Most brands, high profile organisations and individuals recognise that, in a digital age, their reputation lives in search engines. Ensuring the best possible visibility for your content on Google’s first page has become a key strategic goal.
Recent months have seen Google roll out some major updates to its algorithm – with drastic results for some ecommerce and affiliate websites.
Shares in Moneysupermarket, for example, slumped 15 per cent, after the company said that profits had been dented by changes in Google’s search terms.
For those concerned with managing online reputations, rather than selling products, what do the changes, known as “Penguin” and “Panda” mean?
Penguin was rolled out in April of this year with Google’s idyllic aim of insuring it always ranking the best quality results for users. The roll out reduces the rankings of “web spam” pages, thereby increasing high-quality, relevant web sites and incentivises web sites to provide users with valuable content that will naturally garner links.
I think this poses specialists with a particular challenge of making sure the content you want to appear on Google is authoritative. By this I mean your content is discoverable on owned web domains which are fit for purpose and on third party sites such as large news outlets and is also tailored for active social media channels. What’s clear is the days are gone when SEO companies could set up blogs and websites on an industrial scale, put the search phrase in the domain name, and see their links dominate Google rankings.
Google demands quality content and if you want to be seen as a reputable company then this is what you need to provide.
Why wouldn’t you want your messaging to be from strong reputable sources and on owned polished websites and blogs?
If you are large company such as Tesco you have enough content to own multiple websites filled with content, but what can you do should the search phrase be expanded for example to Tesco Tax? Whilst Tesco does “own” one result, the remaining are from third party sites (some of which 5 years old) and negative towards the company.
Content placement is now key and this is where you have to be more strategic. Although some major news sites, such as The Times, are fully behind paywalls, many others are considered highly authoritative by Google and rank highly.
In summary, while Google’s changes have delivered a certain amount of turbulence in search results, they do provide an opportunity for brands that are prepared to invest in good quality, shareable content. Given the importance of Google in shaping your online reputation, the big lesson is that search promotion and PR have to go hand in hand.
Melissa Conibear is Portland’s digital reputation manager. She can be reached at email@example.com