle for United Airlines. A week ago, images of airport security dragging an elderly bleeding doctor down the aisle and off a plane was everywhere. “Denied boarding” entered the public lexicon.
This week, a Google search for “united airlines deni” autocompletes to “united airlines denied boarding compensation,” already turning that negative brand image into a more neutral result.
Even more, United has managed to own top SERPs results with their brand pages.
This gets to the heart of how your brand can tackle negative search results proactively. Here are some more general tips:
- Draft and circulate press releases that directly address negative or false sentiments. Make sure to utilize the specific negative keywords used in the negative brand content.
- Create positive educational content (such as United’s Contract of Carriage explainer) related to the negative brand keywords. Your content doesn’t have to be an article. Create ebooks, blogs, guides, infographics, videos, and more, as needed.
- Start a positive review campaign if negative reviews are causing reputational problems. This can take the form of contests, incentives, point-of-service requests, etc.
- Edit your website’s media page to include references and links to your positive brand content counteroffensive for those negative brand keyword results.
There’s more that could be said, but this is the basic idea of how brands can manage their online reputation with SEO in 2017. Management is both a proactive project and a long-term project.
When to Hire a Reputation Management Company
For big businesses, reputation problems can have real costs. United’s stock has largely recovered for now, but in the early hours of its crisis saw its stocks plummet. The stakes are high and the work of managing your brand’s reputation is an ongoing project. For many businesses, the best course is to hire a reputation management company well versed in SEO.
As a full-service digital marketing agency, Kaleidico stands ready to assist you or your company deal with a wide range of online PR, reputation management, and negative SEO issues. Using best practices and corporate knowledge, we would be happy to assist you in addressing and overcoming these challenges with proven strategies that work, regardless of your industry or specific reputational problem.
Don’t wait! Remember, if you’re not doing SEO for your business, others–competitors, angry customers, even phony ‘news’ outlets — could be doing it for you.