Google is the first place users look for information, so both brands and people need to ensure that when someone googles them, the majority of the results are positive or neutral. A single negative review can drive away up to 22% of customers. So what do you do when there is not one or two, but many negative reviews and comments?
SERM (Search Engine Reputation Management) means monitoring and improving a brand’s image in the search results. It combines SEO, PR, and SMM techniques to eliminate negativity and promote a positive online presence.
Our client was a CEO with a serious online reputation problem: when searching for his full name, 48% of the results on page 1 and 2 came up negative, mostly on news websites. Even worse, many of these were major resources with up to 20m monthly visitors.
4 months (and 560 hours of work) later, there were zero negative results left in the top 20, while the share of positive content increased from 20% to 90%.
Lists and tracking. We began by listing the resources featuring negative content.
Challenge: due to Google’s shifting ranking algorithms, page 1 and 2 results changed daily. As a result, we had to update the list every week and adjust the SERM strategy constantly.
Fresh content and mentions of the client. Google prioritizes variety, so we added posts and articles about the client to news sites, blogging platforms, directories, social media, Q&A sites, etc.
Challenge: a fresh article can end up on page 1 but then drop to page 4 or 5 after a week. We had to keep churning out new positive content to keep negativity out of the top 20.
Dropped domains. This is an urgent remedy, to be used only when fast results are needed. We purchased a well-ranking expired domain and built a new site about the client. In a month, it entered the top 5.
Insight: you can often find expired (dropped) domains that are still indexed by Google and have a good inbound link profile.
PR. We published analytical articles, commentary, and interviews to showcase the client’s expertise. We focused on websites with a higher authority than those that featured negative articles, and made sure that the client’s name appeared in the title.
Challenge: the client didn’t have any major news to share. Instead, we used the expert commentary trick, getting the client to comment on the latest events in the industry. This helped us get free placements on large news websites that published only really newsworthy pieces.
Social media. We created accounts on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Vimeo, filled them with content, and kept updating them. We also produced a series of videos and podcasts, tying them in with the PR publications. Linkedin and YouTube produced the best results.
Insight: use unique visuals with social media posts to squeeze out negativity from Google image search. We arranged several photoshoots with the client, but you can also rework old images by changing the background and color (not just size).
Before (negative results are in red, positive in green, neutral in grey)