6 tips for dealing with negative branded SERPs

When it comes to online marketing there are so many factors to consider but sometimes the small things can make the biggest difference. As someone who has been working in SEO for quite some time, I have noticed that some manageable strategies are simply pushed further down the queue because of some other KPI that is dictating the way you’re shaping your overall campaign. As a Director of Firecask, an SEO company in Manchester, I make sure these are never discounted.

One of these manageable strategies that, in my opinion, is sometimes swept under the rug is dealing with negative results in brand related searches. When people search for a brand name, the first couple of results are usually the brand itself. However, this means that there are 7-9 results on page 1 that you need to monitor to ensure they do not send a negative message about the brand itself. Using one example, I decided to search for “Ryanair” and noticed 2 negative results at positions 8 and 9:

Ryanair SERP

Note that I have no affiliation with Ryanair and there is nothing personal about using them as an example…

The first result shows a 2/5 star rating based on 1,562 reviews, which to me is enough people to trust. The second is a site dedicated to the negativity of the brand. To me, this seems like the brand has so many complaints that someone made the effort to create a site from it, complete with obscenities within the content pulled into the META description. This isn’t good.

Here are 6 tips about how to manage this from not just an SEO perspective, but also from PR and brand reputation.

1) Monitor the Brand SERP

Here, just check the SERP once a day. No biggie. Have a look to see if there is anything negative there and try to control it.

The easiest way to also monitor the brand is to create a Google Alert. I love Google Alerts because it can deal with a range of search terms to monitor. For Ryanair, for instance, here is an example of an alert that would be set up to monitor the term “ryanair”:

“ryanair” -site:ryanair.com

This monitors the term “ryanair” from all of the web except from its own domain. This alert may populate a lot of results but it is something they should monitor to maintain brand reputation. It is just as easy to discount any other domain by adding -site:anotherdomain.com to the above.

2) Cannibalise the Brand SERP

Ryanair’s example above can be minimised if the brand is exposed on sites apart from ryanair.com. If you look at the SERP for my company 3 Door Digital, you will see that underneath our own position with sitelinks there are other sites acting as a profile page, as well as some news coverage about us.

The brand SERP may have some negative results in there so ensure you sign up to as many relevant profile based sites and networks that can cannibalise the negative results. Here are just a few social profiles that brands can easily claim if they haven’t already:

  • Twitter

  • Facebook

  • Google+

  • Linkedin

  • Pinterest

  • YouTube

  • Quora

Ensure that content is regularly published in those channels and the likelihood that these will rank on page 1 for your brand will be more possible than any unofficial negative result.

3) Claim some negative keywords

As well as the brand term alone, other keywords relating to the brand should also be monitored and controlled. One example is Google’s autosuggest that pops up as you’re entering your search term. Here’s an example for Gladstone Brookes:

Gladstone Brookes SERP

You can also scroll to the bottom of page 1 and see if any related searches give you other terms.

This is an interesting SERP as it contains a mixture of results, however, Gladstone Brookes is only in position 3 and shows the homepage. There is no review page listed and there’s no reason why they should rank higher, or with a more relevant page. If the brand has unsatisfied customers then you may as well try to offer them a way to complain on your own terms, instead of giving them no option but to complain on another site where you have no real power to remove that content.

4) Respond to Negative Content

So, you didn’t ensure that rule 3 was done and now an unsatisfied customer has given you a bad review on a third party site. Chances are that you can’t have that content removed. Instead of doing nothing, act on it! Speak to the brand’s customer service and social media team and ensure that any negative feedback is replied to by the brand itself.

Not only does this portray good service to the unsatisfied customer by trying to resolve the issue, but potential new customers will notice that the brand is actively trying to solve issues outside of their own website. This proactive approach helps to minimise negative feedback and also improves the brand’s general reputation (if executed well).

Also, why not get in touch with your satisfied customers and ask them to leave positive reviews? If I like a brand enough I’ll leave feedback.

5) Create positive PR and expose it

Positive online presence is the goal – so produce positive content and publish it. Once it’s published, use your social profiles to mention that good press, as well as link to it from your site (not sitewide or from the homepage – but instead a deep relevant page that covers what the PR is about). Also, make an effort to get others to link to the PR.

This will in effect be a small link building task to a third party site but it will help that site rank for the positive press that the brand deserves.

6) Use structured data to gain attention to your site over others

Structured data (or rich snippets) can be described, in this context, as data that Google can use to provide the searcher with more relevant information right in the SERP itself. Examples include star rating systems and author images by the side of the result.

When the result has structured data there is more of a chance that a searcher will be drawn to that result over the normal results underneath, or even above, your own result.

There are clear benefits. When talking at SMX Israel, I talked in depth about the different types of structured data you can use and how to leverage CTR with rich snippets. As well as this, I also wrote a post for Econsultancy about how to use rich snippets to increase ROI.

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