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Web Traffic Dropping? How to Find Damaging Search Results

Why did your traffic just drop off? Was it a search algorithm change or was it the content of your results that changed? It's a nightmare situation when suddenly you find that you're ranking for negative search phrases appended to your brand name, like "fraud" or "scam." Prospects are fleeing.

Negative reviews ward off consumers like a leaky septic tank parked right in front of your storefront. You're a legitimate company. You’ve been in business for years, and you do great work. But somehow, the internet has stamped a scarlet letter on your business' brand and it won’t go away.

Unfortunately, you may never be able to completely remove negative online content about your brand, but you may be able to mitigate the damage. But before you can, you need to know what queries people are entering to find the bad stuff. Then you can do something about it.

Note: We provide a link to a simple reputation plan at the bottom of this post. 

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Search Your Brands Basic Search Phrases First

You already know your brand name, it's the obvious starting place so search that first.

Check Google Analytics for Search Phrases

Next, dig into your Google Analytics or other analytics dashboards on your site. This will show you what search phrases people have actually found your site with. Remember though, these will only show you the search terms that led people to your page. It won’t show the negative phrases that drove people to competitor sites. 

Use Related Searche for Additional Search Phrases

After you conduct a basic branded search (just your brand’s name), check the “related searches” box at the bottom of search results, just scroll down. It isn't always there, but when Related Searches is it shows what other phrases people are using to find your business. For example, for the search term “Goddard School,” here are related searches:


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If you are the owner of a Goddard School, these are examples of additional branded search phrases you might use as targets in a brand reputation enhancement campaign.

Navigational, Informational, and Transactional Query Types

There are three basic types of searches people perform when interacting with your brand online.

  • Navigational: When they are trying to find your site or a page within it.
  • Informational: They're not looking for your site, but information that might be contained within it.
  • Transactional: They want to buy something and find your site that way. They may never have heard of you before. 

You can learn more about three kinds of searches to be concerned with for both SEO and reputation management programs here. The important thing is to try different kinds of queries in order to see what your prospect sees before they decide to do, or not to do, business with you. 

Use Both Google and Bing Because Results are Different

Search these phrases in both Google and Bing to see what others see. When you find something negative, whether it's a review site, a less than delightful bloggers opinion, or an attack site, document the web address. The search phrases you uncover when performing ORM (online reputation management) research will reveal your own search results, as well as related results. From there you can see what your prospects are seeing. 

Use Facebook and Twitter Because Google Doesn't See All

Not all search results show up in Google and Bing, if pages are public in Twitter and Facebook you can search those too. We suggest going to those sites to perform a search to see what people are saying

Setup an Alert Using TalkWalker

TalkWalker will monitor your brand on the web for free. Google "talkwalker free" to find it. While you should perform a manual search the first time, Talkwalker will find many of the new mentions before you can. 

What to Do Next

If you found no negative search results, bad reviews, or dicey articles, your search traffic drop may not have been due to a reputation problem with your brand, it may have been an algorithm change. To check major changes in search algorithms check out this site while you have your Google Analytics account (or other analytics dashboard) open. Compare the "temperature" with any sudden drops to see if there is a correlation. 

Once you know what people are actually seeing, and you have reputation monitoring setup, your list of possible problem websites will help you break down which things can be removed, suppressed, or promoted. This post will help you come up with a simple brand visibility and reputation plan to help you fight back. 

If you want someone else to manage your brands reputation you can find out the various costs of reputation management on this page