If you’ve got a great SEO and branded marketing strategy in place, you might feel like you’re invincible. You’ve got great Google rankings and it feels like Google is working both with and for you.
But Google giveth, and Google taketh away. Just as Google can catapult your branded searches to the top of your client and prospective client searches, it can instead rank harmful or negative searches above you.
And you know how much that can hurt you. 60% of consumers say negative reviews turned them away from a business.
So imagine that when they search for you, the first thing they see is that bad review. What can you do to combat the negativity? To protect yourself from Google?
Keep reading for a reputation management SEO checklist that will help you protect your brand and your reputation from the fickle beast known as Google.
What Is Brand Reputation Management SEO?
Before we can get into the checklist, you need to understand the basics of reputation management SEO. It’s quite simple: you combine the powers of SEO with the end goal of portraying your brand and business in a positive light.
You can use SEO in order to promote your brand’s message, services, messaging, and more to create and manage the reputation you want your business to have.
Reputation Management SEO Protects Your Brand
But Google isn’t always co-operative with this goal. Let’s look at an example to see exactly how Google can hurt your brand reputation instead of helping it.
You’re a restaurant owner. You have generally strong SEO, a thriving website, and great customer reviews. All of these things mean that your branded searches create a SERP that shows off your reputation as a trustworthy and desirable business.
But then, disaster strikes. A journalist at a powerful newspaper or blog gives your signature lentil stew a horrible review. The power this publisher has with linking, readers, and trust in the eyes of Google moves this article right to the top of your branded SERP.
From there, things can go downhill fast. Other publications begin to write about what you now know as the Lentil Stew Disaster. Customers read these articles and leave bad reviews on Yelp or write their own blogs on the topic.
And before you know it, your once beautiful SERP that showed off your amazing food, reviews, and testimonials has been completely transformed to become a lentil stew stain on your reputation.
How to Protect Your Brand Reputation with SEO
Now that we’ve potentially scared you, take a deep breath. Even the worst reputation crisis can be overcome with the right strategies and tactics that you apply after Google has turned on you.
You can get Google back on your side with three general strategies:
1. Make Your Brand One of Your Primary Keyword Targets
By focusing your brand name on most/all of the keywords that you use on your website, you can shift the search results away from the “bad” results back towards your true results.
2. Do Brand and Brand-Modified Keyword Research
So how can you know what branded keywords your audience is looking for? By doing research. At the end of the day, SEO campaigns are simple creatures, and most start with keyword research and developing an understanding of what your audience is looking for.
3. Develop SEO Campaigns Specifically for Brand-Modified Keyword
Now that you know which keywords and phrases are going to help you shift the search results away from the metaphorical lentil stew disaster, design your new SEO around those keywords and phrases! This is going to be the actionable portion that will get your SERP back to its former glory.
Reputation Management SEO Checklist
Those first two strategies we just went over should be applied to each of the following tactics on this checklist. Let’s expand on what you should do to get that 3rd strategy done, and done right.
1. Create and Pitch New Content
Chances are a lot of your old content is now pushed way down on your SERP page only to be replaced with negative reviews/blogs/videos/etc. While you can (and should!) modify your old content to reflect new keywords, a lot of your focus should be on creating new, powerful, and freshly branded content.
This new content will reflect your new branded keywords and work to gain power over the harmful things that are popping up with other branded searches. Try out some (preferably all!) of the following:
Create Content on Your Site
You should have a business blog on your website to create your own content. This works to boost your SEO, especially during a reputation crisis where you’re attempting to re-work your perceived reputation.
You can instantly put out content to combat the negative press you’re getting. Write blogs with your new keywords, put out videos explaining your service, try out a variety of keywords in your posts, etc.
This content can be produced and published quickly to offset negative marks on your reputation while also driving traffic to your site and shifting search results. It’s a win-win.
Enlist Content Creators
Creating content for your own blog is going to be quick and easy. However, your website might not have the search engine power that more popular or authoritative publications have. In order to bump negative results off of your SERP, start pitching content to content creators and have it published on powerful websites.
This could include:
● Journalists at national and/or local newspapers
● Industry-relevant websites
● Popular bloggers
● YouTube content creators
● Writers from popular sites (Forbes, HuffPost, etc)
Pitch your positives and your business to these people consistently to have the best chance of getting that publication and SEO boost.
Create Content Off-Site
Why wait for those people when you can create content yourself and have it published on authoritative and high-ranking sites? Websites like Medium, Huffington Post, Forbes, Inc., Venture Beat, and other industry-specific websites happily post content made by individuals and businesses.
2. Using Sites That Influence Your Google SERP
While blog content, targeted articles, and your business website are going to affect your SERP, other sites and content are going to influence it as well. Pinterest, social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc), Youtube, Google Maps, Google Business, and more are all going to have results on your SERP.
Use those sites to your advantage. Pay special attention to reviews and review sites: reviews have a huge impact on your Google ranking. Put effort into replying and monitoring reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook, and more.
3. Make Customer Reviews a Part of Your Daily Operations
Speaking of customer reviews, make them a part of your everyday. Think about this: 90% of customers read online reviews of businesses, especially ones they’re considering working with.
So what if you aren’t keeping up with the reviews and you get a slew of negativity? 90% of your audience is going to see that, and almost surely find someone else to use instead of you.
The key is to respond to negative reviews with a sincere apology, empathy, and a promise to make it right or do better next time. If you can, respond within 24 to 48 hours. A majority of people expect businesses to respond within one week of getting a bad review. And a whopping 89% of people monitor and read business’s responses to consumers in order to form an opinion on that business.
Keep your responses professional and understanding. This can transform what would’ve been an entirely negative mark on your reputation into a positive reflection of what your business is truly like.
4. Branded Influencer Marketing
Similar to pitching your new branded content and keywords to journalists and writers, you can pitch the same things to people with influence and power in your industry. This means everyone from industry celebrities to SnapChat stars to bloggers with millions of readers.
Start using your preferred “search branding keyword” in these pitches, and use influencer marketing to showcase this new branding/marketing to a large audience.
5. Strategically Craft Backlinking Projects and Campaigns
Backlinking is a key tactic in SEO: is uses links on other websites to link back to your business’s website.
For example, let’s go back to our restaurant example from earlier. Perhaps a popular recipe website talking about the best pasta dishes they’ve had at local restaurants refers to your alfredo and links back to your restaurant’s in their article.
This basically certifies your business as powerful and trustworthy in the eyes of search engines. It can also drive traffic from those websites to your own.
When protecting your reputation from Google, you want these backlinks to strategically link to brand pages that will portray the right message and, well, the brand reputation that you want to be portrayed. This could be to your testimonials, your “About” page, your leadership page, etc.
6. Consistently Use Your Strategic Brand and Brand-Modified Keywords in All of Your Content
If we didn’t make it clear earlier with more than four sections that say this exact thing, we’ll say it again: with each of these tactics, you need to consistently use your new branded keywords and phrases.
This is going to shift the search demand towards what you want people to see (a positive, well-liked, reliable, trustworthy business) instead of the potentially negative results that Google can show during certain times of reputation trouble.
7. Be Willing to Take Appropriate Legal Action
Lastly, don’t be afraid to take legal action against Google or the direct publishers of the negative information. Google isn’t perfect and it can accidentally rank sites and posts that go against DMCA protocols, contain libelous info, violate agreements, trademarks, copyrights, etc.
Consult a lawyer and find out what steps you can take to protect yourself against these types of posts on Google.
Protect Yourself with This Reputation Management Checklist
This reputation management SEO checklist essentially boils down to using SEO to rework how Google portrays your business and your brand.
People are easily influenced by search results, which is why SEO is such a powerful tool. And while that tool can turn around and hurt you, it can be used to help you build (or rebuild!) your reputation.
Need some more help? Reach out with any other questions you have, and we’d be happy to help.