You’re only as good as your first page of Google search results. That’s the reality of today’s business environment. Keeping a company’s online reputation as pristine as possible is a baseline for any sophisticated marketing strategy.
Need proof? The Edelman Trust Barometer for 2015 found that Internet search engines are now the most trusted source of news and general information. When surveyed, 72% of online users said they trusted search engine results, a statistic that’s up 8% from 2014. Put another way, nearly three quarters of potential customers searching a company’s name will likely trust what Google returns on that first page. Glowing results will drive sales. Negative results will not.
One of the best ways to control what shows up in a Google search is a robust content strategy. Google’s latest algorithms reward fresh, compelling content that fosters engagement. Gone are the days when just having a bunch of inbound links was the key to search engine optimization success. Today, Google wants to see real content that is generating discussion, particularly through social media. Since it’s ranked higher by Google, compelling content will also help push less favorable search results to the second page – which, let’s face it, people rarely view.
A company’s online reputation defines it in the minds of customers, directly impacting sales. Trusted companies drive growth by actively curating their first page of Google results using compelling content.
The Way I see It
- When it comes to online reputation management, the best defense is a good offense. Companies must have a robust content strategy to ensure the story they want to tell is reflected on the first page of their Google search results. Online reputation is crucial for overall trust in a company, and is the main driver of sales and growth in today’s competitive marketplace.
- Content is not just text, it’s also photos, videos, infographics, and the like. In fact, with the rise of YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and other image-focused social networks, photos and videos can be even more important than text. This is especially true for companies targeting Millennials, who generally spend far more time sharing photos on Snapchat than they do Twitter or Facebook.
- The market – and Google – rewards creative content. While no one can predict if a video or meme will go viral, quality always beats quantity. Time – and money – spent crafting good content will pay dividends in sales growth.
The Way Industry Sees It
I sat down with Darius Fisher, President and Co-Founder of Status Labs, a premier online reputation management, digital marketing, and public relations firm with offices in Austin, New York, and São Paulo.
How important is a company’s online reputation when it comes to customer engagement and sales?
Ask the people losing sales and clients after a negative press cycle. There’s a saying, ‘just one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch,’ and this is the belief we see concerning online reputations. If your company has made headlines for the wrong reasons, or customers have written negative reviews, you are more likely to lose clients, scare away potential customers and even worse, see poor word of mouth spread. During a crisis, people are more likely to disassociate with your company in an effort to protect their own reputation. In the world of business especially, companies and customers steer away from sinking ships. We notice customer engagement decrease through metrics like website traffic, email communication, and even positive social media comments. On the bright side though, positive online reputations work wonders. Potential customers see favorable press online and immediately have a good feeling about your company. This is good for business because it’s much more difficult to change a person’s mindset than it is to make a good first impression.
How does compelling content help shape a company’s online reputation?
Compelling content generates authority and trustworthiness for your company and executives. It also makes you searchable in an organic way. For instance, let’s say your business is wealth management. Sure you can pay Google for adwords to appear at the top of search results for “how to save for retirement,” but if someone finds a compelling article you wrote on the topic in a well-respected publication, they are much more likely to trust you, respect your authority and knowledge on the topic, and eventually come to you with their business. The right content can build up your credibility, increase brand loyalty, and positively shape your digital footprint. In turn, creating an impressive first impression for your company.
How important is it to address negative search results and what should a company do? In addition, can quality content shift negative search results?
As I touched on earlier, it’s vital that a company address negative search results. Google is the new first impression so it’s in businesses best interest to manage any negativity and address the less-than-favorable links that appear. Content can help, but it won’t completely solve your issues. If your company wasn’t active on social media before, didn’t regularly update it’s blog, and never shared company news via press releases or a strategic public relations campaign, those are things that could certainly help depending on the severity of the issue. For most projects, however, search engine optimization best practices need to be used as well. This is the heavy lifting that we typically do for clients facing reputation issues online.
Any tips for creating content that fosters engagement across social media platforms?
Create content that your followers will find valuable and interesting rather than content that simply promotes your company. Consumers will see right through any disingenuous attempts to provide helpful ‘strategies’ or ‘tips’ that just aim to push your products or services. Be authentic and know your audience. By becoming a knowledgeable source in your industry, you can position yourself or your company as a thought leader. Monitor your social media content and see what works for each platform. LinkedIn users enjoy professional articles that they can share with their coworkers, while Twitter sees a higher engagement of more newsworthy content, not necessarily relating to their industry. Lastly, I would recommend consistency, both in terms of voice and content. Your audience wants to experience positive customer service and have you equip them with valuable takeaways no matter the platform. Whether they visit you on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, they expect the brand to be consistent.
Where do you see the future of content marketing going?
My feeling is that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to content marketing. Everyone is fighting for the spotlight, and the brands who can ultimately provide the most valuable and interesting content will win. For one, we’ll see a major increase in online video. Not only because it’s more entertaining and engaging, but it caters to online users’ short attention span and is easily shareable. I also believe that Facebook’s marketing platform will take over as the primary means of disseminating content to your stakeholders. There is a lot changing in the digital marketing industry and I’m excited to be a part of it!
What is the most interesting thing in your office?
Herb the hurtful. He’s a beautiful but dangerous cactus in our Austin office.