Today, the speed and flow of information is staggering and certainly, in most parts of the world, we are (relatively) free to speak our minds. When we feel the urge there are also many different vehicles we can use to vent our pain, pleasure or problems.
So, what happens if you are a company and you, well, screw up? Also, you have had your chance to make amends and you, well, screwed that up too. What if the person who you screwed up with feels the urge to tell lots of people about their (bad) experience? What if they use the web to do it?
In essence you now have a really big problem. Little acorns, eh…
A good (or bad, whatever you viewpoint) example of this the old Land Rover one. You will probably have heard of this before, but it is worth recounting. Basically, a guy had such a bad experience with his purchase of a Land Rover Discovery that he set up this blog. The last time a checked (before today) this blog was sitting in position three on Google for the search ‘land rover’ and I think it had been in roughly that position for a year or so. How much business did that cost Land Rover? There is always the ‘all publicity is good publicity’ mantra; but really? In this case?
Anyway, this post isn’t really about customer services issues, etc. it is about what to do if you want to try to lessen the impact of negative search engine exposure and try to manage your search engine reputation. So, when the stuff hits the (search engine) fan, what to do?
Well, looking again at the Land Rover example, the search engine results for ‘land rover’ now look like this. Today and for my search (taking into account all the personalised search that Google does) the ‘have your say’ blog is at number nine on the natural search. Still pretty prominent!
What can Land Rover do? Well, (if they haven’t tried already) they could…
- Run PPC adverts to put their side of the story. I am not sure what they have done to smooth over this but if they had, done something special to rectify the problem they could run an eye catching advert that says ‘we do something really special, blah, blah’, ‘UK MD personally checks all cars before delivery’, ‘free biscuit with every £40k car’, whatever…
- Make sure you have ‘company’ pages at all of the most popular portal, wiki, social and networking sites like, Wikipedia, Facebook, My Space, Squidoo, StumbleUpon, Delicious, etc. Also, make sure it is good and there is a reason for people to join it and use it. If it becomes popular it will become relevant for a search on your company and take up one of those very important top ten positions.
- Make great content for the web like videos, etc. and get these on to YouTube, etc. Again, if you do this well and it becomes popular then it will appear well in search results.
- Create some nice and relevant sub domains. As we know Google views subdomains as a different site, so if you create fun.yourcompany.com or blog.yourcompany.com and ‘fun’ is fun and ‘blog’ is good and people like them (and you publicise and optimise them well) it will take up another place on the search results.
- Make sure your deep link ratio is good and also you have a good ‘other’ page (not just your home page) that is optimised for your company name. If this page makes it to the top ten and your home page is number one (which, which let’s face it, it should be) then this little page will sit underneath it at number two. Nice.
- Get your suppliers and partners on side and make sure they are optimising their site for your company name. This is a win-win obviously.
- Make sure your web PR is good by making sure you (ethically and logically) use and issue news, press releases, white papers, comment on blogs, comment in forums and alike. This will do you no harm and also may help push some of these to a good search engine results position and get you a listing on the ‘news items’ parts of the Google results page.
- For regional search results you can (carefully) use the country related domain (e.g. the .co.uk or .co.fr or whatever as a sister site that has regional related elements, but (crucially) is different to the main site (so as not to duplicate the content). Obviously, this works if you are using the .com as your main domain. Alternatively, use the .com or .org, etc. in the same way (but not regionally, just with some different content, etc.) if you main domain is a country related one. As said use carefully, and think hard on this one (there are lots of potential issues and things to plan). But, this will work well if you do it right (and marketing/optimise it and have great content that can stand alone) it will definitely grab a place in the top ten. Also, if you don’t own the domains… BUY THEM!
I guess alternatively, you could…
- Do nothing!
- Get someone else to do it for you…
If you choose number one, then you may regret this one day. If number two seems like a good option, I can help.