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Protecting Corporate Identity On The Search Engines
By Dave Davies, Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization

Companies go to great lengths to establish their corporate identity through marketing, advertisements, promotions, search engine positioning, and other means. As with any success, it may well happen that criticism follows. Any company is likely to do something that someone, somewhere won't like.

As we all witnessed with the "miserable failure" rankings on Google, if you are successful others will attempt to discredit you. In the past these attacks have been restricted to traditional media formats with a limited audience. Now however with some technical know-how and a computer your company or corporate identity can be attacked from anyone for the whole world to see.

While a wide spread attack such as the "miserable failure" incident is very rare, it is not uncommon for unsatisfied clients to post negative feedback on you in forums or on their websites and these posts may appear in the top search engine rankings for your company name. So what can you do about it?

The Goal

The goal is to monopolize the top ten or preferably twenty rankings with information that you desire to have potential clients, reviewers and/or the general public read. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. If your company has unsatisfied past clients, employees or others posting negative information that shows up in the top results when searchers look up your company name, this is bound to have a negative impact on your ability to convert these searchers into clients.
  2. Even without negative information out there it is in your best interest to insure that good information comes up when people search your company name.

It is possible to secure top positioning for your company name without spamming the search engines. Doing so requires a significant investment of time, however the payoff can be dramatic. So where do you start?

Articles

Arguably, one of the single most effective means of accomplishing this task it to write good articles about your industry and publish them online to various authority sites. Articles written by your company are excellent advertisements and prove that you know what you're talking about. If a potential client is doing their research into you and finds an article written by your staff on a credible authority website you will have won extra points.

For example, an article on search engine positioning written by Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization and published on a Webmaster authority site such as SitePoint stands a very good chance of ranking highly for our company name. To further the chances it is good to, if possible, slip your company name into the article a few times. Beware however, if you make you're 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 unto itself. I would recommend looking at what your main target audience is and what your primary keywords are and start there.

For example, when looking into places to submit articles for Beanstalk I would search for the following phrases (and a bunch more as well):

  • seo articles submit
  • search engine positioning articles submit
  • search engine optimization articles submit
  • business articles submit
  • internet marketing articles submit
  • and a number of others.

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 get them as widely distributed as possible. The more work you put in now the better your efforts will show results. The majority of the time spent writing articles will be spent in the actual writing process. Once you have your list of places to submit your articles to it becomes much easier down the road.

The Next Step:

Immediately after writing your articles I recommend setting up a Google WebAlert. You might as well sign up for an account that you can manage as you have a few of them to sign up for now and many more to come.

Create a WebAlert for your article title in quotes (i.e. "my article title") and also for an 8 or 9 word phrase taken from the middle of your content (again in quotes). This serves two purposes. First, you will be made aware of where your articles have been picked up and actually published (submitting them does not guarantee publication) and secondly, this practice will also protect you from copyright infringements. If someone, somewhere steals your article you will receive an alert. I recommend checking every alert you get (which can be quite a few if you've done a good job finding places to publish your articles). Make sure that your company is credited, that a link to your site is present, and make sure it's not being taken by someone else and credited to them. You would be surprised how often I've found this to occur.

These alerts will also let you know when Google has found your article so you'll know when you can expect to see it showing up in the results and also when your site can begin seeing traffic and backlink credit for it.

Advertisements

Purchasing advertising on authority sites can also be an effective way to attain an additional ranking for your company name. Some sites will actually place a page on their website about your company for a monthly fee (it may not even be advertised but if you ask most companies are happy to accept your money). If you can get this page linked to from the homepage and write a full page about your company, complete with links to your website, you will get the benefit of the links, the benefit of the traffic directly from that site, and also stand a very good chance of finding that page showing up in the top rankings for your company name.

Smaller ads can be effective if done right. If you purchase a small text add that has your company name in it a few times and is high up on the page you may rank well for your company name though it is difficult due to the limited number of words available for you to play with.

Press Releases

Does your company have something great coming up? Has someone there won an industry award or have you just completed a major project? Then send out a press release.

A company we've been working with for a couple years has done just that (for other PR reasons) but has discovered that their releases have plugged up much of the top ten for their product (not company) name. A very effective tactic from an ROI perspective.

There are many resources for publishing press releases including doing it yourself. One resource I've found to be useful is PRWeb if you decide to go this route. The cost is relatively low and they can distribute to over 100,000 contacts.

Additional Considerations

Georgia, an editor for SitePoint, brought up some excellent points in regards to this article inspiring this "Additional Considerations" section. In an email she asked the following:

  1. It is really that easy? It sounds like all the reader has to do is write articles and have them published on industry (i.e. related) sites, place a few ads and send out a few press releases. It might be an idea to "qualify" this approach by stating exactly how many article publications you're talking about, and/or how to choose a the sites on which you'd publish these and/or buy advertising from. I presume that, for this technique to work, the sites from which you published links (of any kind – ad or article) to your site would need to have a reasonably high search ranking themselves – is that right? Is there a numerical indicator (e.g. target only sites with a PR of X or who appear on the first X page/s of rankings, etc.) that readers can use as a rule of thumb? I assume also that the links themselves would need to be keyword-rich..?
  2. I'd also expect that the technique only really works if your site was already in the top spot for (a) given search term/s. If your site appears on page 3 of the search rankings, and an ex-employee publishes something that appears at number 1 for that search term, will the technique still work? Or will it only bump you up relatively in the search rankings (I would not expect it would necessarily put you at the top result). I guess what I'm really asking here is: does all your other SEO have to be perfect (and working) before this technique will have the desired effect?

These are examples of a point noted above that articles should be proof read, in this case not just for grammar and spelling but also for content and to predict additional questions your readers might have. Don't count on always getting an editor as thorough as Georgia however. Generally speaking you're going to have to rely on yourself and those around you.

Now, to address these points:

  1. Is it really that easy? Sort of. While following the steps outlined above will accomplish the desired results it is not "easy". Simply finding lists of quality resources that will post your articles can be quite a significant task indeed. Plan on taking hours on this step alone. Then there's the writing and publishing and the waiting for the search engines to pick it up, the monitoring of the results on the search engines, and then back to step one again with your next publication.

    For this technique to be most effective the sites will have to be well regarded (though not necessarily well ranked) on the search engines. A business site posting articles on SEO may very well rank in the top 10 for the company name of one of it's authors despite the fact that the site itself does not rank for anything related to the author's industry terms. Provided that the site is well regarded by the search engines it's a great place to submit.

    On Google, PageRank can be used as a decent indicator of being highly regarded, however when you're targeting the "Big Three" (Google, Yahoo! & MSN) PageRank should not be the only consideration. Make sure that when you're looking for sites to submit to that you search on all the top engines to insure you're finding sites that are liked by all the engines you want to rank on. This same rule applies when looking for advertising positions.

    How many articles? Unfortunately there is no solid answer here. This will depend on the quality of sites you're submitting to, how many sites you're submitting to, and how well worded your articles are. You will simply have to monitor the rankings on a weekly basis (at minimum) and, if possible, publish an article at least once a week until the goal is attained.

  2. Only if you hold a top position? No. What we're considering here is ranking for your company name, not some generic and thus more highly competitive phrase. Chances are you're site is already ranking well for your company name. At least 90% of all the pre-developed sites I've worked on have this attained without any solid SEO in place. For the other 10%, the inbound links from these article, press releases, and ads should certainly put you over-the-top for at least this phrase. The true benefit here is in the quality of the sites that are now including your company name (hopefully at least a few times) on their page. These are highly regarded sites and thus are spidered often and given extra weight due to their established positions as resources and/or authorities.

    What we have to consider is the weight on the incoming links (high), the weight of the pages that now contain your company name (high), and compare that with the weight of the site we are trying to push out of the top positions. If this truly is simply a disgruntled employee, client, or some other such source, then chances are they are not putting in the amount of effort that you are willing to in securing your name, nor do they have the resources available.

Does all your existing optimization have to be perfect for this to work? No. In fact, for those starting a company with a new website this is a great tactic for insuring that people searching for your company name encounter information that you've created. You're 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.

Final Notes

If protecting your corporate identity is important to you or even if you just want to make sure that people searching for your company online find your own website and also find the information you want them to find then these steps will help get you there. It'll take time and effort but the rewards will pay off and, as an added bonus, all these links to your own site from the articles, press releases, and ads will certainly help your rankings for other phrases as well.

I mentioned WebAlerts above. An additional 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 gets published on the net. Information is power and in this case it's the power to influence what others see and learn about your company.

And in some cases, that can be the power to win or lose your biggest client.

If you have any questions about keyword selection or your website in general please feel free to contact us for additional information or sign up for our free search engine positioning review.

Important Note: While the vast majority of our articles are open for publication on other websites this article has been written exclusively for SitePoint. Any duplication in whole or in part of this article without prior written consent is strictly prohibited.

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