One of the dangers of neglecting SEO for brand and reputation, and your Internet marketing channel in general, is the cost of surrendering your brand and reputation to others to define.
The Internet is a content monster.
It’s constantly expanding with new articles, images, and videos about every topic known to man. You’d have to work very hard to search a question, topic, or news event–past or present–to find one that is still somehow without a significant number of results. This includes searches for your brand.
You want to define your own brand, not have others do it in the absence of your attention to the matter. This simple principle makes it important to have a brand SEO strategy sooner rather than later.
SEO Basics for Brand and Reputation
Protecting your brand and reputation online starts with a basic understanding of how search engines work, at the highest level.
The primary objective of search engines is to provide relevant results–links to content–for any search you perform.
Of course, if it waited for your search to find things, it would require clairvoyance or you’d have to wait a long time for relevant answers.
Consequently, search engines have elected to use a strategy that continually crawls the Web, actively seeking new and updated content with software robots, collecting content from all over the Internet, indexing and organizing it in massive data warehouses, structured for the most efficient search and results response.
As a part of this indexing and organizing process, to create fast and plentiful search results for every possible search inquiry, search engines cross-index every piece of content with as many keywords, synonyms, misspellings, and conceptually similar topics as possible.
This is why it’s almost impossible to find an empty search result unless you’re making up words. And even then, you’ll probably find suggestions.
Considering how search engines work and their primary mission should convince you of the importance of SEO for your brand and reputation. The reality is that search engines will serve up some results for your brand, even if they are not favorable, because they will suck up even the tiniest mention of your brand or brand-related content.
The Web, like Nature, abhors a vacuum.
If you’re not regularly seeding the search engines, you’ll just get what others are saying about your brand, which is probably a competitor, reviewer, or journalist/blogger. Often, these sources of content are negative–people have a tendency to complain more than they praise online.
SEO Strategies for Brands
Any company’s SEO strategy, even in the case of reputation management, should start with SEO for brand keywords. Even if you don’t see any value in marketing or generating leads and sales online, your customers will search for your business even if you’re not there to say anything.
This is often in response to your offline marketing–radio, newspaper, flyer, or even word of mouth. Their search could be to find your location or, more likely, to assess your reputation. Once upon a time, many thought of the Internet as inherently unverifiable; that anyone could say anything on the Web and there was no safe way to trust brands you never met in-person.
Now, people take to the Internet to verify what they heard with their own ears, or read with their own eyes. The Internet has become a proving ground for brands.
The Web is increasingly becoming the place where people meet brands for the first time and learn about them. Never leave this first impression to others.
Any SEO brand strategy has to begin with your own website. Start with a website structure that gives search engines, journalists, and bloggers multiple places to link back to content specific to your brand keywords.
Here are a few pages every website should have, the important SEO functions they serve, and features each should contain:
- About – This Web page should contain a full history of your company; historic events, key company personnel, new product or service launches, and significant achievements and benchmarks. This page should be littered with your brand keyword: in the meta title, meta description, h1 and h2 headlines and sub-headings, associations with products and services, and any other important brand and keyword association.
- Contact – This Web page should, again, be heavily weighted with brand keywords and should make it super easy for journalist, bloggers, and customers to easily contact you in several ways. This page should also include methods of linking and following on social media.
- Media Page – This Web page is probably one of the most powerful in propagating brand keywords and battling negative brand keywords. Use this page to link to positive brand keyword-related press release submissions, positive third-party stories and articles, and positive reviews on various business listings. Again, list easy ways for journalists and bloggers to contact and follow your company.
- Social Media Page – This Web page should be used to link to all of your branded social media profiles. Use this page to capture any positive social media interactions or link to Twitter Lists and Google+ or Facebook Communities your company sponsors or participates in. Also, use this page as an additional link in your social media profiles, to be used as a landing page to acquire more followers.
The key to optimizing your website for maximum brand exposure and positive online reputation management is helping people create and link to positive content around your brand keywords.
One of the fastest ways to get lots of positive business listings is to simply create them. There are literally hundreds of local business directories that feed the multitude of location-based Web services.
All of these websites encourage reviews of the businesses that are listed. Of course, this presents both a risk and an opportunity.
To ensure best results, I recommend the following strategies:
- From your contact or social media page, include links to your strongest or most popular business listings and review sites.
- From time to time, directly request from your email list and blog readers a positive review of one of their recent experiences with your business.
- Always include some sort of discount or incentive within the business listing to encourage new visitors to the listing to try your business. This often has a secondary effect of ‘softening’ those who come to complain.
- Immediately seed as many listing and review sites with positive, but legitimate, reviews from friends and family. Ask them not to go overboard–just a quick, short positive comment.
- Offer incentives and reminders to customers at the point of sale, encouraging them to leave a quick positive review of their experience online. This is one of the few places QR codes can be useful by making it easy to get to the right place quickly to leave an online review.
- Monitor your review sites regularly and actively manage them. Respond quickly and positively to negative reviews, offering to immediately rectify a poor experience. Also, if there is heated competition, you might be susceptible to bogus negative reviews–quickly report these and have them removed.
As third-party websites, often ranking highly on the SERP, business listings and review websites are a simple and efficient way to get a few extra positive positions on the first page of your brand searches.
Social Media Profiles
Whenever you’re looking to secure a positive, third-party-validated, image around your brand keywords, you need to consider two primary factors when seeking syndication. You’re looking for:
- websites that tend to rank well in search engines, and,
- websites on which you can largely control the content.
Business listings are one broad category that fits this bill, the other is social media profiles. Depending on the type of business you are, one might give you better results than the other. For example, business and review listings tend to rank higher and more frequently for B2C businesses, whereas social media profiles tend to be more relevant and perform better for B2B businesses.
Either way, you should do the work to build out robust listings and social profiles for every business. Well-designed and maintained social media profiles attract positive engagement and reinforce the positive nature of customer interactions with your brand–the best way to protect your brand reputation.
Here are some strategies to boost your results with key social media profiles:
- LinkedIn – If you’re a B2B business, a LinkedIn presence is a solid way to get in front of mid-level influencers and decision-makers. This alone makes a strong case for why you should invest in building out your LinkedIn company profile, complete with a detailed ‘products and services’ section. LinkedIn tends to rank well in search engines and makes for a very credible and secure positive position in your brand keyword search results.
- Facebook – Honestly, Facebook changes so frequently it’s often hard to evaluate how it fits into a digital marketing brand strategy. There are, however, a few constants that brands should consider when leveraging Facebook:
- Always secure a branded Fan Page and related custom brand URL.
- Build your friends up over the respectable level of 1000+. This is super easy with a little content and paid promotion. Done right, even the worst of campaigns can get you to 1000+ friends for less than $500.
- Make sure you take the time to completely brand and fill in all of the relevant contact and location information. These tips will give you that additional positive search engine result and a social profile that appears reasonably engaged.
- Twitter – If there was ever a channel designed for digital marketing, it would be Twitter. The profile itself needs minimal branding to make it look complete, it effortlessly enables productive syndication of your content, and there are tons of third-party services to assist with managing and creating additional backlinks for SEO. The critical elements to make Twitter a strong search engine position include:
- Take the time to brand your profile.
- Automate the syndication of your company blog posts and a few random keyword-selected posts from your favorite blogs.
- Find and engage in a few strategic Tweet Chats or actively tweet at/during major conferences. This will quickly build quality followers.
- SlideShare – Most businesses, especially B2B, are always building out presentations for clients, conferences, investors, and even internal communications. All of these assets should be considered for modification and subsequent syndication through SlideShare.net. This is a great way to build brand credibility and syndicate valuable brand-enhancing content. For additional performance from a SlideShare.net profile, regularly add new presentations and actively follow, ‘Like’, and comment on other presentations and profiles that are relevant to your business, industry, or niche.
- YouTube – Not all channels are ideal for every business. YouTube is one of those social media profiles that can be very valuable, but only if you have the skills or are willing to invest in doing it properly. YouTube is the second largest search engine on the Web–it will help your brand get noticed and will often rank well for your brand. However, a channel full of poorly produced or low quality videos won’t enhance your brand. Therefore, my advice is to either do this using a top-shelf professional or leave it out of your brand marketing plan for now.
Successful social media campaigns, designed for online brand protection and reputation management strategy, rely heavily on two key factors:
- creating strong, well-maintained, content-controlled, professionally branded additional Web platforms, and,
- developing a robust sequence of positive, customer-driven, interactions with your social profiles that provide evidence of brand appreciation and trust.
Press Release Submissions
Traditional media might be dying, but don’t underestimate the strength that search engines still give to news (or, at least, news-like) websites. This is where press release submissions and good, old-fashioned PR activities can yield some strong additional brand-related search positions.
Here is a general outline of how this PR/press release strategy can work:
- Add regular press releases to your editorial calendar.
- Create press releases that celebrate milestones, events, and new products and services. Make sure you include a liberal sprinkling of your brand keywords.
- Submit your press releases to the newswires at levels commensurate with the size and importance of the news.
- Create press releases to announce any resources you have created to support trending news stories and topics within your field.
- Monitor (using Google Alerts or similar services) for the pickup of your press release. Most of these will likely be Web scrapers or automated news services, but many will look like credible news sites or be affiliated with legitimate news organizations. Link from your media page to the most credible of those websites.
The goal of this strategy is to create a large inventory of positive newsworthy mentions of your brand and brand keywords long before any negative brand mentions.
To make these press releases and resulting stories stronger (and, consequently, harder to offset with negative stuff) in the search engine results, create a process of consistently building links to the press release submission and any stories.
Some obvious links every press release or news story about your brand should strive to capture are back links from your company’s media page and each of your social media profiles, especially Twitter, where lots of journalists and bloggers troll for news leads.
Don’t Forget the Back Links!
All of the business listings, social media profiles, and press releases in the world won’t help protect or recover your brand from reputation attacks unless you fortify your positive brand mentions.
This requires aggressive link building!
Creating a strong defense for your brand keywords requires that you make link building for third-party website mentions as high a priority as you do links for your own website. At the very least, link from your media and social media pages and social media profiles. If it is particularly newsworthy, don’t be shy about sharing it directly with any journalists or bloggers with whom you’ve cultivated relationships. Appeals to your email list are also a good source of backlinks or social sharing of these critical pieces of brand management assets.
These simple strategies, performed on a consistent basis, will quickly fill your brand searches with high-quality authoritative results–making it tough for negative brand content to sneak in.
SEO Strategies for Reputation Management
One of the most common misconceptions in online SEO reputation management is that you need to flood the Internet with content full of your brand keywords in hopes of pushing down negative search results. This is a fundamentally flawed strategy because, although you might be able to shove out those negative results from an exact search of your brand, the content doesn’t suddenly disappear from the Internet.
This negative content will continue to resurge into your brand searches and always rank high for specifically negative brand searches (after all, it will be the best match) unless you directly combat these negative searches.
Unlike simple brand searches, negative brand searches can’t be effectively suppressed with volumes of positive content about your brand. In contrast, you need to attack these negative brand keywords directly with SEO keyword campaigns focused specifically on the negative brand keyword. Here are a few, high-level, example strategies:
- Create press release submissions to directly address any negative or especially false sentiments. Include the specific negative keywords used in any negative content.
- Create positive educational content, (i.e., articles, eBooks, guides, infographics, videos, etc.,) related to the negative brand keywords.
- Start a positive review campaign (i.e., contests, incentives, requests at the point of service), if negative reviews are causing reputation issues
- Add references and links from your website media page to positive content relevant to your negative brand keywords.
That’s just a smattering of high-level concepts. Now, let’s dig into the details of battling those pesky negative brand searches and content.
Negative Search Optimized Resource Centers
If negative sentiment hits your brand, the best defense becomes a good offense.
The Web is the world’s most efficient rumor mill, and knowing how online reputation problems start is key to stopping the damage they can do.
The moment someone says something negative associated with your brand, there is a really good chance that search engines will index that negative term as a new keyword associated with your brand.
The unfortunate nature of search engines dictates that they, in turn, satisfy that negative brand keyword with indexed content. This causes search engine bots to kick into gear and begin crawling the Web, seeking and indexing as much related negative brand keyword content as possible.
Like mindless, reputation-destroying automatons, they find negative content about your brand and just serve it up to potential customers with a smile.
This is why you must quickly attack and seek to “own” these negative brand keywords. Sticking your head in the sand, or “refusing to play the game” is a potentially catastrophic approach.
One powerful way to take control of negative brand search results is to build out an educational resource center devoted to the negative issue.
Let’s use an example to illustrate this tactic:
Suppose you recently had a breach in your customer database that compromised your customers’ passwords.
You can bet that, in short order, you will have tons of search results for negative brand keywords like: “your brand + password compromise”, “your brand + database hack”, “your brand + security breach”, and many other related keywords or keyword clusters.
Your next move should be to create an online resource center called something like: Securing Your Password – (Your brand). On this page, and linked into this comprehensive resource center, could be content such as:
- a Security and Privacy section – educating customers on password protection
- a Tools section – linking to other resources and tools concerned with security
- a Press section – that provides ongoing security status updates
- a News section – with links to past database/password compromises
Once you have this resource in place, make sure that you link back to it with any press releases or blog posting regarding this incident. Try to get journalists and bloggers to reference and link to this resource center as the official or definitive page concerning the incident.
These tactics should quickly begin to reshape the dialogue about the incident from the negative perspective of ‘password compromise’, to a positive one of how responsive and valuable you are to your customers about ‘preventing password compromise’. In addition, you’re certain to get lots of backlinks that will shoot this controlled page to one of the top search engine positions for any negative brand keywords.
Blogging for Negative Searches
Dedicated pages and resource centers give you strong platforms to fight negative brand keywords, but you might need a little more horsepower. That’s where blogging can be your sword.
If your brand gets hit with negative news or sentiment, battle back with blog posts that pick up and use the same or similar negative brand keywords.
To make this strategy work, you need to meticulously track and categorize negative content and the brand keywords that are contributing to your reputation management issue. Using this research as an editorial guide, begin to surgically create content that targets each and every negative brand keyword.
As your blogging for negative searches begins to accumulate, start tying them together by linking to them from your resource center or media page.
Press Release Submissions
When you’re combating negative sentiment, battling emerging and syndicating content that continues to add negative brand keywords to the search landscape, you need to fight on as many fronts as possible.
This means creating content, in as many channels as possible, to specifically target your negative brand keywords.
Press release submissions are just one more front to add offsetting positive brand keyword content that is likely to rank as well or better than your current negative sentiment-driven content. Your press releases need to be submitted with regularity, lead with the negative brand keywords, and be supported by a robust link building campaign.
These press releases and the resulting news stories should be aggregated (linked to) on your media page or in your issue-specific resource center.
Link Building is Critical for Reputation Management
When you’re engaging in online reputation management, don’t forget that you’re in a battle for the search engines’ favor–your content (version) versus their content. The good news about this state of affairs is that it’s a level playing field.
This is why using creative SEO tactics can be so effective. You simply need to make your content is stronger; which means more backlinks, better quality backlinks, more focused and better organized content, and content which provides more value for the searching Web user.
Even if negative results encroach on your brand searches and secondary brand searches, be confident that a diligent SEO reputation management strategy, implemented by those who know how, can reclaim your positive brand image.
Need Help With SEO or Online Reputation Management?
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.
Got a question or need a consultation? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.