SEO and…Reputation Management?

By Chris Thoren, Product Specialist, Natural Search

What do you think of when you think of SEO? Most likely, creating quality content, link building, site architecture, and a plethora of other on-page and off-page factors that the Google algorithm (there are other search engines?) looks at when ranking a web site. Many companies focus on ranking for high traffic keywords and queries, but what about the queries that are driving the type of traffic you don’t want? Take Air France, for example. Given the recent events, was ‘cheap airfare’ the first thing that came to your mind associated with this brand name? And looking at the SERP for Air France, it’s riddled with news results, other than the top spot taken by the brand itself.

SEO does not necessarily have the immediate effect like paid search, but it may behoove you to keep an SEO mindset in order to offset any type of negative attention. And even if you are the stud high school quarterback with the lead cheerleader girlfriend, there’s always the quiet geek biding his time waiting for that moment when you slip up. Um, not from personal experience, but from what people have told me. In other words, all it takes is one bad customer experience ranging from the miniscule, obscure (‘Fatty Arbuckle’), or something catastrophic (Air France) to put your brand name in a tailspin. The butterfly effect (and without bad acting from Ashton Kutcher), but on a whole new level given the Internet, social media, and real-time search capabilities. Let’s take a look at some tactics to defend your brand’s reputation.

Social Media – The Voice of the Customer

Social media can be a powerful tool if you leverage it. If you have a social media account(s), use it (them). Customers no longer pick up the phone to voice their frustrations; they go online, do some research, see if other people have had similar issues, and most likely hop on the bandwagon. It’s a faceless, immediate way to vent their frustrations, but it’s also your opportunity to augment these frustrations and possibly win back a customer. Social sites do not necessarily provide tangible SEO love, but it does give you a platform to send some additional traffic to your site and possibly comments getting picked up by the spiders and displayed in the SERPs. But social media shouldn’t be about SEO; it should be more about connecting and engaging with your customers.

Press Releases

Press releases can also be a powerful vehicle to tell your side of the story. It’s more of a proactive role. It’s also a way to control your messaging, and if done right, gets picked up by the engines and ranked in the coveted above the fold listings (top 5 listings).

Be Alert

To keep a pulse on your brand, and any executive names for that matter, set up Google Alerts for your brand name. Google will compile all mentions across the WWW of the terms you set up and deliver them right to your inbox. This includes blog mentions, social media, etc.

Don’t Just Sit There…Blog About It!

An extension of your company’s web site is your company’s blog. You have a blog for a reason, so use it. If you want, disable comments, even though, it would highly behoove your cause to leave them on so you get a pulse of the vibe that’s out there. This is another golden opportunity to interact and engage with your clients/customers.

After the Dust Settles

After the uproar subsides, assess what you handled well, what you could have done better, etc. so you’re better prepared for the next time (hopefully not too soon, anyway). Check your analytics data to see what terms drove people to your site, and if they searched for anything once they got there (if you have internal site search set up). This may provide some insight on terms to optimize for as well as the type of content to create on your site.

The above mentions all have an underlying theme – they all encourage a proactive role. Don’t bury your head in the sand and wait for the storm to pass by. Get involved, embrace it, and fight like a brave. Your brands will thank you for it.


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