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:
- Who is searching for my company online?
- What are they looking for?
- 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.