Is Google Harming Your Brand?

January 25th, 2011

(Note: This article references “scam”-related suggestions in Google, but really could be about any negative-keyword or term that Google may be suggesting about your brand.)

While most companies would love to show up higher in search-engines, can you imagine a situation where showing up first on Google is a bad thing?

This blog has an interesting article about a client that had this exact issue. Google was suggesting the company’s brand name + the word ‘scam’ in their suggested results.

How would you feel about a company if when you typed in their name, the word ‘scam’ was added to the brand name and suggested by Google?

While this function of Google is certainly useful for finding companies that truly ARE scams (and avoiding them), what happens when Google gets it wrong? Or more importantly: why is Google getting it wrong in the first place?

Let’s get this out of the way first: no one has a definitive answer about why Google gets it wrong sometimes. Google is very secretive about the algorithms and methods it employs to serve up search results, as well as suggested searches. However, there are two ideas floating about among search-intellectuals that may provide some insight:

  1. There aren’t that many people searching for “brand name + scam” at first- but maybe just enough are searching for that term to make it appear low in the suggested results. Once it appears, people’s curiosity gets the better of them and they click just to see what’s out there. The user thinks “If Google is suggesting it’s a scam, I should at least check it out.”
  2. Another, much-less fleshed-out hypothesis, is that Google is simply biased to serve up “scam”-related suggestions.

Neither of these seem to fully explain what’s going on, but that’s okay, because there is a simple solution.

While you can’t do much to remove any negative content on the web about your brand, you can make sure there’s plenty of positive content that is easily found by search engines. In fact, Google recommends this method for dealing with negative search results about a brand. It may not be immediate, but publishing positive content about your brand across the web, and then using SEO best-practices is a great way to push the negative search results further down the list, and keep your new positive article at the top of the list (and the top of your customers’ minds).

Consider implementing an online reputation management strategy, or at least a basic content strategy for your brand. Even if you aren’t experiencing any negative press or search-engine-woes, consistently publishing well-written, positive, and relevant content to the web is a great way to improve your off-page SEO. And if Google ever does suggest a negative term related to your brand, you’ll be ready!

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