Lee Odden

Basics of Online Reputation Management

As much time and effort that marketers put into improving visibility within search results, not all search engine ranking pages (SERPs) are good. Increasing numbers of companies are experiencing the sharp edge of the sword from disgruntled employees or customers taking advantage of the amazingly simplistic process of publishing content to the web.

You may recall such situations as “Dell Hell” or Googlebombing “miserable failure” for examples.

Because these references occur within the search results, many companies percieve search engine reputation management as a SEO problem. But displacing negative search results only treats the symptoms of the problem. It’s not a cure.

While other companies see tarnished brand issues as more of a public relations issue, it’s important to understand that sometimes it’s the PR firm that is at the root of the problem. Look no further than the Edelman and Walmarting across America situation for an example of that.

Negative search results are not limited to standard search engines either. Blog search engines, video sites like YouTube, social news such as Digg and news search can be affected as well. See Google Blog Search for examples of the recent comments about Microsoft from former employee Robert Scoble.

Negative commentary can have a significant impact on brnads that companies have spent years and immense resources to build. It pays to protect those brands where ever consumers can interact with them.

No company wants to experience a situation like Kryptonite locks so what can businesses do? Here are three fundamental concepts to master when dealing with search engine reputation management: Monitor, Optimize and Engage.

What to monitor?

  • Brands
  • Products
  • Company
  • Key Executives

Include modifiers: “sucks” “scam” “kudos”

Types of content to monitor include: News Search, Social Media/Tags, Standard Search Results, Blogs and Forums.

Where to Monitor

  • Google Alerts – google.com/alerts
  • Yahoo Alerts – alerts.yahoo.com
  • RSS feed subscriptions to search results Technorati, Yahoo & Google News, BlogPulse
  • Social Media via tags: tagbulb.com, tagfetch.com, keotag.com

Optimizing is most effective as a preventive measure rather than a reactive measure. However, reactive optimization for displacing negative search results is what most online reputation management services focus on. It leaves the company chasing after the various dissenters and does not put the brand in a position of control.

Treat the Symptoms

Companies that want to protect their brand visibility on the web would do well to make optimizing their brand content a best practice. Optimizing all digital communications including: PR, marketing, SEO, HR, investor relations and related electronic content that is publicly available on the web as well as social media: text, images, audio, video will produce more branded content in the SERPs. Doing so doesn’t necessarily put the brand in control, but it’s a much better situation than scrambling after the fact.

Engage – Address the Cause

Once a negative mention has been identified, here are a few basic steps in dealing with it:

  • Research the situation – is there merit?
  • If not, provide the facts and ask for corrections
  • If yes, then offer to discuss
  • Be ready to respond with your own blog
  • Be honest, be transparent and LISTEN

Results can be a anything from a positive turn around to a loyal brand evangelist.

Implementing a proactive monitoring campaign provides insight into the kinds of content interactions audiences are having with your brand. When identified and qualified, situations need to be addressed directly. At the same time, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and companies need to implement holistic brand content optimization as a best practice. The more branded content in the search results, the more diluted any negative brand content will be.

What kinds of search engine brand protection situations have you encountered? I’d be curious to hear what tactics others have used and what kinds of turn around situations have resulted.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.

Comments

  1. I would add a note to this…don’t let overzealous internet lockdowns thwart your understanding of what’s going on out there.

    A classmate of mine worked for a major corporation over the summer. In trying to assess the consumer perception of the company, he was searching for mentions on blogs, social network pages, and websites.

    He found many sources with complaints about the company’s service; however, he was unable to access these pages from his work computer because the internet security policies did not allow anyone from the office to access MySpace or sites like http://www.CompanyNameSucks.com.

    How on earth does a company expect to excel in customer service if it won’t even let its employees read what’s being said about them?

  2. The Greater Washington Board of Trade demonstrated an expert approach to pulp fiction readers’ hacking of their advertisement showing Washington as an educated community. Note these romance reader bloggers took offense that DC represented itself as philosophers as opposed to pulp fiction readers. They started a huge uproar, which started to show up in the Google indices.

    Instead of engaging the bloggers, the Board went to the media and outed them. The result: Positive NY Times and Washington Post coverage. These bloggers came out looking foolish and BoT looked brilliant in my opinion.. with NY Times and Washington Post coverage furthering the organization’s awareness.

    This was quite an uproar in DC for a day or two. I actually blogged about it (http://www.livingstonbuzz.com/blog/?p=99).

    GL

  3. Hi Amy, that is an interesting situation you mention. I am not sure if surfing the web via proxy would work either. Those types of sites would have to be monitored from outside the company network via a vendor or tracking service.

  4. GL, that’s a good example from a PR and real world perspective, especially with the extended coverage in the NYT and WP.

  5. This was a great piece Lee!
    Those Google and Yahoo alerts are one of the best ways that I have found to manage rep.

    Thanks again!

  6. Offering quality content and maintaining quality email newsletter are two extremely effective ways to protect brand. Never let your customers down and remind them frequently (via email) that you offer great products.

    -Adam

  7. Are we that alike Lee that we’re posting similar topics on the same day?
    http://www.seobrien.com/2007/03/search-management-is-reputation.html

    Great post, much more practical (or tactical) than mine

  8. Hi Paul, my post is a summary of a presentation I gave last week at a search marketing conference in Australia.

    If you really want to get great practical info on the subject, check out Andy Beals writings on the subject over at MarketingPilgrim.com

  9. Lee, awesome article – clear, concise and valuable…your usual MO – thanks Lee!!

  10. Here are some reasons why ORM is going to be the buzz-word in the next few months or so…

    1. maintains high SEM rankings
    2. Give effective and positive exposure to your brand
    3. Drives competition and negative information down the search engine rankings
    4. Increases the transparency and communication between the consumer and the manufacturer
    5. Helps you improve on your service levels for your product or service

  11. Great post lee, one everybody should read when looking for more information on this subject

    P.S. the group social media interview is going to be published soon

  12. Wonderful Post and look forward to reading more similar articles.

  13. Question, I am found in the #1 position when my company’s name is searched in Google. However, the next few listings are for Complaints Board blogs mentioning a company of the same name but it is definitely not me. I am a manufacturer, they are a distributor of Homeopathic supplements. My company gets about 100 contacts a year from their disgruntled customers so I am not surprised to see the Complaints board comments. HOWEVER, how is “joe public” supposed to know me from them when just viewing the search results? I was recently contacted from a Reputation Management company that mentioned these negative comments regarding my company, which they weren’t, but if HE didn’t notice the differences how will anyone else? Thoughts?

  14. Stephanie, what’s happened in your situation is that someone else’s search results reputation problem has become yours because of the similar brand names.

    You would do well to implement online reputation management tactics that would displace any negative search results whether they are relevant to you specifically or the other site.

  15. Steve Villano says:

    The worst thing a company can do is hide from an attack, as once it shows up online, everyone assumes it is true. So, if you are accused of being a scam, a fraud, a liar…it is best to attack and show how you are not a fraud.

  16. Hi Steve, Lee and others may have additional input however, I’d say that often the best defense is to listen without emotion and follow the claim back to the source.

    Make a personal attempt to contact the source and listen to their claim. Once you’ve diffused their emotions and reassured them you are sincere, it may be possible to resolve the issue with the source and acquire a retraction.

    The first steps are to remove your emotion, do the research, compose yourself, make the call, be compassionate and consider their point-of-view, reach-out and be who you really are (the sincere legitimate authentic business person you are). Avoid going on the defense or over-reacting. Take methodical pre-planned baby-steps.

    Of course this advice is subject to re-evaluation depending on the circumstances; fraud is a serious claim with serious consequences and may require legal advice as well.

    My gut feeling is that no matter what the circumstances are, I remain in control, cool, calm and precise in my approach with anyone who may be mis-guided or mis-informed. Generally, this approach often diffuses the immediate circumstances at hand and allows for a conversation, which in-turn propagates mutual respect and understanding.

    You’ve got to remove yourself emotionally and listen to your accuser to satisfy their need first. (just my opinion)

  17. that is an interesting situation you mention. I am not sure if surfing the web via proxy would work either.

  18. The problem with current ORM is that it is done retroactivly in response to a problem. Companies are failing to recognize the benefits of a proactive approach to managing how they appear on the internet.

  19. Angelina Jones says:

    Companies that cannot afford the expenses required to push themselves up in search engines rankings are increasingly resorting to more underhanded methods to knock down the image and reputation of their more well-funded competitors. These methods include smear campaigns, the spreading of false rumors, misleading information, and anything else that may damage a company’s reputation to the point where it puts doubt in the minds of consumers considering the purchase of that company’s products and services. A well run campaign will continue to add negative commentary over time to make it appear that there is some sort of growing movement against the targeted company. The commentary can be posted on blogs, forums, in articles, or any place else where it can be seen by consumers on the internet. Search engine optimization of the negative content can draw more viewers to it and increase its “believability” regardless of it being poorly written or its inaccuracies. The damage done, those consumers are then steered toward the sponsors of the negative content.
    http://reputationmanagementllc.com/

  20. thanks for this poste

  21. thanks for this poste

Trackbacks

  1. […] Top Rank Online Marketing blogger Lee Odden (appropriately named given the top 200 ranking on Technorati) has a great entry on basics for online reputation management. He does a good job of reviewing ways to combat negative search results caused by the Wild West of blog slingers out there. […]

  2. […] A marketing blog about the intersection of social media, search marketing and online public relations. Home  About  Resources  Archives  Subscribe  Contact  « Basics of Online Reputation Management […]

  3. Blogs, Your Company, & Bad Press at AnAesthetic Media says:

    […] This is the perfect point of why a company needs to blog, especially if they’re vulnerable to bad press or negative public opinion. In fact, Helen isn’t the only search engine marketer to stress importance of using a blog to manage your corporate reputation. As Lee Odden over at Online Marketing Blog explains: As much time and effort that marketers put into improving visibility within search results, not all search engine ranking pages (SERPs) are good. Increasing numbers of companies are experiencing the sharp edge of the sword from disgruntled employees or customers taking advantage of the amazingly simplistic process of publishing content to the web. […] Because these references occur within the search results, many companies percieve search engine reputation management as a SEO problem. But displacing negative search results only treats the symptoms of the problem. It’s not a cure. […] Negative search results are not limited to standard search engines either. Blog search engines, video sites like YouTube, social news such as Digg and news search can be affected as well. […]

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    […] This is the perfect point of why a company needs to blog, especially if they’re vulnerable to bad press or negative public opinion. In fact, Helen isn’t the only search engine marketer to stress importance of using a blog to manage your corporate reputation. As Lee Odden over at Online Marketing Blog explains: As much time and effort that marketers put into improving visibility within search results, not all search engine ranking pages (SERPs) are good. Increasing numbers of companies are experiencing the sharp edge of the sword from disgruntled employees or customers taking advantage of the amazingly simplistic process of publishing content to the web. […] Because these references occur within the search results, many companies percieve search engine reputation management as a SEO problem. But displacing negative search results only treats the symptoms of the problem. It’s not a cure. […] Negative search results are not limited to standard search engines either. Blog search engines, video sites like YouTube, social news such as Digg and news search can be affected as well. […]

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  18. […] Odden provides a pretty good post on the basics of online reputation management. Monitoring the search engine ranking position (SERPs) for your name is the first step. You can use […]