January 13, 2014
In the movie “Easy A,” Emma Stone’s character, Olive, learns a valuable lesson: It’s not what’s true that actually matters; it’s what people think is true that matters. Straight-laced Olive starts a rumor that she’s “easy,” and soon she becomes the most popular girl in school, never mind the fact that she’s not so much as kissed any of the boys she’s rumored to be with. Her reputation is completely different from her true character.
“Easy A” is just a movie, but its point rings true in real life as well, especially on the internet. Your company’s reputation is closely tied to its search engine results page (SERP). If you have a stellar reputation based on strong content, you can own the SERPs, but if someone’s damaging your image by spreading rumors or posting false, negative reviews, your standing can take a real hit. You want the good to outrank the bad, so to speak, since people tend to look at only the first few results of a search.
As Olive discovered in the movie, the best thing to do is be proactive. If you protect your brand, you can dominate the SERPs and control the conversation about your company. Here are tips on how to do it.
Google+’s importance cannot be overstated. Initially an afterthought in the competitive world of social media, Google+ stuck around despite lukewarm response to the site. In the past year Google+ has grown to more than 300 million active monthly users, and Google has put greater emphasis on Google+ integration in its search result rankings. Now a company with an active, thriving Google+ presence will be rewarded with improved search results.
Your company can benefit from this. If you don’t already have a Google+ page, make one immediately. Promote it alongside the other social media buttons on your site, but put some extra emphasis on widening your Google+ circles. Use hangouts to expand your reach, and link your Google+ page to your other social media sites to cross-promote.
Use Google+ Local
Because local is all the rage right now, Google+ also has the subsidiary Google+ Local, whose aim is to help people connect with businesses that might prove helpful in their area. It’s based on a five-point scoring system. Google+ Local offers up recommendations based on reviews that you have logged in the past, your circles, and your location. It also offers up Zagat summaries of places you may visit.
Companies can use Google+ Local to post photos of their business, in addition to posting information about things like sales or specials. Again, the more engagement with the page, the higher it will rise in the SERPs, and the more it will benefit your business by pushing down other results.
Noticing a theme to these tips? The best way to rise in the Google rankings really is to make use of as many Google products as possible, and one of them is the search engine’s online video site. Ideally you’ll get your own branded YouTube channel, which will show up very high in a search result.
But if you don’t have enough content for a channel, at least produce a video you can host on the site. You’ll need to label this carefully. Include the full name of your company in the username, the video’s name, and the video’s meta tags. Any engagement that you can generate for the video will help it rise in Google’s rankings. Encourage people to vote for it or to leave comments after watching. And of course share the video on your Google+ pages, since Google loves that sort of site-to-site interaction.
Jump on Google News
While it’s certainly not true that all news is good news, most of the information that ends up on Google News can help you. It’s yet another way to gain across-Google engagement. Most small businesses won’t show up regularly in local or national newspapers or other sites featured on Google News, but a great way to ensure that you are making the newsfeed is to syndicate your press releases. You can use services like PRNewswire or MediaSyndicate to do it.
Make up a schedule so that you’re sending one out at least every month. You don’t need to inundate recipients with your releases, and you need to have a real angle to promote, such as a new product or service you’re introducing. But sometimes these releases will pop to the top of Google News results despite minimal optimization.
Paid search is pretty much a no-brainer for acquiring search real estate. The key is to utilize as many Google ad tools as possible to fill out the space at the top of the SERP. For example, when your advertisement pops up at the top of the page, you will take up a lot more room by adding sitelink extensions, or basically some extra links in the text of your ad.
For instance, you may want to highlight something that’s unique to your business, such as free shipping, an upcoming sale, or a special holiday service. They need to take visitors to different landing pages, per Google rules, but you can also link to your social media sites.
There are endless ways to wrest control of your brand’s reputation on the web. Here are a few other ideas you may want to explore:
- Try out product listing ads, which were introduced last year via Google Shopping. PLAs have relatively low cost-per-click rates.
- Gain more domains. The more you are associated with, the better chance you’ll appear in the top 10 results. That means adding accounts on services like Vimeo or making profiles on industry-focused web sites.
- Optimize the images on your site.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be steering people to the information you want them to see about your brand. Don’t be afraid to try new things, as Google changes and evolves every day. It certainly isn’t easy, but you’ll get A-plus results.