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Site Content Archives - Big Blue Robot - Online Reputation Management

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.

 

Keys to Avoid Over-optimizing Your Reputation Management Strategy

You’ve seen the original Disney cartoon, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, right? In it, Mickey is the apprentice to a powerful sorcerer, but he longs to do magic on his own. So when the sorcerer leaves their cave dwelling, and orders Mickey to clean up the place, Mickey decides to try a little magic himself. He enchants a broom to clean up and fill the cistern full of water, while he goes and takes a nap.

When he wakes up, the broom is doing such a good job at filling the cistern that the cave is flooding. He tries to stop it, but when he fails, he chops the broom into bits. But instead of stopping the broom, all the slivers of the broom grow into brooms themselves and continue the job they had been enchanted to do, filling the cave with water, nearly drowning Mickey in the process.

Likewise, a reputation management strategy can take on a life of its own if we’re not careful with it. And it can do such a good job that it actually starts to harm the site we were trying to get ranked. Sometimes, when Google and the other search engines look at the optimized juggernaut we have created, they see our enchanted brooms and may suppress our rank and even de-index our sites (in extreme cases).

So in order to avoid these penalties, there are a few things we need to keep in mind so that the optimizing we are doing in the name of reputation management doesn’t get out of hand and end up hurting us.

1) Diversify anchor text

In online reputation management, we have the inclination to ensure that all the links we build to the sites and content we want to rank are branded terms—our company name, product name, and other company-specific terms. In a natural link profile, any given site will have a high number of branded anchor texts linking to it. But there will also be a lot of “link noise.” Link noise is the term for anchor text that doesn’t have any specific relation to the site it links to. For example, phrases like “click here,” “this link,” or “source” are common link noise. So make sure that you diversity your anchor text so that it appears to be natural to search engines, and you’ll avoid any trouble.

2) Forget about keyword density

The search engines have gotten pretty good at detecting when certain websites are keyword-stuffing in order to rank better. Although, in the past, reputation management managers have tried to put their branded term in the website text at a 2-4% density (2-4 keywords for every100 words on the site), today it’s better to simply use text that sounds like a normal person wrote it—and not a search engine optimizer.

It’s still important to use your company name and other branded terms in the text, just don’t overdo it. If your text starts to sound like it was written for search engines and not real people, back off a bit, and let your prose flow more naturally.

The Sorcerer Returns

When Mickey finally realizes he is in over his head (literally) and begins to drown, the sorcerer returns, dries up all the water, and puts Mickey back to work cleaning up the even bigger mess he has created. What we’re trying to avoid, as online reputation managers, is making a big mess in the first place. If we can stick to natural link building practices and not let our efforts get away from us—in the end—we won’t have to clean up an even bigger mess after the search engines come back and see what we’ve done.

Tips for Using Non-Branded Content in Your Reputation Management Strategy

As today’s consumer becomes more web savvy, they are increasingly searching for non-branded, or neutral, information when they want to find out more about your company online. That is, if a potential customer searches for your company name online, and all they see are a number of links that clearly point to content that you control, the potential customer may feel like they are not getting a holistic view of your company.

As a result, they may either move to the second page of the results, or they’ll try a new search for something like “ACME reviews” or “information about ACME.” But that’s not what you want them to do.

When managing online reputation for a company, you want to control what potential customers see and keep them from looking elsewhere for more information. But the only way you can keep them on the 1st page of results for your company name is to make them feel that the information they are seeing is natural and unbiased. And the best way to do that is to promote non-branded content as part of the reputation strategy.

Positive and Neutral

Potential customers will only believe they are seeing non-biased information when they see a mix of positive and neutral content on the 1st page of the results. So search for information about your company that already exists online. Here are some places to look:

1) News Articles

News articles are some of the best content to optimize and promote to the 1st page of the search results. They’re written by a 3rd party and they generally carry a good amount of authority with them. In other words, people find it very easy to believe news stories. And when looking for a story about your company, you don’t even have to find one that focuses on your company—one that simply mentions your company name is fine (as long as the mention is in either a positive or neutral light). In fact, it may even be worth it to pitch a story about your company to a local news agency. If they write about you—instant content!

2) Wikipedia

Wikipedia has pretty high domain authority on the web, which is one of the reasons it comes up so often in search results. If you company is of any decent size, it may be worth asking someone to write a short Wikipedia article about it. Although Wikipedia articles are taken with a grain of salt by most people, having a Wikipedia article show up in your search results give the impression that your company is important enough to have an article written about them. Which is never a bad thing.

3) Reviews

One of the great things about the modern internet is that absolute deluge of user-generated content, in the form of reviews, videos, pictures and more. There are dozens of review sites on the web, and it is definitely worth it to search these websites for reviews of your company. If you find a handful of positive or neutral reviews, build links to those pages and get them to rank for your branded search term. What appears most un-biased to a potential customer than 3rd party reviews of your products and services?

4) Video

Video is a little trickier. Unless you already have a very large customer base, there probably aren’t a lot of videos made by third parties about your company. However, they may exist. If you can find one that mentions your company, build links to it to get it to rank better in the results. Videos have an incredibly high click-through rate and carry a good amount of authority with them. If you find a video that mentions your company by name, it’s probably worth it to contact the person who made it, ask them to put your company name in the description and meta tags of the video and tell them you want to promote it. Chances are they’d like increased views of their video (especially if they’re part of the YouTube advertising partner program), giving them an incentive to help you out.

There are other types of 3rd party, neutral content on the web as well, like business listings, BBB pages, blog posts, and more. But these four types of content above may give your reputation management strategy a stronger boost, so it is definitely worth it to give them a try so you can build a more natural looking results page for your company.

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