How to Rate a Company’s Reputation

If you could have a “Nielsen’s Rating” of reputation, what would it look like? Well, the Harris Poll, owned by Nielsen, has the answer in the form of the Harris Poll Reputation Quotient. This is a yearly poll that gauges the reputations of the largest, well-known companies in the U.S.

Here are the six dimensions they measure: products and services, financial performance, vision and leadership, workplace environment, social responsibility, and emotional appeal. The goal is to help corporate leaders manage their company’s reputation among the general public. But the Harris Poll also publishes the list of the top 100 companies, so you and I can see how they rank.

For example, the top five companies with the best reputations for 2016 are Amazon, Apple, Google, USAA, and The Walt Disney Company. At the bottom of the list was Volkswagen Group, due to the recent scandal involving emissions tests. Comcast came in at a sorry 97 because, well, it’s Comcast.

Now, it’s likely that you’re not a multi-billion dollar company with thousands of employees. So should you care about the Harris Poll Reputation Quotient? Sure, the things they measure can be important when you’re in the public eye. But Acme Car Repair in Any City, USA is not going to show up on Harris Poll’s list of reputation rankings.

It’s just a fact that, if you’re not a well-known company, brand, or celebrity, you’re not likely to have any kind of reputation among the general public. Your customers know you, your suppliers may know you, and a few journalists who cover your industry or area of expertise might also be aware of your existence. But outside of that circle, you just don’t register on anyone’s radar.

And that’s where your online reputation comes in. Because, if someone doesn’t know much about you, they’re going to Google you.

When we talk about online reputation management, we’re not talking about the kinds of things that the Harris Poll looks at. We care about what someone finds when they do search on you or your company. That’s the point where your prospects begin to gain a sense of what your reputation is, mostly by seeing what other people say about you online. And since this could be the first exposure they have to your company, it had better be a good impression.

Curiously, one of the things the Harris Poll evaluates is someone’s “willingness to say something positive, and intent to purchase or recommend your products and services.” But you can easily find that yourself. Just look at the first couple of pages of Google search results and see what people actually say about you. No need to poll them about their intentions. The good, the bad, and the ugly of their recommendations is all right there for you — and everyone else — to see.

So a simple way to rate your reputation is by looking at the number of positive search results on the first page of Google. You’ll get a number like 6 out of 10 positive, or 9 out of 10. The higher the better. You can give it a fancy name like Search Results Online Reputation Quotient, but it comes down to the same thing. Managing your online reputation is then a matter of getting more positive results to show up above the negative results. That can be a challenge, but that’s what we’re here to help you with.

Is the SEO Tail Wagging the Content Dog?

Also posted to Bulldog Reporter: https://www.bulldogreporter.com/is-seos-tail-wagging-the-content-dog/

Much of what we do for Online Reputation Management involves getting pages to show up on the first page of Google search results. That in turn means a lot of search engine optimization (SEO) on the web pages that we want to rank higher. Sometimes, however, it seems we get so focused on ranking in Google that the idea of people actually reading the pages becomes secondary.

So, is the tail wagging the dog? In other words, have search results become more important than the human-readable content itself? Well, yes and no.

Granted, if you’re a company that sells anything, you still want to provide your customers and prospects with online content that they’ll find helpful, and which will ultimately lead to a sale. But if they don’t find you online, or if your online reputation suffers by having too many negative reviews in the first page of the search results, it may not matter how great your website content is. Your prospects will end up going to a competitor.

As an online reputation management specialist, my job is to make sure that most of the first page search results for your brand, company, or personal name show you in a good light. That may mean writing press releases or articles, creating websites, or optimizing web pages to show up higher in the search results page. And yes, we want it to be good, readable content. But the main goal is to help the page rank higher.

Of course, the days of keyword stuffing are long gone. Google caught on to that years ago. It’s now considered a “black hat” tactic and isn’t effective. You can’t just cram a bunch of gobbledygook onto a page, or hide a ton of keywords in invisible text, and expect Google to blindly think it’s relevant to a searcher. On the other hand, the writing doesn’t have to be of the highest literary quality. There’s a lot of poorly-written junk out there that ranks well, at least for now.

But that can change, because computers are getting smarter. IBM has created machines that beat a chess master and won at Jeopardy. More recently, Google’s AlphaGo won four out of five games against a champion player of Go, an ancient Chinese board game with simple rules but very complex strategy. That was seen as a huge breakthrough in the development of artificial intelligence.

Couple this with advances in natural language processing, and we’re now rapidly approaching the point where Google will read, understand, and qualify web pages as well as any human can. That means their computers will easily see through any attempts at gaming the algorithms. In fact, their machines will be better than people at gauging the relevancy of web pages in searches. Not only can they look at the content itself, but they have tons of other data about the page, including how many inbound links the page has and how many people have already clicked on the search result.

One prediction is that we’ll no longer see the occasional release of some disruptive new set of Google algorithms for ranking pages in search results. Rather, Google’s DeepMind team — the ones who brought you AlphaGo — will create an artificial intelligence that will continually learn on its own what is relevant to human searches, and will adjust page rankings accordingly.

Where does this leave us? As always, content is king. So until the machines completely take over, we just have to do our best at continuing to create well-written, informative pages that are relevant and which other highly-ranked websites will want to link to.

Where are the Drug Commercials on YouTube?

Pharmaceutical companies tend to do a poor job managing their online reputations, especially on YouTube. Major drug companies like Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly, Abbott Laboratories and GlaxoSmithKline spend millions of dollars each year developing and marketing new pharmaceuticals to the public. After the cost of developing these drugs, millions of dollars are spent on television advertisements. Just watch an hour or so of primetime TV any night of the week and you’re bound to see a handful of drugs ads that promise to reduce your cholesterol, relieve chronic pain, reduce inflammation, help you sleep better, be happier, and generally improve your life.

Finding official information on Google for drugs with unique names like Abilify, Nexium, Crestor, Cymbalta, Humira, Celebrex and Advair  is pretty straightforward, and the SERPs will show the official corporate drug website in the top spot. But search any of these drugs on YouTube you’ll discover it is almost impossible to find even one of the broadly televised commercials. YouTube is the second largest search engine just after Google receiving upwards of 3 billion searches a month. Considering the millions spent on TV advertising it would benefit drug companies to spend a small fraction of this amount creating effective YouTube channels and promoting the online videos.

Obviously the biggest roadblocks for pharmaceuticals are the legal and regulatory requirements and restrictions. Many are related to side effects being spelled out in communications, but this problem is solved when an “official” commercial is being used online. If fact, both drug benefits and side effects can be listed additionally in the description area set aside for YouTube videos. And if there are issues related to the barrage of uncensored comments made by video viewers, this can be solved by simply not allowing comments to be made on a video.

Clearly there are opportunities for pharmaceutical companies to improve their online reputation by exploring how YouTube can help them extend their marketing and education reach. Here are some recommendations:

1)    Look for ways to benefit from the extremely large audience using YouTube (2 billion videos viewed every day)

2)    Produce unique longer form commercials for online use only

3)    Promote YouTube videos through other social media (Twitter)

4)    Develop an SEO strategy for videos so they’ll rank higher in both YouTube and Google searches

5)    Make videos available so they can be embedded in other drug review type websites

6)    Properly title, describe and tag videos so they can be easily found, and so they rank higher in both YouTube and Google results

7)    Use the description area of the video to link to the main drug site

7)    Use annotations within videos to help viewers find additional information

8)    Create localized versions of commercials in different languages such as Spanish

YouTube Pharmaceutical and Medicine Advertising Policy

AdWords Healthcare and Medicines Policy

SEO for Online Reputation Management

Although online reputation management works in a variety of ways, it often depends heavily on search engine optimization (SEO) to fill the first page of search results with positive content about your brand. Optimizing a webpage to increase its relevance and quality so it appears high in search results isn’t easy, and to top it off, search engines are constantly updating their algorithms to ensure they return the most relevant and high-quality results.

Simply having an abundance of positive content about your brand isn’t always enough. All that positive content needs to be optimized to appear in search results. Search engines use a combination of links from reputable websites and high-quality content–content that is not only positive but also well-written or professional-looking–to determine a webpage’s relevance and authority to a search query.

The more relevant the page is to the query and the more authority it has earned, the higher it will show in search results.

So how do you make the positive content about your brand more relevant, and the websites that content lives on more authoritative?

By using the right tools to give search engines what they want. The more freshness, diversification, and support you can give your positive content, the better. These are some of the biggest indicators of relevance and authority the search engines look for.

Freshness
A website’s freshness means how often it is updated. The more often a site is updated, the more often search engines have to “crawl” the site in order to find and index new content.

You can teach search engines to index your site more frequently if you publish new content regularly. If your site is being indexed often enough, it will start to move up the rankings on search results pages.

Another important component of freshness is what all those regular updates tell the search engines. If the website is worth all the activity of regular updates, then it is much more likely to be a relevant, authoritative resource for searchers.

The trick to maintaining freshness on the webpages you want to appear on the first page of search results is to always be on the lookout for positive content. Your marketing and public relations teams need to keep a sharp eye for any positive content that can be used to protect your online reputation.

Diversification
Diversifying is as beneficial for online reputation management as it is for investment portfolios: it reduces risks and increases the likelihood of gains.

There are two important aspects of diversifying your online reputation management.

The first is using multiple types of content. You can have all the glowing testimonials in the world, but if all you have is testimonials and no case studies or data to back up your results, that starts to look a bit suspicious. And search engines will only return so many results of one type of content, leaving plenty of room on the first page for negative content.

This means in addition to testimonials, you want to harness the power of reviews, success stories and case studies, press releases, articles about your expertise, and more.

The second important part of diversification is using multiple websites. The more websites you own and control, the more spaces on the first search results page you can potentially fill, with positive content you have complete control over.

Creating multiple websites isn’t as daunting as it sounds at first. Instead of putting all your content in one place online, simply spread it out by assigning a specific purpose and audience to each different website.

For example, a pharmaceutical online reputation management strategy might include a website for consumers and doctors, another for pharmacies and vendors, a separate blog, and another website for publishing survey results and other data.

Diversifying content in these two ways makes your content more relevant and authoritative because each website and type of content appeals to specific audiences and search queries.

Support
Good support means earning plenty of links to your website(s) from many different reputable sources over a long period of time. Flooding your website with too many links all at once is very suspicious and you will almost certainly be penalized for it. And trying to get links from low-quality websites won’t help your rankings, either.

The trick to getting good links is to create content so valuable you could practically sell it. When your content is that unique and useful, it draws attention from the kind of websites you want to link to yours.

Earning links that way takes time, though. When you don’t have a lot of time to devote to getting that support, you can create some of it yourself through press releases, article marketing, and blogging. Just make sure this content is as helpful and valuable as possible.

Building good support for your websites is an important part of online reputation management for two reasons.

First, it improves your off-page SEO, which helps your content appear higher in search results.

Second, the webpages linking to yours can also show up on search results pages, so searchers see even more positive content about your brand.

Getting plenty of support through high-quality links tells search engines that other people online think your content is relevant and authoritative, which strongly influences how search engines rank results.

Freshness, diversification, and support are not the only SEO tools to use in your online reputation management strategy, but they are some of the most important. Implement all three and you’ll be well on your way to presenting searchers with the best information about your brand.

Why Keyword Domains May Not Be the Best Reputation Management Strategy

Online reputation management is both a very easy concept to explain and a very difficult strategy to make effective. It’s easy to say you make search engine results more positive for companies who have been unfairly maligned. It’s another thing entirely to actually do it.

In the early days of search engines, most engines ran on simple keyword match algorithms, so the websites with the most number of words that matched your search (including  the domain name) ranked very well. In fact, in the early days of the web and up until a year or so ago, having keywords in your domain name seemed to be a factor that helped people rank better in the search engines. Both exact match domains (EMD), like keyword.com, and partial match domains (PMD) like, ABCkeyword.com, buykeyword.com, or awesome-keyword.com, showed up regularly and highly in most results.

In terms of reputation management, it was good strategy to buy EMDs and PMDs to get them to rank for branded searches. And it worked pretty well for a long time. However, since the Google Penguin update over a year ago, the strength of keyword domains has been faltering.

It’s not that Penguin targeted EMDs specifically, but that a number of EMD owners participated in spammy and manipulative tactics to get their sites to rank well. And, as a result, they were hit hard by the Penguin update. But Google was only trying to reflect the real quality of websites in their rankings. And if you’re even somewhat savvy with web search, you know that when you search for “casinos in Reno,” and you see a site like buy-casino-viagra-deals.com in the results, you know that if you click it, you’ll probably download a virus.

However, there are also a number of legitimate businesses that have EMDs, so Google—up to this point—has not targeted EMDs simply for being EMDs. The drop in rank for many spammy EMD sites over the past year has been as a result of their own spamminess. But Google has now decided to take a stronger stance against EMDs.

A little over a month ago, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam team, tweeted that an upcoming update was going to affect EMDs. Even back as far as March of last year, Cutts hinted at the fact that his team was looking at a way to “turn the knob down” on EMDs to make results more competitive for sites that didn’t have EMDs. Essentially, he wanted to ensure that domains like petsupplies.com weren’t getting an unfair search advantage over other sites that sold pet supplies but that didn’t have keywords in their domain.

Back in late September, the algorithm update went live and a number of EMDs fell dramatically in the search results. (You can see the impact it had here as measured by SEOmoz.)

The fact of the matter is that using EMDs hasn’t been an advisable strategy for a while now. Not only has Cutts been hinting at it for more than 9 months, but, as pointed out earlier, they aren’t usually viewed as trusted resources in the first place. And now their strength is slipping even more.

Because most exact match domains (petsupplies.com) are extremely expensive, many businesses have resorted to buying PMDs that are less powerful (pet-supplies-wearhousesite.com, suppliespets-discountprices.com, pet-supplies-texas.com, etc.), and have created a deluge of spammy and unhelpful sites that are only aimed at capturing a high ranking position and not at actually helping users. So the reputation of these sites in general isn’t very good.

For your reputation management strategy, don’t go out and buy a bunch of expensive EMDs that you think will rank well for your business searches. Not only are they being devalued but they also have a reputation as bad sites in the first place. Instead, focus on building a solid brand, improving your customer service, build a positive social strategy, and getting noticed for being a positive company with a great product. When you can do those things successfully, you won’t have to worry about your online reputation, because it will already be positive.

 

Reputation Management as a Spork: 3 Questions to Ask to Improve Your Online Strategy

Reputation management is a spork. Just like a spork is a hybrid between a spoon and a fork, reputation management is like a hybrid between SEO and marketing. On the one hand, reputation management is about optimizing the right content so that it will rank well for your company-branded search results. At the same time, it’s about targeting the right type of people with the right kind of content so that they will form a very specific opinion about your company in only a few seconds.

It’s the marketing side of reputation management that often gets lost in the shuffle of creating a really great results page for your company. It’s easy to implement a series of strategies that build links to positive content for your company, but it’s a little more difficult trying to ascertain who exactly is searching for your company and define the best content to give them.

When it comes down to it, as a reputation management professional, you need to ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. Who is searching for my company online?
  2. What are they looking for?
  3. How can I give it to them?

Who Is Searching For My Company Online?

Before you can figure out the type of content to fill a branded search results page with, you need to know who you are targeting. When you know the average age, income level, social status, and other information about your customers, you’ll be able to better understand the type of content they need in order to make a positive judgment about your company.

What Are They Looking For?

Once you know who is searching for your company online—generally, the customer base your are targeting with your products and services—you’ll be able to better assess what kinds of question they are asking and what they want to know about your company. It’s also extremely helpful to look at the search traffic that is leading to your site. What are the keywords people are using to find your website? And what are the most heavily visited pages on your site?

For example, if you sell children’s toys, your customer base consists of mothers in their mid 30s, and you find that one of the most heavily trafficked pages on your website is the page describing manufacturers, it stands to reason that people searching for your company online may be concerned about where your toys are made. Do a little more digging and may find that there is a large contingent of mothers who may be concerned about the plastics and paints used by your manufactures—either for health or environmental reasons.

Of course, not all questions may this cut and dried. But when you know who your customers are and what they are searching for, you’ll know what kind of information to give them in order to keep them on the first page of the search results

How Can You Give It to Them?

When you know what they’re searching for, give it to them. And give it to them quickly. In the example above, you’ll want to quickly reassure customers that your products are safe for their kids and for the environment. If they have to click through 3 pages on your website before finding that information, chances are that many of your potential customers have already clicked away from your site and are searching elsewhere.

Instead of burying that information deep in your website, create a subdomain on your website (that will appear as a separate search result) that speaks specifically to that question, reassuring customers that your products are safe. Or you could go a step further and create a microsite that addresses that question and then points customers to your website for more information.

The quicker you can give your potential customers what they are looking for with a branded search term, the more likely they are to trust you, and the less likely they are to look for that information elsewhere.

Control Your Message

One of the most important aspects of reputation management is to control your own message so others don’t do it for you. When you know what your customers are searching for, and can fill that need for them, you control the perception of your company as well as the search results they see. And that’s when you’ll truly have a grasp on your reputation management strategy.

Do You Trust Your Neighbors?: 4 Link Building Tips for Reputation Management

Creating and maintain a positive search results page for your company’s name is about knowing how to channel SEO juice through linking strategies. Google uses “links” as a way to measure a website’s trust and popularity in the web community. If there are a lot of links to your website on other websites, that shows Google that you are well trusted and probably provide valuable services and information. Thus, Google will rank your site higher than others that may be in your field. Of course, that’s a very simplistic way to look at it (there are many other factors that go into determining what websites rank well for certain keywords), but this explanation works for the purposes of what we’re going to talk to discuss: Linkbuilding.

Linkbuilding is the practice of getting other websites to link to yours (or to other websites that you want to rank well). There are lots of creative ways to build links, but you want to make sure you are getting links from good websites, websites that also have a lot of links pointing toward their site. Links from highly ranked sites count more to Google than links coming from sites that barely rank at all. So these are the types of sites you want to get links from.

If your site has a lot of highly ranked sites linking to it, you live in a good neighborhood, metaphorically. But if a lot of your links are coming from spammy and untrustworthy sites, you might think about moving. In your quest to get links from highly ranked websites, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) Website Rank

First and foremost, take a look at a website’s Google Page Rank. You can find this out through a number of online tools and browser plugins. Page Rank is on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being a poorly ranked site and 10 being a site that Google likes a lot. The higher Page Rank on a site that contains a link to your site, the better. As well, you can use the SEOmoz toolbar, that gives websites a domain and page authority based on a variety of metrics. Again, the higher the number, the better it will be to get a link from.

2) Keywords

One way to tell if a site will be a good neighbor is through their use of keywords. When you read  over the text of the site, is it easily readable or does the grammar seem clunky with a handful of words used over and over again? If a website is “keywords stuffing,” that’s a site you want to stay away from. Chances are, that site does not rank well, and may actually be on a steady decline.

3) Site Text

Aside from the repetition of keywords, how is the rest of the site text? Is it helpful, useful, and easy to understand? If a site contains useful information and is easy to navigate, it is probably a site that does well in the rankings. Google likes sites that users return to again and again, because they provide users with valuable content and services. Linking from these types of sites will give you more juice to rank better in the search results.

4) Their Neighbors

Many times you can judge the quality of a site by the type of company it keeps. That is, check out some of the links on the home page and sidebars: where do they point to? Do they point to other useful and valuable sites or do they link to a wide variety of websites and sales pages that have nothing to do with the theme of the site itself? When a website points to trusted websites, it’s probably in a good neighborhood. On the other hand, if half the links point to gambling websites, discount pharmaceuticals, and cable TV deals, this may not be the best neighborhood to link from.

Good Neighborhoods and Reputation Management

 Reputation management is about more than simply getting great links, it’s also about being associated with other positive and useful websites. If your website is in a metaphorically good neighborhood, with lots of links from trustworthy websites, your rank will improve and you’ll better be able to accomplish your reputation management goals.

Why “Good” Design is Often Bad SEO

Designers are often tempted to go overboard when it comes to websites. There are so many cool things you can do online that you can’t do in print, why not take advantage of the technology?

Well, I agree that the appropriate use of graphics, video and animation can add a lot to a website. A picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes. And nothing beats a video demonstration to show how a product works.

The trouble comes when you’re trying to rank a site higher in the search engines, but you give Google very little text to work with. How does it know what keywords to rank your site for if those keywords don’t appear on the site — or if they only appear in the meta tags?

More to the point, how will your graphics-heavy site compare to one that is full of articles, blog posts, information and other text containing the desired keywords? Sure, you can label your pictures, add captions, title your flash animations, and name the web pages with the keywords — but you’ll still fall far short of a site full of text.

I’m not saying you should replace all your graphics with text only. I’m just cautioning against letting the design get in the way of your site’s ability to rank in the search engines.

For search engine optimization, you need to include a lot of text on the website, and that text needs to include the keywords you want to rank for.

When I work with clients, I give them some terms to use in their text, but tell them not to feel obligated to use them. You’re writing for the customer, not for the search engine. However, if you have about 250 words of text on a page, it’s more likely that you can include the search terms a few times without making it sound forced to your readers.

Your site can include press releases, blogs, articles, information about your products or services, and company info. And on pages that have a flash presentation or a large picture, you can always tuck a paragraph or two of text below it. Your designer may complain about how it ruins the look of the page, but Google doesn’t rank sites based on page design — not yet, at least.

While graphics-heavy sites may be nice to look at, they are not always good for search engine optimization. Remember, Google reads text, it doesn’t watch flash animations.

Don’t Be Afraid of Talking to Your Customers

I’ve written previously about the importance of getting positive feedback from your customers to use on your websites. The more fresh content you can post, the more likely it is you’ll rank higher in the search engines, and the better your online reputation will be.

But I’ve found that some companies are afraid to talk to their customers. Once these companies start to get a bad reputation online — that is, negative reviews and complaints — they just assume everyone hates them, including their customers.

They’re afraid of hearing more bad news, so they don’t even bother asking for feedback from customers who may well be satisfied with everything the company does. That’s a shame.

After all, if you’re afraid of what your customers will say, why are you in business?

Just because a few people complain — or just because someone with a chip on his shoulder posts a rant about your company — it doesn’t mean everyone feels the same way. In fact, the critics tend to be in the minority, and generally only people with a  complaint will take the effort to post something about you. Your satisfied customers have no reason to post a review.

Don’t let a few bad reviews keep you from asking for feedback. Make it a habit to keep in touch with your customers and ask them for comments. In the first place, this is how you keep improving your products and services. In the second place, this is an excellent way to elicit positive reviews that you can use in your marketing.

You can use the positive comments as content in the websites that you’re trying to rank high in the search engines, assuming you get permission from the customers who wrote them.

You can even create a website dedicated to positive testimonials from your happy customers. Imagine the impact that will have on anyone doing a search on you when that pops up on the first page of the results. That’s a great way to boost your online reputation — and it will encourage you to ask even more customers for their feedback.

Online Reputation Management is a Real Estate Game

You’re no doubt familiar with the game Monopoly. You go around the board trying to acquire as many properties as you can so you can start putting up houses and hotels.

If you own a lot of properties, you can collect more rent and get ahead. If the other players have more properties than you, you suffer every time you go around the board, because the rent you pay out is more than the amount you collect.

An ideal situation is where you own nearly an entire side of the board, because it’s less likely that anyone will skip over your properties by a lucky throw of the dice.

Now think about when someone searches for your company name in Google. A page of search results pops up. The question is, who owns this “real estate”?

If there are too many websites with negative reviews on this page, they can discourage people from buying from you. That’s potential revenue you’re not getting, which in Monopoly terms is like rent going to someone else.

Your goal is to own all the top ten spots on a Google search. The only sites that show up here should be either your company’s websites or sites that have good things to say about you. That’s the “monopoly” you want to have, because now no matter which website a prospect clicks on they’ll have a positive impression of your company.

Fortunately, there’s no law against having this particular type of monopoly!

Who is your competition for this space? More often than not it’s the review sites that post customer complaints and consumer warnings, or bloggers posting criticisms about one thing or another. These tend to rank high in the search engines, so elbowing them off the first page is not always easy.

However, with persistence and a sound strategy there’s a good chance you can eventually own the first page of a search. No guarantees of course. But the more properties (i.e., websites) you have in this space, the better for your company’s online reputation, and the more likely you are to prosper and win the game.