In just 3.5 months, the BDCenter Digital team helped an investment company decrease the percentage of negative search results in the top 20 of Google and Yandex from 59% to just 14%. The result was a 222% increase in search traffic, while conversions to sales almost doubled.
What is search engine reputation and why it matters
Enter any company’s name into Google and analyze the results (the so-called SERP — search engine result page). It will be a mixed bag: the official website, articles, reviews, videos, news, social media pages, and so forth. But apart from the type of website, search results differ by another parameter: tonality. It can be positive, neutral, or negative.
To evaluate a company’s online reputation, you need to calculate the percentage of the search results of each tonality in Google’s top 20, top 40, etc. Keep in mind that a single negative page can mean lost sales:
Of course, the best way to uphold one’s online reputation is to offer quality products and treat one’s customers fairly. However, this isn’t always enough — especially in finance and investments, where rival companies often turn to «black PR» and fake negative reviews, while clients post complaints even in case of minor issues.
In this case study, BDCenter’s client suffered from a high share of negative search results in spite of the high quality of its investment products. 59% of the pages in Google’s top 20 were negative in tonality, including articles, reviews, blog posts, etc.
222% more site visitors thanks to fewer negative results
In just 3.5 months, we managed to bring down the share of negativity in Google and Yandex from 59% to 14%, while the percentage of positive pages grew by 34%. On YouTube, the positivity rate increased from 42% to 60%. This had a dramatic effect on search engine traffic and conversions to sales:
To achieve this result, the team of BDCenter Digital used a complex approach. We published new content, negotiated with the media and bloggers to edit or remove existing negative articles, optimized the company’s website and social media pages, and worked with search suggests.
The first step was to draw up a list of the target keywords and keyphrases based on which we would evaluate the search reputation. It included such queries as «(company name) + reviews», «(company name) + scam», etc. These are known as branded queries, because they feature the name of a business.
Important: since the set and order of the search results in the top 20 often change, so one should monitor them regularly and adapt the strategy accordingly. We would enter the changes into a spreadsheet on a weekly basis, with the cell color representing tonality (website’s names have been removed for reasons of confidentiality):
Optimizing the website, blog, and social media pages
A company’s official pages should rank at or near the top for branded queries. If this is not the case, some SEO (search engine optimization) is required. In particular, one has to do the following:
- make sure that the company name is present in the headings, title tags, and social media pages;
- insert target keywords and keyphrases into the content;
- ensure that all social media pages feature the same design template and similar content;
- post new content regularly.
In particular, our client, apart from the official website, also had an analytical portal, which didn’t even rank in the top 20. This wasn’t surprising, since the company name was absent from the headings and title tags. Once optimized for search engines, the portal quickly entered the top 10 for a number of branded queries.
Important: properly optimized social media pages can occupy up to a half of the top 10. Thus, it’s essential to work on their SEO and publish quality content in accordance with a clear content plan. Once a few of our client’s pages entered the top 10, they have automatically pushed several negative results down and away from the first page:
As soon a user begins entering a word in the search field, the system automatically offers them a number of possible keyphrases so called search suggests.
The purpose of suggests is to make search easier and faster, especially on mobile devices. However, in reality they often shape the search intent and can lead the user in a direction very different from the one the company would prefer. For example, upon seeing the suggest «(company name)+scam», the user will probably click on it — and end up with a whole page of negative reviews and even fake critical reviews paid for by the company’s competitors. Therefore, it is important that most of the suggests on the list should be positive or neutral in tonality.
Identifying fake suggests
Sometimes businesses pay to get positive suggests boosted artificially: for example, to turn a neutral suggest like «where to invest» into «where to invest (company name)». Others, by contrast, pay to people to boost negative suggests with their competitors’ names. Such fake suggests can be recognized by a few signs:
- a big difference in the frequency (popularity) of a suggest in two different search engines, such as Google and Yandex;
- identical frequency charts for two or more suggests: it shows that someone started entering these keyphrases again and again at the same time;
- unnatural phrasing (something that a real user wouldn’t write).
Our analysis revealed two artificial negative suggests that fit all three signs described above. In particular, their frequency charts are practically identical:
Important: one can sometimes get rid of artificial suggests by writing to the search engine’s tech support and providing proof, such as graphs. In our case, the support of Yandex quickly solved the issue, but complaining to the YouTube support didn’t yield any results.
As for organic (non-artifical) suggests, the only honest way to eliminate them from the list is to increase user demand for positive suggestions. To do this, one needs to publish quality content, news, social media posts, etc. in order to generate interest in the company.
Working with content
The first few search result pages contained a number of critical articles in the media and reviews by bloggers. We used three methods to push these negative pages out of the top 20:
1) New positive content
This includes expert articles, social media posts, news features, and most importantly, reviews. We selected those sites that already featured negative reviews and asked the company’s satisfied customers to post new reviews (presumably positive) on the same sites. As a result, several positive reviews were featured in the top 20 search results.
This method is similar to the one used for reviews, though it usually requires a budget to be allocated for media placements. The idea is to draw up a list of the media that feature negative articles or reviews and then publish new positive, SEO-optimized articles in those same media. If the new article features the right keywords and has carefully phrased headings, it will rank high on Google instead of the old negative article, though the domain’s position on the list will not change.
3) Negotiating for content edits or deletion
Sometimes an author writes about a project in a negative vein without a good understanding of the product or based on critical reviews that had been paid for by the project’s rivals. In such cases, it’s worth writing to the editor to politely explain why the information contained in the article is incorrect.
If the arguments provided are credible enough, the website may agree to edit the article or even delete it. Smaller websites are more willing to do this than large portals. In our case, two Russian websites (VC.ru and Yandex.Zen) agreed to make corrections based on a brief prepared by the BDCenter CEO specialist.
The resulting articles featured expert analysis and provided real value to readers (i.e. they were not promos), but they also featured the target keywords and a couple of mentions of the company. We also purchased a number of links to promote each article.
Important: to make sure that an article ranks high on Google, you need three elements — high-quality content, SEO, and promotion using paid links.
Putting it all together: YouTube
YouTube is full of finance and investment-centered channels, and it’s on this platform that investors tend to look for reviews. A project’s YouTube reputation (that is, the dominant tonality of the videos dedicated to it) is just as important as its reputation in Google or Yandex.
In the case of our client, negative videos accounted for 32% of YouTube search results. To eliminate them from the top 20, we used an all-round approach that included all the techniques we’ve described previously:
1) Publishing new videos. We contracted 6 vloggers to create video reviews and provided a detailed brief.
2) SEO. The brief contained a list of the target keywords and tags to be used, title and description guidelines, etc.
3) Promotion. We bought a number of paid links to advertise each new video.
4) Optimizing the client’s YouTube channel. We posted several new videos and improved the design and SEO.
5) Negotiating with vloggers. While a vlogger can’t really edit a video once it’s published, they can in theory delete it. However, one needs very strong arguments and a very diplomatic approach to persuade a vlogger to do that. We managed to reach an agreement with two YouTube influencers.
6) Search suggests. It’s worth noting that promoting new positive suggestions has worked even better on YouTube than on Google.
In conclusion: a low negativity rate isn’t the goal in itself
In three and a half months, BDCenter Digital managed to transform the investment company’s online reputation, reducing the share of negative results from 59% to only 14%. However, as exciting as it is to chase negative pages out of the top 20, we never forgot that it was just a tool for reaching specific business goals: increasing search traffic and sales. The tonality of the search results has a great impact on these metrics, but on its own specific negativity or positivity rates aren’t the ultimate objective. The most important result of the campaign was a 222% increase in website visits originating in search engines and almost doubled conversions to sales: from 5% they rose to 9.6%.
To achieve this effect, we combined very diverse techniques: working with the media and influencers, communicating with the company’s customers to obtain new reviews, SEO, search suggest optimization, creation of new expert content, and so forth. If you’d like to learn more about how to improve and maintain one’s search engine reputation, write to BDCenter Digital — it will be our pleasure to share our experience.