You never get a second chance for a first impression and first impressions can last a lifetime. In the digital world, these impressions can easily result in a lifetime customer, or a red mark against your brand’s name forever.
For potential customers, more often than not, the first time they experience your brand is on a search engine results page (SERP). Managing what appears on a SERP for searches relating to your business is a powerful ability and one that plays an important role in online reputation management.
This is a strategy that many digital marketing agencies employ, but if you would prefer a bit of DIY SEO, then this post is a good place to start.
Negatively-perceived search results do impact businesses. They can have a detrimental effect on click-throughs, conversion rates, customer satisfaction and word of mouth/mouse.
Click Throughs: A SERP that contains negatively perceived listings, content, or reviews will decrease the number of people clicking through to your website.
Conversion Rates: If searchers do decide to click through to your website, they will still take into consideration the negative content when deciding if they should enquire or buy.
Customer Satisfaction: If searchers do decide to buy, they are still carrying a slight feeling of negatively, and are more likely to submit a complaint or negative review if they are unhappy with the product or service.
Word of Mouth / Mouse: All businesses are at the mercy of word of mouth, both positive and negative. A negatively perceived SERP will certainly sway the perception of your business, which may then be shared with their friends or colleagues.
Manipulating SERPs is the end goal for all SEOs and is a task that relies on solid fundamentals with a side of creativity. Reputation management is no different and many of the ranking tactics we employ to rank for service based keywords are just as, if not more effective, in the world of reputation management.
1. Influencing Listings with Links
It is common for SEOs to point links to their own domain or that of their client, but this should not always be the case, especially in reputation management. We can take control of a SERP by creating brand-focused content on sites like medium.com or other authoritative sites. If the content is written and optimised with the displacement of certain negative content in mind, then pointing some quality links to that content will provide a much more likely positive outcome. This can also be done for your social media pages like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.
2. Contacting and Coordination of Bloggers & Journalists
In a similar vein to the above, SEOs can take advantage of external content. By producing an outreach strategy, brands can have new content from authoritative sites outrank the negative content. If you can convince a local news outlet to feature your business on their site, and you can also help them with the structure of the piece, then you have a very good chance of adding a new, more positive piece of content for branded searches to the SERP.
Just try and get your brand name in the title.
For an even better chance of seeing this on page 1 for your brand, try pointing some quality links to that piece. You can also ask the writer to include a link to one of your socials or perhaps that medium.com piece you have already produced.
3. Create Competing On-site Content
If you have a lot of negative reviews on sites like Trustpilot, this must be mitigated as much as possible. The above two strategies can help with this but there is another option. SEOs can create new pages that directly compete for the same content. This is a little bit of a grey area but adding a page with the URL www.brand.com/brand-reviews and then asking happy customers to enter reviews there can be an effective method.
4. Leveraging Powerful Domains
There are some real powerhouses on the internet that almost rank as a divine right. Sites like Pinterest are extremely influential and with proper use can be used to affect SERPs quite quickly. If your brand is product-based, setting up an account and uploading optimised images of your products can quickly add another level of influence to branded searches.
Other sites that offer similar benefits are authoritative business directories. Sites like Yelp are vast, have tons of links, and a lot of high authority. By creating optimised listings for your brand, you can then displace other, more negatively-perceived listings.
5. Monitoring Brand Mentions & Backlinks
Monitor Backlinks offers a very powerful link monitoring and auditing tool. Creating a system that allows you to spot new brand mentions and links can be a great way to mitigate negative content. By contacting the webmaster of the site publishing the content, you may be able to have a say and, hopefully, change the sentiment. If this is unsuccessful, at least you are afforded more time to implement one of the strategies in this post to prevent it from being listed on page 1 for a brand search.
Reputation management is an often-overlooked component of digital marketing and can sometimes be employed too late after the damage is done. The biggest piece of advice we can offer is to be proactive, rather than reactive. Reacting is a longer journey that has a lot more uphill climbs. Being proactive gives you the ability to build a nice ecosystem of content that not only shapes your brand online but also generates high-quality backlinks and referral traffic.