There is a lot of discussion about optimizing your content, your news, and even your photos for SEO. New tools allow us to put photos and logos in a newsroom, and then track where they are used. But have you thought about the important defensive steps to take to “Google-proof” your reputation?
Once upon a time, protecting your online reputation was mostly about buying the negative URLs related to your brand or company name… (yourcompany)sucks.com, and the like. But today the task is much more complex. For example, Google the phrase “completely wrong” and you will get a full page of Mitt Romney images.
The notion that anyone – from Presidential Candidate to CEO to Product Manager – could dream up every possible phrase and develop the appropriate defensive strategies just isn’t realistic. But here is what you can do to protect your reputation using search engine reputation management (SERM):
- Engage in “Reverse SEO”: This is the process of removing (de-ranking) websites other than your own from the first pages of search results, ensuring that those searching for certain targeted terms (such as your company name) see the information that you’ve highlighted. For example, a company experiencing recent negative press might rather focus search attention on their CSR efforts instead. By pushing negative press down in search results, you can vastly decrease the chance of those pages gaining traction and damaging your own or your company’s reputation.
- Consider Search Engine Marketing (SEM): Purchasing keywords is another reputation management investment that can smooth over bad press should an issue arise. We saw an example of this in President Obama’s 2008 campaign, during which Sarah Palin referenced the then-presidential nominee as having a connection to William Ayers. After this reference was made, Obama’s team purchased several keyword phrases that targeted Obama and William Ayers. As soon as users typed in these terms and clicked on the paid Obama ads that comprised much of the search results, these users were driven to a website created by Obama’s team to address any questions people may have had about the issue.
- Strengthen Your Social Presence: Oftentimes, social properties for companies or executives comprise the first few search results for that person or company’s name. If this presence and engagement is robust enough, links to that company’s Twitter handle, Facebook page, or other properties can continue to dominate those top slots even during a crisis. Blogs are also a great way to improve a business’ SEO presence, and have the potential to attract many links and references from outside sources, which Google sees as trustworthy and relevant. Blog content is also easily shareable and should be pushed out to other social networks to expand this targeted presence even more.
- Tell the Search Giants: While the large search engine companies may seem unapproachable, you can contact them if you feel that a search result site violates the search engine’s guidelines in any way. To learn more about Google’s criteria for removing or de-ranking content, or to submit a claim, you can review this here.