Reputation Management SEO: the Art of controlling the SERPs
By: Aleksandra Pautaran
August 28th, 2018
They say you can`t make a second first impression. Like it or not, but potential customers form their first impression of your product or service simply by looking at Google SERPs. So, when they google your brand name, you would probably want them to see nothing but positive vibes and rave reviews about your company. So, trying to sustain an impeccable brand's reputation is basically the very aim of reputation management SEO.
But then, the BIG question arises: "How the heck do I do this?" So, in this article, I' m going to share with you some advice on how to control search results through reputation management SEO tactics or, in other words, how to become the Lord of the SERPs ?.
Sadly enough, the search results' content can hurt the whole bunch of things like: your conversion rate, brand reputation, customers' expectations and satisfaction, etc.
So, let's get straight to the meat of the question and specify what it is in Google's search result pages that we can actually DO change and work on:
Ranking pages and their order
1. Reasons why your site might not be ranking #1
Naturally, when someone is searching for your company in Google, you are expecting them to see your website proudly waving from the first place of the podium, aren't you? However, sometimes it might happen that the position one is brazenly taken by someone else, or your site is nowhere to be seen at all. Well, there is a number of common reasons for that.
Of course, the very first thing to check is whether your site is blocked from indexing or not. Luckily, with the generous help of WebSite Auditor it's as easy as pie.
- Create a new project, enter your website's URL, and hit Finish.
- Once the tool is done with scanning your website, switch to the Site Audit submodule, which is right under Site Structure.
- Now, have a look at the Resources restricted from indexing tab to see your current robots instructions. Make sure that none of the needed pages are blocked from indexing, and you're done.
I guess it goes without saying that to conquer Google's top, your page's content needs to be optimized for a certain query. In this light, the second reason of your website's poor rankings is not enough unique content or not enough unique value provided by that content. What is more, it needs to contain a good amount of key phrases.
So, let's get back to our old trusty WebSite Auditor to check how well your page's content is optimized.
- In the Content Analysis module, move to Page Audit. Now press and pick the page you're willing to audit, or you may start typing your page's URL in the Pages field.
- After that, specify keywords that you want your page to be optimized for and click Finish.
- Once the tool has scanned your page, go through the parameters under the Content optimization column to spot those that need fixing. I would strongly suggest resolving issues marked with Error statuses in the first place.
Whether you like it or not, backlinks still firmly stay one of the most significant ranking factors. And this is hardly going to change any time soon. Because of that, lacking a good amount of both internal and external links is the third possible reason of your site not ranking in the first position.
So, let's now move a bit from the website audit to the backlink one. Thanks to SEO SpyGlass, it will only take up about 10 minutes of your time. To get you some idea of how many links you're supposed to have, we're going to compare your backlink profile to the ones of your nearest competitors. By the way, a very cool thing about the tool is that you can create a project for one certain page rather than for a whole domain.
- So, create a new project and enter your page's URL first.
- After that, move to the Domain Comparison module. Then, in the Summary section, hit the button and enter competitors' URLs to be compared.
- Now, have a look at the table with a bunch of useful parameters that SEO SpyGlass has kindly supplied you with. Pay your special attention to the Total Backlinks, Total Linking Domains, and Dofollow backlinks ones.
If you've noticed that you're in a real shortage of links, and this is exactly where the shoe pinches, I would strongly suggest setting your course for quality link building. By the way, I have written a whole article about top link building strategies recently, so make sure to give it a read.
Ok, now that we are through with the possible reasons why your page might not be ranking in the first position, let's see how we can change the order of ranking pages to maintain control of how your brand is being perceived by the rest of the world.
2. Wrong pages rank for your branded keywords
At this step, we'll see what you can do if your own page ranks for a query that you don't want it to rank for. The activity is uber important because this can do you a lot of damage to your brand's precious reputation. So, if that's the case, here is how you can cope with it:
First of all, we need to identify the most popular Google queries that you rank for.
- So, log into your Google Search Console account and go to Search Traffic > Search Analytics.
- There, under the Queries section, press Filter queries, and fill in your brand name. Now, the tool will show you only branded keywords that your pages rank for.
- In your report, switch from Clicks to Impressions and download all the filtered keywords into a Google Doc.
- Now, open Rank Tracker and create a project for your website.
- Move to the Rank Tracking submodule and hit the button. Then, copy and paste the keywords from the Google Doc you've just made up and hit Next.
Soon, the tool will supply you with a full list of pages that rank for your branded queries. Now, the tool will be tracking and recording top 10 search results for them as well all the changes that take place over time.
So, here comes probably the most time-consuming part of going through all of these URLs and deciding whether you are satisfied with the queries they rank for or not. Once you've spotted such queries, you can assign them to the right pages.
- Simply right-click the chosen query and hit Assign selected keyword(s) to landing pages.
If you have a page that specifically matches the given query and doesn't rank for it, you need to figure out the reason why. As I mentioned before, the most common ones are:
- The page is restricted from indexing
- The page has insufficient or poorly optimized content
- The page lacks internal or external links
So, when you've fixed your page, simply assign the corresponding query to it, and you are done!
3. Pull up social accounts
Well, I guess it's understood that the SERPs become much easier to control when they consist of so-called "owned" search results. Luckily, your social accounts belong to these, because you have control over their content. The thing is, a lot of brand owners think that all their links shouldn't point anywhere else except from their homepages, when it's much better to occupy as much space in the SERPs with your owned results as possible, isn't it? There are only two conditions I want to point out here: these accounts need to be your official ones, and they should be active, of course.
Knowing that backlinks rule rankings, the easiest ways to pull up your social accounts are:
- Linking to them from your website (you can use a sitewide footer link, for instance).
- Linking to them from third-party websites where you are registered (like forums, directories, etc.).
Luckily, Google is now clever enough to understand that these are your official social pages, and will rank them higher on the SERPs.
4. Pulling up positive reviews and pushing negative ones down
The reality is your search results won't always consist of positive vibes, rainbows, and unicorns. When you offer a product or a service, dealing with negative reviews is inevitable. And if you don't own the site with this brand-damaging content, you are simply not able to remove it. There are, however, two possible ways of dealing with this issue:
- If a review is not objective and unfairly biased, I would recommend reaching out to a publisher asking nicely to delete this reputation damager (I will talk about it more detailed in "Content of ranking pages" section).
P.S. I'm a strong advocate of honest marketing. So, if the review is reasonable, you should fix the cause of this negative opinion in the first place. Because, in other way, it's just cheating rather than reputation management.
- However, if a mutual agreement wasn't reached, the only thing you CAN do is influencing review's SEO factors to bury it under other search results. To be honest, sometimes, it's the only option to go for.
It often happens that a negative review with a single link pointing to it ranks high because positive ones have no links at all. So, what you need to do is to point a link to the positive review(s) from your own site. If that doesn't t work, link to it from guest posts. This is how you kill two birds with one stone: move a negative review out of sight and show off your five-star ones.
By the way, you can clearly see how many links point to a negative review with the help of same old SEO SpyGlass. Simply start a new project, enter the URL of the page with a negative review, then go to the Summary section, and have a look at how many links point to the review. That's it!
5. Adding SERP features
As you may know, there are about 10 organic results that you receive for a particular search query. But why do I say "about"? The thing is some SERP features are included in these 10 search results. For instance, when I google "seo powersuite," I get 8 organic results and 2 SERP features (Images and Videos). Do you see what I'm hinting at? Yes, this is another skillful method of how you can change the order of ranking pages (push down a negative review, for instance). Unfortunately, not all SERP features count as separate search results. However, these are the ones that DO count:
- Featured Snippets
- Local Packs
- Image Packs
- News Boxes
Well, this is how we smoothly came to the next paragraph where we'll talk about how to make the above listed (and not only) SERP features actually appear on Google's result pages.
Another great way to make search results work for the benefit of your brand's reputation is making the most of Google's SERP features. By doing so, you will not only provide a searcher with the most relevant information as quickly as possible, but will also get a brilliant opportunity of getting your branded keywords on the SERPs, which is our primary goal.
With more than 20 SERP features available now, there are 6 of them that I find exceptionally cool for reputation management SEO. So, let's get straight to them.
An Image Pack is a horizontal carousel of images that appears for queries that refer to photos or imply some relevant imagery. This is a very nice option to go for especially when your product is a sort of "a picture is worth a thousand words." By the way, with its visibility of about 55%, the Image Pack is the second most popular SERP feature.
How to optimize?
- Write a descriptive file name
It's more preferable to keep it short, so stick to 2-4 words separated by hyphens.
A bad filename example: Dfjg34_88.jpg
A much better example: seo-powersuite-toolkit.jpg
- Create a readable URL
The image below is a very good example of SEO-friendly and non-SEO-friendly URL.
- Add an image caption
Put a little caption underneath your image, that can actually help a lot with the Image Search rankings as well.
- Optimize your image size
Practice shows that Google tends to prefer common image ratios like 3:2, 4:3, 16:9, 1:1. Naturally, Google prioritizes high-quality images (up to 2500px are believed to be ok), but don't forget to compress your images so that they are mobile-friendly as well. If you have a WordPress website, you can use plugins like WP Smush or EWWW to compress the images.
- Write descriptive Alt Attributes
These are exceptionally important, because with the help of Alt attributes Google can actually understand what it is on your page. They are only visible to search engines and should be up to 100 characters, but I would still advise using natural language rather than a comma-separate list of keywords.
- Include a title attribute
- Embed images on your site
Once you've optimized your images, simply put them in the corresponding places of your website. In terms of rankings, it doesn't really matter where you put your images. But what DO matter for the ranking algorithm are Alt attributes and their relevance to pages' content. So, if you place an image with a descriptive Alt attribute on your own website, it's more likely to appear in the first position in the Image Pack because of its high relevance.
Just like images, videos also appear anywhere among organic search results as a horizontal carousel. And I guess it comes as no surprise that 90% of these results are owned by YouTube. Knowing for sure that Google is prioritizing its own properties, your video has very good chances to appear as a search result for a query with your branded keywords.
How to optimize?
P.S. I prefer this type of accounts over a personal one because it can be jointly managed by others.
If you already actively upload videos to YouTube, I would highly suggest you reading an article I wrote not so long ago about YouTube SEO strategies.
These are some extra lines of context beyond a page's URL (ratings, prices, availability, recipes). Having rich snippets will not only make your website look more attractive and informative on the SERPs, but also more visible. On top of that, results with rich snippets implemented, as a rule, get higher CTR.
How to optimize?
- Choose the type of content
The easiest option is to go for the "Businesses & Organizations" content type.
- Identify required properties
- Develop your markup code
Use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to generate the required code. The required fields for Business & Organizations are just an organization name, a logo and a URL.
- Insert the markup
It should be inserted in every page you wish to make eligible for this feature.
- Test your Structured Data Markup
This can be comfortably done with the help of Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
These are several paid ads that can be featured either at the top or at the bottom of organic results. Obviously, it's much better to appear at the top, the only downside is that this is going to cost you more. But, on the bright side, your ads' positions are more or less controllable.
How to optimize?
I would also suggest you setting up ad extensions. These are absolutely free of charge, but expand your ad a lot getting it more visibility and clicks.
There is also this never ending argument and controversy that surrounds the topic of bidding on your branded keywords. Although we were said and taught not to, there are some situations when bidding on your own company name should definitely be a part of your PPC strategy. So, if at least a couple of the below listed factors are applicable to your situation, I would strongly suggest giving this tactic a massive try. These factors are:
- Search results for your industry are very competitive.
In this case, bidding on your branded keywords is a sure-fire strategy to deter clicks to competitor sites.
- Your aim is to build credibility and recognition.
This may be exceptionally useful for "young" brands.
- You want to inform your customers about new products or services.
As a matter of fact, paid results have much better opportunities to control the messaging especially with the help of ad extensions.
- Your company frequently changes offers.
Your ad will be super helpful for letting interested people know about your current sales and promotions because, as I said, you have much better control over it. But bare in mind that it's still up to Google to decide which ad extensions to show. However, being higher on the SERPs increases chances of more extensions to be shown.
- There are some negative search results for your brand name.
This is just another way of pushing a reputation-damaging page down the SERP.
These paid results appear at the very top of the page with rich information like images and pricing. Having these is super cool both for reputation management and raising your sales. What is more, shopping results are way more eye-catching and have a slightly better CTR compared to regular AdWords snippets.
How to optimize?
- Set up Google Merchant Center and Google AdWords accounts
- Link them together
- Create a Shopping Campaign in AdWords
Being part of the Knowledge Graph, the Knowledge Card appears in the top right corner of the page. This feature improves search results' relevance and is available for all kinds of information on the web.
How to optimize?
- Implement Schema.org markup on your homepage
- Get listed at Wikidata.org and Wikipedia
I guess you know that when it comes to Knowledge Cards, a lot of information is extracted from Wikipedia and Wikidata. So, create an entry about your business on Wikidata and include a link to it in your Wikipedia article.
- Optimize Google Maps and Google+ Business Page
Kick it off by setting up your Google My Business page. Fill in all the needed information and keep it succinct and accurate.
- Verify your Social Media accounts
Even if Google can't find your website, it can actually recognize you as an official brand's representative with the help of your YouTube channel or a Google+ page. And this is super cool because it gives you an opportunity to request changes in your Knowledge Card.
Content of ranking pages
Sadly enough, reputation management is not a bed of roses, and there's hardly a company that ever escaped from receiving an unfair review or mention. I can imagine how painful that must be, because there is always this review that can spoil everything and cost you money, customers, and your early white hair. As I mentioned before, trying to influence a page's content is a bit complicated due to the fact that you don't actually own this page.
However, you can always try your luck and reach out to a publisher and see if he or she can change it. Don't just ask them to delete a review permanently, but provide some unbiased reasons why your product deserves a better rating. A good tactic to follow is to offer a discount or send your new, upgraded product for free, asking a reviewer for an honest opinion about it.
When it comes to the content of your own pages, you need to make sure that the page that ranks for your branded keywords is correct in terms of:
- Contact information
- Products' availability
- Opening hours
Add new pages
This might not be the most straightforward thing to do, but a sponsored review is another cool option to go for. An accepted practice these days is for the sponsored reviews to contain disclaimers, so you don't need to worry that the tactic is unethical. The easiest way to find yourself sponsored review opportunities is to see who is reviewing your competitors. You may just google "your competitor's brand name + review" and reach out to these bloggers saying that you own a product that might be also interesting for their audience.
Another tactic that has proved to be a reliable brother in arms is, of course, guest blogging. In my admittedly biased opinion, LinkAssistant is a very handy tool for collecting guest blogging opportunities. Let me quickly guide you through the steps:
- Start the tool and create a new project for your site.
- Hit Look for Prospects in the left corner and go for Guest Posting as a research method.
- At this step, you need to specify some keywords (I would recommend using industry-specific ones).
- Wait a bit for the tool to collect the whole selection of guest blogging opportunities accompanied with contact emails. Congrats, you're done!
Well, this is how we gradually came to the end of this post. I hope that these reputation management tactics that I shared with you will be of the greatest help.
Everyone has a story to tell, and I know you have one as well. So, go ahead and share your reputation management experience in the comments. See you there! And may the force of SEO be with you.
By: Aleksandra Pautaran