Where do you go when you want information? When you’re researching a product or a company? Obvious right. Everyone turns to Google. It DOMINATES search.
Google is a discipline in itself. It’s also a verb. I Googled to see if you can study a Google degree. You can’t. I’m surprised (I’m also not surprised – I was reliably informed recently that a UK university takes three years to develop a degree – it’s hard to predict what Google will do tomorrow, let alone in 1,095 days).
Truth is, mastering Google is the best way to manage your reputation online. And I’m not talking about classic SEO – I’m not talking about ranking for important top, middle and bottom of sales funnel keywords – whilst these rankings undoubtedly have an impact on your reputation, I’ve approached the following article with a mind-set of classic reputation management, that has nothing to do with SEO.
Google My Business (GMB)
Been known as all kinds of things over the years (think Google Places etc.). The map deck containing business listings appears at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). Or the GMB profile sits above/alongside your website in the SERPs when a prospect conducts a branded search. Most prominent GMB features include review stars and photos.
What do your reviews look like? Are they affecting the click through rate on your normal website listing in Google? If you need better reviews, read this from Google on how to generate GMB reviews. Have you even verified/claimed your GMB listing? And what do your photos look like? Are they ‘on brand’? The GMB profile goes way further than reviews and photos to be fair. You can add your own Q&As, you can list your services – it’s one hell of a free tool. Invest in it, it’s probably the first thing a prospect will see. Oh yeah, and keep the login details somewhere safe.
If GMB is all about your business (more often than not related to a particular area e.g. self storage in Manchester or property accountants in Nottingham – it’s such a feature packed resource, that can so drastically affect reputation, we’d advise every business claims theirs, whether they’re geographically focused or not) then the Knowledge Panel is about an entity. A musician, a business, a place for example. It serves as a snapshot, nothing more.
However, it still contains vital information (e.g. your business name, its description and your associated social profiles) that can make or break you. What if sends prospects to the wrong social profiles for example? Or what if you merge with another company and your business name changes? Claiming and verification requires a Gmail address, so don’t give it to the intern and panic when they leave and you no longer have the login details. Click here for info on Knowledge Panel verification.
Silly question, but does your website show up first when you Google your business name? Anyone searching for you online will likely be highly qualified (i.e. they’ve already decided they want to work with you and now they just need to find you). If you’re not appearing first for your own branded searches, then address as a matter of urgency.
‘People also ask’
Quite often if you conduct a search and scroll down the page, you’ll see a ‘People also ask’ box containing three or four questions, about a quarter to halfway down. This box can be expanded limitless times by clicking on the drop-down icon next to each question. Have you checked to see the questions people are asking about your brand? Then have you checked to see who’s answering them? Google’s returning content in response to the questions. It’s pulling the content from somewhere. Maybe your competitor’s blog for example. If you’re not answering these questions, you should be.
Which company logo is returned in Google image search for your brand? You can instruct Google as to the one you’d like to be returned using structured data – specifically add organisation schema with the logo and URL properties. If you don’t, and the wrong logo is returned, then don’t be surprised when it starts popping up in content related to your brand (like the aforementioned Knowledge Panel) resulting in a confusing experience for stakeholders.
Other structured data
Continuing down the structured data route, it’s important to understand you can make it crystal clear to Google what your company name, address and phone number is. Which social profiles it should associate with your brand, the jobs you have available at the moment…the list goes on. Click here on Google’s structured data dev page, for a comprehensive overview of stuff worth marking up with structured data, and its impact on the SERPs.
Have you checked to see which images are returned when someone searches for your brand? In Q2 2019 Google Images made up 20% of all organic searches. That’s a lot of visibility. What appears on Google when you search for your brand name and click ‘Images’? Logos? Images from your site? Images from your social profiles? Images of your staff? Current staff? Disgruntled ex-employees? Your CTO in a compromising position? Pictures associated with an environmental disaster your company was responsible for?
It follows a logical pattern. The more publicity your company attracts, the more related images there’ll be.
These are the prominent results that appear at the top of the SERPs for certain queries. As they are so prominently placed (known as ‘position #0’ in the SEO industry) they can have a massive impact on your brand’s reputation. If you’re tracking keywords to do with your brand then take a look at the ones that return featured snippets. Do you own the snippets relevant to you? If not, then think about how to restructure your content appropriately. Click here for tips on structuring content for featured snippets.
Know those old school ten blue underlined links that pop up in the SERPs when you search for something? They can all be easily edited.
True story: disgruntled ex-airline employee edits employer’s homepage meta data. Employer doesn’t notice for six months, just notices organic conversions dropped off cliff. Turns out they’d stopped selling flights and started selling ******* for £**.** to ***males and *****. Or so their homepage meta data claimed i.e. the info everyone saw as soon as they conducted a branded search.
And even if you haven’t suffered the wrath of an ex-employee, there are plenty of instances where a site gets hacked and the perps create thousands of pages advertising little blue pills etc.
Do you need a CGO?
To be frank, if you’ve not got a dedicated internal/external resource managing your Google profile you should invest (and I’m not talking about SEO, I’m talking about search engine reputation management). I find it astonishing that this job title doesn’t exist in at least every listed company around the world. Internal dev teams are everywhere monitoring and maintaining websites, but I’ve yet to encounter a Chief Google Officer or Chief Search Officer with a team dedicated to managing SERP reputation. Yet the SERPs are where the majority of customers and stakeholders will first encounter your brand. The question is, are you happy for Google’s algorithms to scrape together the information they think’s right, or do you want to take control of your company’s online reputation?