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August 17, 2011

Protecting Your Brand Online

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Solo presentation by: Andy Beal, CEO, Trackur

SES SFWhat a way to start of Day 2 of SES San Francisco – with the adorable Andy Beal.  I could just listen to him talk for days with his cute little accent that’s from somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic.  I’m hoping to get some great nuggets of info from him today to help those of you who have Reputation Management needs.

5 keys to Search Engine Reputation Management (SERM):

  • Rethinking keywords
    • Normally you think of words you want to rank for, but you now need to think in terms of getting lots of pages to rank for terms that aren’t competitive
    • There may even be some negative things that pop up
  • Think about what people will type in when searching brand
    • Ceo’s name
    • Product names
    • Specific brands
    • acronyms
  • Spider Friendly
    • The usual stuff with a twist for RM
    • URLs that are focused on brand
  • Me myself & Irene
    • Think of yourself/company in the 3rd person
    • You have to spell it out to Google, make it clear who your company is and what your brand is
    • Companies have a tendency to only mention a company name one time and then speak in the 1st person from there on out. Stop that.
    • Think ‘keyword density’ and do it for the brand/company keywords as well
  • Anchor text
    • The site needs anchor text for brand, product names, CEO names etc to help relevancy
    • Linking with anchor text will help pass authority
  • Superbrand to the Rescue
    • If you type in your brand into Google and you aren’t #1, you have a problem
    • Usually when you do a search, you will appear #1 because you’ve shown the search engine that you are the authority on your brand
    • Use this authority to pass on authority to other sites that may be talking about your brand in a positive way in order to create additional, positive listings in the index

Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and dive in.  Do an audit of your search results (typically in Google) and take a look at the first 30 results.  Use a spreadsheet with columns like Rank URL, Page Title, Status (owned/control/influence/3rd party) and Sentiment (positive/negative/neutral). For status, Owned is defined as sites that you have complete control over, like an additional company site that no one else has influence over.  Control is other sites like Facebook or Twitter and you have some control over the account.  Influence would be content that you don’t have login credentials for or host it but you have a relationship with the vendor.  3rd party results are those that you have no control over, no relationship with the vendor and it can be a potential danger.

When looking at the Sentiment of the 30 results, apply these thoughts to them.  If the page is a page you wouldn’t mind a potential client seeing because the overall tone of the page is up-beat – then it will probably be tagged as Positive.  The Neutral items are those that don’t really have anything to do with your company or brand and won’t influence clients; they are nothing to worry about.  Negative pages are obviously those that are talking badly about the brand or company.

Invest your time optimizing pages that you fully own, about  80% of your time,. Then invest only 10% of your time on the stuff that you only have control or influence over and a remaining 10% on everything else.

Now we are going to talk about some tactics to expand on the 5 keys mentioned earlier.  Take stock in existing web content.  Optimize content that is ranking, but not well ranking.  Try for the double listing in Google by optimizing pages well enough to have multiple listings in the top 10. Find pages that are just outside of the Top 10 and work on those pages to move them up.  You can do this by using advanced search features in Google, or append &num=100 to the end of your Google URL. If an indented listing appears for your site, try to narrow down what the actual ranking is for that page.  You can do this by going page by page on a normal search or change the number at the end of the &num= (ex: &num=90, &num=80 etc) until the listing disappears.  This will give you an idea of how much work you have ahead of you to get that page moved up in the rankings.

Andy recommends to not wait for a crisis to hit.  Take preventive measures.  Register your .org and .net TLDs, other company branded domains and even sub-domains.  If your company is doing anything for the community then think about developing a site on the .org that talks about how the company is out in the community and helping to give back. This is a positive way to get more exposure. Think of ways you can also develop sites for other domains owned.  Avoid duplicating content, but actually create completely unique sites that focus on a specific topic.

When it comes to sub-domains, they are treated as separate entities by Google, but still leach some of the domain authority from the main domain.  You can use sub domains for things like career listings.  Limit the number of sub-domains you develop because Google has been heard whispering that they will only allow a certain number to count.  You don’t want to send up any red flags to Google, that’s for sure!  Anything you put up on a sub-domain needs to have a legitimate reason to be there and certainly make sure that it is not a duplicate of anything on the main domain.

Aside from domains you own that you can leverage, what other type of content ranks?

  •  Wordpress is useful for creating a micro-site or an offsite blog.
    • Needs to have multiple pages
    • Talk about the company in the 3rd person
    • Link to the home page of main site and vice versa
  • Blogger also works well…possibly because it’s a Google product?
    • Can also be used as an offsite blog
  • Facebook with profile pages
    • You have to have at least 25 fans so you can change to a custom URL
    • Pull in a RSS feed
    • Put in a few posts and actively manage it if you want to have some engagement
    • Use company name on posts
    • Link to it from corporate site
  • LinkedIn
    • Great for personal reputation management
    • You can set a custom URL
    • When you write the profile, write it in the 3rd person
    • Have multiple employees create profiles
    • Create a corporate profile
  • Twitter
    • Great opportunity for engagement with clients
    • Can be used for customer service purposes
    • Name it with brand
    • Link to it from company site
    • Retweet and say thank you when someone talks about the company/brand
    • Uber tip: anytime someone mentions something positive, ‘favorite’ it so that you create a special feed of just the positive things people tweet. This will help people find positive feedback on your company/brand easily.  You can even pull in that specific RSS to be shown on your site.
  • Flickr
    • An opportunity to show up in universal search results
    • Create profile with company name
    • Designate URL with company name
    • Upload photos related to the company with labels relevant to picture and company
  • WetpaintCentral.com
    • A service that is good for creating a wiki about the company
    • Different from Wikipedia because you have complete control over the wiki
    • You can designate a URL with company name
  • AssociatedContent.com and similar sites
    • These are not as useful as before but may still have some benefit
    • Creating an account on these sites and filling the bios with company info can get rankings
  • GetSatisfaction.com
    • A site that allows users to ask questions and get help
    • You can just use free profile and it will probably rank
  • Ning.com
    • A site you have to pay for the account
    • You can use to build your own social network on it
    • Specify URL
    • You have control over members

That covers all the White Hat ways of actively doing Reputation Management, but now we are going to move into the Grayish areas.

Business Partners

  • Reach out to business partners to see if you can create an online relationship.  An example would be asking for a profile page on their site and offer to write the page for them. This can help be a neutral listing that you have some control over.

Sponsorships

  • Sponsorships are another way to get some recognition.  If you sponsor an event or group, you can ask for them to give you a profile page.  Create the bio that talks about the company in the 3rd person and remember to insert in links with anchor text.

Speaker Profiles

  • Speaker profiles are also useful if someone in the company speaks at conferences or other types of events.  Having a profile up on the conference or event site can rank if the bio is written well.

Affiliates

  • Affiliates are another good source to get content written about you. Reach out to affiliates and ask them if they’d be willing to put up a profile page about the company. If needed, offer to give them a bump in pay.

The true Danger Zone includes actions like:

  • Linking to others’ content
  • Wikipedia
  • Paid Posts
    • Do this before a crisis otherwise it will be used against you
  • Paid Search

Although these actions are usually harmless and are perfectly reasonable tactics to use when promoting the site, the danger comes in when the company is already under attack.  If the Reputation Management crisis has already begun and you then try any of the above tactics they can actually trigger all those non-fans to attack the company further for using such tactics.  Their angle will be that the company is just trying to cover up the crisis. Andy suggests doing the tactics before the crisis arises, not after.

Above all else, always be on the alert.  Sign up for some type of alert system that can be an early detection to a problem.  Things like Google Alerts and Trackur are good tools to use.  Also, you always want to look beyond the Top 10 results on a branded search to see what’s showing up.  Monitor those results regularly.  If you see something pop up into the Top 10 that is less than desirable – don’t panic.  Give it a couple of days because it may drop back into the abyss, but monitor more heavily to see if it does move.

If something negative does appear in the index for a branded search, try to resolve the issue.  If things are resolved, you shouldn’t be afraid of going to the publisher/creator of the negative content and ask them to remove it. And lastly, be benevolent. Link out to good content about the company to help pass that Superbrand authority so that more positive things can rank for branded searches – pushing down the negative.

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One response to “Protecting Your Brand Online”

  1. Andy Beal writes:

    Jayme thank you for such a fantastic recap. I’m flattered you like my accent. My wife can tell you that hearing me talk for days is not all it’s cracked up to be. ;-)



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