Managing a brand's reputation online
The rise of blogs, customer reviews, photo- and video-sharing sites, and other online social media have endowed consumers with a new — and welcome — degree of power. With blended search now providing access to this store of collective opinion in any combination of formats, brands face increased challenges in managing their reputation online. They must stand out while also putting their best foot forward.
Below are four ways marketers can use search to manage their brand's reputation online.
Enhance the positive With press release optimization, brands can proactively utilize search to distribute their message. Marketers can enhance the reach of their message by tailoring the language of a release to include content that is relevant to specific queries and topics, and by including tags, links and photos that can be easily spidered by the engines and picked up by bloggers. Secondly, brands can build on those efforts by using paid search listings to highlight positive news, to announce a product launch or an award received, and to drive interested visitors to a dedicated section on their site. Having positive news appear in both natural and paid results can have a powerful reinforcing effect on brand image.
Turn a negative into an opportunity During 2007's dog food recall, Pedigree, a company that was unaffected by the recall, took advantage of the incident by using paid search ads to positively promote its reputation online and differentiate itself from the pet food manufacturers that were involved. Users searching for the term “dog food recall” were treated to an ad for Pedigree with the message “100% safe — not part of the recall.” Paid search campaigns cannot solve the underlying problem, but they can help to show that a brand is acting responsibly in the face of a difficult situation.
Build and maintain trust Delivering on consumer expectations in search is central to building trust and maintaining a positive brand reputation. In practice, this means marketers need to ensure their brand appears in either the natural or paid results (ideally both) for terms consumers associate with it — particularly the brand terms. This may sound like a combination of Search and Branding 101, but it's a best practice many well known companies still neglect. According to research by Hitwise, one in seven brand searches fails to end up on a brand's Web site. Consumers associate high search rankings with prominence, authority and popularity. So don't lose your customers' trust by failing to appear for your brand terms.
Amplify brand image These days, search is no longer just about text. According to Hitwise, images and videos constitute 30% of all Google page views. Marketers can take advantage of these blended results to showcase other messages and attributes. They should focus on optimizing multimedia content by submitting images and videos to the engines' image and video feeds, which employ different algorithms than Web search. This is an opportunity to bolster your reputation by endowing it with an additional dimension.
Ultimately, reputation management is about building influence and authority. Search engine marketing helps brands get there.
Noah Elkin is VP of corporate strategy at Steak Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.