One of the biggest mistakes people make when performing online reputation management is to build a bunch of different web profiles and fill them with sloppy content. Worse, all these properties often can't be effectively maintained over time, and so lose relevance. The best way to manage reputation is to understand prospective customers, similar companies, and what search engines are looking for.
One of the first steps is to perform a form of competitive research called the search result audit. Here's why.
A search result audit helps businesses learn about prospective customers, identify negative online narratives, and understand exactly what needs to be done in order to improve the online sentiment of a brand. A solid foundation of understanding that is the polar opposite of what most reputation management companies actually do.
Reputations Problems Revealed in Search Result Audit
Here’s a basic definition. A search result audit is the process of recording and analyzing the search results of a branded query about your business entered in Google, Bing, or another search engine. In other words, you’ll enter “Your Brand Name” in a search engine and study what appears. You'll also research longer-tail search phrases by appending -reviews, -prices, -alternatives, and other more granular terms to understand how people perceive your brand online.
If you have a large computer display you can perform a side-by-side search result audit, in which you compare the first page of search results for your business to that of your competitor’s by having two browser windows open, one with your search result, one with theirs right next to yours.
These techniques are invaluable when it comes to improving your business’s reputation online, because they serve three functions simultaneously.
1. You Get to See What Prospects See
There will almost always be someone out there who is doing a better job at something than your company is. Often, this superior work is right there in front of your eyes - so use it to your advantage.
Without a doubt, you’ll discover something about your competitor’s results that you could emulate or improve upon in your own work. You’ll only see it, however, if you look at things from a prospective customers' perspective.
2. You Can Better Understand Their "Intent"
Most good businesses care about what their customers want. It is the path to better products and services, five-star reviews, and a better bottom line. The search result audit is like a glimpse into the minds of your prospective clients. It shows the search terms customers are using to find you, the other topics they may be interested in, and the reasons they’re clicking your competitors’ website and not yours.
Using People Also Ask to Understand User Intent
Many searches will include the "People also ask" section. It's valuable to companies because it reveals the search intent of prospective customers. These often come up in "non-branded" (no brand name in the search phrase) search queries, but for more well-known businesses they can come up even for branded searches when someone is looking for information on a particular company.
In short, the search result audit provides real data about what your customers want to know, which empowers you to meet their needs directly.
Using Related Searches for Reputation Keyword Research
Another section of search results you can often use is the Related Searches section at the bottom of a search result page. The example below shows the searches people also perform when looking for information about Reputation X.
3. Understand Different Ways of Seeing Your Brand
Search results are like the same story told by different storytellers. If you search three different branded phrases - for instance, your brand name, appended with -reviews, -careers, and -services, you might discover three entirely different results pages.
Each page tells a variation of the story about your company. You may learn that your business ranks in the top spots for one of these searches, but a search for “careers” reveals former employees blasting you on Glassdoor. Low Glassdoor ratings could be keeping you from attracting the best possible talent.
A search result audit that looks at sentiment, level of search result control, reviews and more is the first step in an effective brand reputation program.