Understanding Search Engine Reputation Management and Impact on Business

Search Engine Reputation Management (SERM) is a relatively new word that is currently going around in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Online Marketing circles. But before I elaborate on SERM let me tell you a couple of stories.

Tom is a typical internet user. He spends a couple of hours each day on the internet, and does a lot of transactions online such as paying bills, buying clothes and electronic gadgets, purchasing performance parts for his Honda and also buys software and ebooks.

So how does Tom find what he needs online? This is what he does…

  • he goes to a search engine and types in a few general keywords
  • if he does not find the information he needs, he revises his search and this time becomes more specific with a longer phrase
  • if he is searching for answers to a question or a solution to a problem, some of those solutions or answers might be in the form of a product or service
  • if he needs more information about a product or service, he would go back to a search engine and again do a search this time using the brand of the product or service, and yet again this time using the brand together with modifier keywords such as “review”, “about”, “prices”, “testimonials”
  • the results he gets help Tom make a purchase decision, and the information he has found helps him make up his mind as to what product or service to buy

Tom is your typical online consumer, this behavioral process is typical of most online buyers. If you think that was a lengthy process, that is just an example of buyers who start out researching because they do not have anything specific in mind. There are a considerable number of consumers who go straight into the 4th step because they already have heard about an item, brand, product or service from other channels like TV, radio, magazines or even from word of mouth.

If you were someone researching a product or brand, would you be put off if you were finding too many negative stories, testimonials or articles about it? If you found a healthy number of positive comments and reviews from other people about a product, would that warm you up to that product?

This second story a personal experience.

A few months ago, I signed up to a website that offered a specific service. Paid a fixed amount of about a hundred dollars, for a corresponding set of services. For ethical reasons I will not mention the name of the service or other identifying details.  The very first time of using their service, I found that is was mediocre and decided to cancel my purchase, get a refund and not avail of the rest of the services. Note that this is for services, not something perishable or consumable like food or beverages, nor is it clothing or electronics. I had paid in advance for services that I no longer wanted to avail of.

But the website owner did not want to issue a refund.

So I wrote a review about the product, that was of course negative in tone, and today each time the brand name of the service, or brand name with the word “review” is searched for, my negative review is quickly found at the top of the search engines. Of course, the reason it is at the top is because I used my knowledge and experience in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to make sure people find my review.

So if you were a potential customer researching about this product, and you found my review, warning people about the way this website does business, wouldn’t you be a little put off, or apprehensive about using the service?

Here is where Search Engine Reputation Management comes in. Search Engine Reputation Management is often defined as the practice of protecting a brand or reputation from negative feedback or content that is easily found through search engines queries… but in my opinion it is not about simply shielding a brand from negative publicity, but properly managing the image of a brand online and advising clients of best practices in the conduct of their business on the internet. Shielding or protecting a brand from negative reviews or remarks is simply reactionary in nature, while proper online brand management through content that brings out a brand’s uniqueness especially when discussed voluntarily by audiences on social sites or user generated content sites is paramount!

Search Engine Reputation Management is PR management for the internet, and if your brand or product’s reputation online has can be correlated to your bottom line, then you might want to consider actively managing your search engine reputation.

If you have questions or comments about Search Engine Reputation Management, please post them in the space provided below. You can also send me questions about Search Engine Reputation Management or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Reputation Management through the Contact Form.

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1 Comment on "Understanding Search Engine Reputation Management and Impact on Business"

  1. Roy,

    Very good point, but I think a holistic approach to online reputation management should also include learning from customers comments, and improving value of your product or service, based on this learning. That will bring dramatic improvement in their reputation, online and offline, as the Tom’s story above describes online research for brick and mortar stores purchases as well. As comfortable it is to follow traditional departmental practices of functional separation, it is very ineffective in the efforts to manage your brands in Economy 2.0 environment :-). Product Marketing, Customer Marketing Communications and PR have to work together.

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