02
Mar
11

SEO: The Beast with Two Heads (part three)

Yesterday was all about links, which we all know are like puppies, ice cream, unicorns, and bacon-flavored martinis, all rolled into one. Yum! Backlinks are the new bacon!

Today, we end the discussion of the two heads of SEO with a topic that sometimes comes up at search marketing meetings,  but is rarely approached as an important off site SEO element. Until something goes horribly, horribly wrong and the CEO starts looking for goats to scape.

Reputation Management
First, let’s define our terms. In the non-internet world, “Reputation Management” falls under the more generalized concept of Public Relations (PR), and typically includes press campaigns, brand-awareness strategies, damage-control efforts, any all other topics related to the way a market space (or “bunch of customers” to those of us without MBAs) feels and reacts and labels a company or other entity.  Those are some pretty elusive metrics to work with, there: emotions and opinions.

  • Perceived associations. What if your brand gets connected through search engine results to criminal or unethical activities?
  • Common “knowledge.” What if  search results surrounding your brand develop into an accepted “urban myth” that your products are dangerous? Or made from the noses of cute furry critters?
  • Brand recognition. And what if nobody every associates your brand with your product? Even if you rule the results for product searches, if searchers don’t see your brand as a viable representative for that product, they won’t click.

Yes, I think reputation management is important. And it is very closely tied to search marketing in a couple of ways.

  1. Reputation Damage. The internet can be a very dangerous weapon, particularly when used against people or businesses who depend on a their public persona for their success.  Google “Santorum” and ask yourself if Rick Santorum feels at all wounded (WARNING: very icky concepts alert). This damaged was caused by a tactic known as “Google Bombing,” which is an off-shoot of some standard SEO techniques. Remember “miserable failure?”
  2. Viral wildfires. In the internet age, a single gaffe, poorly timed product release, a deliberate attempt to cast aspersions, or even inadvertent connections to a brand name can spread to millions of viewers in mere hours. No PR Department has a chance of responding to that kind onslaught—and if it isn’t dealt with quickly and effectively runs a risk of turning into a “meme,” which means that the slur (whether accurate or not) can develop a life of its own that is virtually impossible to stop. This rapid spread is due in very large part to heavy search weight given to blogs as content generators. Blogs are huge SEO vehicles for good and bad.

Is there no defense?
Of course there is. The power of SEO can be used for Good as well as Evil. First, try to not do really stupid things. Ok, that one may be unavoidable. But you can make a habit out of doing smart things.

A robust, long-term strategy for reputation management through search optimization can take any number of forms.

  • Surveys that ask questions but subtly suggest as well
  • Product or service reviews are huge in the fight for positive brand awareness
  • Press relations are always important for any business, but the old fashion Press Release can be huge tool for internet brand management. Write them well and often, and distribute them widely.
  • Content campaigns
  • Deliberately launched, positive-connection memes. Not so easily done. But with a dedicated effort and some clever planning and a little luck, you could be the next Mentos/Pepsi video sensation

So that’s the gist of it. Try to stay of of trouble. Try to keep a vigorous brand awareness campaign going at all times. Think ahead for opportunities to score big.

And pass the Mentos.

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