How do you turn negative headlines and bad customer reviews into a way to actually build your business in a positive way? In 2017, PR News held a Google for Communicators Boot Camp in San Francisco, California. At this boot camp, Ali Haris, director of SEO & Organic Growth at Macy’s, and John Carroll, then manager of local business outreach at Yelp (now in marketing at Twitter), gave a session about using SEO as a crisis management and reputation management tool.
Not only is SEO a good marketing tool in general, but Haris went as far to say that it should be an “integral and immediate” strategy as part of an effective risk management campaign. Even if you’re not currently in a crisis, though, using SEO as a key part of your brand’s reputation management is something you should be doing anyway. A crisis may never happen, but it’s best to be prepared and reap the benefits of enacting a strong reputation-boosting SEO strategy.
Shortly after the session, Sophie Markowitz wrote a good summary of five SEO best practices for crisis and reputation management discussed at the session. Here’s a quick breakdown of the five points:
- Put the user first when creating content
- Create new content to overtake negative search results
- Use links in the first paragraph of press releases
- Respond to both good and bad customer feedback
- Prioritize storytelling in Yelp listings - and other directory listings
This is all very good advice, but let’s take a look at each of these SEO best practices in more depth when it comes to reputation management.
Create User-First Content That Invites Positive Interactions
In the age of social media influencers, brands need social proof to gain traction in the marketplace. Review sites like Yelp, Foursquare, and others are built on user-generated content. These reviews are taken into account when ranking businesses with Google, Yahoo, Siri, and more, especially if you own a local business.
But, whether your brand has a physical location that customers and clients can visit or not, you still want to get your brand listed in as many related directories as possible. Invite your best customers to leave a positive review. You can then feature these positive comments on your website. Also, by creating content that promotes discussion, you can end up with some insightful commentary. Be sure to highlight great blog comments and positive interactions on social media. It makes your brand look good while giving users the thanks they deserve.
Create Positive Content to Overtake Any Negative Search Results
When there’s negative social media attention or a crisis with a brand, people will search for that brand to learn more about it. Of course, no brand wants to see negative headlines and negative reviews at the top of the search results for their name. That’s why it’s so important to create positive, useful, and valuable content to quickly drown those out. Press releases are a good way to get positive messages out quickly to the top of search engines.
If you have a blog, be sure to post a bit more than usual with brand-focused content that puts your customers and target audience’s needs first. The idea is to overwhelm the bad press, something that’s a lot easier to do in the age of blogging. It also includes being more active than usual on social media.
Even if you’re not facing a crisis currently, it’s very important to be aware of your brand’s search results. The more saturated Google and other popular search engines are with positive press about your brand. Other content you produce includes sponsored ads, landing pages, podcasts, videos, features on popular websites, and more.
When Writing Press Releases, Link to Targeted Pages in the First Paragraphs
Usually press releases link to a brand or company home page in the first paragraph. The better idea is to use that link instead to a landing page targeted to the topic of the press release. You should do this even when you’re sharing good news. That’s because you’re sending interested visitors to content that’s much more likely to convert and be shareable.
In a crisis situation, this landing page should be completely customer-service related with contacts and further information. People appreciate brands taking accountability and keeping the conversation open. It also gives you further SEO-rich content to boost your website search rankings.
Respond to ALL Customer Feedback - Both Good and Bad!
Surprisingly, so many brands miss out on the opportunity to respond to positive feedback. Of course, many brands don’t even respond to negative comments and reviews. You don’t have to directly answer, especially if it’s a “troll” sort of comment. Simply acknowledging that you’ve read it is the best practice.
Some people worry that showing that you are that active in responding to feedback opens you up to trolls. But as long as your brand’s voice remains positive, it can’t hurt you. If anything, it creates more user-generated content that boosts your website and any listings you may have elsewhere. Also, responding to the happy customers will help increase their loyalty and inspire others to leave their own feedback.
Prioritize Storytelling in Yelp and Other Business & Directory Listings
Telling your brand’s story is very important when giving web users a first impression. You want to put your brand’s mission and a bit about how it all got started on sites like Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook and Linkedin business pages, and anywhere else that gives you a place to put a long-form “about” section. People like stories and having an idea where your brand came from.
You also want to use high-quality visuals that catch people’s attention. They can be photos or graphics you have created for your brand. The idea is to leave a lasting impression on people who come across your online listings. If your brand’s reputation is at stake, you want people to find the good stuff when they search for you, so that their impression is more good than bad.
By using SEO-friendly content to build your brand’s reputation, you can help lessen the potential damage any crisis or bad press can create to your brand. SEO content in general is just a marketing best practice. But, when you use that content to create and take command of the conversation around your brand, you can take your brand’s reputation to another level.
What steps do you take to manage your brand's reputation? We'd love to hear from you in the comment section below!
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