If you haven’t had to deal with an online reputation management issue in the SERPs (search engine results pages) yourself, you probably know someone who has. Reputation management sounds like a vague marketing term, but it’s a burgeoning new area of SEO that encompasses monitoring what people are saying about you on the Web, combating negative or inaccurate information, influencing the sites you have control and sway over, and affecting sites’ search rankings to put your best foot forward in the SERPs. Maybe a few years ago you could have argued that the only companies that needed to deal with this issue are the ones that have a significant Web presence, but in this day and age, even mostly offline businesses have to deal with negative Internet exposure.
The presenters for the “Reputation management: Protecting your brand in search engines” intensive session at ACCM 2008 were Rob Key of Converseon; and Leo Odden of TopRank Online Marketing, and they had a lot of great advice for the attendees.
The first portion of the session dealt with how to find and keep tabs on the Web’s general opinions of you. In addition to the standard Google search, the presenters covered some unique reputation tools offered as standalone products, such as Andy Beal’s Trackur service, and as part of services (such as those that Converseon offers).
The next part of the session concentrated on how to combat negative blog and forum posts, and entire sites dedicated to directing angry comments at your company. Interestingly, the primary tactic the presenters recommended was traditional SEO — knocking the “bad” sites out of the top search results by boosting specific pages (ones that you control or have influence over) above them. The presenters also encouraged attendees to discover and leverage other Web sites that they may have some pull with, such as those controlled by friendly vendors, affiliates, colleagues, or personal friends.
The session ended with an overview of businesses that do well with reputation management and the tactics they use to maintain a positive SERP impression. eBay, for instance, uses a large number of category-specific subdomains to flood the SERPs with eBay-related sites that the company controls. So a search that involves the keyword ebay will be dominated by pages on eBay subdomains. eBay also leverages its network of sites to transfer link juice when necessary. And of course there were examples of companies that don’t do well with online reputation management, including PayPal (see the Google SERPs for “paypal” and feel their pain).
Overall it was a great session, the topic being particularly interesting and unique among the typical array of search marketing sessions at retailer/cataloger conferences.