The euphemistic phrase “reputation management issue” describes what happens when you have a problem arise in search engine result pages. Whether it’s the result of an algorithm change, bloggers, or social media sites jumping on negative news or other negative linking bandwagons, reputation management issues are a major pain for brands.
When this happens, frustrations can run high, and you bear a lot of weight on your shoulders to fix the crisis, keep the unfavorable sites at bay, and make clients happy. One of the key things you need to master quickly when this occurs is setting and managing client expectations.
Reputation management in search results can be quite challenging, and on top of this you have frustrated clients who are pressured to make the negative content “go away.” More than other projects, reputation management projects seem to be the place where client expectation management is most vital. Here are a few areas where expectations need to be consistently managed throughout the process:
You can’t just “make it go away.” In the offline world people throw away their newspapers and magazines, and news programs rarely have re-runs, making it easier for an issue to “go away” over time. However, in the online world, the information posted about your company stays online, ages, accrues links, and is always accessible from anywhere. Expectation to set: Negative content in the search results won’t “just go away.” You will need to continuously get in the game and create positive online content about your brand across the web so that unfavorable content is pushed down in search results by positive content.
Nothing happens overnight. When a company lets the unfavorable content brew in the search results for a while, it gains search engine visibility and links. It didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t get fixed overnight. Expectation to set: It takes time. These sites didn’t rank instantly, and they aren’t likely to fall instantly either.
It’s not a project, and it doesn’t end. Unfortunately, once you have an online reputation problem, it doesn’t end, and as long as the unfavorable content is out there it is at risk of creeping back into the SERPs. Expectation to set: Once you have a search engine reputation management problem, it becomes the cost of doing business because if you stop, the unfavorable content has a higher risk of resurfacing in the future—the more negative content out there, the truer this is.
You’ll have ups and downs. As with any SEO project, there are wins and losses. Algorithms change, competing sites change, and sometimes the unfavorable sites are working just as hard to rank for your brand terms as you are working to push them down. Expectation to set: At times it’s going to be a bumpy ride. You may be smooth sailing for a while, and the next thing you know the negative content will be visible again. You need to make sure the client recognizes that the unfavorable sites are getting less and less visible over time, despite the blips here and there.
You must actually do something for something to happen. Your client needs to be willing to act on the strategy you present. If they’re not willing to play in the game, launch the changes you proposed on their website, or buy links to help favorable content rank, then there isn’t much you can do to make things move. Some companies want the change to happen, but when they get into the details they prefer to not do anything online to make that happen. Expectation to set: You must actually do what is recommended in order to make progress.
While it seems like a no-brainer, when I talk to other people who do reputation management, one of the big issues is managing client expectations and it’s something you must consistently reinforce as your report your progress. What it comes down to is that if you’re working with clients on reputation management issues, setting and managing expectations will be a one key element to keeping a satisfied client.
Jessica Bowman is an in-house SEO Evangelist at Yahoo! Inc. relishing in the human side of SEO, and author of the SEM / SEO In-house Blog. The In House column appears on Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.