Have you ever noticed how a beach looks completely different after a storm? Carefully-built sand sculptures are washed away, and the shore is littered with seaweed and debris.
A similar fate awaits a brand’s search landscape following a corporate crisis. Social media profiles, positive articles, and favorable reviews could be swept away and replaced with damaging content. While some negative articles may recede with the media frenzy, others could haunt your brand’s reputation by remaining on the first page of Google.
Don’t Be an Ostrich
It’s crucial to deal with negative articles head-on rather than wait to see if they go away on their own. Damaging content appearing on the first page of your brand’s search results can impact company revenue in multiple ways.
- Sales — Potential customers looking for information about your business may be turned off by negative press.
- Business partnerships — Existing or future business relationships could be put at risk if other companies cut ties with your brand.
- Funding — Lenders may limit your business’s access to capital or charge a higher rate if they determine your business is at risk.
- Employee retention — Employee turnover and hiring expenses increase when brands develop a bad reputation.
- Market capitalization — A company’s stock price may fall as investors flee for safer investments, wiping out shareholder value.
While most crisis recovery plans involve many detailed steps, digital marketing and SEO will have the most significant impact.
Use Digital Marketing to Boost Brand Reputation
To understand why negative content dominates a brand’s search results following a crisis, and how to recover, it’s important to understand how Google works. Google’s algorithm uses hundreds of ranking signals to determine the most relevant web pages for each search query. One such signal is topical relevance.
Through repetition, search engines use topical relevance to draw connections between concepts even if they were previously unrelated. As a result, Google may start favoring content about a corporate crisis if thousands of articles were recently published connecting the brand with the event.
Here’s an example of topical relevance in action. A search for “Donald Trump” currently returns results about his presidency. Meanwhile, a search for “president” returns results about Donald Trump instead of former President Barack Obama. Although topical relevance is often problematic during negative news cycles, it can be leveraged to reinforce positive brand connections using digital marketing.
Instead, use paid content like sponsored posts and earned media like press releases to generate positive articles about your brand. Starbucks recently used this strategy to shift their brand’s narrative from racial bias training to banning plastic straws.
Reputation Management Without SEO Doesn’t Work
SEO is labor-intensive and costly so your marketing team may think you’ve lost your mind if you suggest investing SEO resources into websites you don’t own. But the hard truth is that reputation management doesn’t work without a search engine optimization component.
Publishing tons of great content is only part of the strategy; now you need to apply SEO best practices to rebuild your search landscape.
Optimize Your Social Profiles and Post Regularly
Social networks rank very well for branded search queries, but to send the right signals to Google they must be set up properly and kept active. Fill out your profiles completely, including contact information, addresses, and, most importantly, a description that mentions your company’s name. You should also link to these accounts from your website’s homepage, blogs, and other trusted sites.
Find and Promote Your Best Online Content
Hopefully, you’ve secured some excellent company mentions during your digital marketing push. Determine which mentions you want ranking on the first page of Google, then share these articles with your social channels to increase visibility and build high-quality backlinks to them. If you have any editorial say when it comes to content, ask the publisher to include your brand name in the article’s title to help improve rankings.
SEO and digital marketing are the main engines that drive an effective reputation management strategy. If you’re smart, you won’t wait until your company is in the hot seat to start implementing them, either. Taking a proactive approach to brand protection allows you to groom the best beach possible for attracting potential customers. It will also be much easier to clean up the mess after a storm.