Big brands like Pepsi spend a lot of time and effort to monitor the first few pages of Google with their brand. Brands want their main website to appear first organically, followed by their social media posts, local map listings and the Google My Business page, a Wikipedia article, top news stories, their stock market symbol and price, any other website (in the case of Pepsi sites such as Pepsihalftime and Pepsicojobs show up), their YouTube, and any positive stories about the brand on well-known news sites and directories.
Not every company, especially small businesses have spent the time, money and effort that Pepsi has to “own” its brand digitally. How does your small to medium size business concentrate its resources to successfully protect your brand online? In this post I will outline and prioritize the essential tasks necessary to do so.
The first few pages of Search – Monitor Your Brand Online
In many cases on search engines the ads show above any organic search results and a small business can loose potential clients who search their brand names but land on competitor ads. In a lot of cases, companies try to spend some advertising money on the very non-competitive brand terms where they absolutely want to monitor the landing page that searches click through to. Here is an example using another soft drink, Dr. Pepper where they have invested in an ad campaign on Google using their Dr. Pepper brand name (“doctor” and “pepper” both could provoke many ads, so this ensures that the brand always shows first):
When many small businesses search for their brand name on Google competitors come up in Adwords at the top of the screen. If a competitor is advertising using a business’s trademarked name Google has put together an “Adwords Policy Trademark Troubleshooting Guide” outlining steps that companies can use to ensure competitors ads do not show when searchers specifically type in a trademarked business or product name.
Local Search and Reviews – Protect your brand:
Most businesses appear on the first page of local search results for their brand name. However, sometimes even big brands haven’t take the initiative to claim and optimize all of their business locations. I’m near Philadelphia when I search, and the location for Dr. Pepper still needs to be claimed, and shows three relatively negative reviews. Clearly a small local business cannot afford to work on its local listings.
Now that Google and Bing are placing most of their emphasis on mobile search results, it is even more important to claim your business’s local listings and consistently fill out the category, business hours, and descriptions consistently and monitor the reviews shown on these listings. Now when people search for your business on a mobile device they see only the top three Google local results on a map. There are several key components in optimizing local listings.
- Claim your listings – even if they are incorrect – you can then delete or merge them with a correct listing.
- Make sure to use a local number that matches the number on the page the listing links to.
- Make sure to use the exact and actual business name.
- Verify all the details on the listing are correct and consistent with your website and all other directory listings (especially NAP – name, address and phone).
- Keep your website hours consistent with your business listing hours.
- Continually add business images to keep the look of your business up to date.
- Strive to continually obtain positive reviews on your local listings. If you find negative reviews on your listings that you don’t think are from valid customers, work with the local listing provider to remove these listings. Google has a guideline here
Organic Search – Reputation Management
When you search for your business on Google or Bing do you see a well thought out description of your business? Are there links to the major pages of your business provided?
An example of Boomtown Internet Group (above image) shows how you can have control over the way your brand appears on search results.
Organic search results on a brand require the following effort:
- Add a well thought out title tag of about 60 characters including spaces to every page of your site.
- Add a meta description page of 150 characters even though search engines are not guaranteed to use this, it certainly will help search engines decide what to show as a page description
- Add schema.org to the major sections of your website and any product or service offerings.
- Use Google Console Sitelinks to set the links that search results show for your website: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/47334
- Bing also uses a setting in their Webmaster Tools to show deep links: https://www.bing.com/webmaster/help/how-to-manage-deep-links-d2809e9a
Directory Listings – Protect your brand
Over the years, organizations merge or change locations, phone numbers or personnel. Every organization struggles to maintain accurate and consistent directory listings, but this task is very important in monitoring your brand and showing up in mobile or “near me” searches. Many businesses are plagued with customers finding old phone numbers. In many cases, even after listing changes are submitted to online directories, they inexplicably revert to old, incorrect data. Many small businesses do not have the time or in-house resources to manage their directory listings across the web.
Any inconsistency in the NAP data decreases the likelihood of that business showing local SEO results. To prevent this from happening to your business, consider the following best practices for managing local listings:
- Standardize naming conventions for key personnel, services, products etc.
- Use a tool like Moz Local https://moz.com/local/search to keep consistent NAP listings in major directories
- Review the links to your site using a tool like Ahrefs, Moz or SemRush and create a spreadsheet of all your directory listings.Use this sheet to claim them and systematically make them consistent with your business information.
Social Media – Protect Your Brand
If your business is like many small businesses, you have not spent big brand dollars on social media, but you may have tried a few social media forays to test whether a social channel will work as customer service, branding or lead generation for your company.
Many brands can realize great opportunities for all of these activities on social media, but social media can also backfire because it allows consumers and competitors to write comments on business social media profiles forcing businesses to always monitor their social channels. There are some basic steps that all businesses should employ to help protect of their brands on social media.
- Create and have all employees and contractors use both a best practice guide and a social media policy (outlining appropriate behavior) for both personal and corporate social media use.
- There should be an “approval process” for anything going out on social media so that there are no surprises.
- Incorporate a well thought-out hash tag policy. There have been many articles written about how to use hash tags, including this one on Twitter: https://support.twitter.com/articles/49309#
- Monitor all your brand’s social activity using automated alerts and notifications via all channels that feed into a single email address.
- Take precautions to make sure your social channel logins are secure by regularly changing passwords and making sure they are over eight characters long incorporating upper and lowercase and special characters. Also use a login that requires two types of verification, and make the login a single central login that everyone employs. Don’t let a low-level employee or contractor have the power to delete your social media channel.
News – Monitor your Brand
When companies have a good content marketing strategy their brands show up in news stories across the web, but even top brands can’t really control news about their company.
Use AMP pages to Control your Brand
AMP stands for accelerated mobile pages, and is something that Google began implementing in February of 2016 to decrease the load speed for web pages by striping down the HTML in order to provide answers to specific questions. AMP pages show up at the top of search results and push all the other listings farther down, especially on mobile devices. Companies should be concentrating on creating AMP pages on their most important customer service questions because these results often stop the search process but do have a link to the site providing the most relevant results.
Many companies with Apps can optimize them to show up on branded searches.
Every company should try to submit a Wikipedia page, and if possible follow these guidelines to ensure the page is accepted by Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:FAQ/Organizations
The following steps should be taken before trying to submit a page to Wikipedia:
- Create a Wikipedia account
- Review the help page on Wikipedia to make sure you understand the policies.
- Search for your company to make sure there is not already an article about it on the site.
- Click “Getting Started – An Introduction” here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Getting_started and use the Article Wizard. Make sure to document all your sources. The more reliable sources you have in your article the higher Wikipedia will score it.
Using Offers and Coupons to Control Your Brand
Particularly retail stores also can own part of the Google search page by creating digital coupons and specials, and either using affiliate programs or manually entering these coupons in retail discount sites. For instance on the second page of Google when you search “Macy’s” the Retail Me Not coupons show up:
Organizational Tips on Monitoring Your Brand Online:
It is my hope that by this point in the post you have decided that it is indeed important to dedicate time, money and effort into taking control of your brand online. It may seem like it can be a huge undertaking, and for some companies it can be. However there are common sense organizational techniques companies can employ to lighten the workload.
- Take the time to prepare a Company Fact Sheet with a list of the name, address, phone numbers, hours, awards, bios of key people, descriptions of products and services, and branding differentiations. Keep this updated and use it to create and update all listings.
- Create a branding deck of company logos, graphics and fonts, and make sure to use only these whenever posting anything about the company to ensure brand consistency.
- I’ve already suggested creating a Social Policy, but you can also create a social best practice strategy so that whenever a piece of content is generated for your company or organization, there is a specific set of actions that also take place to ensure this content gets as much exposure on social media sites as possible.
- Most companies already have guidelines for Customer Service, and these should be made available to every employee responsible for posting content online. Inside this document should be an FAQ with acceptable canned answers to common questions.
Now You’ve Taken Control – How to Monitor Your Brand
The internet never stays the same. There is even a site that shows how many millions of blog posts are published every day: http://www.worldometers.info/blogs/ All different kinds of people may be posting something about their experiences with your brand, so it can be very beneficial for companies to invest some time and money in Brand monitoring or social media listening to protect the company reputation.
Brand monitoring tools search and organize brand mentions from hundreds of thousands of sites on the internet. Many tools like Ahrefs and SemRush have alerts that companies can use to see mentions not only of their own brand, but of their competitors, of interesting search terms, and of connected or partnering organizations. Additionally Alerts.google.com is free for companies to use and monitor their brand. There are a few popular and free or inexpensive tools worth mentioning as well
- Brand Watch begins at about $900 for 10,000 mentions according to PC magazine.
- Hootsuite is far less expensive, starting at $10 per month. It monitors the social media sites your brand is using.
Social Mention is free, and over a hundred popular blogs to analyze sentiment towards your brand, and notify you when someone on those sites mentions your brand.
- Sprout Social starts at $99 per month but offers a more robust brand monitoring service than Hootsuite.
Another form of monitoring every company should do bi-weekly is to review the links pointing to the website and use the Google search console and Bing webmaster tools to disavow any spam links that point to the site. This is necessary for organic search optimization particularly after the latest Google Penguin updates that cracked down on link spam.
Finally it is very important to monitor all review sites where you brand is mentioned, and respond quickly to any negative reviews. Don’t be afraid to ask customers to provide you with a review. As you know from your own internet searching, reviews are very important in the vetting process for every purchase or partnership. If you find a review that was made in error, or what you feel is not based on a customer’s experience with your brand, many review sites have ways to report invalid or fraudulent reviews, and the review site will take these down after your request is scrutinized.
How to Keep your Brand Active Online
There is nothing worse than starting to read a blog post after searching for information and realizing the posts is a few years old and likely out of date. How does a company keep content about its brand current? Most companies have content (or blog posting) creation plans, social calendars, regular newsletters, monthly coupons or specials, and are involved in community service. All these types of brand mentions can be automated to keep the brand looking active online. Companies can take advantage of the following:
- Automating posts from a social calendar through a tool like Hootsuite
- Providing quick response via chat, email, phone and social – in some cases this is so important that after hours contact is done via a call center
- Regular newsletters and emails posted on the company website
- Regular coupons and specials that are posted in coupon sites or affiliate sites
- Regular blog posts, videos, whitepapers and other content
- Community service and giving back mentioned in press releases and social sites to be picked up by local news sites.
A final thought on monitoring your brand online
It’s a lot of work to manage a brand’s digital footprint. Unfortunately ALL companies need to devote the time, money and resources necessary to pay attention to all aspects of their brand and they should have a digital strategy in place to ensure brand consistency and quality.
If your brand is spiraling out of control, give us a call. We can help you regain Monitor of your brand online!