In today’s internet controlled age, there’s no way to avoid negative online publicity.
Every business will attract an unflattering comment at some point and it is significantly more economical to take a proactive approach to shield your brand from undesirable feedback rather than to attempt damage control at the point of crisis.
The key to protecting your brand is to dominate the entire page one search results for your brand name with almost entirely company controlled assets; sites/profiles that the business owns that do not allow users to leave feedback or comments.
To accomplish this, a business needs to actively promote their own online profiles to create a long standing and authoritative presence.
Throughout this article, we will provide practical tips for small to medium sized companies that want to protect their Google results from material that can have a potentially devastating effect.
Optimizing your Official Website – Position 1 (and beyond)
Your official website should rank at position #1 for your brand’s primary search term. If your website does not hold the first position, then this could be a cause for alarm and will need to be investigated immediately.
If your website is ranking in its rightful place at position #1 then there is potential to obtain sitelinks – which can fill valuable, additional space on page one. Google decides whether sitelinks are applicable or not to a website, however there are steps you can take to increase the chances of them showing, such as:
- Designing a clear site hierarchy with clear identification tags
- Implementing breadcrumbs
- Regularly submitting updated XML sitemaps to Google Webmaster Tools
Tip: During our sitelink research, we have gathered data that suggested that Google was more likely to apply sitelinks to a website if its search traffic was distributed amongst key inner pages as opposed to all visits going directly to the homepage. If the vast majority of your off-site SEO efforts are currently directed to your homepage, then consider spreading these out across significant internal pages in order to increase their ranking likelihood and therefore their eventual click-through rate via search engine result pages.
In addition to sitelinks, some brands also feature a search box underneath their official website within the search results.
If there is enough searchable content on your website, then you can add an internal search box to your site to increase the chances of one being displayed in your search results.
Google Custom Search Engine is a good resource you can use to implement this. Once the search box is integrated, you then need to assign Schema ‘SearchAction’ code to your home page and wait for Google to recognize that the site has technical capacity for a search box. If successful, this box will take up additional space on the SERP and make it easier for clients to navigate your site.
Creating a Secondary Website – Dominate with Another Domain
A secondary website offers an additional chance to rank brand-controlled content high within the search results. This could be a blog, a recruitment site, or a company news center – anything that can be updated regularly with fresh and interesting business developments. You can create a secondary website on a third-party hosted service, e.g. WordPress or Blogger, or on a separate domain, e.g. [company name]news.com. Wherever you choose to host your site, it is good practice to include your company name in the URL to increase the organic ranking potential.
Tip: To help your secondary website rank well for your brand name, there are a number of simple steps you can take to legitimize the site in Google’s eyes:
- Backlink from your main, official website
- Link from official company social media profiles that allow the inclusion of a secondary website
- Regularly post content updates on the secondary domain and be sure to promote these posts via your official social media channels.
Bonus Tip: Protect your Exact-match Domains
Whilst on the topic of online reputation management, it is important to lock down exact-match brand name terms for prominent domains (.com, .net, .org), as well as any country-specific top-level domains (TLDs) in countries you operate in, such as co.uk in the UK.
This will limit the chances of falling victim to brand or domain squatting, where cyber-attackers can pose as your brand to dupe customers into malicious territories such as phishing.
Participate on Social Media – Building an Engaging Presence
Due to the authority social media websites carry, they have strong organic page one ranking potential – assuming that the profiles are well-maintained, regularly updated and feature good engagement rates with followers.
To maximize ranking potential across several social media channels, implement a brand social media strategy that will allow you to reach out to and interact with your subscriber-base by publishing content that they find interesting. Content doesn’t merely stop with written text – you can also use image, video and presentation media.
Tip: Be sure to link to your most used social media channels from your official website. You can also link all of these social channels together to increase the backlink count to each property, giving each a better chance of ranking.
Bonus Tip: Secure Brand Name Social Media
Brand cybersquatting – trying to hijack a brand and build on its reputation – is a real problem, so if you do not lock down the brand name with official profiles now, it’s likely you’ll find fake ones appearing as the company’s reputation grows. Keep all company profiles active by posting relevant and engaging content on an ongoing basis. Credibility depends on the page remaining up to date.
At Reputation Defender we’ve been working with private and corporate clients for more than ten years, helping them to build a reputation that is resilient enough to withstand even targeted negativity. Follow ReputationDefender on Twitter for the latest news, updates and strategies on keeping your company’s online profile negative-free.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.