When people search for your business, you probably assume that the first thing that pops up is your website, or your Google My Business listing. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. And even if your preferred listings do show up first in search, sometimes there are other results below it that are less than ideal.
Whether it’s another review site with a stream of not-so-positive reviews, or it’s a competitor’s article that doesn’t showcase your product or service in the best light, there are some results that just don’t serve your brand.
But what can you do… and how do you even know these negative results exist?
1. The Importance of Reputation Management
How often have you heard of a negative review or blog post from someone who wasn’t part of your team? It’s not fun, is it? You want to be the first one who finds those negative results, which means you need a system for reputation management. This could mean:
- Routinely searching for your brand or business name using an incognito browser. It sounds very clandestine, but “incognito” just prevents the algorithm from influencing your search results. This way, you can see what others may see, regardless of location or search history.
- Monitoring your Google My Business reviews and other review sites, i.e. Yelp, Amazon, Facebook, Angie’s List, etc. If you’ve created these accounts already, you should be monitoring them. If you haven’t created accounts, you should still check, as it’s possible to create false business listings that affect your reputation. You should also create the accounts so you can flag “fake” accounts and reviews in the future.
- Reviewing social media mentions using your business name, relevant hashtags, or similar language. Check social media (or have someone on your team do it) to make sure you share positive mentions and address negative ones. Don’t get mentioned directly much? You can use the search function in Facebook and Twitter to see your business name bolded in posts, whether you’ve been tagged or not.
- Setting up Google alerts for your business name. This is a simple, effective way to stay on top of those listings or reviews that could potentially cause problems. Just visit https://www.google.com/alerts and create an alert.
But now that you have an idea of how to find negative brand content… how do you manage it? And if you can’t manage it, how do you push down negative search results for your brand in Google?
2. How to Manage Negative Search Results
Let’s say you perform an incognito search for your brand and you see a listing that has a less-than-flattering review of your brand. What’s your first step? No, it’s not to fly off the handle and report the website to the Google police (who only take down listings for legal reasons).
Instead, consider a couple of factors:
3. Why was the content created?
Is this new search result a reaction to a negative experience with your brand? Respond to the negative review politely and offer some form of restitution if necessary (a refund, a discount, etc.). Don’t expect them to remove the review, but do offer a professional response. Remember, customers read reviews and replies, so keep it professional and above-board.
On the other hand, a negative result may be in reference to a blog or update you posted. This can happen with semi-controversial blog posts, or even for social media updates that are well-intentioned but misconstrued. If someone is responding to something you said or posted online, it’s probably best to take down the post/update and to inform the person or parties who reacted.
Once that’s done, you can then request that they take down their blog post or social media updates that mention the content. Of course, always keep it professional and do not demand that they remove the content. That generally leads to refusal.
4. Who owns the content?
If you find a listing that is created by a verified customer, you should respond to that person politely and with genuine interest in resolving the problem. Let them know that you apologize for their bad experience (if relevant) and offer a way to alleviate the problem, i.e. a refund, free product, etc.
If you find a listing that is owned by a competitor, or by someone who has not purchased your product or visited your location, you can contact them and politely request that they remove their review, or update it once they’ve had a chance to actually use your product/service. If you feel the person/entity is a “troll,” or someone who is just posting things to get a rise out of you and others, it may be best to not engage at all.
Once you’ve done some digging to find out who posted the content and why, you may be able to get the listing taken down. If they do not want to take it down, though, it’s time to move to Phase 2 of our negative search results plan: pushing that content further down in search. Let’s dig into how.
5. Pushing Negative Results Further Down in SERPs
The results people see on the first page of Google (and other search engines) dramatically impact their impression of your brand. That’s why it’s so important that people see the good stuff — and not so much of the negative. Especially if that negative content is undeserved or inaccurate (#thankstrolls).
To push down negative search results for your brand in Google, you’ll need to take a few strategic steps:
6. Create more of the content you want to be seen.
Quality and quantity are the name of the negative-listing-elimination game. If you want your stunning customer reviews to get seen in SERPs — rather than those negative ones — create (and optimize) testimonial pages. You can also ask for more reviews on your Google listing or on other sites, like Yelp or Amazon. The more these pages get updated, the more they’re indexed by Google.
And if you want to build authority for your brand, publish thought and industry leadership pieces on your blog or site. Get featured on websites or podcasts relevant to your audience, and leverage tools like Help a Reporter Out to get your name in more places. Make sure to optimize your pages and any features you have with links to your website and brand-specific metadata — and share it on social media!
Speaking of social…
7. Leverage social media.
Social media content can be a great way to push positive listings up in SERPs, while pushing down the negative ones. While Google doesn’t use traffic from social media to impact your rankings, it does take into account third-party factors. The more traction and shares you’re getting on social media that connect to those positive sites and content, the more Google will connect that brand content to organic search queries.
You can also run a paid social media campaign, designed to drive people to the content you most want to be seen in SERPs. Create ads that link out to articles you want to be seen, or create brand awareness and a positive reputation through impressions on engaging content. Again, these won’t automatically push those negative search results down, but the more people see your content, the more you’re likely to get shared and visited. This leads to organic (and desirable) changes in SERPs.
8. Use negative keywords to your advantage.
You don’t have to just let negative search results lie. Instead, you can use the keywords connected to those results and create your own content — or optimize existing content. Sometimes, those negative results are only connected to your brand name or business location. That’s great! Make sure you’re using your brand name in your content, and creating more of that content.
Sometimes, negative search results are connected to a specific phrase, like “your brand name + reviews.” Optimize your own content to include those negatively connected keywords so that, when people do search for them, your real content is what shows up. Of course, keyword spamming and black-hat SEO practices are no-go here. Only use keywords on pages or content that are relevant; i.e. only use “brand name + reviews” on your review pages, not on random blogs.
9. Stay on Top of Your Online Reputation
The last word on your pushing down negative search results in Google: it’s easier to solve the problem when you know there’s a problem. Don’t wait until you hear about a negative review or a blog post that trashes your service or product. Make it a routine to check in with your search results, and use the tools above to address problems that arise.
What people see when they search for your brand, service, or products is what convinces them to convert or not. So make sure they’re seeing the content that’s most representative of you… and that shows them you’re active and engaged online.