R.I.P. Reputation Management – New Huge Google Sitelinks Kills Online Reputation Management Industry?


Quick! Google the name of your company. See anything you don't like? A Reputation Management service firm can make it disappear or so that was their sales pitch, that is, until now.

Yesterday we reported on Google’s roll-out of new, huge site-links that appear on branded searches, which pretty much crowds out the entire browser screen contents. Organic search listings not affiliated with the company (such as any damaging reviews) are pushed “below the fold” or to page 2 and beyond, where fewer and fewer eyeballs venture out to.

And of course, buying a paid advertisement on AdWords for your company’s name can now even further push stuff below the fold since ads are now also huge.

The Reputation Management industry has sprouted up in recent years to defend clients against potentially damaging information on the Web. With potential customers doing online product research, bad reviews or complaints that turn up in a search for a company’s name can turn into lost deals or negative publicity. Reputation management services promise to highlight positive pages and bury negative reviews deep in search results. For example, most reputation services do search engine optimization to promote positive pages (such as a company’s Twitter, Facebook or Linked-In Page, or positive reviews), thereby pushing off negative references off the first page of search results. Reputation Management services are typically pitched as another tool companies can use in their marketing and PR efforts.

It's still hard to say how companies who are using reputation management services will respond. While there’s more to Reputation Management than just monitoring the first page of branded search results for your company, for example, there's other stuff like social media reputation management – but social media chatter is pretty transient and quickly disappears over time. But now that Google seems to automatically heavily favor a company’s own webpage automatically via huge sitelinks, what becomes of Reputation Management? Are reputation management issues a thing of the past? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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Jonathan Bentz
Aug 17, 2011

From the POV of reputation management companies, there are always going to be other longtail keywords to target and common misspellings. And outside of brand name queries that index negative reviews, personal name searches won't be impacted the same way, so there will still be opportunities in that space from a PR perspective.

It's definitely not an RIP scenario, but it does change the game - at least for now...

Larry Kim
Aug 17, 2011

Online Reputation Management for spelling errors and longer-tail keyword searches? sounds pretty niche. and infact google has pretty good spell checking, so a search for wordstram (a mispelling) still shows the mega huge wordstream sitelink.

Peter Willis
Aug 17, 2011

I think this article has completely missed one critical point. The new site links actually make more room on page one for "bad" results.

A site which previously had 4 or 5 different pages in the top 10 for their brand search now has just 1 listing (with multiple sub-listings), meaning there are now 9 potential spots for other sites to rank for that brand term - where as previously there were only 5 or 6.

Larry Kim
Aug 17, 2011

Hi peter i look at it slightly differently. before there were roughly 10 things to click on in the first page of search results (sometimes more because of universal search results, etc. but you get the idea). Now when i search on a branded search for "wordstream" there are 23 things that i can click on, of which 13 are going to my site. that's more than 50% of the "things" that people can click on, and the entire screen without scrolling.
And furthermore the design of the mega site link is just so huge that it kind of sucks people in. It's a huge endorsement on the part of google that this site is where you should go. I will try to get some data for this...

Brian Patterson
Aug 17, 2011

Per my comment on my last post, it does affect us with ORM, but its not killing ORM. It just means we don't need to pay nearly as much attention for ranking a client's internal content for their brand name.

That means we shift focus to promoting their social media profiles, positive articles written about them, micro-sites we create, etc.

It does make ORM tougher because internal content was always a quick win because it was fairly easy to get ranked. ORM's need to up their game.

Richard Kraneis
Aug 17, 2011

Reputation Management, Site-Links, and Crisis

As always I learn things from WordStream every day...

In normal times, Google's new site-links will push bad references below the fold or onto the 2nd page.

If a brand is in crisis with scandal, bad business practices, or a horrible accident, will Google allow a trending topic to be pushed below site-links and below the fold?

To me, the future answer to my question may be a future infographic blog post on the next "brand crisis" that takes place.

Thanks for the information Larry.

David Jones
Feb 14, 2013

I've used a reputation management in the past to rid a specific negative post which seemed almost impossible.  I worked for a client, an established website - whenever the company name was typed into google, they automatically wanted to insert the work "SCAM" after it.  So for example as I typed in said company name, it was followed by the work Scam and linked to a very popular consumer website.We had to work hard to rid this term from being listed.

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