Case study: how to cut SERP negativity rate by 45% and double sales at the same time

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In just 3.5 months, BDC Consulting improved the search engine reputation of an investment company and helped it boost sales by 100%.

The presence of critical reviews and complaints among search results can have a negative impact on sales. 95% of consumers read reviews before buying and often just one or two recommendations can be enough to make a decision.

To prevent this, companies should take good care of their reputation by behaving honestly towards their clients and offering quality goods and services. But even this isn’t always enough to prevent online negativity, and companies in the finance and investment industry suffer from low ratings frequently. On the one hand, when it comes to money and financial services, a disgruntled customer is more likely to leave a review. On the other hand, competition in this market is very high, and companies often run negative PR campaigns, trying to smear their rivals. 

In our work, we have had to deal with many smearing campaigns. Often, a company would order packages of thousands of negative reviews to be posted across different platforms and sites. Unfortunately, users' opinions are so easily swayed that businesses cannot afford to ignore these attacks. They have to react or respond to fake negative reviews unless they want new ones to emerge. 

To fix one's online reputation, it’s important to work with the search results to change their tonality from negative to positive or neutral. We will tell you how to do that using a recent case from our practice as an example.

The objective 

Improve the client’s online reputation and decrease the number of negative results in Google, Yandex, and YouTube. 

  1. Target region: Russia
  2. Duration: 3.5 months
  3. Client: An investment company

Since we sign an NDA with every client, all the names, numbers, and data that could compromise the client’s confidentiality have been changed. This does not affect the content of the case study and the reputation management guidelines. 

The situation at the start of the campaign

The initial tonality of the search results looked as follows:

Top 20 Youtube results (5 keyphrases)

  1. Positive 43%

  2. Neutral 25%

  3. Negative 32%

Results

The negativity rate in Google and Yandex fell from 59% to 14%. The percentage of positive content increased by 34%.

The negativity rate in YouTube decreased from 32% to 13%. The percentage of positive content increased from 42% to 60%.

The SERM (Search Engine Reputation Management) measures taken by BDC Consulting had a significant impact both on the number of website visits and on sales:

It's worth noting that only organic traffic from search engines and other sites was used to evaluate the results. The numbers exclude direct traffic and visits originating from the client's app. 

Team

From BDC Consulting:

  1. Project manager
  2. Account manager
  3. SEO specialist
  4. PR specialist
  5. Influencer manager

From the client:

  1. Project manager
  2. Content writer
  3. Profile creation specialist

The key role of BDC Consulting's team was mentorship. We drew up the strategy, prepared the briefs, controlled their implementation, carried out some of the SEO tasks, and interacted with the media.

Strategy

  • Keyword research

  • SERP analysis

  • SEO optimization

  • Search suggestions

  • Adding positive content

  • Replacing negative content with positive

  • Removing or editing negative content

  • Working with negativity on YouTube

Keyword research

The first task was to define a list of keywords and keyphrases to use when analyzing and improving the client's search engine reputation. The following were selected:

SERP analysis

Since the client's company mostly operates in Russia, we studied the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) on Yandex, Google, and YouTube for all the chosen keywords. After drawing up a list of the top 20 results for each keyword, we analyzed their tonality and graded each page as negative, neutral, or positive. The objective was to push the negative results out of the top 20. 

The task was complicated by the fact that search results kept changing. We tracked the SERPs weekly, corrected the strategy accordingly, and entered the results into a spreadsheet:

Different colors mark the page’s tonality: red stands for negative, green or positive, and grey for neutral. The websites’ names have been omitted for confidentiality reasons.

 

After the analysis was completed, we worked out a SERM (Search Engine Reputation Management) strategy. Since time was short, it was decided to work on several issues simultaneously:

  1. eliminate negative pages from the top 20
  2. add new positive content
  3. transform negative materials into positive or neutral

Below we’ll describe how each of these objectives was achieved.

SEO optimization

The client's official website was already in the top 10 for branded search queries (such as «[company name] website», «[company name] investment, though not «[company name] reviews), so there was a need for radical changes. We optimized titles, headings, and text. It was also important for the official website to appear at the top of the list for query «[company name] reviews», which was quite challenging since there were a lot of negative results for that keyphrase. In these cases, we begin by optimizing the review page on the client's website, which in this case had to be created from scratch. 

The client also had an analytical portal that did not rank in the top 20 for any of the keywords. This wasn't surprising, considering that the company's name was not mentioned in either the title or the headings. We inserted the brand’s name into the title of the portal's main page and optimized the headings and the content. As a result, the portal entered Google's top 10 for several keyphrases.

Social media

Social media optimization plays an important role in online reputation management, since they often rank very high for branded searches, sometimes taking up half of the first results page. 

Before BDC Consulting stepped in, not much attention was being paid to social media management. The accounts on different platforms were named differently, the company's name was absent from some accounts, and there was no stylistic coherence. 

We took the following steps to fix the situation:

  1. Made sure all the accounts have the same title and visual style with roughly matching content
  2. Optimized the headings and descriptions by adding keywords and removing the unnecessary parts
  3. Created a content plan brief to ensure that the client’s team would keep generating new content and updates, which is important for rankings
  4. Started an account on Instagram

After the SEO work was done, the client's Facebook entered the top 10 on Google, while Instagram now ranked in the top 10 on Yandex, pushing out some of the negative pages. 

Search suggestions

Suggestions are shown in the search bar as one begins to enter a query. They are a powerful promotion and user acquisition tool since they influence user search intent. 

Examples of search suggestions


Even if a potential customer intends to google a company’s official website, if they see a suggestion like «[company] scam», they will most probably click on it and end up with a SERP filled with negative reviews. Moreover, by clicking on a suggestion, the user increases its weight and ensures that even more people will see it in the future. 

Suggestions are even more crucial for mobile search. Instead of entering the full search query, users usually pick one of the suggested options. That's why it's so important to make sure that the suggestions featuring the brand's name are positive or neutral in tone. If you neglect this challenge, the rest of the SERM work can prove useless. 


1. Search suggestion audit

We counted 3 negative suggestions related to our client. The objective was to remove them from the list.


2. Eliminating suggestions

It should be noted from the beginning that we didn't try to generate artificial manipulative suggestions – for instance, turn «profitable crypto investments» into «profitable crypto investments [brand X]». The task was to reorder the suggestions that included the brand's name.


Yandex

Yandex featured two suspicious negative suggestions that weren't present in Google. Both looked artificial in the sense that a real user wouldn’t phrase their search intent that way. 

Several signs pointed to artificial manipulation:

  1. The frequency for the exact spelling of the keyphrase and its various word forms in Yandex was the same.
  2. The charts for the two frequencies looked identical. Someone started entering both keyphrases over and over again at the same time to turn them into suggestions.
  3. The frequency for the same queries in Google was virtually zero.

We wrote to the Yandex helpdesk and explained the two suggestions were probably fake. The tech support accepted our arguments and removed the suggestions from the list. 


Youtube

Dealing with negative suggestions on YouTube was more difficult. The first step was to send a complaint, but this didn't produce results. 

The next step was to push the negative suggestions down the list. This required increasing the public interest in the neutral suggestions, which would cause them to rank above the negative ones. We worked with two types of suggestions:

  1. those already on the list
  2. new suggestions formulated by us

As a result, the negative suggestion that used to rank 1st was now 8th, thanks to the appearance of the new ones, reducing the number of negative elements by 2.

Adding positive content

Search engines value variety, so a review or an answer to a question on a dedicated Q&A website can make it to the top of the rankings. 

We asked the company's customers to write real and honest reviews about their experience and post them on specific websites, particularly those where most of the negative reviews were found. This led to positive reviews appearing on the first page of search results.

Replacing negative content with positive

This technique consists of publishing positive articles on the same websites that already feature negative content. Thanks to careful SEO optimization, the new articles will rank higher than the old ones, while the website itself will maintain the same rank. 

Removing or editing negative content

This is the fastest way to get rid of negativity in the search results, but it requires negotiating with the respective media. In our case, two websites, VC.ru and Yandex.Zen, agreed to edit existing articles about the client. 

The process involved the following steps:


1. Selecting some of the websites that featured negative content

We focused on smaller websites that ranked high thanks to the quality of their content. Why didn't we try to negotiate with large resources? First of all, it's easier to come to an agreement with smaller media, and, second, a good article on such a website is often indexed better than those published on the leading platforms. 


2. Negotiating with the editors

A media website can get the facts wrong and overstress the negative sides of a project. But with some carefully crafted arguments, the editors usually agree to either delete the article or make corrections. 

It's better to discuss the matter over a voice call rather than over a messenger app. There is always a risk that the editor might publish screenshots of the discussion online, revealing sensitive information that can damage both your client's reputation and your own.


3. Placement

Whenever we managed to reach an agreement with an editor to edit or remove a negative article, the client would prepare the required content based on a brief sent by our SEO specialist. 

Instead of openly promotional articles, we offered the media valuable expert content that was not centered around the client's company. The article would contain several target keyphrases plus one or two mentions of the brand. This was enough for our purposes. 


4. Promoting the articles

We purchased a certain number of inbound links for each of the newly published positive articles to help them rank higher. 

Working with negativity on YouTube

YouTube is an extremely important platform for promoting fintech, investment, and crypto-related startups. It's on YouTube that investors look for reviews before depositing funds on a platform, and a single negative video can damage a product's reputation and scare away potential investors. In our case, the search results on YouTube were 32% negative. 

We needed to push the negative videos from the search results and the recommended section. This required all the techniques described above:


1. Working with search suggestions

Promoting new positive suggestions has worked even better on YouTube than on Google or Yandex.


2. Negotiating with bloggers to remove negative videos

Of course, you need good arguments to initiate such a negotiation, but even in this case, vloggers don't always agree to collaborate. You should also move carefully so as not to provoke a new wave of negativity. 


3. Creating new videos

We selected 6 channels dedicated to investments and contracted their hosts to make new videos about the client. Our SEO specialist prepared a detailed brief for each blogger, with details about the title, description, length, tags, style, etc. 

Once the videos were published, we worked on their promotion and did some work on the company's own YouTube channel by adding some videos optimized for the target keywords.

Conclusions

When working on a company's reputation in search engines (SERM), one shouldn't focus too much on the specific percentages of negative and positive content. The client's business goals should come first, be it registrations, deposits, or sales. Remember that the SERP tonality directly influences both traffic and conversions. 

In the case of our client, reducing the negativity rate from 59% to 14% allowed a boost in the number of visits originating in search engines by 222%, while the number of visitors who converted to paying customers almost doubled. 

Reputation management is a complex and multifaceted approach that requires working with various types of resources: classic media websites, review pages, blogs, forums, etc. In particular, negotiating with the media requires a lot of care so as not to harm either the client or yourself. Working with search suggestions is also important, both in traditional search engines like Google, Yandex, and YouTube. 

We hope you found this case study useful. If you prefer not to spend time managing your online reputation yourself, get in touch with BDC Consulting. We will be glad to help and share our experience. 

We can help your business achieve the same results

Let us contact you

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