This is not meant to be a guide or a how-to, there are plenty of those out there already. Today’s post is all about a state of mind. It is now 2013 and we truly live in an age when people are more intimately associated with the digital community they live in then the “real” community they live in. More and more people each day are using digital technology not only to read, but to contribute as well. This comes not only in the form of artistry and communication, but in long rants about what he/she feels is good service, being treated well, etc.
The majority of the time, an ORM contract begins like this:
We know that this will always happen, and that the cycle of negative press followed by action will always be taking place on the interwebs.
Lets forget about all of that for a second and lets think of the responsible (and smart) business person that knows that negative press will eventually penetrate their company. We’ve been asked the question before, “What can I do to prevent this from happening,” which in fact is a very loaded question. Before beginning a campaign, we start by managing expectations of the client by telling them two things:
1. You will never be able to completely control what is said about you, (or the SERPS), 100% of the time, no matter what.
2. Every company at one stage or another will receive negative feedback.
No one can escape the wrath of an angry customer!
Remember, this is called “Online Reputation Management” not “Online Reputation Miracle.” The goal is not to rid the world of negative press, it is to manage it.
That being said, and to get to the topic of this blog post it is time to talk about “Offensive ORM.” Offensive ORM is the process of creating strong properties of or relating to your brand, that have the authority to take precedence over a negative property that might come about. Quite often we will suggest for a client to create a Google+ page, or a Pinterest page and we’ll get a very typical response: “We don’t need that, we are just a _____ company.” There is a reason. It isn’t to help drive visitors to your website, or to help squeeze some social back links to your back link portfolio – it is to create a positive property that you control in the event that something bad happens.
Keep in mind that this is mainly geared towards small to medium sized businesses and will probably be trumped if a national news event or scandal pops off. For instance, if you are Apple and the CEO is caught embezzling 100m from the company, sure – none of that is going to matter because press releases from every major domain on the net is going to own the SERPs for your company.
Consider this situation: you are a small business and have a website. One day one of your employees who is a recovering drug addict decides to relapse while at work and steals from your customer. He then proceeds to rip off each and every customer that he comes into contact with. Your customers will then take it to Yelp, Ripoff Report, etc to post their fury and make it known that your company steals from their customers. Now, regardless of what is going on – this is a bad situation. But think about if you had 30 strong web/domain/social/2.0 properties that all ranked for your brand.
What would happen is instead of the top 10 SERP results being all about how terrible your company would be, probably 1-2 would be there and possibly even none. If you play your cards right and really put effort into offensive ORM, there is a possibility even if negative press did hit the web you would be free and clear.
Now, this isn’t even a remotely a new concept. We are definitely not claiming that we are the first ones to come up with this, and I am sure that there is another term for it already other than “Offensive ORM,” however we do want to educate and spread the good word of this tactic.
Without going into “guide” mode and listing things you can do, there are some innovators in this field that should be pointed out as an example. GE (General Electric) obviously is one of the largest and most successful companies in the world. They have structured their empire in a way that they now have several successful companies under the GE name umbrella. Instead of hosting all of these companies under 1 domain, they have chosen to branch out and reserve a domain for each entity that they represent. Smart, this not only shows how powerful and massive they are as a company, but it plops them firmly on the front page of the “general electric” SERP for 5-8 results, which is a genious way to reserve this multi-million dollar piece of SERP real estate. This helps ensure that they remain in control of the SERPs, and are even able to make changes to the look and feel of the results if they wish.
There are a few other great examples of this such as Honda, who in addition to manufacturing cars and trucks are also makers of engines, marine equipment, motorcycles, and represent the upscale “Acura” label. Honda chose a slightly different approach to their entity umbrella. They chose a slightly more mish mosh approach (perhaps as equally effective) in their domaining, by deploying a mix of different domains, subdomains on the main Honda server, and in some cases even hyphenating! (oh my!)
Companies such as Nasty Gal Vintage Clothing employ bloggers and photographers to constantly pump their properties full of content that is being shared and shared again. They’ve created a network of web2 properties that are being visited 10′s of thousands of times every day and is the dream of every inbound marketer and link bait superstar around. What a lot of folks are doing these days is using their domain blog for official posts then posting more risque posts on the Tumblr etc, off the domain so to speak. In many cases a Tumblr blog will get even more visitors then the host domain blog.