Search Engine Reputation Management – Stop looking in the rear view mirror

Posted on July 1, 2011 by

When I entered the phrase “Search Engine Reputation Management” in Google, page one and page two delivered a litany of snippets that primarily revolved around the concept of restoring a damaged reputation stemming from either false reviews or a crisis that occurred and caused a lot of negative press around an individual or company.

Stop Looking in the rear view mirror.

What was surprising was that there was nothing to be found that took a “windshield” approach to Search Engine Reputation Management…it all appeared to be “rear view mirror” strategy, meaning it was a defensive position taken to fend off what had already happened and not about how to promote the existing “good” in a business. There is no question that solving someone’s pain is more profitable than spreading their good name… so I’m not really surprised.

I get the same feeling when I see the proliferation of “monitoring” services erupting that tell a business what has been said about them online. Now…there is nothing wrong with this idea or service, it’s just that most seem to be a flavor-of-the-week deal that distracts a business from its more important mission of providing excellent service as a cornerstone, and then seeing what is said about them versus spending all day doing it the other way around.

These services should compliment a reputation management strategy. Doing it the other way is like driving a car using the rear view mirror to guide your steering efforts. It could be done to a point, and it would show you the destruction you caused as you ran into mailboxes and bicycle riders…these would show up on the side of the road after you hit them because you were distracted watching the fallout from not paying attention to the road ahead. Sort of a self fulfilling prophecy, isn’t it? The idea of “let’s keep watching for the negatives and failures that are sure to occur because we have no strategy for creating and promoting the successes” is not a successful business strategy to live by.

Here’s a vision…

You and your team in the minivan all looking up at the rear view mirror saying “Ooooh, look at that wreck….oh no, did we just hit that guy on the sidewalk with the grocery bag…was that a deer spinning on his antlers?” What if someone turned to you and said, “Why don’t we look forward instead of backwards?” Would the light bulb go off? For some companies, it hasn’t. For those of you who are in the process of seeing the light, Presto Reviews has created a list of must haves when it comes to dominating your “primary” page one. Before we dive in, however, I think it is important to know a little bit about why it’s so important to own your brand’s page one results and what the difference is between “primary” page one and “secondary” page one and how it pertains to your reputation.

A brand’s primary page one is whatever delivers the largest amount of organic clicks to your brand’s main URL and simultaneously shows the brands’ Google Place’s listing or Local Business Listing (depending on the search engine). Rarely will you see a term that delivers the highest volume of clicks and does not show the listing on page one. So, if your brand’s name is Bob Jones Honda, there is a good chance that the term “Bob Jones Honda” delivers around 40-50% of your site’s traffic. If Bob is in Dallas and does a good job with SEO, maybe his site receives 10-15% of his results coming from “Bob Jones Dallas Honda” or “Dallas Honda” or “Honda Dealer Dallas”, etc. That would be his secondary page one. As we move forward, we would find terms like “Dallas Accord” delivering results as well as “Dallas Honda Service”. Those would be “tertiary” and “quaternary” page ones (yes, there is a term for 5-10 as well, but we will save that for another lesson).

Why is it important to own your page one?

Other than the logical answer is this thought; as your customers arrive at your page one, if they are inundated with poachers’ results showing up where your name is supposed to be, how do you think they would feel about your business? They may ask, “why would competitors and other distractions be here when I was looking for information about Bob Jones Honda?” Do you think this improves or degrades their opinion of you? And what about the leakage that can occur? If there are others where you belong, isn’t it likely someone will click on one of those “trespassers” and steal market share that belongs to you?

So where do we start?

We start with the search term that has the most eyeballs -”Bob Jones Honda”- and work from there. Let’s take a look at what a page one defense strategy might look like (by the way, the term “defense” actually creates offense as you now dominate page one with your brand’s properties!).

  • Your main brand – this is an obvious given
  • Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing Business Listings – these properties show up above the fold and must be completely built-out, showcasing your brand’s best efforts
  • Custom Review Site – BobJonesHondaReviews.com- we would be remiss in not listing our killer reputation management tool first. The URL is compelling and the design of the site encourages visitors to move forward in the sales process. After customers see your reviews, it’s a natural process for them to visit your main site for more information about your brand.
  • Blog - You can strengthen your sites with link building, page building, posting blogs and using anchor text. Link to your other sites using appropriate phrases that garner high search results.
  • Facebook – Because of it’s popularity and traffic, Facebook pages and profiles show up quite high in search results.
  • Ning Site - Another great social media site that garners attention within search results. Proper title tagging and page naming are important in order to rank high for a search of your business name.
  • Custom Micro Site for Specials - Great for indexing specific deals, specials, coupons, etc. that are searched often (i.e. oil change coupons, etc.).
  • Customer Micro Site for New or Used Cars – Many customers know what car models they want and they search directly for them. Inventory for your cars that has relevant title tags and additional metadata is helpful to customers searching for a specific vehicle that you may have on your lot.
  • A “Geo” Site using your name in the URL – BobJonesHondaDallas.com has a good chance of winding up on page one for a search of both “Bob Jones’ ” dealership and for a search of “Honda Dallas”.  Add inventory, feed reviews, add Facebook badge and you have a nice property that can send some traffic your way via email, phone or to your main site.
  • A Service page using your name in the URL - BobJonesHondaService.com would be indexable under “Bob Jones” as well as for people searching for “Honda Service” in your area.
  • Twitter – Another popular social media site that indexes well. Not only will your main profile page index well, but all of your tweets can also be crawled and indexed as well.
  • Flickr - Search engines love photos and videos. Proper title tagging of your photos will get you many images that index within search engines. Many search engines own their own photo sites (i.e Yahoo owns Flickr, Google owns Picasa, etc). Write detailed descriptions for your images and don’t duplicate their titles or the description information.
  • YouTube - Google loves videos, especially YouTube videos (they should…Google owns YouTube). Title your videos appropriately using your business name as well as other highly searched terms in order to index your videos within search engines.

There are other sites to be sure and as I am writing this someone is thinking of another solution that wasn’t mentioned, but the list above is a good place to start and will keep you busy for the foreseeable future.

In closing some of you may have noticed that I did not list any “directory” type sites. In my opinion if a site is not owned and controlled by a dealer then it does not belong on Page One. None of these sites has a dealer’s best interest at heart and are only interested in stealing traffic from your name. Anything that these sites put up about your dealership could be duplicated by your efforts. The difference is there would be no ads or leakage to steer your customers elsewhere.

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