Imagine you’re running a successful brand with a customer base that loves your product. Now imagine that whenever people Google your brand, they’re met with multiple negative listings and a slew of negative reviews before they ever leave page one of the SERPs. Your brand starts losing revenue, and you can’t lean on your happy customers to make up the difference. In fact, your brand’s mostly happy customer base now seems to add insult to injury: not only are the reviews hurting your bottom line, but they don’t even represent reality!
Here’s a look at a few tried-and-true reputation management strategies that helps companies across all types of industries recover from a crisis. And if your brand is facing a similar issue, these strategies can be your recipe for a turnaround, too.
1. Earn Positive Reviews and Mentions
Unless a company has some very serious systemic issues, the majority of their customer base is likely to be happy – otherwise, the company wouldn’t have made it this far. And when negative reviews rear their ugly heads, those happy customers become your best allies. Your best bet is to increase brand awareness for your company online. In this way, you’ll gain more positive mentions and can encourage reviews without directly incentivizing them.
The catch? Without a call to action, they’re not likely to be motivated to leave a review. Create one and mobilize your customer base. You’d be amazed by how many people will show up for you.
To start pushing negative reviews off of Google page one, consider building a web page or microsite dedicated to displaying reviews. Then, you can design an approach to tackle the reviews on third-party review platforms. One of your focus points could be TrustPilot, the platform making the most significant dent in the retail space. While you can’t incentivize reviews, you can make the review process as intuitive as possible for your customers. Try implementing a program that leverages existing customers and makes leaving post-purchase reviews as easy as one click. This way, your brand can increase the number of positive reviews that mention your company, and offset any negative reviews. The ultimate goal is to give prospective customers a more complete story about your products and services.
2. Develop High-Quality Content
According to a study on click-through rates by Advanced Web Ranking, the majority of Google’s search audience never looks past page one. So if Google searches for your brand turn up negative results on page one, then your strategy at its most simple and straightforward is this: push the negative results off page one. With a well-optimized review page, your brand can outrank the negative reviews for review-related brand queries – but that’s just a few slots in the SERPs. In an absolute worst-case scenario, you’d still have nine other results to contend with.
The solution is content, content, content. Google wants to serve fresh, high-quality content to its users, and negative reviews are fighting a losing battle when it comes to both freshness and quality. Give the search engine something better to serve and it will gladly do it.
First things first: improve and build out the content on your own website.
Publish positive corporate news and add rich content related to community engagement.
If you don’t have a blog, start one. Write thorough, informative posts that establish your brand’s industry expertise in a format that appeals to your audience.
If you already have a blog, use it strategically. Create a posting schedule and produce the high-quality, SEO-optimized posts that will make the SERPs more positive.
While you’ll want to take every measure to keep your website at the top of the results, it’s never going to take over all 10 slots on page one. Google will only show up to two results from the same domain in their top search results because they want to provide a range of options . So if your negative content is high-ranking or abundant, you’ll need to think beyond your website as you plan out your content.
- Design a PR and outreach strategy and publicize new initiatives or offer products for review.
- Submit byline articles to different publications, establishing thought leadership and authority across relevant industry websites (and capturing additional real estate in the SERPs with such content).
- Get interviewed as an expert in the field.
- Launch a new microsite or optimize existing microsites.
- Invest in a branded link management tool to track SEO redirects and manage link campaigns.
With the right SEO and outreach tactics, all the content you produce can balance out the negative listings in the SERPs.
3. Contribute to a Cause (that Aligns with Your Brand)
If current studies are any indication, consumers are more socially conscious today than ever before. In one survey, 88% of consumers claimed they wanted brands to be more ethical.
Brands like TOMS, GE and Coca-Cola all donate to or are involved in environmental or social causes, and this is exactly what people want to see from their favorite brands. One study found that a brand’s involvement in corporate social responsibility can increase sales by 20%. That same study found that staff turnover rates were up to 50% lower when companies are involved in social responsibility initiatives.
And it’s not just consumers who take notice when a brand is contributing to a cause – news outlets and publications do, too. Search for “Patagonia” in Google News and you’ll see headlines like “Patagonia conducted an audit of its own waste at Outdoor Retailer”, “Patagonia’s environmental activism: ‘Every company should fight climate change’” and “‘Rampant Consumerism is Not Attractive.’ Patagonia is Climbing to the Top — and Reimagining Capitalism Along the Way.”
The more your company contributes to a cause (and the more you publicize it), the more that others want to talk about your brand and the less room you leave in the SERPs for negative press. The key to deploying this strategy successfully rather than cynically is to pick a cause that actually fits your brand. Make sure it communicates your brand’s core values and inspires passion in the people at your company who work on the initiative.
4. Building Social Media Presence
In addition to creating new content and optimizing relevant untapped digital properties, optimizing your company’s social profiles (which are often included in the search results) can help push negative content off page one. If you can believe it, many retailers struggle to see their social profiles on page one. This is online real estate that can easily be taken up by third-party content. Optimize your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages, and you will start to see all three profiles rank on page one for branded searches. Considering that your brand’s website and social profiles can take up a significant amount of page one real estate for searches of your brand, that’s some serious low-hanging fruit.
Your company can also build a better online presence by addressing inaccuracies on branded Wikipedia pages and other community pages. This can help improve what shows up in the Google Knowledge Panel, leading to a better and more accurate first impression for the brand.
5. Diversify Your Search Landscape
In addition to creating high-quality content, focus on creating different kinds of content. Photos, videos, infographics, news, podcasts, FAQs, social media posts and listings on relevant vertical search engines can all help you take up additional real estate in the SERPs. Videos, images and news, for example, can rank directly in the search results alongside other content as well as in valuable vertical search engines like Google Videos, Google Images and Google News. And if you host your podcast on any (or all) of the popular podcasting platforms, you’ll be able to add several independent, high-quality and relevant websites to your arsenal, on top of podcast episodes themselves potentially appearing in the regular search results.
Even if you’ve already successfully bumped the negative content off page one, close as many gaps as you can. Doing this prevents other potential negative content from creeping in and gives you full control over the story of your brand.
Keep Your Customers Happy and Don’t Repeat Mistakes
Finally, don’t panic! Companies bounce back from reputation issues all the time. The viral news cycle burns itself out quickly and when it does, audiences trend toward forgiving and forgetting – as long as your company truly cares about your customers and doesn’t keep repeating the same mistakes. Negative reviews might feel like the end of the world, but the odds are quite literally in your favor if the vast majority of your customers are happy.
Mobilize your customer base and take a strategic approach to the content you produce, and you’ll be able to bounce back. And if you arm your brand with great content and a targeted content strategy along the way? Don’t be surprised if you bounce back higher than ever before.
Guest Author: Maggie Gnadt
Maggie Gnadt is a digital marketing professional who writes about SEO and reputational marketing for a living. When she’s not out exploring the Upstate New York restaurant scene, you can find her at home with a good book.