Many years ago branding was simply the act of marking one’s cattle with a unique identifier so that they could quickly be sorted and would be difficult to steal. With the arrival of big corporations and the maturation of marketing, branding has evolved into something much more. Today, companies like Pepsi Cola spend hundreds of millions annually on their branding and marketing campaigns. With the popularity of search engines growing, SEO and Pay Per Click (PPC) have started to gain ground in these budgets. The following is a guide on how to perform an online brand reputation audit, which is necessary for measuring these growing resources.
Using the Brand Search Engine Result Page
Whenever I see top search query lists, I am always surprised at how often people search for exact domain names or brands. It is for this reason that the brand search engine result page (SERP) is so useful. The following actions can help you identify what improvements might be necessary for a branded term search result page.
Search for the brand name in the major search engines.
To complete the first action item all you need to search for is the brand name of the given company. This will bring up a results page with about 10 results and some ads. This is one of the most important pages about the given company, and many otherwise smart company executives don’t pay attention to it. For many searchers, this will be the front door to information about the company. Google knows this fact and has crafted algorithms to take advantage of it. Upon analyzing the SERP for a wellknown brand name, you may notice some seemingly unusual results. This is because Google’s brand-specific algorithms intentionally show more diverse results than they do for a normal search. These results tend to include reviews and websites that share opposing views.
To give you some context, the ideal brand search result page would have all of the following:
- An ideal brand search result page means no matter which link searchers click, they end up on a company-approved page.
- The main domain would have Sitelinks, a group of Google chosenlinks to primary sections of the given website in search engine results.(Google Sitelinks)
- The first 10 natural results would be owned by the given company
- The page would contain at least one positive review
- The given company would own all of the PPC ads for the query
The end result of a result page like this is that no matter which link the searchers click, they end up on a company-approved page. Although this isn’t necessarily the best experience for the user, it is the best business tactic.
Search all of the following and identify potential problems (this is not a comprehensive list):
- Brand Name Sucks
- Brand Name Scam
- Brand Name Cult
- Brand Name Problems
- Brand Name Issues
- Brand Name Support
- Brand Name Broken
- Brand Name Error
- Brand Name Review
The second and last action item on this list requires you to run a series of directed search queries to see if you can identify any problematic webpages. This list is not comprehensive and is only intended to be a
starting point. I use this list in my work and customize it to my clients based on their product or service. (For example, if I was working for an oil company, I would run queries for topical negative queries such as
“Brand Name environmental impact”) This step is important both because it helps identify problematic sites early and because it mimics behavior that a skeptical user might do. Remember, if potential customers read even one negative review about a given company, they are significantly less likely to buy its product regardless of the source of the content.
Brand Searching in the Social Media
My sincerest hope is that by the time you read this article social media will no longer be the overused buzzword it is at the time I am writing this. It is definitely a very important part of the Internet, but it is not the be-all-end-all feature that may make or break your brand. It is merely a technological supplement. Remember, people were talking about brand on the Internet well before the creation of Facebook or Twitter. Use these services, but don’t lose track of the real driving force behind brands—their products and
services. The following list will help you glean some of the benefit these tools provide:
- Brand searching social media can help you respond to criticism as it happens or just shortly after.
Search Twitter for brand name mentions.
This first action step is to search Twitter for any real-time (or near realtime) mentions of the brand. To do this, go to http://search.twitter.com and type the name of the brand into the search box. This step is
important because it enables you to respond to criticism as it happens.
Having been the guy that a corporation has contacted after I complained about them on Twitter, I can say that not only did it resolve the problem, but it left me giving the brand some well-deserved credit.
Search Google Blog Search for brand name mentions.
This next item requires to you to search Google Blog Search for brand mentions. As the name implies, this searches only through the blogosphere. This is available at http://blogsearch.google.com and is
quick and easy. For best results, narrow down the time span by clicking one of the available time filters. This action is important because it allows you to quickly see both what influential and beginner bloggers have to say about the brand. Bloggers’ opinions can travel to many ears and make a large impact on overall brand, and you’ll typically see company mentions on Google Blog Search prior to those stories going viral and spreading on Twitter and other social media sites.
Search Google 24-hour Search for brand name mentions.
This third action point involves searching Google for brand mentions that happened within the past 24 hours. You can accomplish this by searching in Google, clicking Show options on the resulting page, and
clicking Past 24 hours. This searches the Google web index for mentions that happened within the prior 24 hours. Taking this step is important because it gives you the chance to track down mentions before they are widely read. That said, on the Web, 24 hours is a long time and if you catch something too long after it happens, it might already be too late.
Search Google Realtime Search for mentions as they occur.
Google Realtime Search (www.google.com/realtime) is a relatively new interface from Google that allows you to search for articles, posts, and tweets that reach the results page within seconds of going live. You can filter your search results by geographic location and by time, so it’s very simple to track trends when and where they happen. Currently, most search results come from social media sites such as Twitter and
Facebook (due to their sheer volume), but expect to see more sources represented soon.
Search Facebook for fake accounts and fan pages matching brand name.
Facebook is unique in its ability to avoid looking corporate (with negative connotations) even when it is being so. This is largely due to the number of real-life friends who communicate on the site. So, the next action step has you search Facebook for fake user accounts and brand-related fan pages. To do this, simply log in to http://www.facebook.com/ and type the brand name into the search box as if you were searching for a person.
You can then contact or browse through any of the information offered by that person or p
Search Myspace for brand name mentions
Similar to the previous step, you should also search www.myspace.com/ for brand mentions. This social networking site is smaller than Facebook, but covers a lot of people who do not use Facebook regularly. To do this, log in to Myspace and search for the brand name as if you were searching for a friend or username. This will help you see how the given brand is being talked about by the Internet-savvy demographic that is largely different from Facebook members.
Search YouTube for brand name mentions.
You should also search YouTube for brand name mentions. Though this isn’t comprehensive (it doesn’t detect words spoken in videos) it is the best video search available at this time. To do this simply go to
http://www.youtube.com and search for the given brand name. This step is important because of the inherent nature of video on the Web. It is easy to consume and easy to share, so its potential for spreading is
enormous. My favorite example of this working against a brand is a songwriter whose favorite guitar was ruined by United Airlines workers. He contacted the airline several times to resolve the issue, but they
refused to reimburse him for his broken property. Upset by their lack of integrity he wrote a song and published it on YouTube. As I am writing this, the video has been watched more than five and half million times.
The airline tried to respond to him, but the damage was already done (to his guitar and the United Airlines brand).
Search Digg submitted stories with brand name.
This item involves searching Digg for submitted stories with the given brand name. To do this go to http://www.digg.com and search for the brand name in the search box. The trick here is that you are not necessarily looking for stories that have gone popular (because odds are they would have already turned up); instead you are looking for evidence of people who are trying to start something by posting negative brand stories to Digg. These people are especially important to find early so you can deal with their complaint before it erupts into a major problem.
Search forums for brand name mentions.
The eighth action point is a bit more complicated than the ones before it. It requires you to go out and find industry-related forums and then search them for brand name mentions. The easiest way to find them is to search Industry Name Forum or industry name inurl:forum*. (The asterisk here indicates the search is for “forums” with an “s” or “forum” without, plural or singular.)
This is important because forum members tend to be early adopters and more technologically advanced. This makes them very good people to impress.
Search Craigslist for brand name mentions.
This action applies most to companies that sell products. It requires you to go to www.craigslist.org and search for brand name mentions. This helps identify aftermarket sales and sales opportunities. It is also a good way to find pirated or fake goods, which is important because it can directly affect the bottom line. If you do this, be sure to check all of the applicable localities because these are important filters on Craigslist. If the product is global, you can check just the major cities. It should give you an idea of how widespread the problem is.
Search torrent sites for brand name mentions.
The final action item has you search BitTorrent sites for brand name mentions. BitTorrent is a protocol for sending large files over the Internet quickly. This makes it a very good protocol for file sharing. The easiest
way to see if a given brand’s product is being shared via torrents is to either search for Brand Name torrent or torrent search engine and search for your brand. This step helps identify which products are in demand for file sharers and shows you what people are saying about your product.
If you would like your reputation to be checked by a company who has experienced brand managers, do contact Carra Lucia Limited for a quote.