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SEO for Reputation Management – Because Everyone Likes to Gossip

  |  February 14, 2011   |  Comments   |  

How Groupon Japan's sales dipped since the Osechi incident and what it could have done to manage its search results.

When you hear the phrase 'reputation management', you may think it's all to do with social media and nothing to do with SEO. But it actually has a lot to do with search engine marketing.

In December 2010, many Japanese had purchased an Osechi dish, a traditional New Year's celebration assortment of foods that is a must have on New Year's Day in Japan. It was supposed to arrive on the Dec. 30, but it wasn't delivered to many people till Jan. 2. Also, those that were delivered in time looked completely, I mean completely, different from the photos on the website. The news of these problems spread like wildfire over traditional media and the Internet. Many sites posted news articles, blog posts, photos, videos, etc. about the problem, resulting in a radical change in the search results for searches for "Groupon" in Japan. The various articles and negative blog posts started to take over search results for "Groupon". Not only that, since many people searched for "Groupon Osechi", it started to show up as the primary search suggestion in the search box pull-down and in the search results as related search terms. If someone clicks the "Groupon Osechi" link, it shows the results with content that reflected Groupon and its services in a negative light.

Not yet convinced that search results can have an impact on your business?

Groupon Japan has grown rapidly after officially launching its services in October 2010. It achieved 1,048 million yen in sales during December, which was an impressive 83 percent growth over November. Even though a single merchant is responsible for the Osechi fiasco and not Groupon (at least not directly), Groupon's sales dropped by 21 percent in January. This is while some of Groupon's competitors reaped a more than 60 percent increase in January sales.

What can you do to manage your organic search results reputation?

Assuming that you are aware of the negative results appearing, there are things you can do to minimise the damage. The first action is to create new content in an effort to replace negative pages from the search results, especially from the first result page. Not just Web content, but also content for the vertical search engines since most engines show results from News, Videos, and Images mixed with Web page results on the first result page.

Groupon posted an apology on its website, which currently ranks number two in the search results for "Groupon." Groupon also published an apology from its CEO on YouTube. This apology by the CEO became big news and many websites published the related article with a link to the Groupon apology page and video.  As a result, four of the apology-related pages rank in the top 10, effectively replacing all of the negative pages from the first page. While these apology-related results still refer to the incident, they now focus on Groupon's message rather than the customer's negative reviews. Gradually, it should be able to replace these apology related results with new offerings and news of new services.

Your business could touch the search results in many different ways. Check the organic search reputation for:

  • Company name
  • CEO, president, chairman, or any of the publicly well-known employees by name
  • Brand names
  • Product names
  • Service names
If you notice that people talk about certain topics and news related to your business on social media, it would be wise to check the search results for that term, and take action, because even if you choose not to talk about it, people will.

In the meantime, there were more to the Osechi dish incident. It turns out that the manufacturer used generic fish egg instead of caviar and lied about the normal pricing. Needless to say, Groupon is back on the news for a not-so desirable reason, and the Groupon-saga continues...

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Motoko Hunt

Since Motoko established AJPR in 1998, she has been providing the online marketing services targeting Japan and Asia to companies from around the world, helping them to enter the regional market using the Internet. Her search marketing consulting services with her extensive knowledge of Asia and Japanese market have been highly valued and made big impact on some of the world's popular multi-national brands' search marketing campaigns.

A number of her articles have been published on industry websites and printed media including Multilingual Computing and International Journal of Localization. She also writes about the Japanese online market on her blog and Multilingual-Search.com. She's a frequent speaker at search marketing conferences globally, and gives seminars and trainings about search marketing targeting Japan and Asia.

Prior to entering the online marketing industry in the mid 90's, she worked as a senior marketing manager at a traditional marketing and trading firm, marketing U.S. products to Japanese government and heavy industries.

She believes in giving back to the community and volunteers her time for industry organizations. She served as a member of Board of Directors of SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization), and is a Chairman of SEMPO Asia-Pacific Committee. In March 2009, she received the first SEMPO President Award for her support and dedication to the search industry and SEMPO organization.

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