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Reputation Management SEO: A Beginner’s Guide

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Reputation Image

All forms of marketing play a part in good brand management.

Using the same tone of voice throughout your ads and emails, and choosing the same photo assets for your website as your billboards, contribute to the picture that is painted when a customer considers your product or service.

Sometimes, however, your brand might be in receipt of some negative press or reviews that can alter the way it is seen.

If a potential customer wants to know if your business is reputable they will likely search for you online.

Visiting your website isn’t enough and they’ll want more objective feedback.

So, online reputation management is critical.

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It is the process of shaping and controlling the narrative around your brand online.

SEO is an important step to consider in that process.

Why Is Online Reputation Management Important?

Research into a brand, product, or service often begins online with a search.

Your website is likely to only be one or two of the results brought up when someone searches for your brand.

All those other search results will potentially be saying something about your brand that might not be as favorable as you would like.

For Corporate Brands

Negative reviews happen.

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Unfavorable comparisons about your product and a competitor can be made by an objective third party.

Bad press can be high ranking.

If you aren’t actively monitoring what appears at the top of the search results for your branded keywords then you could be missing out on the opportunity to spot potential reputation issues.

Once a news story starts circulating about your company, or even incorrect information is added to a third party website, it can be hard to repair the damage to your brand.

It is important that your brand’s message is what’s seen on the first page of the SERPs.

Proactively working on your online reputation management can put you in a strong position to correct misinformation or outrank unfavorable content.

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Our Personal Brand

This all applies to your personal brand as well as your corporate one.

You need to make sure that the information available online paints a positive picture.

We’re all getting very good at portraying ourselves positively on social media.

Photoshopping images, curating our life highlights, and only sharing information that paints us in a positive light.

Employers and recruiters are increasingly visiting social media profiles when considering candidates for a job.

But what about when someone searches your name.

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What comes up on the first page of the SERPs?

How to Carry Out SEO for Online Reputation Management

I’m not going to tell you how to get your website to rank for your brand term, just that you need to.

That can be particularly tricky if your brand name is a word that means something in your or another language.

It can be especially difficult if your brand name isn’t that unique.

You do want to be ranking as close to position one as possible for your brand name, however.

This way, the first result (excluding paid results) for your brand name is a property that you control.

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That said, you want positions two, three, four, and five to be properties you own, too.

1. Control the Front Page

Wherever possible the first five or so top-ranking results for your brand should be controlled by you.

Your website, any other digital properties you host, and your social media pages.

If a potential customer is looking for information on your brand you want to be maintaining the information they read.

This means taking advantage of the prominent social media sites in your region.

Set up a branded Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter profiles.

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Social media sites are hugely authoritative and will rank highly for most branded search queries.

Don’t just settle for a social media presence though.

Set your company up with a profile on review sites, industry comparison sites.

Essentially, any property outside of your direct ownership that you can still have some say over the content of.

2. Be Active on Social Media & Review Sites

Setting yourself up on social media and review sites does come with risk.

People will comment, reviews will be left.

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They will not all be favorable.

However, even if you do not have an official Twitter handle or a company created Glassdoor page doesn’t mean competitors or disgruntled employees won’t be talking about your company anyway.

You might just have less visibility of it.

Make sure you are responding to comments, positive and negative.

A negative Twitter comment might well be returned in a Google search for your brand.

Keep your company active on social media and review sites both to address any negative comments but also to keep them off the front page of Google.

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3. Set up a Google My Business Listing

This is another area of the branded search results you can own.

Your Google My Business listing could well be the first result a user sees when searching for your brand.

Around festive holidays, or even during the COVID-19 restrictions, your opening hours or availability of your office might change.

Google My Business is the perfect place to keep that information updated.

If you don’t have a Google My Business listing then a search for “[your brand] opening hours” might pull information from a website that hasn’t been updated.

Google Posts

Another benefit to a Google My Business profile for reputation management is Google Posts.

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Posts are small snippets of content that will appear directly on your Google My Business listing.

London Zoo Google Post

They allow your brand to inject timely offers, articles, or updates straight into the Google search results without having to battle the ranking algorithm or waiting for indexing.

If you are in need of some reactive PR or want to promote something quickly, this is an effective way to do that.

Reviews

A Google My Business listing does bring with it the potential for reviews of your brand to appear at the top of the SERPs.

If a user leaves a review on your Google My Business profile there is little that can be done to remove it.

It would need to contravene Google’s review guidelines in some way and even then there is no guarantee it will be ruled by Google as such.

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Good reputation management is about effectively dealing with negative attention as much as positive.

A negative review can be responded to on Google My Business giving your brand the opportunity to turn a negative experience into a positive one.

Questions & Answers

Google My Business also features a Q&A section where the public can submit questions to your profile.

The main issue with this is, the public can also answer those questions.

This is a good opportunity to understand what your target audience is interested in knowing but it is a very public way to find out.

It is crucial that you stay on top of any questions asked so you can ensure the answer is accurate.

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There is nothing to stop a well-meaning (or ill-intending) member of the public from answering a question and it being wrong.

Ensure you are managing your online reputation well by keeping an eye on this corner of the SERPs.

4. Create Content Around Potentially Negative Keywords

Brand searches will often yield a series of People Also Asked (PAA) search prompts.

The PAA results are a goldmine of information for your reputation management keyword analysis.

These prompts can cause searches to consider questions about the brand they may never have asked.

For instance, based in the UK, I have little exposure or understanding of the brand Walmart.

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However, searching the keyword “Walmart” produces these PAAs.

Walmart People Also Ask

Prior to seeing this PAA, I would not have known that some people may consider it a bad idea to buy clothes from the brand.

I do now.

Not only is the question “is it bad to buy clothes from Walmart?” off-putting for someone who doesn’t know much about the store, the search result it features is even worse.

Other common PAAs that will appear for brand searches include “is [brand] legit?”, “is [brand] a scam?” and “can I cancel [brand] subscription?”

Your potential customer might not have any reason to consider your brand a scam, but seeing those questions that have been searched by others may raise that concern.

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Check the PAAs that appear for your brand.

If they are even slightly negative you need to ensure you are ranking as the featured snippet for them to counter that notion.

5. Be Newsworthy for the Right Reasons

If you are trying to bury a high-ranking negative news article that is grounded in fact, many will have little sympathy for you.

Instead, work on being newsworthy for the right reasons.

Gain press about your charitable giving, your encouragement of local teams, or your work to protect the environment.

Focus on digital PR for PR’s sake, even if all you get is a brand mention.

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If it is on a high authority website it might be enough to outrank review sites, comparison sites, and other more dangerous properties for your brand terms.

The key is stacking the front page with positive commentary of your brand beyond the properties you have direct control over.

Set up a Brand Alert

Using Google Alerts or other brand mention monitoring tools keep an eye out for when you’re mentioned online.

It may be that a journalist, or reviewer, will be amenable to hearing your side of a negative story.

It might simply be that your company opening hours have been misreported or other inaccuracies stated.

That alert could give you the opportunity to correct misinformation or damaging accusation before it is too widely read.

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6. It’s Not All About Google

Don’t forget that there are other search engines aside from Google.

Make sure you are following these steps for those search engines too.

Set up a Bing Places listing and monitor the first page of DuckDuckGo for your brand phrases.

If there is the potential for your brand to be searched in a different search engine, it is critical that you are managing your reputation there.


Author/Image Credits
All screenshots taken by author, October 2020

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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

Understanding the impact of your content at every touchpoint of the customer journey is essential – but that’s easier said than done. From attracting potential leads to nurturing them into loyal customers, there are many touchpoints to look into.

So how do you identify and take advantage of these opportunities for growth?

Watch this on-demand webinar and learn a comprehensive approach for measuring the value of your content initiatives, so you can optimize resource allocation for maximum impact.

You’ll learn:

  • Fresh methods for measuring your content’s impact.
  • Fascinating insights using first-touch attribution, and how it differs from the usual last-touch perspective.
  • Ways to persuade decision-makers to invest in more content by showcasing its value convincingly.

With Bill Franklin and Oliver Tani of DAC Group, we unravel the nuances of attribution modeling, emphasizing the significance of layering first-touch and last-touch attribution within your measurement strategy. 

Check out these insights to help you craft compelling content tailored to each stage, using an approach rooted in first-hand experience to ensure your content resonates.

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Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or new to content measurement, this webinar promises valuable insights and actionable tactics to elevate your SEO game and optimize your content initiatives for success. 

View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

Competitor keywords are the keywords your rivals rank for in Google’s search results. They may rank organically or pay for Google Ads to rank in the paid results.

Knowing your competitors’ keywords is the easiest form of keyword research. If your competitors rank for or target particular keywords, it might be worth it for you to target them, too.

There is no way to see your competitors’ keywords without a tool like Ahrefs, which has a database of keywords and the sites that rank for them. As far as we know, Ahrefs has the biggest database of these keywords.

How to find all the keywords your competitor ranks for

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Organic keywords report

The report is sorted by traffic to show you the keywords sending your competitor the most visits. For example, Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword “mailchimp.”

Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.

Since you’re unlikely to rank for your competitor’s brand, you might want to exclude branded keywords from the report. You can do this by adding a Keyword > Doesn’t contain filter. In this example, we’ll filter out keywords containing “mailchimp” or any potential misspellings:

Filtering out branded keywords in Organic keywords reportFiltering out branded keywords in Organic keywords report

If you’re a new brand competing with one that’s established, you might also want to look for popular low-difficulty keywords. You can do this by setting the Volume filter to a minimum of 500 and the KD filter to a maximum of 10.

Finding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywordsFinding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywords

How to find keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter your competitor’s domain in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis reportCompetitive analysis report

Hit “Show keyword opportunities,” and you’ll see all the keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap reportContent gap report

You can also add a Volume and KD filter to find popular, low-difficulty keywords in this report.

Volume and KD filter in Content gapVolume and KD filter in Content gap

How to find keywords multiple competitors rank for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter the domains of multiple competitors in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis report with multiple competitorsCompetitive analysis report with multiple competitors

You’ll see all the keywords that at least one of these competitors ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap report with multiple competitorsContent gap report with multiple competitors

You can also narrow the list down to keywords that all competitors rank for. Click on the Competitors’ positions filter and choose All 3 competitors:

Selecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank forSelecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank for
  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Paid keywords report
Paid keywords reportPaid keywords report

This report shows you the keywords your competitors are targeting via Google Ads.

Since your competitor is paying for traffic from these keywords, it may indicate that they’re profitable for them—and could be for you, too.

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You know what keywords your competitors are ranking for or bidding on. But what do you do with them? There are basically three options.

1. Create pages to target these keywords

You can only rank for keywords if you have content about them. So, the most straightforward thing you can do for competitors’ keywords you want to rank for is to create pages to target them.

However, before you do this, it’s worth clustering your competitor’s keywords by Parent Topic. This will group keywords that mean the same or similar things so you can target them all with one page.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Export your competitor’s keywords, either from the Organic Keywords or Content Gap report
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
Clustering keywords by Parent TopicClustering keywords by Parent Topic

For example, MailChimp ranks for keywords like “what is digital marketing” and “digital marketing definition.” These and many others get clustered under the Parent Topic of “digital marketing” because people searching for them are all looking for the same thing: a definition of digital marketing. You only need to create one page to potentially rank for all these keywords.

Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"

2. Optimize existing content by filling subtopics

You don’t always need to create new content to rank for competitors’ keywords. Sometimes, you can optimize the content you already have to rank for them.

How do you know which keywords you can do this for? Try this:

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  1. Export your competitor’s keywords
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
  4. Look for Parent Topics you already have content about

For example, if we analyze our competitor, we can see that seven keywords they rank for fall under the Parent Topic of “press release template.”

Our competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" clusterOur competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" cluster

If we search our site, we see that we already have a page about this topic.

Site search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templatesSite search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templates

If we click the caret and check the keywords in the cluster, we see keywords like “press release example” and “press release format.”

Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"

To rank for the keywords in the cluster, we can probably optimize the page we already have by adding sections about the subtopics of “press release examples” and “press release format.”

3. Target these keywords with Google Ads

Paid keywords are the simplest—look through the report and see if there are any relevant keywords you might want to target, too.

For example, Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter.”

Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

If you’re ConvertKit, you may also want to target this keyword since it’s relevant.

If you decide to target the same keyword via Google Ads, you can hover over the magnifying glass to see the ads your competitor is using.

Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

You can also see the landing page your competitor directs ad traffic to under the URL column.

The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”

Learn more

Check out more tutorials on how to do competitor keyword analysis:

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Google Confirms Links Are Not That Important

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Google confirms that links are not that important anymore

Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed at a recent search marketing conference that Google needs very few links, adding to the growing body of evidence that publishers need to focus on other factors. Gary tweeted confirmation that he indeed say those words.

Background Of Links For Ranking

Links were discovered in the late 1990’s to be a good signal for search engines to use for validating how authoritative a website is and then Google discovered soon after that anchor text could be used to provide semantic signals about what a webpage was about.

One of the most important research papers was Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment by Jon M. Kleinberg, published around 1998 (link to research paper at the end of the article). The main discovery of this research paper is that there is too many web pages and there was no objective way to filter search results for quality in order to rank web pages for a subjective idea of relevance.

The author of the research paper discovered that links could be used as an objective filter for authoritativeness.

Kleinberg wrote:

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“To provide effective search methods under these conditions, one needs a way to filter, from among a huge collection of relevant pages, a small set of the most “authoritative” or ‘definitive’ ones.”

This is the most influential research paper on links because it kick-started more research on ways to use links beyond as an authority metric but as a subjective metric for relevance.

Objective is something factual. Subjective is something that’s closer to an opinion. The founders of Google discovered how to use the subjective opinions of the Internet as a relevance metric for what to rank in the search results.

What Larry Page and Sergey Brin discovered and shared in their research paper (The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine – link at end of this article) was that it was possible to harness the power of anchor text to determine the subjective opinion of relevance from actual humans. It was essentially crowdsourcing the opinions of millions of website expressed through the link structure between each webpage.

What Did Gary Illyes Say About Links In 2024?

At a recent search conference in Bulgaria, Google’s Gary Illyes made a comment about how Google doesn’t really need that many links and how Google has made links less important.

Patrick Stox tweeted about what he heard at the search conference:

” ‘We need very few links to rank pages… Over the years we’ve made links less important.’ @methode #serpconf2024″

Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted a confirmation of that statement:

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“I shouldn’t have said that… I definitely shouldn’t have said that”

Why Links Matter Less

The initial state of anchor text when Google first used links for ranking purposes was absolutely non-spammy, which is why it was so useful. Hyperlinks were primarily used as a way to send traffic from one website to another website.

But by 2004 or 2005 Google was using statistical analysis to detect manipulated links, then around 2004 “powered-by” links in website footers stopped passing anchor text value, and by 2006 links close to the words “advertising” stopped passing link value, links from directories stopped passing ranking value and by 2012 Google deployed a massive link algorithm called Penguin that destroyed the rankings of likely millions of websites, many of which were using guest posting.

The link signal eventually became so bad that Google decided in 2019 to selectively use nofollow links for ranking purposes. Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that the change to nofollow was made because of the link signal.

Google Explicitly Confirms That Links Matter Less

In 2023 Google’s Gary Illyes shared at a PubCon Austin that links were not even in the top 3 of ranking factors. Then in March 2024, coinciding with the March 2024 Core Algorithm Update, Google updated their spam policies documentation to downplay the importance of links for ranking purposes.

Google March 2024 Core Update: 4 Changes To Link Signal

The documentation previously said:

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“Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

The update to the documentation that mentioned links was updated to remove the word important.

Links are not just listed as just another factor:

“Google uses links as a factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

At the beginning of April Google’s John Mueller advised that there are more useful SEO activities to engage on than links.

Mueller explained:

“There are more important things for websites nowadays, and over-focusing on links will often result in you wasting your time doing things that don’t make your website better overall”

Finally, Gary Illyes explicitly said that Google needs very few links to rank webpages and confirmed it.

Why Google Doesn’t Need Links

The reason why Google doesn’t need many links is likely because of the extent of AI and natural language undertanding that Google uses in their algorithms. Google must be highly confident in its algorithm to be able to explicitly say that they don’t need it.

Way back when Google implemented the nofollow into the algorithm there were many link builders who sold comment spam links who continued to lie that comment spam still worked. As someone who started link building at the very beginning of modern SEO (I was the moderator of the link building forum at the #1 SEO forum of that time), I can say with confidence that links have stopped playing much of a role in rankings beginning several years ago, which is why I stopped about five or six years ago.

Read the research papers

Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment – Jon M. Kleinberg (PDF)

The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine

Featured Image by Shutterstock/RYO Alexandre

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