SERM: removing negative listings from Google

October 8th, 2009 by Louis Venter

Louis Venter, CEO at Media Vision, a London/Cape Town based search marketing company, shares his thoughts about search engine reputation management in our latest guest blog post.

With branded search increasing, search engine reputation management (SERM) is getting more and more important. There have been several recent crises that have affected some big brands but I’m going to focus on the current PC World crisis and illustrate what could be done to counter their current SERM crisis. 

It’s important to realise that Google isn’t going to remove negative press from its listings. Your only option for removal would be to legally instruct the offending website to remove it and then to submit a Google manual removal once they have complied. This is clearly only for serious cases where you have that legal option. For the most part, this option is not open to you so you will need to be content with promoting positive content above the negative, thereby displacing it. This is in essence what Search Engine Reputation Management is all about, controlling the entire front page for a brand’s search results.

If you Google “PC World” you’ll quickly see the offending item, a piece in the Guardian covering a PC World employee’s Facebook group that mocked customer’s stupidity. The piece clearly impacted them in the mainstream press for that week and must have had an effect on their reputation and sales. The crucial bit, however, is it continues to affect them online and with a poor SERM strategy in place it is not likely to go away any time soon.

The potential cost of this crisis is not insignificant. With close on 3 million people Googling “PC world” a month to purchase their products, it will have a serious effect on click through and conversion rate. A conservative estimate would result in a loss of around £1.5 million a month. This doesn’t take into account the valued customers that were previously loyal to the brand.

They have several web assets that aren’t optimised that well. The first step would be to optimise these better to create a hedge that would be difficult for these news articles to penetrate. They also do not have a separate press centre or recruitment website that is optimised for the brand. They are currently under the DSGi banner but could be optimised to appear for the “PC World” search.

Their online PR strategy could also do with some more attention as there are legacy stories sitting on page 2 which would indicate very little is being done to promote the positive pieces online.

An example of a “best practice” strategy would be Apple. The controlled hedge dominates most of the front page for their branded search. ASDA also does well and wasn’t affected by the “employee licking chicken” crisis on the search engines. This is also owing to the correct optimisation of all web assets.

Search engine reputation management is becoming a key part of online reputation management and a few simple techniques will go a long way in preventing crises affecting your branded search results for months to come.

2 Responses to “SERM: removing negative listings from Google”

  1. Katelyn Mashburn Says:

    Louis, great reminder for companies to participate in online conversations. Social media is often viewed as a scary change in crisis communications, but the reality is that tools ( give companies the capability to monitor and respond to negative comments. Thank you!

  2. louis venter Says:

    Thanks Katelyn, yeah I allways find the biggest threat is inaction and with the tools available there really isnt any excuse.

    Thanks for the comment!

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