Win Back Top Listing! Protect Your Business Identity in the Search Engines

Companies go to great lengths to establish their corporate identities through marketing, advertisements, promotions, search engine positioning, and other means. And, as with any success, it may well happen that criticism follows. In the process of doing business, it’s highly likely that a company will do something that someone, somewhere won’t like.

As we all witnessed with the "miserable failure" rankings on Google, public figures can’t help being open to criticism. In the past, attacks have been restricted to traditional media formats with a limited audience. Now, however, with some technical know-how and a computer, any of your critics can attack your company and corporate identity in an extremely public way.

While a widespread attack such as the "miserable failure" incident is very rare, it’s not uncommon for dissatisfied clients to post negative feedback about businesses in forums or on the company’s Website.

Apart from the negative impact these comments might have on the usual readership of the site, the posts may also appear in the top search engine positions for your company name! When a prospective client performs a search for your business name, the first result returned by the search is the negative comment.

What can you do about it? I’ll answer that question in this tutorial.

The Goal

The goal is to monopolize the top ten – preferably twenty — search result rankings for searches on your company name with information that you want potential clients, reviewers and/or the general public to see. There are two main reasons for this approach:

  1. If dissatisfied clients, employees or others post negative information about your business, and this information shows up in the top results for searches on your company name, this is bound to have a negative impact on your ability to convert those searchers into clients.
  2. Even without negative information out there, it’s in your best interests to ensure that positive information is returned when people perform a search on your company name.

It is possible to secure top positioning for your company name without spamming the search engines. Doing so does require a significant investment of time; however, the payoff can be dramatic.

The process involves three, seemingly basic tools:

  1. Articles
  2. Advertisements
  3. Press Releases
Articles

Arguably one of the single most effective means of gaining the top 10 search result listings for your company name is to write quality articles about your industry and publish them on various authority sites. Great articles written by your company are excellent advertisements that prove that you know what you’re talking about. If, in researching your business, a potential client finds an article written by your staff published on a credible authority Website, you’ll have gained extra credibility in that prospect’s mind.

For example, if you owned a business called Acme Search Engine Positioning, and published a great article on search engine positioning on a Web authority site such as SitePoint, you’d stand a very good chance of that article gaining a high rank for searches on Acme Search Engine Positioning. To further your chances, it can be helpful to slip your company name into the article a few times, if this is permitted by the site on which you’re publishing your article. Beware, however, that if you make your article a blatant advertisement, many sites will simply refuse to publish it.

Finding a list of authority sites in your field can be a daunting task in itself. Consider your target audience and your primary keywords, then look for sites that suit those keywords, and attract your desired audience. For example, as owner of Acme Search Engine Positioning, you might perform a search on the following phrases (and a bunch more as well) to identify some sites to which you could send your articles:

  • seo articles submit
  • search engine positioning articles submit
  • search engine optimization articles submit
  • business articles submit
  • Internet marketing articles submit

You’ll notice that not all of them are directly SEO-related: since you’re investing the time to publish articles, it’s a good idea to have them as widely distributed as possible. The more work you put in now, the better the results will be. The majority of the time you spend on this step in the process will be spent on the actual writing process. Once you have a list of sites to which you want to submit your articles, the submission process will become much easier.

The Next Step: WebAlert

Immediately after you write your articles, set up a Google WebAlert. You might as well sign up for an account that you can manage, as you’ll need this functionality later, even if you don’t now.

Create a WebAlert for your article title in quotes (i.e. "my article title"), and another for an 8- or 9-word phrase taken from the middle of your article (again, in quotes). This approach serves two purposes.

First, you will be made aware of your articles’ publication as it happens (submitting articles does not guarantee publication). Secondly, this practice will protect you from copyright infringements. If anyone, anywhere steals your article, you will be alerted to its publication. I recommend that you check every alert you receive (which can be quite a few if you’ve done a good job of finding sites on which to publish your articles). Make sure that, in each publication, your company is credited and a link to your site is present. Ensure that you article has not been reproduced by someone else and credited to them — you’d be surprised how often this occurs.

These alerts will also let you know when Google has found your articles, so you’ll know when you can expect it to show up in the results and, also, when your site will see increased traffic and backlink credits for your work.

Advertisements

Another potentially effective way to attain additional rankings for your company name is to purchase advertising on authority sites.

Some sites will actually place a page about your company on their Website for a monthly fee (it may not even be advertised, but if you ask, most companies will be happy to accept your money). If you can have this page linked to from the site’s homepage, and the site owner is happy to publish a full page about your company, complete with links to your site, you’ll enjoy the benefit of the links and the benefit of the traffic directly from that site. You’ll also stand a very good chance of seeing that page appear in the top rankings for your company name.

Smaller ads can also be effective if they’re well-placed and executed. If you purchase space for a small text ad that includes your company name a few times, and is located towards the top of the page, you can rank well for your company name. This is difficult, however, due to the limited number of words available for you to play with in such a small space.

Press Releases

Is your company planning a great event? Has an employee won an industry award? Have you just completed a major project? Send out a press release!

A company we’ve been working with for a couple years has done just that (for other Public Relations reasons), and has discovered that the release has monopolized many of the top ten listings for their product (not company) name. It’s a very effective tactic from the perspective of ROI.

There are many ways to publish or disseminate press releases, including doing it yourself. One resource I’ve found to be useful is PRWeb if you decide to use paid distribution services. The cost is relatively low, and PRWeb can distribute to over 100,000 contacts.

That’s it! A combination of well-written, and carefully placed articles, advertisements, and press releases should see you gain control over the top 10 or more rankings for searches on your company name.

Additional Considerations

This technique might sound straightforward, but most valid, effective search engine positioning techniques are not complicated in themselves. Still, there are a few important points of which you should be aware.

Is it really that easy?

Sort of. While following the steps outlined above will accomplish the desired results, the process is not "easy." The process of establishing a list of quality resources on which you can publish your articles can be a significant task indeed — plan to spend hours on this step alone. Then, there’s the writing and publishing, and waiting for the search engines to pick up your articles. You also need to monitor the results of your efforts on the search engines before you return to step one and begin to plan your next publication.

What criteria should I use to assess the sites on which I plan to publish?

For this technique to be most effective, the sites on which you publish articles, and on which your press releases appear, will have to be well-regarded (though not necessarily well-ranked) by the search engines. A business site that posts articles on SEO may very well rank in the top 10 for the company name of one of its authors even if the site itself does not rank on that author’s industry terms. Provided that a site is well regarded by the search engines, it’s a great place to submit your articles.

On Google, PageRank can be used to indicate how well the site is regarded. However, when you’re targeting the "Big Three" (Google, Yahoo! and MSN), PageRank should not be your only consideration. When you think you’ve found a good candidate for the submission of your article, check the top engines to ensure that site is liked by them all. This same rule applies when you’re looking for advertising positions.

How many reproductions of my articles, ads, and press releases are required?

Unfortunately there’s no solid answer to this question. It will depend on the quality of the site to which you’re submitting, how many sites you’re submitting to, and how well-worded your articles are. You will simply have to monitor your rankings on a weekly basis (at a minimum) and, if possible, publish an article at least once a week until your goal is attained.

Does this solution work only if I already hold the top position for the search term?

Remember: what we’re considering here is ranking for your company name, not some generic and, thus, more competitive phrase.

Chances are that your site is already well-ranked for your company name — at least 90% of all the pre-developed sites I’ve worked on have attained high rankings for searches on their company name without having had any solid SEO strategy in place. For the other 10%, the inbound links from these articles, press releases, and ads should certainly bump your listing to the top at least for searches on your business name.

The true benefit here is in the quality of the sites that will include your company name (hopefully at least a few times) within their content. These are well-regarded sites — they’re spidered often, and are given extra weight by the search engines, due to their established positions as resources and/or authorities.

Consider the weight the search engines place on these new incoming links to your site (high), and the weight of external pages that now contain your company name (high). Now, compare that figure with the weight of the listing that you’re trying to push out of the top position. If the listing is simply a comment from a disgruntled employee, client, or other similar source, then it’s unlikely they’re willing to put in the amount of effort that you are to secure your name. And, even if they are, they probably can’t match the resources you have available to achieve the top rankings.

Does all your existing Search Engine Optimization have to be perfect for this technique to work?

No. In fact, for those starting a company with a new Website, the process we’ve discussed here is a great tactic to ensure that people who search for your company name encounter information that you’ve created. Your site may not rank #1 while it’s still at PageRank 0 with no backlinks recorded, but a well-worded article on a PageRank 7 Website stands a very good chance of achieving a high ranking.

Final Notes

If protecting your corporate identity is important to you — or even if you just want to make sure that people who search for your company online find your Website or information you want them to see — these steps will help get you there. It will take time and effort, but the rewards will pay off. As an added bonus, all these links to your site from externally-published articles, press releases, and ads will certainly help your rankings for other search phrases as well.

I mentioned WebAlerts above. Another good practice is to create an alert for your company name (again, in quotes). This way, you’ll receive notification when anything about your company is published online. Information is power and, in this case, it’s the power to influence what others see and learn about your company. In some cases, that can be the power to win or lose your biggest client.

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