Your online reputation can significantly influence whether people decide to buy from you. And SEO can do something about it.
They discuss the ways SEO can impact your online reputation.
Gert clarifies how much of our online reputation is within our control.
And he and James talk about AI in the context of reputation management.
Table of contents
1. SEO as reputation management
2. A number of brand management categories
3. Why everyone should Google themselves
4. An example from the field
5. When the negative reviews are deserved
6. When affiliates are involved
7. How much can you actually control?
8. The importance of monitoring your brand
9. Some takeaways for the average marketer
10. Where does AI fit in the picture?
11. Quality first, or quantity?
12. If you want help with your SEO…
SEO as reputation management
James’s personal experience with SEO started as a desire to manage his own online reputation.
At 23 James had an acting role in the feature film, Muriel’s Wedding. That part got him an entry in IMDb, which was the first thing that came up when people Googled his name.
Later James wanted to be known for more than that. This led him to purchase his first domain, JamesSchramko.com, in order to rank higher than his IMDb page, giving him control over his online presence.
Gert says the issue James faced is a common one, with many people and businesses wanting to have more control over their Google search results. This is particularly important for businesses that have evolved or shifted focus, and may have old or irrelevant information showing up in searches.
Often, people understand the importance of SEO for non-branded searches, the equivalent of the Yellow Pages approach, where customers search for a service and find your business. However, they forget that other channels also impact SEO and the overall brand image.
Negative search results have a number of impacts. If a company has bad listings, despite their ad spending, potential customers might be put off during their research phase.
Also, competitors can use these negative listings to lure customers away. Some competitors might have articles with catchy titles to draw away prospects – Read This Before You Buy from XYZ – or offers that divert customers; others may try to piggyback on a company’s brand awareness to boost their own business.
This stresses the need for businesses to control the first impression their brand makes on Google, and thus manage their reputation.
Even businesses with no negative experiences need to control the flow of information, ensuring potential customers are directed to the correct places. This could be by featuring pages for names that people are frequently searching for.
For those with negative reviews, strategies might include trying to suppress the negative content or requesting its removal, although these methods must be employed carefully to avoid worsening the situation.
A number of brand management categories
There are generally three categories of brand management, says Gert.
The first involves simply ‘polishing’ your brand by directing the order in which your online information is presented. This includes guiding potential customers towards key information such as your homepage, products, or preferred social media accounts.
The second category involves competitors who intentionally try to divert your brand’s traffic to their own, leveraging the SEO efforts you’ve invested in for their own gain.
The third category of brand management deals with negative reviews. Negative feedback, whether accurate or misplaced, can substantially impact your brand image and needs to be addressed promptly.
In some situations, even when reviews are wrongfully attributed to your brand, measures are needed to optimize, outrank, or suppress these negative elements. Gert warns, however, against pursuing legal actions that might inadvertently draw more attention to the negative, something referred to as the Streisand effect.
Is reputation management part of the SEO service Gert offers? Gert says they do monitor what comes up for a branded search, but focusing on branded searches requires a different methodology than non-branded searches.
This includes creating specific content and links and educating Google more about the brand. While some aspects of reputation management are included, it seems to be a separate and specific area of focus in SEO work.
Why everyone should Google themselves
How useful an exercise is it to Google one’s own name? Gert encourages everyone with an online presence to do this using an incognito window, to get an idea of what potential clients would find when searching for their name, brand, or product.
Awareness is the first step in brand reputation management, and Gert says these searches can also yield insights into who else is attracting attention in relation to your name or brand.
In addition to searching for one’s name, James proposes that adding modifiers like ‘reviews’ could be valuable. Gert agrees, stressing that searches for your brand don’t necessarily mean the searcher only wants to engage with you; they may also be open to alternatives or are simply seeking more information.
James notes that queries often include trust-oriented or curiosity-driven keywords, like net worth or partner, indicating a desire to learn more about the person or brand.
It’s important, says Gert, to control the search conversation by generating content that directly responds to common search queries about your brand. This could include providing explicit information or simply addressing a specific query, even if the response is that you won’t disclose certain details.
This strategy can help manage your online reputation by ensuring that accurate and brand-approved information appears when people search for you.
An example from the field
One of Gert’s clients had a high-ticket coaching program that faced significant reputation challenges online. Despite spending heavily on advertising, the company found its brand and product names were being co-opted by competitors and affiliates on search engine results.
Some competitors were using the company’s name to promote their own, often cheaper, products. Meanwhile, affiliates – who should have been partners – were trying to outrank the company’s own site in search results to make commission.
To fix the matter, Gert’s team implemented a multi-faceted approach. They created content on the client’s website, built links, and optimized the website with structured data to better educate Google about the brand.
They also created a series of pages to answer queries people were making about the program in search, with the aim of controlling the narrative about the brand and its products. They wanted basically to provide the best possible answers to potential customers’ questions.
The strategy was successful. After a few months, the client was able to dominate search engine results for their brand name and product, a major win for their online reputation.
When the negative reviews are deserved
How do Gert and team handle cases where someone with a negative online reputation comes to them for help?
Gert acknowledges some businesses might have earned negative reviews due to poor service or products in the past.
For example, he had a client who previously ran a “shady program” and received bad feedback on Reddit.
This client had since completely changed their program, and Gert believes people shouldn’t be haunted forever by past mistakes. In such cases, they work at turning the situation around and improving the client’s brand image.
Gert also cautions, however, that there are limits to what can be done. If a client’s reputation doesn’t improve after several months of effort, he gets on a call with them to reassess the situation. They might need to discuss alternative strategies for polishing the client’s reputation if the initial approach isn’t working.
Gert emphasizes that reputation management must be handled on a case-by-case basis and requires careful consideration. If someone’s past reputation is too negative, sometimes the best course of action is to shift industries or target audiences and start fresh.
Trying to reignite old conversations or threads, like those on Reddit, can sometimes do more harm than good by bringing the negative past back to life. The aim, generally, is to provide more updated, positive information to counterbalance the negative reviews and improve the client’s online image.
When affiliates are involved
James recalls experiences with reputation and affiliate marketing.
Many affiliates will opt for the easy target of the brand name, which can lead to legal complications such as trademark infringements. Smaller operators often aren’t aware of this, but it is crucial to prevent affiliates from using the brand name in a misleading manner. This can sometimes result in affiliates capitalizing on the brand’s goodwill to sell to their own traffic.
James shares an incident where one of his affiliates registered his Skype username, leading to confusion among customers who mistakenly contacted the affiliate believing it was James. This demonstrates the extent to which some affiliates may go to gain an edge.
James stresses the need for businesses to have a strong base before launching an affiliate program, and to put measures in place to protect their brand names. This can help prevent situations where businesses are paying affiliates who are outranking them for their own brand name.
How much can you actually control?
There are varying degrees of control, says Gert, when it comes to managing a brand’s online reputation. This ranges from full control over owned assets, to partial control on social media where negative comments may arise, and to situations where there’s no control at all.
In Gert’s line of work, an internal “reputation score” is calculated by assessing the positivity, neutrality, or negativity of what appears in search results for the brand name. The aim is to improve this score while also enhancing Google’s understanding of the brand, thus helping the algorithm to present more favorable search results.
James mentions the issue of competitors or affiliates using product names in warning campaigns. Gert clarifies that while it is possible to prevent others from using trademarks in paid campaigns, doing so on a website or a page title can be more complex and time-consuming. Even with legal involvement, the process can be costly and the results may not be satisfactory.
Then there’s the case of ranking for a competitor’s brand name. James suggests this strategy might not be as effective, since people searching for a specific brand are likely looking for that specific product or service. To introduce an alternative, the process would have to be slow and well-constructed to gradually persuade the customer to consider another option.
In the case of negative reviews, Gert suggests not engaging with the person in a public thread but rather redirecting the conversation to customer support to resolve the issue. This approach helps to maintain a professional and helpful image in the public eye while also preventing unnecessary escalation of the situation in a public forum.
The importance of monitoring your brand
Brand monitoring is crucial in maintaining a positive online presence. It’s important, says Gert, to know when your brand is being discussed online, so you can address issues promptly, mitigating any potential damage to your reputation.
Proactive responses to customer complaints or concerns, especially on public platforms like Reddit, can turn a potentially negative impression into a positive one by showcasing the brand’s responsiveness.
James asks about potential tools for brand monitoring. Gert recommends options like Brand24, which scans the internet for mentions of your brand, and Google Alerts, a free tool that tracks results in Google’s index.
Monitoring can also be extended to competitors to gain insight into conversations around their brand, potentially allowing you to join in and improve your own brand awareness.
Gert shares an intriguing anecdote about the role of AI in brand reputation. He asked Google’s Bard about the top running shoe brands, and was surprised when Nike wasn’t listed due to “manufacturing issues”.
This was traced back to a single customer review about a specific shoe model having a manufacturing problem five years prior. The story highlights the potential for AI to create misperceptions based on limited data, making brand monitoring even more important.
Some takeaways for the average marketer
If you’re the typical business owner running ads, Gert has a number of takeaways.
He emphasizes the importance of brand awareness and understanding any potential issues that might exist. It’s crucial, too, to have a clear picture of the level of control one has over their brand’s reputation. If certain problems can’t be fixed, it may be necessary to consider significant changes, such as rebranding or switching industries.
Nonetheless, in most cases, there are steps that can be taken to improve the brand’s image and assert control over its communication.
In some instances, negative reviews can overshadow the impact of advertising and marketing efforts. In such cases, it might be more beneficial to invest resources in managing brand reputation before running large-scale ad campaigns. If the search results for a brand are negative, it can harm conversion rates, even if the ads’ click-through rates seem promising.
Based on his own experience, James shares the benefits of cultivating positive online content before initiating ad campaigns. His book, ‘Work Less, Make More,’ is now more easily found and cheaper to advertise due to the accumulation of positive content around it.
The fact is, people will conduct their own research, and their purchase decisions will be influenced by what they find.
Where does AI fit in the picture?
Gert says today’s content creation is more complex than it was a decade ago. It’s important that content not only communicates effectively with human readers, but also aligns with AI understanding.
With Google expected to integrate AI everywhere in the coming months, content creators should focus on providing accurate, coherent, and comprehensive data. Content acts as a dialogue between the website and the AI, which means clarity and comprehensiveness are essential to be considered by AI as a main option.
James knows personally that consistent SEO practices are not a one-and-done task, but rather a continuous process. He’s seen, working with Gert, how continuous SEO efforts can gradually improve a brand’s visibility online. From ideation to content curation, creation, and sometimes deletion or merging, SEO efforts can result in significant progress over time.
Gert stresses the importance of consistency in brand messaging. Brands often describe themselves in varied ways, which can be challenging for AI to understand. It’s crucial to be consistent in communication and description of the brand, through thorough monitoring, analysis, and strategic content creation.
Consistent messaging, understood by both human and AI readers, is a way to communicate a business’s core values, offerings, and identity, ultimately adding value to the brand overall.
Quality first, or quantity?
Is quality of content, then, more important than quantity?
Both are needed in modern SEO strategy, says Gert.
He explains that Google values specific answers to specific questions, and rewards visibility to brands that effectively address multiple inquiries related to their industry. Therefore, it’s essential to generate high-quality content that provides clear, machine-readable answers, and to do so repeatedly to establish authority.
James concludes that brands should regularly review their online visibility and assess what users might experience when searching for their brand. It’s important, among other things, to consider how much attention other websites might divert from the brand.
Gert agrees, adding that brands should aim to outrank competing content to ensure that information they control, and that favors them, appears at the top of Google search results.
If you want help with your SEO…
SEOLeverage.com does some remarkable work in SEO and brand reputation management. James has referred many people to them and received consistently positive feedback.
James’s own brand control has benefitted greatly from Gert’s help with his team.
In closing, James and Gert both stress the importance of owning and being confident in one’s brand. Since successfully transitioning his primary domain to his own name, James encourages others to take branded search seriously. And listeners who have enjoyed this episode can expect future conversations between him and Gert.
If you’d like an expert hand with your own SEO efforts, look up Gert at SEOLeverage.com.
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