Online Reputation Management: Dealing with Negative Search Engine Results

This week I’m answering Wendy’s question. Wendy asks:

“How do you deal with negative and/or inaccurate information that shows up high on Google, so that if someone searches for your brand the negative information shows up on top despite positive stories you’ve circulated?”

This is an excellent question!

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a very important aspect of, not just your online strategy, but your crisis communications plan as well. The best thing that you can do for your brand in this type of situation is to have planned for it in advance. When you’re in a crisis and getting drowned out in the search engine result pages (SERP) by negative posts, articles, reviews, shares, etc, it is NOT the time to begin to think about your brand’s SEO rankings. That must be done NOW.

The following are some tips and guidelines to follow and implement in order to prepare your brand for this type of highly possible situation:

1- Track and monitor 
It is crucially important that you always track and monitor, not just the online discussions around your brand, but

  1. your brand’s search engine rankings; and
  2. the SERPs for targeted keywords around both your brand and your industry

Always knowing where you rank online for different terms and phrases will allow you to (a) have a good understanding of where you need improvement and (b) know when something has changed within these rankings, whether for good or bad.

2- SEO your brand up!
This is extremely important to do before a crisis strikes. Yes, SEO is great for your online marketing, but it’s also great for making sure that, when you need your crisis communications to be upfront and centre, you will have maximum opportunities and advantages on your side to help you do so. This includes:

  • Optimizing your corporate website, blog and media room/section for maximum rankings and find-ability
  • Understanding how to, and developing a strategy to, optimize your crisis communications in a crisis – before a crisis strikes

In order to give you the best possible advice, I’ve asked Colton Day, Agnes + Day’s Chief Reputation Officer and co-founder, for a quote on the subject. Here’s what Colton wants you to know:

“Let’s say you’re publishing blog posts from your blog in response to an online crisis you’re currently facing. You need to make sure these blog posts are well optimized and your focus needs to be on trying to over-take the negative results in the search engines. If your blog posts, or your corporate website as a whole, are not well optimized, you’ll have trouble getting good search engine results with your posts and crisis communications and responses during the crisis.

It all starts with good optimization.

Unfortunately, there’s not really any “quick tricks” to hiding or overcoming the negative reviews, posts and articles published about your brand in a crisis. Your focus should be on pushing them down within the search results, and in order to do that you will have needed to be properly optimized before the crisis, as well as practice strategic SEO within your crisis response. Here are some additional tips for doing that:

  • Target the same keywords and overtake them
  • Have a link-building campaign
  • Use the same page title as those bad results and add “Response” or “[Your Brand name] Responds” to it”

I want to thank Wendy for asking me this important question, and Colton for taking the time to send me his response and some additional tips to include!

Where to go from here

If you need help with this aspect of your crisis communications plan, don’t hesitate to contact Agnes + Day. We’re here to help you do exactly that – protect your brand from digital attacks and crises!

Melissa Agnes is an international crisis management keynote speaker and consultant. President of the crisis management firm Agnes + Day, Melissa has developed a worldwide reputation for crisis management, planning and training by helping global brands and government agencies prevent and manage a wide range of issues and crises. She is also the editor of The Crisis Intelligence Blog and host of The Crisis Intelligence Podcast.

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