In the world of search it can be all too easy to get blinkered by the power and domination of Google. I, myself, have certainly become susceptible to this over the last few years and can easily forget that Google only represents 80-85% of the search engine share in the UK and it is declining. Bing inches closer each year with a number of good deals to be the default search engine on a wave of new smart devices. I say only 80-85% (!) this is of course still a huge number but when you suddenly realise there’s 15% of the market you’re potentially not looking at, it’s a big chunk of the market to be ignoring.
This was bought starkly into focus recently when a large corporate client we have was launching a new brand. As you might imagine there was a lot of time invested in the branding and concept through over many months before attention turned to delivering the Brand online. The requisite keyword research naturally followed along with and research into the right website experience. As it was a new brand the keyword research primarily focussed on generic, related terms where we could expand its visibility to new customers and it didn’t really look at the brand name itself and yes you’ve guessed it the research was primarily on Google.
We had a good strategy in place, ready to target specific sets of keywords but before going live I decided to search on the exact match on my new smart phone, which as it happened had Bing set as the default search engine (it’s good deals like this helping it win more market share!) only to be horrified at the results I found. The 1st page of results were full of adult sites, all of which were being ‘closely matched’ to the search term I entered. I tried the same on Google to double check and to some relief the results were far more ordinary but still included sites in foreign languages, it was clear the search engines were struggling to find good content. In all my years of looking at search results I have never seen such wildly different results between Google and Bing. Usually you might get some shuffling of the deck but never 2 completely different categories of results but because we had only looked at Google and assumed this represented the market we were unaware of it and it was potentially very damaging not to mention embarrassing.
Having got over the initial shock of the different results our attention quickly turned to how to fix it for the client. They loved the brand name, were invested in it and wanted to keep it at all costs. The problem here is that Adult sites are legitimate, they are numerous, they have a lot of content and a lot of traffic so it is not as simple as asking Bing to take them down, they are not spam. You have to out rank them, change Bing’s interpretation of what the results should consist of and/or block them out of Page 1 entirely by taking the rankings 1-10. This is where the power of Reputation Management kicks in and how important and powerful it can be for your Brand.
The mentality must be that all roads lead to your website or Brand. If someone goes to a search engine and types in your Brand Name (exact match or close to), why should anyone else get the right to be displayed on Page 1 for your hard work or creating your Brand? However your website domain is only 1 link and there’s a lot of other real estate up for grabs that you need to claim too.
The glimmer of light in this situation was the fact that the results being shown where being ‘closely-matched’ they were not ‘exact-match’ results. The pages being shown were not optimised to the brand terms but were close enough to it that Bing took notice. This meant that there was effectively a vacuum of content for the Brand Name and Bing was simply trying to find something to display and was probably inadvertently displaying adult content as a result. So we felt fairly comfortable that a well optimised, content-rich website would soon appear at the top of the listings and moreover, teach Bing that there is content out there relevant to the Brand Name to display the only challenge being we just had to create it.
The action plan then kicked in of not just creating the website mothership but hitting as many other web profiles as we could and there’s a lot out land out there to go and grab. So after one week of diligently creating content and creating profiles we had Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, You Tube, Wikipedia, Instagram all locked off with Brand relevant cop. As it happened, Bing soon learned that it shouldn’t be displaying the adult content for a search on the Brand Name (after a couple of weeks to much relief) once the site had gone live but within 2/3 months as a consequence of the defensive measures we deployed we had actually locked out the page 1 results too on both Google and Bing. By establishing all the social profiles at the outset in a relatively benign search environment we were able to dominate the search results. It’s a relatively small win now because competition on the phrase is low but it time the ecosystem it has created will stand the client in very good stead for its Brand Management and potential competitor action that may come in the future.
Tips for Reputation Management
- Do your research on all channels, leaving no stone unturned.
- Establish social profiles early and optimise around the same brand term.
- Create Google+ and Bing Places profiles.
- Use Paid Advertising. Paying for sponsored ads takes up a good portion of the first page and only serves to demote unwanted links further down the screen. If there is no competition for the ads then the costs would be minimal.