SEO firms are hired to make their client’s sites more visible in search engines and other online channels. Keyword and market research, content optimization, and link building are a few of the crucial elements of a successful SEO campaign. Many of these same SEO elements can be used to help clients achieve solid online reputation management (ORM). With the knowledge of how to optimize websites, social profiles and strategic linking to help influence search results, the task of helping a client with ORM is a natural fit for an SEO firm.
Why Your SEO Client May Need ORM
An SEO client’s need for online reputation management is typically indicated by their desire of the following:
- Push down negative or reputation damaging results from a search for their company name or product/service
- Monitor negative blog comments and forum threads
- Rectify false information
- Post a response to a damaging article
- Create brand evangelists that will positively back up the efforts listed above
The need to have these negative results pushed down often times is a mandate from the top of the organization. Executives at the top of the company chain simply want these results out of the picture immediately. However, this can be an unrealistic expectation and a major undertaking for an SEO firm to accomplish in a short time frame. By accepting the role to help clients with ORM, the SEO firm must educate the client on the process of what to realistically expect over the course of the ORM campaign. As patience is a virtue with seeing the fruition of SEO efforts, it is as equally important in ORM. Some early successes are possible, but ORM efforts can take anywhere from 4-8 months to see results.
Set & Manage Client Expectations
There is no easy or quick-fix solution to push down negative search engine results. It takes time and effort, and the client must understand the process and potential outcomes. It is unrealistic for a client to believe it is the SEO firm’s role to dethrone any and all giants in the search result listings. This expectation can be easily set with solid numbers for these giants in terms of inbound links, domain age, number of site users, cache frequency, etc. One of the main ideas to convey to clients is that overall efforts to help a client with ORM will result in enhanced overall online visibility, which can be achieved by strategies of social media and video optimization.
Establishing responsibility and accountability for the ORM campaign is also a crucial factor. An SEO firm can be expected to get involved in legal issues, but that thinking can distract an SEO consultant from actually influencing the search results. It’s what we do best.
The SEO firm should accept the responsibility for identifying instances where ORM is needed, determining the best strategy to get the desired outcome and how to implement that strategy. The client should be responsible for drafting the responses based on the strategy the SEO firm provides them. The SEO firm then posts the response and monitors it.
Strategize for the Client’s ORM
When strategizing for an ORM campaign, the SEO firm needs to know what approach needs to be taken on the client’s behalf. Does the campaign need to focus on searches for the company, product/service name, or industry keywords? Perhaps a combination of all three may apply to some clients.
To monitor blogs and forums that allow commenting, that process is best handled on a post by post basis. Options include whether to respond, call out the author on false statements, leave it alone, or send them an offline email asking them to provide more information to support their claim.
Don’t Go Into a War without Ammo
Unless you have a good opportunity to use a wide array of your content and leverage it through various online channels, your ORM campaign may not be fully successful. There is only so much responding to blog comments and forums you can do before your message gets stale. Compelling content and video from your own website is an essential element to promote through social media, video and press release distribution sites. Sites that pick up your distributed content can help achieve positive search results indexed by the search engines.
Tracking Client Reputation
- Check your client’s search engine referring traffic to determine the top engine (typically Google)
- Create search engine alerts depending on what your ORM strategy is (i.e. Google Alerts)
- Create a Rollyo custom search roll to monitor sites you know are getting negative comments
- Create a document with all the negative and positive instances found on various websites
- Identify the Type of Site, Nature of Instance, Response Strategy, Urgency, and Status of whether a response is needed
- Monitor the Paid results to see if there are any ads for a search on your company name
- This could be a good indication of other companies bidding on your name and their efforts to damage your reputation
- Subscribe to a custom RSS feed on Technorati
Create a Google Top 100 Report every 3 months
- Identify the nature below each search engine result and tally them up
- Color coding helps the client with a visual (positive=blue, negative=red, neutral=green, influenced by SEO firm=pink, non relevant=orange)
- Register early and often (social profiles take time to get indexed and build PageRank)
- Establish a cross-link between relationship social profiles and your client’s website
- Become active in groups on social media websites
- Leave positive comments on blogs that favorably mention your company
- Add hyperlinks in blog comments and embed video when appropriate
- Video ratings and comments can help influence rankings on video sites and in search engines
- Create a “Media Coverage” section on your site and link to positive write-ups about your company
- A well planned and positioned comment or email can also be effective to help change the author’s mind about a negative blog post or article with little to no supporting facts to back up their claim
Sites to Target
- Social media (Squidoo, HubPages, Facebook Business Page)
- Video (YouTube, Google, Yahoo, Revver, Metacafe, AOL)
- Local search (Google, Yahoo, MSN/Live, Merchant Circle)
- Employee profiles (LinkedIn, Yahoo Kickstart, Naymz)
- Involvement in Q&A based sites (Yahoo Answers, LinkedIn Answers)
- Photo sharing (Flickr)
- Wikis (AboutUs, WetPaint)
- Promote your own blog (FeedBurner, Technorati, MyBlogLog, BlogFlux)
- Job and career websites (CareerBuilder, Monster, Indeed)
- Post timely events on Craigslist
In my experience with ORM for clients, I have seen these strategies above work surprisingly well at times. As the search engine algo’s are constantly changing, it is imperative to stay on top of changes in rankings and do what you can to help influence them. The key is to be persistent. When you feel you have exhausted all your strategies, think again. Many strategies can work hand-in-hand to support each other. If you are not helping your clients with ORM at the moment, be prepared with these simple strategies and you’ll help them achieve the outcome they desire.
This is an entry to Marketing Pilgrim’s 3rd Annual SEM Scholarship contest.