How we transformed a reputation from 48% negative on Google to neutral
One can easily translate sign reputation management to income management. Your public image directly affects sales, career and financial well-being in any field – whether searching for an investor, overcoming the negativity spread by your rivals, a change of field, or creation of a new public persona.
But what should you do if there is already lots of negative things written about you on the Internet? In this post, we'll use one of our actual cases as an example to show how we changed a client’s reputation from 48% negative to neutral.
We sign an NDA with all our customers. Therefore, all the data that could infringe on the client's confidentiality have been changed. This doesn't affect the mechanism of reputation management in any way.
Our assignment was to make sure that searching for our client's name on Google in the US would yield zero negative content on the first two SERPs.
When the client asked us for assistance, at that time, 48% of the top 20 results were negative:
A total of 7 BDCenter Digital team members worked on the project, including:
- 2 SEO specialists + an assistant. Their job was to monitor and analyze search results, work out a strategy to eliminate negativity, and publish content on appropriate resources;
- PR specialist, who identified news-worthy content, contacted the media, as well as prepared and published articles;
- SMM specialist, who created social media accounts for the client and filled them with info;
- Project Manager, who allocated tasks, tracked progress, kept in touch with the client and the team, and evaluated the results;
- Designer, who prepared templates for the social media and news resources.
Four months and 560 hours of work later, there was NO negativity left in the top two result pages on Google. Read on to find out how we did it.
1. Identifying resources containing negative content and monitoring changes
Our first step was to study the SERPs (with our client's name as the search query) and find the sites that published negative content about him. This helped us understand the scope of the job and see which sites we would have to work with to push all negativity out of the top 20 results.
Every week, we would finetune our strategy: since Google often changes its ranking algorithm, we would get slightly differing results every day. For instance, a resource that was ranked as no.1 yesterday might not even be on the first page tomorrow.
For this reason, we checked on the situation once a week and recorded the results in a spreadsheet:
One of the factors impacting how results are placed on a SERP is the age of the content. A new relevant piece of content can easily get a resource in the top 10, but just a week or two later, it can lose around 30 to 50 positions.
2) Posting mentions of the person on various websites
Undesirable information about the client was posted on large resources, one of them with 20 million monthly visitors. One of the obvious solutions was to overcome this negativity by posting positive content on even larger websites.
However, we couldn't rely on this tool alone – for two reasons:
1) High costs. The client would have to pay $4000 to $5000 per publication, and the actual budget was much lower.
2) Risk of repetitiveness. Google tries to vary its results, filling its SERPs with sites in different formats. Therefore, we decided to post content about our client on the following types of sites:
Client's corporate pages
3) Optimizing the client's corporate site
Google prioritizes those sites that are most relevant to the search query. What do you see at the top of the list when googling the name of someone? Depending on the popularity, it can be a Wikipedia article, a corporate website, or social media account.
In our case, the client's corporate website was among the top results already, but we wanted to strengthen its position. To do this, we optimized the Team page and created an additional page with the client's bio.
As a result, these two pages ended up in Google's Top 3 in the US, pushing all the negativity down the list.
4) Using dropped domains
When time is limited and you need a quick result, you can benefit from dropped domains.
A drop is a domain that its owner decided not to pay for any longer and is now for sale. Some of these dropped domains are still indexed by Google, and you can get good results by publishing backlinks there.
After confirming this step with the client, we created a site based on a good dropped domain and published new content on that site. In just a month, the site was ranked among the top 5 on Google.
5) Pushing negativity out of Google Image Search
The image search also yielded some negative results, so we had to work not only on pushing individual websites out of the top 20, but specific images, too.
Since Google likes unique content, we made sure to use only unique images of the client in our publications and his social media accounts.
If you don't have any fresh pictures available, you can edit some of the old ones, changing the background, size, or color profile. This will make Google see them as unique, showing them first.
By the way, changing just the size doesn't work. Google views such pictures as identical, showing only the one with the best resolution.
PR & Content
1) Identifying newsworthy materials
The client didn't have any important news to share, so we had to create it ourselves. In particular, we watched the industry news closely – and as soon as we found something valuable, we confronted the event with our client's expertise. Thanks to his status and extensive experience, he could provide commentary on the latest research and news for the media.
2) Publishing content
The technique described above provided us with publications on news websites – however, they would allow free coverage only for really important events. Working with niche websites was much easier: we used them to publish expert articles and interviews.
We only chose sites that fit the following four criteria:
- Relevance to the subject: wealth management, finance, and investment;
- The site had to contain a negative article about our client. Publishing fresh content on the same site would get the old article to rank lower;
- Importance: the site's «weight», or authority, had to be higher or equal to that of the sites that contained negativity, helping to overcome it.
By weight we mean the level of Google's trust in the resource. This trust is based on the number of visitors, the site's age and level of optimization.
If you need quick results, you can get a lot of coverage fast by publishing your content on PR Newswire. Read our recent post on how to do this.
Our client's name had to be mentioned in the title: this helped articles rank much better for our search query.
However, our title headline didn't always fit the editing guidelines of individual resources: some preferred to list the author at the very bottom of the piece. Such articles weren't useful to us, since they didn't rank the way we would’ve liked.
We tested this headline theory many times. Even a publication on the gigantic Yahoo! Finance with one mention in the body of the text works worse than an article on a small website, but with the client's name mentioned in the title, lead-in, and text body.
1) Creating and filling social media accounts
We created accounts for the client on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and other platforms. We didn't use those social networks that weren't relevant to the client's business — such as Pinterest, for example.
Linkedin yielded the best result: our client's profile on this platform still ranks as no. 1 in the search results, pushing out the old negative content. Xing, tumblr and Instagram didn't produce any result at all: none of them got into the top 20.
We made sure to fill new social media pages with expert content – mostly pieces for the articles we wrote for the media. Naturally, we always adapted the text for the social media. The posts were accompanied by photos of the client: we arranged special photoshoots for that purpose.
2) Posting podcasts and videos
Google prefers content to be varied. So it prioritizes not only fresh articles, but also video and podcasts.
We started accounts on YouTube and Vimeo for our client and added several videos: some we created specifically to fit recent news, others were chosen among existing content.
We posted those videos not only on the client's own accounts, but also in other users' profiles. By the way, it was a video posted on the page of another user that ended up in the top 10 of Google.
As for podcasts, they can work well, too – as long as you post them on popular platforms, such as iTunes or audioboom.com, which has over 2 million monthly users.
Project Manager's comments
SERM, or search engine reputation management, combines such tools as SEO, PR, and SMM. In order to leverage this combination with maximum benefit, we utilize the following principles:
- Regular strategy updates. Since both SERPs and relevant content change all the time, we have to monitor all changes and reassess our actions plans when required;
- Analysis of the results: we constantly check what works and what doesn't. This helps us works faster, better and without wasting our resources;
- Daily contact with the client: this way we can quickly make strategic decisions and create fresh content;
- Generating relevant content. Even though SERM is more about pushing negativity as far down as possible in the search result pages, we are also very serious about what we post – and so are our clients, of course. Content should also be relevant to the objective. In the case we've described that meant niche articles, podcasts, and videos that accentuated the client's expertise.
By using all these tools, we managed to radically transform the first two Google result pages. 90% of the top 20 were now positive, with the remaining 10% neutral.
Based on our experience with reputation management – and we've already worked with a Nobel laureate, several politicians, and CEO’s of financial institutions – your public image can have a tremendous impact on your business and career. By maintaining a good public image on a constant basis is much easier and cheaper than launching major reputation rehaul campaigns once every few years.
To maintain your reputation, make sure to monitor the search results for your name or brand. Select your key search queries and set up alerts: this way you'll know what Google users see when they look for information about you and will be ready to react to any negativity.
If you'd like to know how to determine the tonality of your Internet reputation, read our recent article on the subject. In our blog you will also find case studies on other subjects, such as PR and targeting.