As the Web 2.0 world has progressed and more user generated content is dispersed throughout the web, one of the results has been greater transparency around brands. This has its pros and cons. It is quite common these days for brands large and small to have comments or articles posted about them online. Sometimes these are advocates shouting praises from the rooftops about a company’s brand, products, employees, or customer service for example.
Of course, often times the content is negative and potentially damaging to a company’s reputation whether it is true or not. How a company manages their brand online is where “online reputation management” or ORM (also known as online brand management) comes into play. There are a few different strategies that can be used and we will touch on each in this article.
Five Components to Online Reputation Management (ORM)
Before we dive into the various steps to addressing an online reputation management campaign and online reputation management SEO, let’s first review a scenario. Let’s say that for any brand related keywords (such as variations of your company name, key employees, and core products) your company has a negative result appearing in the third position on the first page of Google. This might be a blog or an article on Rip Off Report for example. The goal then would be to push this result off the first page of Google and there are a few different ways to do this. If there is validity behind the comments, then that is something the company should address internally but not what we are going to discuss today.
Research and define all of the keyword searches that show this negative result. You should look at both branded and non-branded keywords just in case. You can also look at the title tags on the websites with the negative comments to see what keywords they are using. Most often it will include the exact keywords that pull up that search result but you want to make sure they are not including other phrases that the site might start ranking for. Once you have a list of the keywords associated with this negative result, you can build your campaign around that list.
One option is of course to simply contact the domain owner and ask them to remove the negative content. You have to approach this in a tactful manner so that it does not backfire and result in more negative postings. Don’t go in there guns blazing and threaten lawsuits right off the bat. Make sure you have a keen understanding of what they are trying to accomplish. Is this a competitor, a disgruntled former employee, or just someone trying to stir things up? Also, have your reasons and rebuttals prepared and just see if they will be sympathetic to your cause. You can explain the PR damage that will result in lost revenue and point out the half-truths or blatant lies in the content.
If you content them and receive no response, you can try again and tactfully mention that if you don’t hear back within a certain amount of time you will have your attorney get in touch (whether you are bluffing or not). If this still does not work, you may just want to seek legal advice from an attorney that specializes in Internet law.
One of the most important components for pushing the negative result off the first page of good is by using a multifaceted SEO campaign. This campaign will have five parts:
(1) Bump up existing web pages that appear below the negative result. In our example given this would mean that we would want to focus attention on results four through ten and make efforts to improve their ranking for the associated keywords. The best way to do this is through a link building campaign directed at those pages. You can also try to add positive content to these pages using the keywords and possibly link back to your site for relevance assuming these pages allow user generated content.
(2) Another way to push these results down is to create new pages of content such as blogs, video blogs, or articles. If your company does not have a blog a good suggestion would be to use a Wordpess platform and integrate it into your website (i.e. www.yourcompany.com/blog). Of course once you do this you would need to commit to adding good relevant content on a regular basis which will of course help your SEO efforts as well. Video blogs are great as well as video content is very powerful in the search engines. You can also then set up a You Tube channel, but we’ll get to that below.
(3) Another method is by creating subdomains which Google will technically view as a separate website. For example you could set up a site with a domain of keyword.yourcompany.com. Keep in mind though that this new “site” would have to have a steady build out of content and a fairly strong SEO effort to start ranking and would take some time.
(4) Create company social media profile pages and keep the content coming. Start with Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In. If you have video content create a You Tube channel as well. With some decent content and personal attention these pages should start ranking for your brand keywords.
(5) Attempt to reduce the authority of the web pages that are showing the negative content. One way to do this is to check into what other websites are linking to them and possibly providing off-page SEO authority. You could contact THOSE domain owners to see about the possibility of removing the link. But again, you should have your ammunition ready.
Any company should monitor any type of content that is floating around out there online that relates to their brand, employees, products and services, etc. One of the simplest ways is to set up Google Alerts.
One last effort other than the initial contacting of the domain owner where the negative content sits, is to either provide rebuttal content on that site assuming it allows you to post comments. If you do this you should have your “ducks in a row” and be able to provide factual information supporting your claims. You can also take a more political approach and offer feedback and let the “complainers” know that you are (1) listening, (2) looking into the issues, and (3) will get back to them promptly with a response/reason and steps the company will take to fix the issues (again, this is assuming there is any truthful nature to the comments).