Online reputation management -- the science of monitoring and protecting a brand's credibility and name in the online world -- just got more difficult. The introduction of Google Instant has brought many brands' reputation issues to the forefront of visibility.
Until Instant's introduction, it was relatively easy to sweep reputation issues under the digital rug by pushing them to a point of limited visibility -- "below the fold" of the search results page, or even back to the second page.
But, that has all changed. With Google Instant, search results and suggestions continually update as Google attempts to predict queries from the very first character entered into the search box. Regularly included in the list of suggested search variations are now keyword phrases that include terms like recall, scam, and fraud. As shown below, the dirty laundry of leading and emerging brands such as Slim Fast, BP, CheapTickets.com, and Magic Jack is now front and center for all to see.
In these instances, Google Instant is undoubtedly contributing to a negative brand impression and could substantially reduce click-through rates for the affected brands. In order to correct (or ideally prevent) this type of brand damage from occurring, there are a number of key activities that brand owners and marketers can undertake.
- Follow SEO best practices and ensure that site content, meta tags, page titles, and alt tags are all properly optimized to improve the messaging and search engine placement pages under the brand's control.
- Contact owners of related, brand-favorable search results to request slight onsite SEO modifications to help improve search engine performance and visibility (i.e., job sites, local directories, chambers of commerce, etc.)
- Begin aggressive link popularity development efforts to increase the number of high-quality incoming links that are directed to brand-controlled sites.
- Begin ongoing generation, promotion, and publicity universal search assets, including: news, press releases, images, video, local listings, and sponsored content (used in syndication and content barter).
- Identify any and all violations or unethical online behavior from "disgruntled sites" for review with representatives from the engines and in-linking sites as possible reasons for search engine penalties or black listings.
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