For most brands, there is always a risk of negative search results making their way up to the first page of search engine rankings. With a majority of users only looking at the first page of search results, a negative story with a presence there can have a big impact on a brand’s image and performance.
In many cases, negative results are in the form of news surrounding lawsuits, major news events tied to PR disasters, bad reviews, product issues, negative blog posts, and other user-generated content resulting from these issues.
Take, for example, this Google search page for BP:
Many of these events can happen suddenly, so brands should make it a high priority to closely monitor search results and incorporate search engine optimization (SEO) strategies in reputation management plans.
Here are a few tips for PR pros looking to stay out in front of these issues:
1. Monitor your brand’s search trends as often as possible.
The ongoing use of Google Trends
and Google Alerts
is an easy and effective way to identify trending topics around your brand. Additionally, search for your brand as any normal Internet user might, just to be sure you’re getting the accurate picture of how each result ranks or if particular sites or content are changing within the top 10 to 20 spots. High-risk brands should monitor results weekly at a minimum.
2. Take advantage of secondary brand sites.
Since search engines typically include one or two listings per domain in the results, it’s important to look to secondary domains for additional exposure. Some companies have multiple domains that include their brand term, such as a careers site, corporate site, and retail site.
Optimize these sites to increase their ranking for brand searches by thinking strategically about things like site tags and key pieces of content.
If you don’t have any secondary brand sites, consider building some as part of a long-term search reputation management plan that isn’t reliant on just one domain.
3. Build and promote social pages.
With social media sites now a fixture in search results, establish a presence on all the major social sites relevant to your brand and customers, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Make sure your page name and URL includes your brand term as it would primarily appear in search.
Additionally, try to develop your pages as an important and active part of your overall Web presence. Popularity tends to result in increased links, which helps increase ranking in search results.
4. Encourage customers to write reviews about positive experiences.
Tap email newsletters, social media updates, webpages, and point of sale opportunities (for example, order confirmation pages) to encourage customers to go on important review sites and write about their positive experiences. While there are a handful of major review forums, you should be able to identify those most important for your category and focus your efforts there.
Also, consider reaching out to negative reviewers when appropriate to help address the feedback and show outside readers that you care.
5. Use wire services for press releases.
Most wire services (such as BusinessWire or PR Newswire) have a direct feed into search engine results, so consider using them for distributing press releases. While this won’t necessarily be appropriate for all announcements, in select cases it could be very beneficial, particularly when you’d like a piece of news to stick around in search rankings for a while. Make your press releases are search optimized
so they rank when someone searches your brand.
6. Publish content frequently on your sites.
Domains that embrace a publishing strategy and publish content (articles, videos, slideshows, etc.) frequently tend to be more popular online. Popularity typically translates to more links, shares, and “likes,” which increases search engine value and better search rankings.
7. Get your brand into major Internet directories.
Similar to social pages, online directories are another opportunity to gain a search engine ranking from an outside domain. Consider submitting an entry on the major online directories
8. Consider paid search.
While organic rankings are most important, paid search ads running for critical brand searches could also be an important tactic. The additional paid listings can help push negative organic results below the fold.
Considering that 86 percent of Internet users look to search
when making a purchase decision, negative results about your brand can have a dramatic impact on your sales, image, and trust. PR professionals should always monitor brand results and work with their SEO teams to employ the tactics above.
Nick Papagiannis is the director of interactive/search at Cramer-Krasselt.