A company’s reputation can go south quickly, both from a traditional PR perspective and digitally. There are few things worse than when a bad piece of press or an article containing a scathingly poor review of your company makes page one of the SERPs for your target search terms.
Ian Lurie, EVP of Portent, a digital marketing agency in Seattle, in his white paper “Digital Marketing Strategy Done Right” calls these events “digital chaos factors” and says that’s it crucial to plan for them. He says that a proper digital strategy can either make or break you — and you can’t rely on just one tactic, or one channel on your team to combat this digital chaos. Preparation, and prevention, he says, can go a long way in softening the impact.
So how do you use SEO to manage your reputation? These nine powerful tactics will help you do just that.
1. Craft Unique Content In-House
During the wild west of SEO, the name of the game was volume at any cost. Many digital marketers equated creating content as executing a strategy. With enough volume, the gurus said, your brand would get all the traffic it needed. But content, Lurie says, “has become the zombie movie of digital marketing. If two zombies make a good plotline, five hundred thousand must be better.”
Too many marketers tried to do this, and now we’re in a content glut.
We should have always been creating strategically-crafted content for our audiences. But some marketers tried to cheat by outsourcing our brand messaging — this doesn’t work anymore.
To establish a brand identity that works, you need to craft unique content. This can’t be content cheaply produced for the sake of having it; your content must reflect your team’s unique expertise, be informed by real customer behaviour, and be data-driven.
It’s hard, and most firms don’t do it well. That means those of us who can execute effectively have a great opportunity to beat the competition.
2. Create Your Own Personal Brand
People love to do business with people, not with companies. Even B2B companies can anchor their branding around individual keywords that describe their brand.
For example, what unique services do you offer your customers? Are there search terms associated with your industry that your customers use when searching for solutions? Once you’ve identified these things, see which specific terms you can leverage in both your personal branding and SEO efforts.
One of the best examples of combining personal branding and SEO comes from Joanna Wiebe, the first “conversion copywriter.” Early in her career, she coined the term “conversion copywriter” to describe her niche. By using that term as her main SEO keyword, she dominated the “conversion copywriter” search results.
By marrying her personal brand and SEO keywords together, Joanna has created a highly-successful company.
There’s “conversion copywriting” in every industry – you just have to find yours.
3. Respond to Reviews
One survey reported that positive reviews make 73% of customers trust a local business more. Additionally, 85% of customers trust online reviews just as much as they’d trust a friend’s recommendation.
More importantly, legitimate user reviews can affect your site rankings. The more users see good reviews, the more they’ll click through and share your site content. Search engines see this and reward your hard work with higher rankings. On the other hand, bad reviews – or worse, no reviews – can harm your ranking.
So how do you ensure reviews contribute to your SEO instead of harming it?
- Appreciate good reviews: When someone takes the time to give your business five stars, show your gratitude. A simple “Thanks for the good review!” is enough to merit goodwill.
- Clarify errors in bad reviews: If a customer claims something negative about your business, politely correct them without dismissing their feedback.
- Apologize for bad reviews: Even if a customer is being unreasonable, apologizing for their bad experience shows other users you’re fair, polite, and worth giving a second chance.
Responding to user reviews properly seems easy – when you’re not doing it. In the moment, when someone personally insults your employees or makes an unfair comment about your business, responding well is a challenge.
4. Concentrate On Customer Satisfaction
Customer satisfaction has a direct impact on your reputation and site ranking. Remember how we mentioned massive amounts of content used to help sites get higher search rankings? That all changed because Google figured out how to measure user satisfaction.
If a search result delivers on the promise, users spend longer on your site. This signals to Google that your content is high quality and delivers on what users are searching for. This, in turn, increases your site ranking.
That means you need to focus on giving value to your audience on every page you rank. Like planning content, you should rely on your site analytics to let you know what customers really want from your site. What pages are they visiting? Do you have insights into the kinds of search terms they’re using? How can you add more value to your organic traffic user experience?
Taking the time to consider these questions as you develop your site experience and content naturally results in a better reputation with customers and higher rankings.
5. Conduct Online PR
From pitching stories to distributing press releases, conducting online PR can be a cost-effective way to expand your brand reputation. Not only does this coverage build your brand, but it also provides your site with high-quality, trusted backlinks – that’s a recipe for great rankings.
Depending on how in-depth you want to get with PR, there are tools to identify opportunities for press coverage and guest blogging opportunities.
- HARO (Help A Reporter Out) – Affordable, good for small teams and beginners
- JustReachOut – A solid mid-range option
- Meltwater – Good for robust PR campaigns
Just make sure to optimize those press releases for SEO before you send them out.
6. Deal with Copyright Issues
Google doesn’t like pirates. It regularly removes search results due to DMCA takedown notices. These happen when a copyright owner files a complaint stating a website is unlawfully sharing intellectual property.
Since Google has a legal requirement to respond to DMCA notices within a certain time frame, the search engine often errs on the side of caution. To avoid getting slapped with a copyright infringement penalty, respond to DMCA takedown notices quickly if you receive any. If you serve user-generated content on your site, create an easily-accessible link in your footer.
7. Brand Advertising
Though organic SEO can deliver a remarkable ROI over time, paid advertising lets you immediately gain brand awareness. Remember, your brand doesn’t actually have to be big to feel big. If you’re everywhere around the web through brand advertising, your potential customers will be much more aware of your brand than if you relied exclusively on organic awareness.
For example, you can retarget website visitors with cost-effective brand advertising to reinforce your message. Here’s an example from Birchbox:
(Image via Unbounce)
In a simple ad, Birchbox reinforces its brand image, audience, and positioning.
Here’s another example of brand advertising from Monday, the project management tool:
In this ad, the brand proposition from Monday is clear: it’s a visual project management tool designed for Mac users.
Brand advertising has another upside besides awareness: paid social boosts SEO, so you’re getting a double-benefit through your brand advertising. While you wait for your SEO work to kick in and start attracting organic traffic, create a brand persona and make it more familiar with the world (with examples).
8. Monitoring Brand Activities
The key to managing your reputation is responding quickly to your brand mentions. Positive mentions are an opportunity to leverage new relationships and grow your presence. Negative coverage should also be dealt with and resolved quickly before issues grow into bigger problems. But often, you don’t know if your brand is being discussed at all unless the dialogue is happening on channels you own. That’s where tools like mention.com, Google Alerts, and Brand24 help.
With these tools, you can receive reports whenever someone across social and web channels mentions specific keywords – including your brand. This makes it simple to spot mentions early, helping with your reputation management.
For example, say you find an influencer is mentioning your brand and saying how much she or he is a fan. You might send this influencer a thank you gift to build your relationship, and possibly earn more social links in the future.
Remember, social signals affect rankings. Spending the time to monitor and engage with brand activities can have a direct effect on your search rankings.
9. Dealing with Negative SEO Attacks by Competitors
If your site suddenly drops in search rankings, it’s possible you’re experiencing a negative SEO attack from a competitor. This is when a site owner deliberately points spammy, low-quality links at your site with the intent of having your site penalized by Google.
If you’re using a tool like SEMrush to monitor your site’s backlinks, you’ll probably notice when you’re under attack fairly quickly. A sudden influx of backlinks from low-quality sites is a good indicator something’s up. Other times, you may receive a manual penalty notice. When this happens, you’ll need to use Google Webmaster Tools to manually disavow any bad links. This in-depth article from Ahrefs discusses how to detect and fight negative SEO in detail.
The days of focusing on a single aspect of digital marketing – such as content or keyword optimization – have ended. In order to build an organic, relevant audience for your business, you need to consider all of the above methods for SEO-based reputation management. Lurie points out that planning for this digital chaos can prevent a lot of heartaches and work down the road. Call out your potential digital chaos factors, then create a plan for each one of them.