Managing Your Reputation with SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is highly important in leveraging online media, as they are the starting point for the majority of Internet users. If your online materials are not well-positioned for search engines, people will not find them - and they may turn to other sources for information about your company.

Google: The Reputation Engine

Google, specifically, is the search engine of choice. In June, 2007, it was estimated that Google was used for 53% of all Internet searches, with Yahoo a distant second at 20% and MSN a lagging third at 13%

Consciously or unconsciously, many Internet users for impressions of companies through search engine results: they may search for a company or product name and peruse the search results (without visiting a single site) to get a general impression of it. Even if it's not intentional, a user who peruses search results will be exposed to many quick bites, and if all of them are negative, that will shape their impression of you before they even visit your site.

For that reason, you should make it a priority to ensure that you company's official site is the first thing that appears when someone searches for your company's name, and that at least the first full page of results contain only positive remarks. The same is true for individuals - as companies "Google" prospective employees, the first few pages of results could be harmful to your prospects.

The author underscores the importance of being proactive online: if you're not attentive to the online community, the impression they get of your company will depend entirely on what others are saying about you.

SEO for Reputation Management

Many companies use SEO to drive traffic to their own Web sites when individuals are searching for the products and services they sell, but little attention is paid to the way that the search engine results reflect on their company as a whole.

SEO for reputation management can be more difficult, as you are focusing on something more vague and intangible than a specific product name - but by the same token, you don't have to be as fiercely competitive over specific product-related terms (computer, mortgage, etc.) against other companies that are attempting to get them as well - you have a broader definition of success.

The authors suggest a five-step process for becoming "radically relevant" for google:

  1. Identify Your Brands - List the specific terms that are unique to your company, and are familiar to the public, and make sure these terms appear in your main pages.
  2. Become Spider-Friendly - Much of this simply has to do with writing well-formed code that ensures that pages are "tagged" and structured in a way that makes their text content readable by search engines
  3. Use Page Titles - The much-negelcted "title" tag contains the phrase that a search engine will use as a link to your site.
  4. Tailor Content - Since keywords were widely abused, search engines no w analyze the content of a page to decide what it is really "about," so the more content, the better. A word about keyword density: search engines are aware of it, and it can hurt you.
  5. Gain Inbound Links - Google, especially, considers the number of pages that link to your site as an indication of its relevance. Common tactics to get links from other sites
    • Provide high-quality content that other sites will want to link their visitors to (Without being coaxed)
    • Find relevant Web sites that might agree to add a link to your site. Use Google to find them (as the higher their rank in Google, the more valuable the link will be)
    • Consider buying links or searches to get top placement until such time as your site becomes known
    • Link-Baiting is a relatively new method of building attention-getting content that is online for a short amount of time in order to generate buzz and get bloggers to create links to your site.
    • If you operate multiple sites, find ways to inter-link them, such that they reinforce one another.

Once you've achieved a good positioning in Google, it will take some time and attention to maintain it ... but not very much, as search engine results tend to become self-reinforcing (items that are highly ranked remain so because people click them more often).

However, there are a few key events that may have a dramatic affect on your rankings:

And so, you will have to be proactive in monitoring and maintaining the search engine results people will see when searching fro your firm.

Proactive Management

To maintain and defend your online reputation requires a steady flow of information.

Content for Companies

Content for Individuals

Third-Party Content

For both businesses and individuals, developing original content can be a chore. While original content has higher value as a draw, using content generated by others can help fill in your sites, and it demonstrates to others that you are willing to share your own content.