As so much of what people do online starts with search, a big part of managing your online reputation relates to search engines: trying to control and influence what appears when someone performs searches of your brand, key people and products and services.
It’s not just about driving out negative mentions.
Most people assume that this is mainly about getting rid of negative content (such as in the UC Davis example) or pushing negative references lower while improving the rankings of positive material residing on your website or blog. But managing your online reputation goes beyond taking away negatives.
You need to make sure that the information people are seeing about you is accurate, up to date and consistent across all regions and countries. And you should continually find ways of improving what appears so that it’s more engaging and paints a more desirable picture.
Google decides what it shows in search engine results pages (SERPs) algorithmically based on hundreds of different factors. And the task for organisations who want to manage what appears for their brand is getting increasingly complicated.It’s not just about the blue organic links in Google results.
In addition to the traditional organic search results (the familiar blue links on search pages), Google now includes a whole array of other search real estate.
So where do you start if you want to manage your online reputation in search? Here are five key considerations to inform your planning:
First, it’s useful to conduct an audit of what people are seeing when they search for your brand keywords on Google and other search engines. They range from universal search integrations (news, images, videos, maps, and shopping results) to Twitter cards, Google Knowledge Graph, as well as paid search results and a lot more.And don’t forget that you need to analyse what appears according to region, country, device and search query intent as all these could throw up different results.
You can definitely own or have control over what is on your website, your company blog, how you are represented in industry profiles, your social profiles such as your company Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube page. All of these can find their way into search results pages, so it’s important to take stock of what they are.
Next you need to ensure that everything on the pages you own or can control is on message. Is all the content up to date? Does it highlight the positive things you want target audiences to know about your company? Is what you are saying consistent across all the different elements – including images, videos, online slide presentations?
How do you push the parts you own and control higher up the search rankings pages so they are visible for brand searches? This is a huge subject and one which usually falls under the remit of your SEO consultant. It includes making sure that your web pages and properties are technically optimised – paying attention to areas such as site speed, load time, site structure, internal linking - as well as optimising the content on individual pages and earning backlinks and mentions from other sites, all which have an impact on the performance of a domain in search results.
There are many elements in the results you don’t own or cannot directly control that could rank in the SERPs for your brand. This includes other sites that mention your company ranging from competitors to partners, industry publications, blogs and online forums and review sites.While you can’t directly control what they publish, you do have some influence. If something is incorrect or out of date you can consider contacting the website owner or author and asking them to correct it. If there is a negative forum or social media post you can respond to it.In summaryOnline reputation management in search should be on the agenda of every organisation that wants to have an online presence. It’s definitely not something that can be left to chance. Ideally you should devote time and resources to proactively cultivate it.