You Don’t Own Your Brand Online…But You Can Own the Search Results

There are over 200 million blogs online, thousands of review sites, sites specific to leaving feedback about companies, and thousands of forums on any topic imaginable.

People can talk about whatever they want, pretty much wherever they want, and with so many people “conversing online,” a lot of that conversation is involving brands – their products, their services, and their business.  Knowing how to ‘monitor’ the web is a very valuable asset, and with that there are 3 types of mentions you can find around a brand online:

  1. Positive
  2. Neutral
  3. Negative


This information is actually very valuable, as people won’t always contact you directly to praise you. You may find out that your staff members are doing a good job or people really like a certain part of your product, which you may be able to include as a marketing angle.


Neutral mentions of a brand aren’t particularly useful, but they can be ones to watch. An example of a neutral mention is something like, “I bought a [product name] from [company name] today, hopefully It will work perfectly.”These don’t give you any indications of areas or that things may be going well or not-so well, but if you track the site (usually a blog or forum) then an updated feedback response may be imminent.


These are the ones that you need to pay the most attention to as they can really harm a company’s reputation. Apple stock prices dropped $4bn in 2007 because of an inaccurate post on Engadget, the popular technology blog. Fortunately, Apple responded quite quickly to rectify the situation but it certainly left a dint in stock prices and their brand.

How the Conversation Has Changed

Before the web, people relied on newspapers, radio, TV, and peer recommendations to help give them an overall view of a product or service before using it. Now, people can just “Google it” and find out exactly what others think of something before they give out their hard earned cash and possibly make a bad decision.

If you own a business that has any presence online, you must be monitoring what is being said about you; otherwise, you could run into some serious issues. You don’t know when somebody is going to complain about one of your offerings and possibly affect your sales.

Who Sees the Negativity?

Negative mentions can be made in numerous places such as the following (who sees them):

  • Forums (forum members)
  • Blogs (blog subscribers)
  • Micro-sites (search results)
  • PPC ads (sites that display Adsense / search results)
  • Review sites (search results)
  • Social networks (site members)
  • etc etc.

The problem is, almost all of these can be found in search results. So, not only will forums users find out something about a company, but there’s a chance the mention will rank for the respective keywords and non-forum members will see the negativity.

With that in mind, and because I’m writing a blog post for SEOmoz, I present:

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the term ‘owning your search results’, but it is relevant and makes sense. Your brand name is probably one of the top referring keywords to your website, but for those who don’t click on the result that is you, where are they landing?

Owning your search results is about having the top results in the search engines about you as something positive in order to stop people being ‘put off’ by what they find or people hijacking your brand. I have my own thoughts on the ‘ethics‘ of this if you want to read more into that.

Amazon (result) and eBay (result) are both great examples of this; I advise you to look at their search results for an idea of how well organised results around a brand term can be. So, how can you start to achieve similar results?

 – Targeted Pages on Your Own site

For the majority of the people reading this, when people search for your name / brand term, you (as in a website you own / page you created) are going to be the first result.

One way to get another result for this is to create a highly targeted page around the keywords.  For example, SEOmoz ranks for their name and has sitelinks, but a very optimised page around the SEOmoz brand (e.g., the About page or similar) may result in an indented listing like the example below:

What I actually prefer to focus on with these is specific pages around products or services. So for example, you may have a page about a product for sale that is quite popular. In order to get an indented listing for that product name you could create an FAQ or Images page separately that is highly targeted around the keywords.

 – Promote Positive Pages

This is quite straightforward, so I’m not going to ramble on when it can take 2 sentences to summarise. Basically, if there are positive pages around your brand that aren’t in the top results, throw some backlinks their way to try and improve their rankings.

Just make sure that the person writing positively about you isn’t going to remove that page anytime soon or replace it with something negative ;).

 Create Content on Other Sites

Before I start (and this is a point I always make but I’ll say it again), please don’t use the following in a spammy or unethical way. I’m talking about creating content on sites like Squidoo andHubpages, and to be honest, when I was focused on affiliate marketing these were some of the sites I used for backlinks to help me in rankings. Needless to say, I never felt good about that so I promote their ethical usage as much as possible.

What you can do on these sites is create highly targeted content on a subject of your choice, so of course you can create one around your brand or your industry. What I recommend though is creating a page that anyone can land on and benefit from.  Let’s say that SEOmoz were creating a page around their brand on hubpages. It would be nice to see information about them, but a nice extra would be if there was an “SEO poll” or funny conference images that people could enjoy.

 Make Use of Sub-Domains

These are thought to be classed as a ‘new domain’ in a sense; therefore, these won’t become indented below other results. If you took a look at the results for the Amazon and eBay searches, you will notice that the majority of results are sub-domains on their site. Such things you could use one for include:

  • Blog
  • Forums
  • Developer section
  • Support section

 Promote Yourself

I see a lot of big brands with results that are from news sources or other popular websites like HR London Consultant. The reason these sites rank highly is because the domain generally has a lot of authority, and even just a mention of the brand name on a page can be enough to rank highly.

There’s a great post about this over at 10e20 that I couldn’t put any better.

 Profile Pages

These are not something I recommend creating in terms of defending your brand keywords; these are just a possible positive for taking part in niche websites. For a search around my company name you can see my Sphinn profile and possibly some forum profiles in the results.

These tend to do very well in results, but only register on these sites if you are actually going to use them. Sites like Aboutus.org also tend to rank very highly around brand terms because of the authority of the domain and the on-page optimisation / relevance each page has.

In Summary

Negative search engine results can really affect a company’s sales online, but sometimes those negative search results are deserved, especially if a company is offering shoddy services or a crappy product. You can never substitute being an honest and professional company for relying on hiding the negative from view.

My first YOUmoz post was terrible — I look back at it now and feel embarrassed for writing it; therefore, I put a bit more effort into this one. If you want to know more about me, I write about the subject of online reputation management and all it entails (SEO, social media, communication) at the ViperChill blog.