With the huge rise in user-generated content and freedom of the web, internet users have much more control and power than ever before. This means that all the hard work that goes into search engine optimisation, PR and marketing activities can be undone with a single negative forum thread or blog post. You may have spent many years building up your reputation, however it only takes one or two negative comments to detract business from your site and punish your brand.
A negative comment can come in many forms; from a negative review for one of your products, a blog from a disgruntled ex-employee, or even from your competitors who may be trying to gain the upper hand and take away existing customers. Once online, a damaging comment can quickly work its way to the top of the search engine rankings as bloggers pick it up and blog about it, or if it makes its way to Twitter, people will re-Tweet it. What is important to note is that negative comments attract attention, and therefore links, and even one comment or post can spread rapidly across the internet.
Fortunately, there are methods that can be employed to maintain and improve your online reputation and ensure Google, and the other search engines, display positive content about your business. Using clever Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques, negative comments can be pushed down the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
First, examine what keywords lead to negative press in the SERPs. This could be your company name or a particular product name. This will enable you to identify what keywords are linked to negative comments before launching and implementing an SEO campaign. Once you have your keywords, you need to drive friendly results up the SERPs, pushing the negative down. To do this, look at the top 20 results in the search rankings for the keyword. You may find that you have many listings already in the top 20 so you need to look at ways of pushing these pages first. It is worth looking for other websites that you can utilize to gain more shelf space in the SERPs. For example:
• Create social networking profiles – many companies will not see the value in using social networking in the business environment, however these sites can be a useful marketing tool. Creating a profile with your brand name on sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook can help reach a wider audience and increase visibility. Niche social networking sites are often overlooked. Find sites that are relevant to your industry or community as this will help build up relevant relationships and increase the number of links coming into the site. Remember to update your account regularly with unique content as this will further help push your profile up the rankings
• Create a useful sub domain – create a sub domain away from your main domain that contains news and information different to your main site
• News sites – do you have any news sites on a similar topic away from your site. If so, you may wish to build these sites with useful content around your brand
• Corporate sites – if you have another corporate site away from your main site work at pushing this up the rakings as this will already be associated with your brand name
Once you have a list of websites to push, you simply need to promote these using the search terms you identified that linked to any negative comments. Below are some useful tips to help do this:
• Content – add content regularly around the sites you wish to push. Try to ensure you use the required keyword where you can, and where it appears naturally
• Press releases – You should create press releases for the selection of sites and embed links within the articles. You should embed links with the appropriate anchor text
• Use sub domains – Link your main site to an appropriate corporate sub domain using your keywords. Make sure the links are embedded near your brand name
• Link building – Most negative press builds its way to the top of the SERPs through link building. To counteract this, you should post useful positive press around your brand and link to this. This could be achieved by writing on an external blog on your corporate blog and then linking to this using the keyword. Blogs that are regularly updated with interesting and relevant content will be placed higher in the rankings. Search engine spiders place more importance on blogs with fresh content, which helps to manage online reputation by ensuring that a blog is ranked highly over any other potentially negative content. Blogging also provides the opportunity to increase incoming links and build relationships with other key bloggers
If negative press is not legitimate then you should email the webmaster and ask them to remove the damaging and illegitimate post. Note that this may mean you have to submit proof that the comment or post is slander and untrue.
Here’s a checklist of how SEO helps online reputation management:
• Research the keywords which are tarnishing you reputation
• Find websites that you can push up the listings
• Utilize social media websites to push your brand
• Update content on these sites as regularly as you can
• Build links and write press releases to these sites using appropriate keywords
If you follow these tactics you should be well on your way to effectively managing your reputation online and remember that reputation management doesn’t stop here. Document and review what actions you have completed throughout your campaign, noting what was successful and how your actions affected your search listings since you began. This will give you more of an idea of what websites and tactics work for you and your business.