Market websites other than your own. Most marketers understand search engine optimization (SEO) to some extent. When marketers perform SEO, they usually only do it for their own website, or websites they control completely like product or service specific sites. It is important to do SEO to stay competitive, but it’s also important to promote pages that are positive about your brand even if you don’t control them.
You can change search results
Search results, whether delivered on a desktop computer, mobile device, tablet, or appliance, are a canvas upon which your brand message can be painted. While it’s true the brushes are being held by many different people, brands can almost always control the way they are portrayed online to a greater or lesser extent depending on circumstances. Brands fall into two broad categories:
If you manage a brand without major issues...
Brands without significant problems to their online image have it easier than those that do. If a brand has no real problems online, they start from a level playing field and can allocate resources (time or money) to certain objectives in a more relaxed, evenhanded manner. Protecting a brand’s image online is almost always less expensive than cleaning up problems that have already occurred.
If you manage a brand with some online problems...
Brands with problems like bad reviews, a low cumulative review score, negative articles, a lack of good online content, or other problems must allocate resources differently. They must identify the problems and work to either remove them, change them, or make them less visible. Once things have been cleaned up, they can move on to protecting what they’ve earned.
They’re looking at far more than just your website
When people look for your brand online, they see much more than just your website. Brand marketers are usually primarily concerned with their flagship website, or those specifically developed for certain products or services. But consumers today know better. They know the brand controls their own website, so they look to the opinions of others to help make decisions. That need is what has fueled the review economy.
Consumers also trust search engine results. They believe what search engines like Bing and Google, as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others show them is reliable.
Finally, consumers can be a little lazy. Most people stay on the first page of search results. So if your brand controls not just its main website, but most of the results on the first pages of search results, you’ll own most of the brand message even if you don’t control much on pages further back.
Action: Smart companies apply search promotion to other positive online content about their products and services even if they don’t own the site. Work to control, place, and promote more than just your main website.
How to choose which online content to promote
Action: Perform the following actions in order to select the best web content to promote for your brand.
Google your brand name (don’t forget about Bing with 21% market share)
Look at the first four pages of search results (about 40 results)
Identify the ten best search results for your brand whether owned/controlled by you or someone else.
Prioritize each of the ten results from 1-10 in this manner:
BULLET-POINTED SUB LIST: Give the lowest number, #1, (best) to your main website.
The next priority content (#2, #3, etc.) should be applied to results like your Facebook page or other content you directly control.
Remember, the numbers do not correspond necessarily with where the item ranks in search results - they are prioritized by your degree of control and positive sentiment.
Once you have identified properties you control and assigned a priority to each one, move on to properties that are good but that you do not control, like articles written on blogs and other third-party publications.
Next, Google your top three competitors. Find one web property (article, review site, etc.) that is in their search results and is “good”, but that you do not have in yours.
It needs to be realistic. If your competition has an article in the Wall Street Journal, but you’re sure you couldn’t get one, then skip it and find another that is more realistic for your brand. Later you’ll work to add these publications to your portfolio.
Now you should have a list of sites to promote. The highest priority content will be things you control; secondary priority items are things you don’t control but are also positive.
Apply your budget like this:
50/50 - if search result problems already exist
If there is a negative article, review site, blog post, video, etc., start with one or two top positives you identified that are below the negative. See the graphic to the right for an example of a 50/50 resource allocation. This means you’d spend half of your budget (whatever it is) to promote each of two search results that lie below a negative.
What are you spending money on? The simplest thing you can do is to hire an SEO company to build links from other high-quality websites to the positive results of which you are working to improve the ranking.
There’s a lot more that can be done but this is a “simple” guide, so we won’t go into that now.
25% each if search results are already positive
If the brand has no negative search results, you probably don’t need to focus resources for the fastest results. If so, apply resources 25% each to the top three search results on your list except your main website. Then allocate 25% to the creation of new content that doesn’t yet exist - but may for your competitors.
OK, but what do I do with the budget?
The simplest thing you can do is to hire an agency to build links to the properties you are focusing on. But you may want to perform your own link building. Some people buy links. Google frowns on this BTW and if they find out may shake a stern finger at you, or worse. Some people start an SEO outreach campaign to get websites to link in.
Link building takes resources and it really helps to have software to help. Some of the software we use includes Pitchbox, Screaming Frog, SEMRush, and Ahefs. Each of the aforementioned solutions does something different.
If you are looking to buy links, we’ve heard good things about Fat Joe, but cannot recommend buying links because if done incorrectly can have negative effects. That said, you’d be getting links to other peoples sites, not your own - so the choice is up to you. Given a choice, we always go organic.