SEO for Reputation Management
As well as the ability to increase brand awareness, generate leads and sales SEO can also play a key part in demonstrating and controlling your brand reputation.
For most businesses branded search queries are likely to make up a significant portion of searches used to find your site and consumers new to your brand may be searching for additional information about your company when making a purchasing decision.
In addition to ranking first for your own brand name there are other elements on branded Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS) that can influence consumer perception. If the other listings showing on your brand SERPs convey a negative view of your business this can have a significant impact on trust and user behaviour particularly for those unfamiliar with your brand. This article examines the steps you can take to help optimise your branded SERPs and improve your online reputation.
Identify queries of concern
At the start of any reputation management campaign it is important to understand the current lay of the land. The first step in this process is to identify specific search queries of concern. These are likely to be queries where unfavourable websites are ranking in prominent positions.
Search queries of concern will typically be:
- Brand e.g. “yourcompanyname”
- Brand + generic e.g. “yourcompanyname reviews”, “yourcompanyname scam”, “yourcompanyname + <specific concern>”
There are several data sources which can help you to identify potential result pages to evaluate:
- Google Ads query report
- Google Search Console performance report
- The search terms present in Google’s auto-suggest feature
- Third-party keyword research
Extract and classify ranking URLs
Once you’ve identified search queries of potential concern it’s time to fetch more data to benchmark the current situation.
You’ll want to benchmark the ranking of your own website on the results page for each query as well as take note of the other URLs which show and their present position.
For each URL you’ll then want to undertake:
- Sentiment analysis – is the result positive, neutral or negative to your brand? This can be taken further by expanding the scale to more touch points to highlight the most toxic results.
- Ownership analysis – is the result owned (controlled), earned or uncontrollable.
This will give you an overview of the most prominent URLs in your brand space and ownership and sentiment classification can be used to inform priority URLs and search queries for action.
Except in extreme cases you’ll typically find that there are just a small number of prominent detractor or offending URLs which appear repeatedly across a range of branded and brand + generic search queries.
Build out your content to target branded search queries
Ensure that your own website targets all common queries related to your brand. Don’t allow others to capture position 1 rankings for any term that includes your brand name.
The process to follow is:
- Identify top branded queries
- Benchmark your current ranking performance
- Undertake a gap analysis to identify where you do and don’t have control to target each query
- Determine the appropriate course of action to take for each query. Can existing content be optimised? Should an article be expanded? Do you need to create a brand new page to target associated terms.
- Activate the necessary changes you have selected.
With appropriate content there are very few instances when a brand will not be able to secure #1 ranking on any term which features their business name.
Identify and target SERP features
To take back ownership of your branded SERPs it is important to provide content to target all the formats currently returned on the results page. No longer are we working with the historic “10 blue links” and with an ever expanding variety of SERP features able to be occupied it’s important to stay on top of what these are in your space and take advantage of the opportunities. If Google believes that a searcher’s intent is best matched by a video you need to ensure you have video content available to target these slots.
The most common SERP features that appear on pure brand searches are:
- Knowledge panels
- Local listings
- Top stories
- Twitter widgets
- Related searches
- People Also Ask
- Image widgets
Claim all your profiles
In addition to your own website your brand should also have other “owned” assets you can optimise to appear on pure brand search terms. The most common of these will be social media profiles over which you exhibit almost full control and can be used to control messaging.
Use a service like Namechk to identify other social networking sites on which it may be prudent to claim your username handle and create an account.
Ensure your profiles are fully populated on the key platforms for your industry – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are likely to be key for all businesses and depending on your product Instagram and YouTube may also be relevant. Unify the branding between these and link to your profile pages from your website to improve their authority and relevance for branded search terms.
Claim your Knowledge Panel and Google Business Profiles
If you haven’t already claimed your brand’s knowledge panel or Google Business Profiles (formerly Google My Business) ensure you do. Ownership enables you to control some of the content shown in these and to populate additional info.
To claim a knowledge panel several verification methods are available – if you have admin permissions in Google Search Console at the domain level for your domain you should be able to do this relatively easily. Whilst suggested changes do not go live instantly you are able to propose changes to logos, social media profiles etc.
With Google Business Profiles as well as ensuring all your business information is accurate and up to date and general local listing optimisation techniques you also have the opportunity to take advantage of features such as Posts to provide news updates or highlight particular offers.
Support your PR team
Work with your public relations team to ensure a mutual understanding between the reputation challenges faced and their appearance in the SERPs. Perhaps there are particular pages you would like coverage to link to or phrases you would like articles to mention. A carefully worded press release can encourage press to lift certain phrases from your release helping to control timely narrative for particular search queries.
Change your ways
If you are exhibiting behaviour your consumers deem toxic to the degree that this is affecting your brand presence online – stop! SEO can help to improve your ownership of brand SERP but if your business continues to provide a poor customer experience so will the bad reviews and press coverage and you will be fighting a losing battle.
This will not be the case in all situations. We commonly see instances where a single particularly aggrieved former customer has managed, either through their profile or sheer persistence, to generate a significant amount of negative publicity. When the customer is unresponsive or not receptive to mediation and the commentary is not libellous your options are limited. Using SEO to replace negative webpages with those that are more favourable is a key opportunity to be explored in such instances.
If you need support identifying search behaviour around your brand, analysing SERP sentiment and combating unfair commentary on your brand do get in touch with us. We can provide details of the most common search queries related to your brand and undertake sentiment analysis on scale to classify URLs as supporters, neutral or detractors. We’ll then draft a bespoke plan and work with you to help take back control of your branded search results.