How and why to own your branded search results

Ranking for high traffic keywords is great, but don't forget about branded search.

Have you ever Google'd a company and found a number of front page results that were negative to the brand in question?

That happened to me a couple of years ago when I put Walmart into the search engine. It came back with the main site, but also People of Walmart (a photo site showing unflattering photos of unique customers at the chain of stores), and Walmart Sucks, (a website dedicated to exposing bad business practices and complaints about the company) in the second and third spots.

Since then the bad results have been purged a bit. They have retained better front page results, though damaging news stories still do exist.

Even a company as massive as Walmart had to learn the hard way about the importance of brand search ownership.

How this could impact you

You may be wondering what this has to do with your own business. After all, Walmart is huge, and it has a visibility that makes it more likely to gather scorn. A small or medium business wouldn't be as likely to gain so much vitriol that it could lead to a hate site in its name!

That's true, but the rules have changed. Social media, review sites like Yelp, blogs and forums mean small- and medium-sized brands are fair game. Whether your brand is on behalf of a company, or you are your brand, you might have a lot out there you don't want found.

In most cases, a bad reputation affects your business the most when it shows up in Google when someone searches for your brand. Having a negative article on the first page when someone searches for your brand name can literally 'break' your business outright.

A great way to put this in perspective for your business is to reference an old icon himself, Warren Buffet, who once said:

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.

Work on your own assets

The first step is to start working towards controling more search results that come up for your brand name.

Your website should obviously rank #1 for your name search results. This is your top priority. If you don't have a business website yet, wait no longer. You should set up your online presence now. Here's a good guide to get you started.

Use content marketing strategies that help fill your Google search results with your own content. This will also improve your overall visibility, which is a great side benefit that could lead to better traffic, more lead generation, and potential conversions.

Work on your SEO to improve your rankings. An SEO diagnostics tool Serpstat can be a big help when it comes to fixing SEO errors and monitoring your positions. Netpeak spider is another solid tool helping you easily diagnose your site SEO health by crawling its pages and discovering broken links, images, pages with too little content and more.

Another tried and tested strategy to build solid site assets is a good PR campaign. Press releases are done on high authority news websites that have the ability to easily rank for targeted keywords. Do a press release campaign to publicize some news about your brand, and you might be able to push the negative search results to the second page. 

Lessening the risk

Of course, you can't literally own a search result. But you can begin putting in an effort to monitor and change your place on Google, giving yourself a better chance of combating problems.

Start by setting up a series of Google Alerts. Brand names, your name, related search terms or website names, Twitter handles... these should each be set up. Get an email alert daily for your more direct searches (Twitter handle, brand name, your name, etc.), and weekly ones for wider search terms. A more advanced alternative to monitor your brand online is Brandmentions.com

Along with Google alerts you might want to try Knowem.com to see how your business is listed across the Internet. This will be helpful for you to find inconsistencies in your online business listings and fix them to avoid them from harming your rank or online reputation. 

Next, set up a social media dashboard that handles all of your social accounts, personal and business. Set monitoring alerts on there that watch for the same things, as well as competitors and high profile people in your industry. Keep an eye on influencers and customers, and see if you can get them talking about your brand in a positive light. Hoostuite and Tweetdeck are two good options here.

Be professional when dealing with online mentions

Check all review sites regularly, and address any complaints or other forms of feedback promptly. That includes complaints posted on forums and blogs. Be polite and professional at all times, and never argue.

You can ask the complainer what they'd do if they were in your shoes. Ask them how they would solve the problem. You instantly deflated all arguments. Good job!

Besides helping you monitor conversations about your brand online, the great advantage of tracking brand mentions is that it helps you uncover link building opportunities that are difficult to find otherwise. You can easily reach our to bloggers/journalists who talk about your brand as politely ask for a link (so that it'll be easier for the users) to your website.

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