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:
- 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.
- 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
- Use Page Titles - The much-negelcted "title" tag contains the phrase that a search engine will use as a link to your site.
- 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.
- 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:
- A site redesign that changes the addresses of your Web pages will break all links to them
- SEO efforts to improve search engine rankings for product promotion may bump reputation-related results off the top
- Media coverage, solicited or unsolicited, will change the content that appears
- An irate customer, through his blog, may create a negative buzz that will affect your results
And so, you will have to be proactive in monitoring and maintaining the search engine results people will see when searching fro your firm.
To maintain and defend your online reputation requires a steady flow of information.
Content for Companies
- Your Company Website: Make sure that you occupy the top spot in Google when someone searches for your company's name. Unless you're very new or your name is very generic, this shouldn't be a problem.
- Subdomain Sites: In some instances, it may be useful to create a "subdomain" site to provide a destination for a specific set of users: http://support.company.com is a common convention for a site that supports existing customers. http://product.company.com enables you to create a site that contains product information. Each of these will draw traffic from a specific audience, and interlinking them can help you build your authority
- Additional Sites: As with subdomain sites, it may be possible for you to build sites at unique URLs (such as www.comapny-product.com) that collect specific traffic and help reinforce your online brand
- Corporate Blogging: Starting a blog at a separate address than the rest of the corporate site can help you by capitalizing on the traffic-generating tools provided exclusively for blogs.
- Social network Profiles: Creating a social network profile (mySpace, Facebook, etc.) provides an alternate presence for a company (EN: Recently, there's been some negative reactions to corporate intrusion here, and it's becoming more of a detriment than a benefit to have such a thing)
- Create a Social Network - In some instances, it may be beneficial to create a social network that is specific to your company. Especially for companies with lifestyle-related products, your customers may feel that they are part of a social clique defined by ownership
- Create a Wiki - Make sure that your corporate profile on Wikipedia is factual and up to date. You can also create wikis on your products, your corporate officers, etc.
- Create a Portal - The author suggests that you can create a "portal" site that combines information about your company and products along with generic information about stocks, weather, etc. (EN: this also strikes me as a ad and desperate idea whose time has come and gone)
Content for Individuals
- Create a Personal Web site - If possible, register yourname.com as a domain for a personal site. It need not be elaborate, but it should exist, and will be the equivalent of a company's own site
- Create a Blog - Use a popular blogging site (like Blogger) to create a personal blog
- Join Social Networks - Enter the social networks (facebook, possibly others) as a method of connecting with people and making your identity known. Use your "real" name rather than an alias for content you want to share.
- Create a Business Profile - The authors recommend zoominfo.com and linkedin.com as places to establish a "business" profile for yourself.
- Share photos through Flickr
- Share your expertise via "answers" sites
- Participate in social bookmarking
- Post reviews and recommendations on shopping sites
- Participate in Wikipedia as an editor
- Interlink your various sties and profiles to create synergy
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.