First of all, many thanks to the good people of Brazen for giving me a platform for some wittering. Playing at someone else’s house is always more fun. I’ve been going on about the synergies between Search Engine Optimisation and PR for a few years now. Thankfully, PR agencies in Manchester are starting to see the opportunities it brings.
Wikipedia defines PR (Public Relations) as “the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics” The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) also adds “Public relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. “ So, where do people form opinions? Where do people increasingly do their research about a product, a service, a brand? It’s fair to say that an increasing amount of opinion is formed via research on a search engine. In the UK, that generally means Google. The last time I checked via Hitwise, Google had over 90% of UK originated search. So you tend to play by Google’s rules. So, someone wants to research a brand. They go to Google.
OK, so let’s go to Google and pick on an easy target. Just for illustrative purposes of course. Let’s have David Cameron, consider it a personal brand, as he’s just made a Twitter of himself. I do a search on Google on his name and I get a range of search engine results (SERPS) back . I’ve taken a snapshot of them to illustrate as SERPs change over time.
First of all, it’s a nice indicator of the kind of mixed media/source results that Google likes to return now. There are video results and news results. You’ll also find blog results at the bottom of the page. It’s also useful to understand that these are all channels that people surf and so they need direct management. However, just looking at that one page, there are negative messages directly in front of the searcher. For example, 5th result down:
The question is, what to do about it? Quite obviously there are some standard PR techniques to apply. Respond to criticism where appropriate, wherever the source if it ranks in the SERPs. Maybe craft another story to draw attention. That’s not my field though. The delightful people at Brazen are much more adept at that kind of thing. However, there are techniques you can apply so that the negativity is harder to find and that the messages that are associated with the brand are more directly in your control.
Having access to sites that rank well for your own brand name is really very useful. So Mr Cameron has www.davidcameronmp.com as his domain. Useful, but badly deployed. If you look carefully, you’ll see that the webpages you can navigate to are from another website, www.conservatives.com. It uses what’s called a Frame. I could explain why Frames are the work of Satan with respect to SEO, but just take my word for it right now. Dreadful.
Ideally you want to be using that brand website to get multiple listings high up in the SERPs. You may have http://www.davidcameronmp.com/davidcameron. You could also have http://davidcameron.davidcameronmp.com and quite realistically, with a bit of technique, have these pages taking the top 3 results in the SERPs. The result of this is that you are starting to push negative stories down the page. You are taking control of the visible message. What other assets might feature quite well for David Cameron related terms? www.conservatives.com is one that already does. Optimise a few more pages for David Cameron related terms and potentially you have some more positive entries in the SERPs. It’s not guaranteed. Google may decide that it wants to rank news results or video results above your brand pages. It’s like that.
So you have all your owned assets working for you to control search terms around your brand. What else can you do? Again, use for some traditional PR skills comes in handy. Identify an authority news site that is preferably on topic and place a positive story with them. In Manchester, you would normally think of using:
http://www.crainsmanchesterbusiness.co.uk/ (their content isn’t open but Google does index it. If you want it for free, check Googles cache!)
How the story is displayed on their site is important. The headline should be structured along the lines of “BrandName does something really great!” Normally this should also be reflected in the page title. It’s focussing on using the authority of the publishing site to rank the story for your brand name. When the article gets published, you can nudge it along by generating links to the article. Link to it from your own news section. Use social media and bookmarking sites like del.icio.us to link to it. Mention it on your blog, Twitter it. You make that particular story relevant for your brand name.
Hopefully that makes your problem go away and gives you an element of control over your brand or your clients brand.
Managing Director Of PushON