Google recently launched its new default search results deemed “Google Search Plus Your World,” which is already creating quite a controversy in SEO circles and beyond. Regardless of if searchers like the results, the reality is that Google has placed great emphasis on Google+ and is likely hoping that GSPYW will increase Google+ adoption.
GSPYW offers both opportunities and challenges to search marketers. On the one hand, posts to social networks, especially Google+, can actually alter search results, giving a huge boost to previously unranked pages. For example, I hosted a webinar last week on search engine marketing for healthcare organizations. When I search Google for “healthcare marketing,” our webinar registration page appears -- not once, but twice -- in the top ten search results as social shared results at positions 2 and 3 because the page was shared on Google+ by our marketing department, who I have social connections with on Google+. However, if I’m logged out of my Google account or I use the non-social version of the results, the page doesn’t rank in the top 100 results. This presents a huge opportunity for SEOs to get content ranked quickly -- so long as your social circle is large enough to reach enough of your target audience.
On the other hand, though, many claim that the GSPYW results are often irrelevant. Danny Sullivan wrote about how GSPYW results tend to do more to promote Google+ over relevant results, and Tad Miller wrote a piece about how GSPYW needs a quality rater because the relevance of the results is often so poor, providing some basic examples of some poor results.
So how does all of this relate to online reputation management?
Think about it this way: Now that it can be much easier to leave a comment on Google+ and have it ranked quickly for a brand name or keyword, what’s to stop negative attacks from appearing in Google search results for your brand? Unlike “hater” websites, which still require good SEO to rank well, social results from Google+ can quickly appear in a search result, and there doesn’t appear to be anyone at Google monitoring or rating this content for relevance or truth. So, it’s up to you.
What can you do to monitor and protect your reputation?
The first key to online reputation management is monitoring it. You’ve got to know what’s being said about your brand as it happens so that you can respond swiftly and effectively. While you may not have monitored your brand closely on Twitter or Facebook, they haven’t had the immediate impact on search results to date that Google+ has. So if you haven’t been monitoring your brand before, start now.
Just doing brand searches on Google won’t be enough; you have to see inside the social circles to understand what is being said about your brand that “may” rank for your brand keywords. Now that Google+ has an API, you can build your own tool to monitor, or you can purchase another tool to use (for instance, I use Trackur).
Keep an eye on your brand at least daily. If something negative pops up, investigate it. Determine if there is any truth to the claim. If not, ask the person who posted it to remove it, citing why the claim is incorrect. If there is truth to the claim, do what you can to make it right.
It’s currently unclear how long social results may rank for a given term before they could be considered too old or irrelevant. In the case of the “healthcare marketing” example, those shares occurred nearly two weeks ago but still rank in the top ten results. I’ve seen other shares last even longer. So do what you can to rectify the situation quickly so it doesn’t become a lasting problem.