“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently,” claims Warren Buffet.
While there is much we can control about a business, online reputation issues are sometimes beyond our control. Focusing on what we can control is how we are empowered to handle reputation management challenges.
Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to get new customers and build brand awareness, but it’s a double-edged sword. Negative word of mouth creates a stigma toward a brand.
Never before has it been easier to compare notes with other consumers and trigger remedial actions from a public-facing business. Social media is an effective channel for resolving public relations issues because it’s in real-time and interactive by design. While a slew of negative public comments can be unnerving, it offers valuable insights. Awareness of these issues allows action to be taken and keeps things from getting worse.
A Lesson Domino’s Pizza Learned in 2009
Domino’s was the most popular pizza delivery company during the 80s. It rapidly grew to dominance, becoming the most successful franchise of its time. Soaring to great heights can mean a sharp fall when you can’t see what’s around the bend.
Come 2009, Dominos Pizza had two major PR challenges and the difference in each approach to the problems was like night and day.
In April of 2009, two employees of a shop in North Carolina by the names of Kristy Hammonds and Michael Setzer posted a revolting video online. It showed Setzer doing gross things to food (things we will not name to save you from losing your lunch) and sponges used to clean dishes while Hammonds recorded (while giggling in the background).
Millions of viewers lost their appetite for Domino’s. Consumers trust service workers to prepare food safely, and with one 2.5 minute YouTube video upload, that trust was lost.
The internet swiftly took action to report on the scandal, and the event immediately affected Google’s first page results for the search term “Dominos.” 5 out of 12 first page hits were related to the controversial video.
At the time of the scandal, a hungry person with a craving for Domino’s who happened to search Google for the nearest delivery store was instead met with stomach-turning negative results about the incident. . Doesn’t really make you want to order a Domino’s pizza anymore. Pizza Hut would probably agree with the sentiment.
As the news of this video trended on Twitter, people tweeted about Domino’s lack of action, making it seem like Domino’s wasn’t taking it seriously. When asked why Domino’s didn’t respond sooner, they explained that they feared a public statement would generate more views for a video they wanted gone.
We were still not fully aware of the power of viral content back then and Domino’s learned a tough lesson. Later that year they had the chance to apply what they learned.
Upon realizing that people were turned off by quality issues with their pizza, Domino’s confronted the issue transparently and with honesty. They launched a campaign that acknowledged the flaws in their product leading to a fundamental change in the way they make pizza.
The video released in their comeback campaign showed Domino’s executives and top-level staff listening to brutally honest consumer feedback about the pizza. Chefs were interviewed to share how devastated they were to hear what people were saying about the product they themselves designed. Next, they showed a kitchen demonstration of what went into creating the new recipe.
Using video to tell the public that they fully understood the shortcomings of their product and that they would make drastic changes was the perfect recipe for building trust while also building consumer curiosity about what the new pie would taste like!
This approach was about taking responsibility and letting the public know exactly what they planned to do about it.
The Facts We Can’t Afford to Ignore
92% of consumers read online reviews (eTailing Group)
72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (Search Engine Land).
Over 80% of reputation damage risk is hype that is not reality based (Digimind).
75% of brand value is based on a business’s reputation (Economist Intelligence Unit).
59% of businesses have encountered a PR crisis, but only 54% have a plan in case it happens (ReputationManagement.com).
Inaccurate and untrue statements about a business for all to see is a humiliating and devastating experience, especially when these are undeserved.
We don’t recommend firing back at negative reviews. The world watched while the owners of Amy’s Baking Company fired back at “Yelpers” on the reality show Kitchen Nightmares. Fighting fire with fire makes a business look like it’s lost control.
It’s best to approach these crises with a cool head. The more bad press piles on, the more impossible it may seem to reverse it. But it’s important to take swift and targeted action to mitigate the damage. As we learned from Domino’s, waiting wastes precious time. There are several things that can be done to recover from an embarrassing setback.
4 Reasons You Should Give a Flying F*** About SEO Reputation Management
With each passing year, more money is being spent to improve search engine results. $80 billion will be spent in 2020 on SEO. This means more businesses are taking their online presence seriously.
With the amount of money and work that goes into making a brand and website perform at its best, this is an investment that should be protected.
What is Online Reputation Management?
Online Reputation Management (ORM) is the practice of managing and influencing what information about your brand is readily available to internet users. It is a proactive measure to protect the brand. ORM is done through monitoring internet mentions and maintaining a positive presentation in web searches.
ORM involves already having a strong and positive online presence in the first place. It also includes monitoring the web and social media for mentions that may need to be addressed. It also works to repair reputation damage when it occurs.
So what role does Search Engine Optimization play in ORM?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Reputation Management is the practice of managing what the public sees in search results about a business. This is done through a number of different measures, which we will discuss in depth throughout this article.
In short, it’s about presenting a brand in the best possible light for a search. SEO Reputation Management focuses on SERP (search engine results page) and keyword performance. It’s about finding opportunities to improve rankings of positive content and drown out negative search results.
Here are some of the main reasons why your brand should care about SEO Reputation Management:
Loss of Organic Search Traffic
Organic search traffic is the Holy Grail of digital marketing. It’s traffic you earned rather than paid for. It takes time and commitment to rank this way; the hard way.
When negative search results start to rank for the name of a business or related searches, people will treat that as a warning to stay away.
If the description of the content is sensational, users will click those search results instead and read all the juicy gossip. When people spend time on the negative content, this triggers Google to rank it higher than other results.
So, what happens to the website of the business in question? It starts to get buried beneath all that negative content and stigmatized, leading to a drop in website visitors.
Loss of Paid Search Traffic
So, if someone pays for the traffic, they still get to the top, right? Sure. But it’s a waste of money at this point because the negative press alongside the ad will make users hesitant to click on the ad.
Loss of Brand Value
When a business’s reputation is damaged, two relationships are affected: B2B and B2C.
Brand equity is about the business to customer relationship as it factors in awareness and loyalty toward a particular business.
Brand value has to do with the estimated monetary value of a business. This is an influencing factor when a business is making a decision to work with another business.
Loss of brand reputation can be a competitor’s gain when consumers and other businesses flock to the other side.
Loss of Money
It’s difficult to fully account for all the financial cost involved with a damaged business reputation. Here are a few ways it impacts a business financially.
Loss of customers: When current customers are influenced by bad press and decide to cease doing business, that means a loss of revenue.
Loss of marketing revenue: If a business’s bottom line is reliant on digital marketing, negative buzz will halt and sometimes reverse well-performing campaigns. Starting at square one also means a loss of some of the marketing spend investments.
Loss of stock value: A publicly traded company may see share prices drop or shareholders unloading the stocks.
Increased expense: Employees may work longer hours to help manage the crisis, consultants may be hired to help, and this eats into cash and profits. The bigger the mess gets, the more money it may take to save the business.
Our Straightforward Guide to Reputation Management Through SEO
We are an SEO agency determined to get our clients found in searches with the goal of converting prospects to paying customers. One key factor involved is making the best impression in web searches.
When someone does a search on Google, and a business comes up in that search, this is a fleeting opportunity to make the best first impression. Our goal is to make sure our clients are not only found, but are presented well on the results page (SERP).
During the time of the Domino’s scandal, their company brand SERP results looked like this:
As you can see, the word “disgusting” is right below the paid search. When people are looking to place a food order, they won’t be encouraged to buy from a place being described as “disgusting”.
What’s more, the sensational headlines will get clicks from those curious about what these employees did. These clicks can give staying power to the negative item’s rank.
Strategy #1: Increase Rankings of Positive Search Results
Can a business remove all negative commentary from the internet? No. Much of that is permanent.
However, let’s pose this question in a different light:
Can a business drown out negative results from the first pages with positive results? Yes! And using SEO is the best way to accomplish this.
Improving the rankings of positive or neutral content is how you shift negative messages off of the first page, making it unlikely that unflattering content will see the light of day.
Strategy #2: Take Advantage of All Content Forms That Show Up in SERPs
Google search results show more than just links to business websites. It also shows paid ads, social media profiles, Google My business profiles, videos, images, featured snippets and more. Reputation management strategies tackle all content types that show up on the Google SERP.
In 2009, Google looked very different. The screenshot below shows the modern day features.
Domino’s has the benefit of a large knowledge panel on the right that recognizes the pizza chain as being a major brand. Next we see a sizable local search listing (more on that later). These sections make it impossible for negative content to be seen above the fold in a search. And if the searcher finds what they need without having to scroll down the SERP page, any negative search results on the first page may have the advantage of never receiving any views!
Google now limits results to two links per website. This consolidation keeps one source from dominating the page. What this also means is that businesses can’t rely on their website alone to replace negative results. It may be appropriate to optimize a second page to add one more positive result to the front page.
Now we’ll go over the strategies a business can use to fight back against online reputation threats.
Tactic #1: Claim and Utilize all Social Media Profiles
Often social media profiles, especially Facebook business pages, will show up in Google brand name searches. Social media websites already have the benefit of a high domain authority, so naturally, they’ll be some of the first results to appear in a brand search. That’s why social media profiles tend to be “above the fold” of search result listings - a helpful tool to push down negative results.
Social Media Essentials:
Facebook: The most used social media platform in existence. A Facebook business page is a great place for brand representation. A complete profile has everything a prospect needs to do business with the brand.
Twitter: As with Facebook, a completed Twitter profile is another way to make use of branding tools like logos, campaign posts, and slogans. Sometimes, official account Tweets from recognizable brands or celebrities will show up in their own featured snippet section in Google search results. Using hashtags frequently increases the likelihood that a Tweet will be found.
Instagram: This platform is great for influencers and B2C organizations, and is another property companies can use to to push down negative search results. Even if you aren’t any of the aforementioned entities, it doesn’t hurt to complete a profile on Instagram. Like Twitter, it’s another chance to use hashtags to your advantage.
LinkedIn: This platform is effectively a space for professionals and companies only. A business has a lot of control over how they appear on this platform. This is an opportunity to address a specific audience segment and maintain its place in the industry.
YouTube: This video-based platform is a property of Google, so it’s no wonder popular results from YouTube frequently show up in search results. Optimizing brand-related video content on YouTube has great potential to rank in SERP.
Businesses can leverage the domain authority of the above social media platforms to place benign or positive search results. Using best social media practices help to maintain brand positive search results.
Tactic #2: Post Images and Target Keywords Using Alt Text and Image Title
Google has dedicated SERP real estate for image search results.
How does Google know what’s in these images? The web crawlers rely on the text attached to the image to understand what the image subject matter is.
Uploading quality images and adding alt, title, and caption text with strategic keywords is one way to edge out negative content.
Tactic #3: Create Videos that Represent Your Brand
People love video content and Google knows this - it’s easy to watch, and in a society consumed by the millions of little pixels on our phone screens, most of us prefer to view short clips over reading long articles(hence the growing popularity of Tik Tok). Businesses can leverage the popularity of video content by creating engaging videos for their particular target audience. We recommend the videos be of high marketing quality to make the best impression, especially when trying to recover from a PR crisis.
Another way to leverage the power of Youtube is by partnering up with a popular Youtuber with a huge audience to promote your brand or product.Their ability to garner thousands of views can help ensure the videos you want will show up on your branded search, since Google prefers to feature content with more views.
Domino’s likely spent big bucks on the PR videos for its new and improved pizza. Note that this video gets the first place ranking for this medium-tail keyword search.
Tactic #4: Work on New PR Content
A business with a battered reputation can leverage news and high-traffic blog sites. PR firms are often involved with this strategy.
Putting out press releases gives a business some control over the discussion of a situation or event. News articles that feature interviews with the representatives of the company offer a chance to do damage control.
Bad press can be turned into an opportunity when the media reaches out to cover the response to the situation and any corrective action that has been taken. The media can be an ally when it comes to publishing follow up content.
Tactic #5: Conduct an Analysis of Other Properties You Have Control Over
Businesses may have listings related to their company on other sites like Wikipedia, Google Play, Apple Store, Forbes, directories, etc.
Brainstorming all the possible properties the affected business can edit and optimize increases the odds of replacing poor search results. Leave no stone unturned.
Strategy #3: Push Down Negative Search Results
Knocking out negative brand search results with SEO tactics means improving the rank of about 9 internet properties.
In-depth SEO keyword research for a company’s site will uncover what other high volume searches are yielding negative results. These are medium to long tail keywords closely related to the main branded term that users are searching for often enough to see unflattering content.
Building backlinks (a process in which a website links out to another website’s content) is another way to push down negative results. One factor that Google’s algorithm uses to decide how to rank a page is based on its trustworthiness. The trust of a page is in part determined by how many links are pointing to that page. By getting other sites to link to the more positive search results, they will rank higher on the first page and ultimately push down and eliminate any negative results. It’s best to have backlinks from authority sites (websites that have earned clout with Google algorithms) and to use a white hat approach to get backlinks to your site(be selective in who links and avoid those trying to sell backlinks).
Why You Should Hire an Experienced SEO Agency for ORM
A reputation crisis can be a big mess to clean up on the internet. The more complicated it becomes, the more difficult it will be to do alone. Experienced SEO companies understand the ins and outs of search engines and will apply their expertise to come up with a personalized and effective approach to rescue a tattered search engine reputation.
An SEO company will work on helping to restore a company’s brand image in Google search results, freeing up time for the management and marketing team to tend to high-level matters like media interviews and other PR matters.
The analysis involved with keyword research, content optimization, link building, and coordinating all of this into a recovery plan isn’t something that can be learned overnight.
At Propellic, we approach SEO challenges with efficient and effective solutions. We love to put our experience to work to help businesses turn an unfortunate situation into a triumph and bring their web presence back to health.
Here’s what is involved with our experienced SEO agency’s reputation management strategy:
Reason #1: Keyword Research
We are equipped to do an in-depth keyword analysis audit, which allows us to identify which search terms are associated with your company’s brand name. This is important because, in addition to negative search results that may appear when users search for your company, the brand itself may also be part of a long tail search term associated with negative search results.
Identifying these opportunities is how we determine what content packs have the best chance of improving SERP. (Content examples: images, videos, Google My Business profiles, etc.)
Reason #2: Creating New Optimized Pages
After our analysis, we may recommend creating a secondary brand name focus page for strategy reinforcement. The primary page for brand name recognition should always be the home page. The second page can be the “About Us” page, which should be optimized for the brand’s search term. Our SEO agency will work to optimize the “About Us” page to rank for your company’s search term.
Reason #3: Authoritative Link Building
One of the best ways to impact ranking is with link building. As previously mentioned, Google uses “trustworthiness” to rank pages, and the number of high quality backlinks pointing to a page can contribute to a page’s trust factor. This is especially effective when trying to rank the new optimized page.
It’s important to note that building links to a page is not enough. If the page isn’t properly optimized for the search term you want the page to rank for, you might end up performing a bunch of outreach with no fruits for your labors.
There are also multiple ways that a site can be penalized for obtaining backlinks through a spammy link building tactic. Trying to get links to your new page unnaturally can cause your site more harm than it can help.
For these reasons, if handling Search Engine Reputation Management is one of your company’s priorities, its best to work with an SEO agency to take care of the issue. Our SEO campaign includes outreach and white hat link building techniques to get both business pages in the top results for a brand name search, while following Google’s search guidelines in order to prevent potential penalties.
Reason #4: Google My Business Listing
Local business results take up a pretty decent amount of real estate on Google’s SERP. Optimizing a Google My Business listing is a prime opportunity for an established local business to leverage the modern Google SERP format (as we see with the current Domino’s brand search screenshot).
Not only can Propellic assist in optimizing your company’s Google business listing, we know how to grow the visibility of local listings with local citations.
Curating positive results is also key in improving a Google business listing. Recent positive reviews builds consumer confidence and demonstrate that business changes have recently been made and the company has improved. If a business is recovering from recent negative publicity, a Google local listing with a high Google review score can also negate fears..
Should we include a statistic at the end of the above paragraph about what review score most likely gets users to click on the business listing?
At Propellic, we understand how important search results are for large companies and small businesses alike. We've spent years working on our SEO strategy and expertise to create an expedient action plan that empowers our clients to conquer their SEO business challenges such as reputation management.
How Much Does Effective SEO Reputation Management Cost?
SEO Reputation Management is not cheap, but how much it costs truly depends on the type and amount of work that’s going to be required for your company’s specific situation. It can cost thousands of dollars a month and when a complete repair process takes several months, this adds up.
Some SEO Reputation Management services will promise quick results for a low price. That’s (almost always - unless you get lucky) a red flag. Be sure to do research and ask plenty of questions when hiring an SEO agency, especially when the reputation management cost is low.
Transparency is one of our core values. This means that we remain aware of the substantial financial investment made in SEO campaigns and keep our clients in the loop so they understand exactly what they are paying for.
Our monthly retainers start at $3,000 (as of March 2020), with a minimum engagement length of 12 months (usually the length of a reputation cleanup campaign). If you’re interested, we invite you to schedule a consultation.
Other Benefits of SEO Reputation Management
There doesn’t have to be a crisis for reputation management to be of help for a brand. Sometimes the way a business looks in search results just isn’t quite right.
Dominate Your SERP
We did a SERP makeover for Crow Holdings. This is what it looked like before:
After some work with Propellic, this is what it looks like now.
The new search results page for the search term Crow Holdings has a beautiful layout. First of all, their business is now the top result. Because links to the site’s individual pages appear below the home page, this result takes up a large portion of the results space. Visually, draws the eye away from potential competitors and encourages searchers to click on this result.
With recommendations made by our SEO Strategist, the newer copy does a better job of branding. It uses an informative meta description with a bold slogan, topped off with a strong new page title. and a clear . This is much more likely to make a great first impression and get clicks.
Also notice how the Wikipedia entry and the LinkedIn profile take up places 2 and 3. This is what it looks like when a business takes control of its social media and secondary profiles.
Crow Holdings dominates their SERP now. This is why it’s so important to have a comprehensive SEO Reputation Management plan.
Differentiate Your Brand
In some cases, a business may have a name that is very similar to that of another business, which can lead to brand confusion and can even cause the reputation of one business to affect the other. Often, this other business is not even a competitor, but it is still crucially important to create some distance between the brands. A properly planned reputation management strategy will help differentiate your business and prevent issues such as this.
Top SEO Reputation Management Tools
There are several SEO Reputation Management tools and platforms businesses can start using immediately to take control of their online brand reputation. Here are some of the few that we recommend:
Brandgrader: This free tool curates a list of the most influential websites that have mentioned the user’s business name in the last 30 days. It also includes social media mentions. It gives the brand a score to assess the overall health of online presence. It’s also helpful for comparing the user’s brand to competitors and identifying areas the brand can improve upon.
Brandwatch: This catchall platform serves as the brand’s eyes and ears from 90 million media sources and 27 languages. This tool collects past and future posts. What is collected can be broken down and organized for further analysis. Using an AI that has been developed over 15 years, the software uses machine learning and social listening to catch any brand mentions of your company.
SocialMentions: This tool does the same thing as Brandwatch, but it is focused on social media content. It features a sentiment filter to sort negative and positive comments.
Google Alerts: Google Alerts is also free. Google alerts can be set for reputation management keywords such as the name of the business, the CEO, a new trademarked product, competitor names, etc. It won’t put this information through any data analysis, but if paid tools aren’t in the budget, free works.
Monitoring what is being said about the brand is one of the most proactive reputation management measures a company can take. Domino’s may have been able to take corrective action sooner if they had been monitoring name mentions.
Have You Ever Dealt with SEO Reputation Management Damage?
You know the saying that what you don’t know can’t hurt you? Think again.
What Domino’s Pizza didn’t know hurt them. They didn’t know a store in North Carolina hired disloyal employees who didn’t take food safety and discretion seriously. They didn’t realize the extent of the complaints about the quality of their product that was once a national treasure in the 1980s. But as a business of the size and magnitude of Domino’s pizza, you need to be aware of everything happening at all levels of your business. Regardless, the company was given a wake up call and they took it, rebounding from the series of unfortunate events.
The more knowledge you have about your online image is pertinent information for any growing company. It’s important to think about what our business looks like from the perspective of others, and to check up on this from time to time. This means we monitor search results, keep track of mentions and optimize all properties related to the brand.
It’s also very important to respond to every negative review, social media comment, or private message with a timely and courteous response. The way a business handles criticism with grace adds to their public image.
As a company grows from a small business to a larger entity, it may not be prepared (or even aware that it needs to be) to deal with negative publicity.
Sometimes a business owner will question why it’s not doing well, especially when the competition is. Online Reputation Management is a huge help in improving their appearance online next to the competition.
If you've read through our whole guide, it's likely that you may be feeling overwhelmed by all of the information. Don't be hard on yourself - SEO and reputation management can be a complicated process without any training or education. At Propellic, we work with you to create a personally tailored approach to SEO to manage your search engine reputation, in addition to other marketing or business goals your company has.
If you want to learn more about SEO Reputation Management and how we can help, or are just looking to create a comprehensive SEO strategy for your business, reach out to us or book a free 30 minute strategy consultation!
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