SERM: what is search engine reputation management?
This post will explore how you can work with negative search results, achieve higher search engine rankings, and help you understand what to expect from search engine reputation management services.
Have you ever googled a company to find out more about them? A Google search is definitely the first thing I do to get the lowdown on brands, products and services, local shops and restaurants – anything that might result in a purchase or some kind of involvement with a company – like potential employers, for instance. And the research shows that, actually, most people do the same.
The first page of the search results holds even more power than your site when it comes to purchasing decisions. That's why every company should be absolutely up to speed with the ins and outs of search engine reputation management (SERM). A critical aspect of online reputation management (ORM) – it helps brands present themselves with links and snippets in search results.
Have you checked out what happens when you type your brand's name into Google? Are all the results relevant? How much useful information can you see without clicking on anything? What's the first link you are drawn to click on?
So, what can you do if you don't like the results you're seeing
Review sites often make it into the top-10 brand search results. And this is where companies are invariably faced with negative feedback.
Regardless of how you run your business, you will always come up against someone who's not happy with your brand. Sooner or later, you'll get a review or mention from an unhappy customer that will show up on the first page of Google search.
Negative feedback is not always a bad thing. In fact, responding to it properly and fixing the issues can actually help you strengthen up your reputation on review sites. But all your responses are not going to show up in a snippet. When this happens, you have two options:
Remove the offending post, review or article
Get into search engine reputation management
Number one might seem like the easy option. No scary acronyms and you don't need to hire professionals to do it. You just go to the site where the stain on your good character was published and ask the admins to remove it.
'Why not just delete it all from Google?'is one of the most popular questions. Users tend to notice and don't become happier. If a person who left a negative review spots that it was deleted it could escalate the conflict and cause a whole load more damage to the brand's online reputation if or when the story goes viral.
"What if it's just a troll who leaves bad reviews everywhere? He won't notice if one of them disappears"Removing reviews once doesn't make them go away forever. Simply getting rid of reviews without trying to address the complaints or build up your reputation does nothing to prevent them from popping up again.
"But there's just one negative review and I'm sure I won't see any more" Not all sites will remove comments without a valid reason. More often than not, you'll simply be told that removal goes against the site policy.
"Can it be solved by greasing the wheel?" Some sites might accept money for removing content. And they are free to set any price they want for that 'service'. If you're going to repeat this on a regular basis, it raises the question of whether this is the most effective way to spend your money.
So, now that we've (hopefully) managed to build a case against deleting negative content, let's talk about what SERM can offer as a solution.
SERM offers a comprehensive approach that uses a variety of tools and involves a team of specialists with different areas of expertise.
The main goal is to clean up search engine result pages (SERP) of unwanted links by pushing them back to the second or third page, where the chance of being seen is far lower. This part, as well as evaluating link rankings, is covered by SEO.
These links need to be substituted with new content. This might take the form of company profiles on social media channels, review sites with good indexing rates, or articles in online media. This is the right moment for copywriters, PR and/or social media marketing specialists to step in.
Brand monitoring and online reputation management will help generate positive reviews and improve ratings on review sites.
Sometimes, it gets to the point where content is removed, but instead of focusing on wiping away everything that doesn't contribute to a positive brand image, SERM is more about taking an individual approach to each link, analyzing data, and creating new content.
Yes, there are situations when SERM specialists resort to removal tactics (trolling or hate speech, for example). However, a clear understanding of what should be deleted, legal assistance and established connections with site administrators make this process less risky.
Along with online reputation management, SERM is becoming an essential practice for businesses of all sizes. There are a lot of reputation management, digital marketing and SEO agencies who are already offering it as part of their service spread.
What does it actually take?
Before work begins, there's some research to be done. An SEO specialist needs to collect the semantic core (words and phrases that describe your brand, products or services) for search queries. Then, the links in the search results are analyzed by site quality indicators, and are grouped by types of content and sources to identify the negative links which come up the most.
The result of this audit gives you an idea about your brand's presence on the internet. Now, at this point it's possible to act on this data. There are several tasks that can be performed at the same time:
Pushing certain links to the top of the SERP (sites, branded accounts on social networks, positive reviews);
Creating, optimizing, and promoting content that will show up in search queries;
Pushing down irrelevant, outdated or negative links;
Removing the offending content.
A well-tuned campaign can improve your brand's reputation, increase your ratings and review count, and strengthen up your position in a competitive market.