As a business becomes more successful, the opportunity for having your reputation tarnished as a result of negative press increases.
Exposure from a successful advertising or marketing campaign on one hand may breed market share and brand awareness for consumers, yet on the other hand, it may also breed jealousy and envy from the competition.
In the past the old saying sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me may have been the case “prior to the invention of the internet”. Now, the first place any potential prospect or business associate looks when performing due diligence on your company is online.
If your business just happens to have strategically placed negative press or negative SEO performed at your reputations expense (from a loving competitor who covets your position), rest assured they will not hold back when fabricating a story (despite it’s truth or lack of it) to throw a proverbial monkey wrench in your company image.
Aside from passively monitoring the chaos from a distance by setting up alerts in Google Blog Search using “quotes around your company name”. The key is, to leverage web properties with authority that can essentially outrank the offending sites in question.
Businesses need to implement a solid reputation management strategy to combat search results that rise to the top, that may not be in their best interests (consider it SEO defense). Leveraging the media is nothing new for large corporations who have entire PR departments inundate an industry with the notion that suppression by beating them to the punch is the best anecdote for a smear.
Look at Starbucks for example, I am sure that many competitors large and small would love to smear their name, but by looking at their search results for the terms Starbucks Coffee, all I can see are a number of strategically placed web properties (a very clever .typepad address, another sub-domain, a few press releases, etc. ) to essentially suppress any potential negative comments from hitting the top 10 (great job on the SEO).
When in question, take a look at other notable national brands and just see how they pad their most prized keywords (their brand name) from being flanked by naysayers or fabricated fallacies. Fortunately the same click behavior exists for most, they will skim the top 10 and possibly the top 20, so as long as you can push those pages further into obscurity, the less likely they are as a threat to your business.
A Few Reputation Management Tips:
What can a smaller company do when some one uses the rip off report to create accusations or applies the same logic to an open forum? Take action first if possible as a preemptive strike. Otherwise, it’s time to switch into damage control mode and start with the following.
1. Make sure your city, state and phone number appear on more than one page in your site (this way they don’t outrank you using this crucial information). If you must, use the footer area to make that information prominent to search engines. Once in the about us section may not be enough, so the more frequently you use it, the less likely other can to smear your business.
2. Register with Google Maps, Yahoo Local and Superpages. These sites have a great deal of authority and can act as clones on your behalf to keep your information in the forefront (instead of negative press). Also, Wiki’s or communities like Facebook, and other social media networks are a great basic level defense for your keyword / domain name.
Despite the fact that most sites (designed to inform the public) may have been created with the best intentions (like consumer reports).
Crafty competitors have found ways to manipulate the system, since they know many of these sites fail to investigate the validity of the claims.
I am sure that many SEO’s can agree, this recent upsurge of damage control in the SERPs (search engine result pages) creates a unique set of challenges for bringing a companies image back to a favorable bearing.
Nothing like getting a series of extremely competitive keywords to the top 10 for multiple search engines, but a feat that is challenging nonetheless as it must be sustained until the search results subside, which may takes months if unchallenged.
Looking at the types of sites that have the ability to rank on their own accord you have to think of them as clones of the competition and look at just how entrenched their grip on search engines can be. In most instances you can simply bury the results from tactfully using a barrage of web 2.0 properties that have the ability to rank in the top 10 search results within hours of introducing a post, lens, or article with your companies name in it.
The main factor here is that your own pages are established as the authority in advance, so you don’t end up replacing your own company through piggyback SEO and having everyone but the company you are trying to salvage, push your search results off the page if done incorrectly.
We will be discussing SEO strategies over the next few weeks to implement SEO defense and will even be creating a series of reputation management packages to combat this type of situation in the event that your company is targeted for a smear campaign.
This is just another form or information arbitrage that’s making the way to the forefront of online business (since the competition doesn’t always play by the rules when they are losing market share) and must be dealt with accordingly in search engines. Although, just like a games of chess, it’s better to make the first move, than having to defend a blow you were not anticipating. In closing, just remember, it’s never too late to start managing your reputation online and better you than a competitor.