Big Brands Wage Reputation Battles on Many Fronts

  |  October 1, 2008   |  Comments

Guarding your company name is only the start. Here are several other ways to protect your business and its employees in search results.

Plenty of articles talk about the importance of SEM (define) and reputation management, but most of them focus solely on the reputation of the company name itself. While confronting negative sites and staking your SERP (define) claim for your brand's name is important, many other slices of the corporate pie must be protected. Today, we'll look at other parts of your business that you should consider allocating SEM resources.

But first, I want to discuss reputation management simply and quantifiably. We typically classify search results in one of three ways:

  • Good: This site is either owned by you or is favorable to your brand.

  • Neutral: This site is neither hostile nor favorable to your brand. It may also be a site that has nothing to do with your particular brand.

  • Bad: This search result is unfavorable to your brand.

Typical reputation management philosophy accepts either "good" or "neutral" results as favorable. But in looking deeper at "neutral" results, we sometimes see cause for a "good" and "bad" spectrum within the "neutral" grade. I'll explain more in the following sections. First, however, I discuss key facets of reputation management including and beyond your company name.

Your Company Name

Let's face it: Bitter sells, and almost without fail, someone out there is less than thrilled with you. As a result, the company name is the obvious biggie in reputation management. From Apple to ZZ Top, brands must be in control of the results page for the most frequently searched-for terms that describe them.

Products, Trademarks and Intellectual Property Terms

Not far behind company names are the names of your specific products, services, or any sort of intellectual property terms that are well known and publicized. Brands like Proctor & Gamble watch out for far more than just terms discussing P&G.

If you're feeling particularly tough and you work in a controversial industry, you might even consider taking on the naysaying lobby on behalf of your entire vertical, not just your brand.

Executive Names

I mean "executive" in a much broader sense than CEO, CFO, and so on. Any employee in your company that spends any time dealing with the public should have a strong SEM effort behind him or her, typically in the form of a strong biography page, but also perhaps in an official blog if applicable.

People such as doctors, attorneys, and building contractors are especially susceptible to being scraped up and tossed into comparison sites that allow consumers to compare similar workers in their area, while competitors advertise alongside them. Even programmers, engineers, and anyone else who might have contributed to an online discussion are not immune from becoming a de facto face of your organization in a heated, sticky blog post.

In addition, employees have been singled out in many instances by "consumer feedback" sites and verbally eviscerated simply because they were lucky enough to deal with a specific angry customer as the corporate representative. If your employees must divulge their last names when dealing with public issues, your company owes them some resources in dealing with potentially harmful sites that disparage them for doing their jobs.

Social media tools, including LinkedIn profiles, can be effective if they're set up correctly. LinkedIn still hasn't taken my sage advice to make their corporate profiles crawlable. Let's hope that someday it will.

Company Jobs

In this age of widespread information aggregation, no industry is immune from being swept by vertical-wide information sites. While from a strict reputation management perspective we consider these sites "neutral," they can sometimes slowly suck away your revenue, like a computer monitor left on overnight wastes energy.

Because the job hunting market is one of online's oldest and most stalwart residents, you might be surprised if you searched for your company name plus "jobs" at any major engine. Is your official employment section there, at least above the fold? It should be.

For any job placed through an agency, you're likely giving a significant cut to someone, whether the headhunter, aggregator, or someone else. The Web is a Petri dish for middlemen, which is great, but you don't have to let that culture thrive at your expense.


If you're in charge of SEM, make sure to document gradual savings like these in your calculations of departmental ROI (define). If your organic or PPC (define) listings create 10 job hires that bypass headhunters or job aggregator boards, for example, you've just saved your HR department a lot of money. Make sure to politely inform them.

Join us for a Search Engine Marketing Training in Boston, November 6 at the Hilton Boston Back Bay. Not only will you walk away with the knowledge and skills to be a successful search engine marketer, you'll also jumpstart your career and enhance your professional know-how.

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Erik Dafforn

Erik Dafforn is the executive vice president of Intrapromote LLC, an SEO firm headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. Erik manages SEO campaigns for clients ranging from tiny to enormous and edits Intrapromote's blog, SEO Speedwagon. Prior to joining Intrapromote in 1999, Erik worked as a freelance writer and editor. He also worked in-house as a development editor for Macmillan and IDG Books. Erik has a Bachelor's degree in English from Wabash College. Follow Erik and Intrapromote on Twitter.

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