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SEO Reputation Management: 3 Powerful Strategies to Improve Negative Brand Mentions

It takes less than two-tenths (.2) of a second for an online visitor to form an initial impression of your brand once they’ve looked you up, according to researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. And it takes just another 2.6 seconds for that viewer’s eyes to concentrate in a way that reinforces that first impression.

For many of your best customers, the first experience with your brand is through Google search.

So what happens when they enter your brand name into their favorite search engine or even just use voice search on their phone and the first thing they see is something like this?

Bad Reputation Management for Equifax

5 Reasons Why SEO Reputation Management Really Matters

This is why Online Reputation Management Matters!  A poor first page of results affects your business in multiple ways.  Have you considered all of these:

  1. Loss of Organic Search Traffic – Possibly the most obvious side effect.  In an age of phishing, cheating and online scams If I see a negative search result (or five) immediately underneath your name I won’t click on your company site’s search result and may abandon the search entirely.
    Here’s where it gets worse…..as your Click Through Rate (CTR) drops, so do your rankings.  How? Negative results get 10x (stat is made up but you get the idea) the clicks of positive results!  People love drama. This creates a vicious cycle where your positive results get fewer clicks, their negative results get more and, because CTR is an important ranking factor for Google and other search engines, the negative press may even outrank you!
  2. Loss of Paid Search Traffic – Those expensive ads you’ve been buying? Those dollars are not nearly as effective when appearing next to a set of negative press or search results.  Better to spend that money on cleaning up your online SEO reputation.  Which leads to an even bigger conversation….
  3. Loss of Overall Marketing Spend Effectiveness – How much do you spend on an email marketer?  What about traditional sources like billboards, print, radio, tv? Perhaps you’ve dipped into Facebook, Instagram, and other social media marketing? Whatever you’re doing today what you’ll often find is that those prospects end up having to “Google you” to get to your site.  When instead of finding the glowing reviews they were promised and instead see a damaged reputation, all the money you’ve spent reaching out to the customer is instantly wasted. The old paradigm that your prospect needs to hear your marketing message 20 times before they’ll buy?  Well, all those touchpoints that you’ve invested in might as well have been lighting money on fire.
  4. Loss of Profitability – It’s tough to be the premier provider asking for a premium price when your brand has been damaged.  As you deal with traffic drops and a negative perception of who you lose some of the biggest selling points you may have had before.  Folks are no longer willing to pay a premium or even the market price to buy your product or service. This means it’s a race to the bottom with ever-increasing discounts as you try to maintain cash flow, growth targets or just basic business viability.
  5. Loss of Company Value – Depending on the organization, a lot of your company value may come from the value of your brand.  Often this is represented by the “Goodwill” line on your financial statements. When you’re under an extended attack online that Goodwill is eroded.  The repercussions here affect how your investors, lenders, vendors and other business partners view you…not just your clients! Corporate reputation management matters.

 

Corporate Reputation Management Statistics

25% of a company’s market value is derived from its reputation.
Four negative search results can cost you 70 percent of your potential business.
69% of job-seekers won’t apply to companies with online reputation issues.
41% of companies have reported loss of revenue from a reputation-related event.
(via reputationmanagement.com) 

The impact is much bigger than folks initially believe it is!  Which makes it that much more important to consider protecting your reputation online with SEO reputation management.

Let’s explore why it’s so important below.

The Practical Guide for Reputation Management SEO

There are many ways how you can manage your online reputation via Google – as we already mentioned, most people start their interactions with your brand using a search query, so if you can control what they see, it can go a long way to positioning your company in a positive and trustworthy way.

Let’s answer an important question first….

What is ORM in digital marketing?

Online Reputation Management (ORM) is the act of monitoring, addressing or mitigating SERPs (search engine result pages) or mentions in online media and Web content in order to manage customer perception based on their internet searches.

Online Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the broader field which Online Reputation Management falls into.  The ORM sector has been estimated to be a $5 billion industry, handling the development, managing, and healing of the online reputation of people and corporations.

3 Macro Strategies for Online Reputation Management

The basic premise of search engine reputation management is to use the following three strategies to accomplish the goal of creating a completely positive first page of search engine results for a specific term. This includes not only the traditional link results but also news stories, social media feed, Google My Business and other search features that may negatively impact your brand’s reputation.

Good SEO Results versus Bad SEO Results

Strategy #1: Boost the rankings of positive search results

This follows good business practices of letting your good side outshine the negative.  A well-run business will have enough positive results featured high in the SERPs to be able to lean on.

There are also ways to create positive results quickly which is outlined further down when we talk about specific tactics (below).

Strategy #2: Remove, de-optimize or change the negative search results

This is rarely possible but it’s always a good first step to follow.  Negative results may come from multiple sources. Some big ones that we’ve dealt with include:

    • Negative press: Extremely difficult to deal with when the content is a long-form article.
    • SEC and other Government notice: .Gov sites rank well and are considered naturally trustworthy by search engines.  Also tough to deal with.
    • ScamWatch, ComplaintsBoard, and similar sites: Once these catch traction and people pile into the comments they become hard to stop.
    • Litigation, tax or criminal records: Usually have a lot of text and mention your name a lot which makes them rank well.  They are also likely to be hosted on reputable .gov or .org site boosting their authority.
    • Bad reviews (text or videos): One or two can be mitigated by positive reviews.  The challenge is if you’re getting these on a consistent basis.  Or, even worse, if it’s a popular reviewer with a great video that went viral.
    • Negative forum comments: Reddit posts and Facebook groups tend to rank well.
    • Direct attack through an Exact Match Domain (EMD) and/or a dedicated site: Not common but there are people that will go to such lengths.

Some of these can be mitigated by working directly with the content host or creator, offering compensation or through a legal notice if the content is truly defamatory, libelous and untrue.

If you have ANY control over the content itself then you can try to de-optimize (basically a reverse of what a good SEO campaign looks like).

The reality is that these methods are rarely successful or require you to have a world-class legal team.  To that end, this strategy won’t be a big focus of this article.

Strategy #3: Push down the negative search results.

Here is the simple truth and the crux of search engine reputation management…

In order to push down a single result to page two, you’ll have to pull up 9 other results to outrank it in search engine results (assuming that your site still holds the number one position for that search term).

Want to push it to page 3?  That’s 19 results you have to optimize to outrank the negative result.

Getting to the first page of results is no easy task even for one result.  Now multiply that complex lengthy process by 20. Not easy – but doable with the right help (yes, Victorious can help).

How do I clean up my online reputation?

Here are the practical tactical way of engaging the 3 macro strategies of  SEO reputation management ….

Identify which keywords are affected.

You’ll probably quickly realize that certain search phrases are more likely to bring up the negative results than others.  The next step is to then identify which ones actually matter.

To truly master online reputation management with SEO, you will need to think beyond the branded keywords and figure out how people are looking for your company online.

They may be looking to compare you vs. XYZ competitor, and if that’s the case, you need to make sure that your company is well represented in that search as well.

You may need professional SEO consultation for reputation management for keywords if you want to get the full list of phrases that the negative search result appears in as well as then narrow down which keywords actually drive your business either through their high volume or their high conversion rate.

Here’s one of the first page negative results for the brand name:
SERP Result
Now we can take their URL and run a report as to what other terms this page ranks for and determine if we also need to clean up these searches as well.

Keyword Rankings Reputation Management

Make a note of how the result page looks like.  Does it include a Local Map Pack, social media feed, product feed, videos, images, featured snippet or any other special result element? We need to have a strategy to target all of the above.

Here’s an example of an individual that got attacked with an image that shows a mugshot and a claim that they’ve been jailed.  Reputation attacks can come in various forms!

Reputation Management Image Results

Conduct an effective SEO campaign on your site.

SEO reputation management starts with shoring up your rankings first.  The WORST thing that can happen is for the negative press to outrank your own site for those terms.  This is unlikely to happen for a direct search but absolutely can and does happen for certain longtails.

A great SEO campaign will include cleaning up your site’s technical issues with a full SEO audit, adding more quality content to your core pages and then building authoritative backlinks to key pages.

The positive side effect here is that you now rank better for other business-impacting keywords as well which helps drive business to the site at a time when it’s most needed.  This should even help overcome the loss of business from your branded terms.

These folks have done a good job of optimizing their home page for their brand name.  It ranks above the fold and above even the Top stories feed.

Reputation Management Search Result

Optimize a second page for your brand name or a specific keyword.

Google has recently tightened up their SERPs to increase the amount of unique content they display (no more having 10 results from Yelp show up when you’re looking for dinner). While most searches will only show one result from any given domain, we have found that branded search can often allow for two results from the branded site.

Both your home page (which is likely ranking in the #1 spot for the given term) and the second page should be completely optimized for your brand with long-form content, no technical issues and a healthy amount of authoritative white hat backlinks pointing back to them.

Your site is your first line of defense and your greatest ally!  Make sure you understand how to take advantage of it in these situations.  Connect with a Victorious SEO Specialist to see how to best launch a page like this as part of Reputation Management SEO.

You can see here that Google has allowed this brand search to have two results from its main site on the first page of results.

Credit Report Services

If the SERPs include a Local Map Stack and/or a Google My Business result – Optimize your Google My Business profile…

This includes everything from making sure you have 30+ pictures optimized images uploaded to having your description and all business info filled out correct.

Remember, the goal here is to rank your good results over the negative ones and the GMB takes up positive real estate on Google’s first page.  It’s also one of the few properties outside of your own site that you can actually control.

A full local SEO campaign may be needed.  The best way to grow the visibility of your local listings is through a thorough Victorious analysis of your current local citations and then building hundreds of new citations to your page to help boost their value.

…and then ask for positive reviews.

You can try to get reviews that you know to be fake removed, as well as encourage your happy customers to leave reviews that could help balance out the negative ones.

85% of customers trust online reviews just as much as they’d trust a friend’s recommendation.

More importantly, real client reviews have been proven to affect site rankings. The more users see good reviews, the more they’ll click through and share your site content. Search engines see this and reward your great customer service with higher rankings. On the other hand, bad reviews or lack of reviews will harm your rankings and SEO reputation.

Claim all social media accounts, optimize them and build anchor text optimized authoritative links to them.

The goal of SEO reputation management with all of these social media sites is singular…use the Domain Authority of that social media giant (like 90+) to jumpstart the rankings of your profiles there.  Their high DA plus your optimized profile plus the content you post there and, finally, plus the links that you can build to the content (talk to us about how we can help with this) means that you can soon have 5-10 legitimate results to compete for the first page of results and push down the bad stuff.

Here are the profiles you should really be going after…

  1. LinkedIn – A LinkedIn page is a first easy step for all businesses, especially those in the B2B space.  It also allows you to post long-form articles and reach an influential community that can spread positive news.  Post as much content here as you can and make sure your name and brand are mentioned often.
  2. Twitter – It’s rare for companies to not have a twitter account as it’s a great way to quickly reach your clients and hear back from them.  Make sure your profile is fleshed out, post often with great content and add appropriate keywords to your tweets. This has the added effect of appearing in the social media feet in results which can remove negative tweets you don’t want showing up.
  3. Facebook – Setup a business page and claim your custom Facebook URL.  Post often and do your best to attract followers to legitimize your presence there.
  4. Instagram – This is probably a better fit for individuals and B2C organizations but at the end of the day this is another property and result that can be used to push down negative results.  The key is posting often, using the appropriate keywords in the hashtags. Contests and giveaways are a great way to gain a following quickly for all of the three social channels mentioned above…
  5. YouTube – Video is a powerful medium and you may have videos as an element of the search results pages that you’re trying to “heal”.
  6. Medium – While we won’t usually recommend outsourcing your blog to a third party, extreme times call for extreme measures.  Starting a second blog with a few long fresh pieces of content around your brand is a great way to leverage their Domain Authority.
  7. Other – You may need to create additional profiles if your brand is international (VK or Baidu).  Pinterest, Quora, YellowPages and SlideShare are all great options as well for certain businesses.

 

This brand has a Facebook page that’s on the second page of results for their brand search. This could be a prime target for optimization and link building efforts.

Reputation Management Facebook

Conduct SEO Campaigns for other properties you may have control over.

Think hard about what other properties you may be able to affect.  Do you have a Zendesk account? A profile with a local association? A separate investor relations site or a portfolio page hosted with a third party?

There are probably more options than you think.  Explore the first two or three pages of results for your name and see what web properties come up that you can optimize directly or indirectly because you are able to influence the content host.

Make sure that your name is featured prominently in the page title, H1 tags and Meta Description. Add quality long-form text content to the page. Try to get it over 1,500 words or more if you can and naturally reference your name throughout several times.  Include your address if you are a local business.

Here’s a quick analysis you can put together.  The negative article is in red. You can see that that the relatively high number of Referring Domains and the very high Word Count helps it rank very well.  The goal with the rest of the properties will be to increase the amount of quality content (Word Content) and then beat and overcompensate on the links (Referring Domains) to ensure those other results are viewed as more authoritative.

SERP Positioning

Conduct link building outreach to get links to positive results you don’t have control over.

Properties you can’t control usually are published articles and press releases that already rank well for the target terms.  Wikipedia, Owler, Bloomberg, Crunchbase or other database profile may also be a good target.

They are generated and hosted on a third-party site that would be unwilling to change the content from what it is today.  The only thing you can do to help boost their rankings is an aggressive link building campaign.

Seek out links via guest posting opportunities, mentions on various blogs and news sites, as well as articles in more prominent publications. Make sure you use every opportunity possible to get a quality backlink – for instance, if your CEO is speaking at a conference, try to get a backlink in the press release for the speech.

One thing that’s important to mention is that you should avoid the temptation of using shady, “black hat” techniques that promise quicker results.

While some of them may work short term, Google will inevitably catch on eventually. And when that happens, you’ll not only lose the rankings that you obtained using “black hat” techniques but could get your site penalized even further.

Link building is one of the hardest parts of SEO Reputation Management.  Work with a Victorious Specialist to see how our outreach team can do this work for you.

Wikipedia is a great example of something you really don’t have much control over but can build links to boost it’s ranking.
Reputation Management on Wikipedia

Post images that represent your brand and target keywords.

Posting images to your site or social media may help them appear in the image results and push down the negative results.  The rule here is to:

  1. Make sure they are titled with the target keyword or brand name
  2. They mention your keywords around where you post the image (as a description or caption
  3. The Alt-Text is your target keyword as well

Build links to these pages to help the images rank higher.

Create videos that represent your brand.

These can be placed on Youtube, Vimeo or other video hosting sites.  Take time to create a video that is thoughtful, informative and not too long (under 10 minutes).  A video that speaks to the topic at hand has a great chance of ranking. Also, include a full transcript in the description and optimize the title to help search engines understand what the video is about.  Build links to the video pages. Google loves videos that are well crafted and have a high view count so this is particularly effective for Google reputation management.

Video results can be displayed several different ways such as in a feed…

Video Search Results

…or alongside the other links.

Video Search Result with Links

This video comes up when you search for the CEO by name but it could be a valuable online property in defense of the brand if optimized better.

Create new PR content that is long-form.

A PR campaign can be a good short term way of examining your brand’s SEO reputation. Not only does this coverage build your brand, but it also provides your site with backlinks (though they will rarely be do-follow links) – that can assist with rankings.

Some tools to consider:

  1. HARO (Help A Reporter Out) – Affordable, good for small teams and beginners
  2. JustReachOut – A solid mid-range option
  3. Meltwater – Good for robust PR campaigns

Make sure to optimize your press releases for SEO before you send them out.

While the below article still mentions the issue at hand, the title paints it in a more favorable light pointing to the solution rather than highlighting the negative incident.  While the preference is to find articles that don’t mention the incident at all, using this article as part of an SEO Reputation Management campaign can still be useful if the incident is widely known and clients are expecting a solution.

Claim and build out Exact Match Domains.

When all else fails, you can always create new sites.  This is the last resort because Google takes a long while to rank new domains.  However, this is an option if nothing else is available and you are able to give it time (think months to a year).  It’s important to not duplicate content and build

This brand created a separate site to address its recent data breach.  However, it’s been pushed down to the second page and would need some SEO work to get it back to the front page.

Reputation Management - New Website

How much does reputation management cost?

The cost will likely vary depending on the issue.  A worst-case scenario with multiple negative results on the front page or just a single result but from a very authoritative source (like the NYT) will likely cost $10,000 to $20,000 a month for a specific term and may go up from there from a reputable agency. Removing a bad review or single low authority link would be could be a total of $20,000 spread over a few months.

Be very careful of individuals charging less than that as there have been known scammers or over-promising agencies who’ve taken vulnerable organization for a ride adding to their misfortune.

While there are no guarantees, aligning yourself with a reputable firm and investing wisely will give you a great chance to clean up the results and restore your traffic, brand image and company value.

Final Words

Protecting your reputation online is an integral part of gaining your customer’s trust and maintaining an edge over the competition.

However, as you probably already found out, maintaining a positive public reputation on Google is a complicated process that requires in-depth knowledge about SEO, as well as online user habits.

Therefore, at Victorious SEO, we offer comprehensive search engine reputation management services and can help set up a strategy that’s right for your business and your marketing goals.

If you want to learn more, please reach out through our site’s contact form.

Remember – the longer you allow your customers to click on the negative results, the more they’ll be cemented into place which makes them harder to remove and the impact on your traffic, profitability and company value so much greater!

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Author
Pete Tkachuk

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