SEO and bad publicity: How search engine results are crucial for reputation
All publicity is good publicity, right? That is, until it isn’t.
And thanks to search engine algorithms, that bad publicity you’d rather forget about can hang around in search results when people Google your brand for years to come. We all know that showing up in the top Google search results for your brand name is good for business. If someone searches for your brand, they (hopefully) will be able to find you.
Research shows that the first page of search engine results get about 92% of search traffic. The number one result gets around 33% of clicks, and the second 18%. After page one? It goes to about 1% for the first result and then that figure drops dramatically.
What this means? Showing up on the first page is vital if you want to reach potential customers when they search for your brand, service or product. And not only that, but what is being shown about you or your brand on the first page matters, too. If the results on the first page are defamatory or framing you or your brand in a negative light, the effects on your reputation can be disastrous. But, the reverse is true too. Today, we’re going to take a look at how SEO has the power to not only increase brand awareness, but to transform reputation, too.
The public shaming of Lindsay Stone.
In his novel So you’ve been publicly shamed, John Ronson details the public shaming of Lindsey Stone. According to Ronson, this is how her story goes: Lindsey Stone and her friend Jamie were working as caregivers at Life, a residency for adults with learning disabilities. The two women had an in-joke where they would pose in front of signs and do the exact opposite of what the sign said—for example, posing in front of a sign that says “no smoking”, while smoking. You get the idea. When they went on a trip with Life residents to Washington DC, Lindsey decided to pose in front of a sign at Arlington Cemetery that read, ‘Silence and respect’, while putting her middle finger up and pretending to shout.
Jamie uploaded the image to Facebook. Four weeks later, someone shared the photo publicly, and it went viral. Lindsey was receiving rape and death threats, accusing her of hating the military and veterans. There were Facebook groups and an online petition demanding she be fired. The result? Lindsey was fired. And, even after eventually finding a new job, the internet was still full of content about the photo of Lindsey at Arlington Cemetery. So, Jon Ronson enlisted the help of a reputation management company.
Online reputation management (basically, SEO)
We all know the Internet loves a good scandal. A brand or public figure does something wrong, and social media users will make sure everyone knows about it, trialling them in the court of public opinion. And sometimes, this can be a good thing if someone has done something really wrong. But, other times (like the case of Lindsey Stone), the Internet takes people’s actions out of context, and minor mistakes or misinterpreted jokes become blown out of proportion.
This is where ‘reputation management’ companies come in—they create an online presence for people and brands to filter out the negative stuff, and push bad publicity past the first page of Google results. This is what was done for Lindsey Stone, by creating new social media accounts and blogs.
So, how does this relate to me?
The ideas of reputation management and bad publicity show something simple, but extremely powerful about Google. When people were searching for Lindsey’s name, the only thing that was coming up in the first page of results was negative and defamatory. If someone googles you or your brand and the first few search results are negative, that’s what they’re going to click on. And, that can have incredibly negative effects on your brand reputation, and subsequently conversions.
And while ‘reputation management’ companies are specifically targeting those who have experienced scandals (and, mind you, some not-so-good people), it’s basically a really expensive (and extensive) form of SEO. You don’t need to have had a scandal or online feud to warrant SEO. That first page of results is not just about making sure your reputation is in-tact. A carefully considered SEO strategy means you can appear in the first page results for your brand name, and other search terms that are relevant to your brand.
In other words? The first few results are crucial. If people aren’t generally going past the first page (heck, they’re not really even going past the first few results), and you’re not ranking? Potential customers aren’t going to find you. Developing a robust SEO strategy, and putting the effort and time into implementing and managing it, can be transformative for your brand awareness (and reputation, of course).