When you are interested in learning more about a brand, the first thing you are likely to do is type that company’s name into Google. More often than not, what you see on page one of the search results for that brand plays a critically important role in determining the company’s online reputation.
If a searcher finds positive content when querying a company name, that’s a great first step for building the brand/consumer relationship. If negative content ranks, however, the company doesn’t get a second chance to make a great first impression, and it will be much more challenging to establish trust with their audience. A research study conducted by Dan Hinckley, CTO of Go Fish Digital, found that 22% of consumers won’t buy a product if they find a negative article while researching a brand.
I have long been fascinated with identifying trends in how Google treats brands. Going back to 2012, we looked at the most frequently appearing phrases for brands in Google Autocomplete. And then circled back in 2013 and did the same analysis for personal brands using CEO names in Autocomplete.
Because of the importance of page one for a branded query, I wanted to conduct a study that would help brands better understand what content tends to rank well. Then, we could make that data actionable by using it to sculpt the search results for our client’s brand name. From a reputation management perspective, this is incredibly useful data as it shows areas that companies can focus on to protect the first page of their results (or resources to push negative content onto page two).
For this study, we used 500 companies from the INC 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in the US as a data source. We started at the top-ranked company (#1), and moved down the list, removing any companies with names that would require modifying the query to disambiguate a mixed set of search results. For example, “Podium” is a fast-growing company and is also a raised platform for speakers, and thus has a diverse set of organic search results, so it was removed from our list of companies.
We then wrote a script that searched for each of the 500 companies on google.com and gathered information from the SERPs. For the page one organic search results for each query, we stored each ranking URL, its ranking position, title, text snippet, star rating (if present), and the number of reviews it has (if present).
With this large dataset, we were then able to analyze the data in several different ways.
Highlights from the Results
LinkedIn is King
LinkedIn is highly visible in brand search results. It is the most frequently appearing site for the brands we analyzed, appearing on page 1 for 381 of the 500 companies analyzed!
As part of an overall social strategy, LinkedIn is often an afterthought if it is even talked about at all. And while it may not be as sexy as other social platforms, it is clearly something that should be taken seriously. Job candidates, potential customers, investors, and more may land on your LinkedIn page to learn more about you, so it pays to put your best foot forward with your LinkedIn profile.
Glassdoor Reviews Really Matter
Glassdoor is the third most frequently appearing site (Facebook is second, but most brands have a good enough handle on that site). Glassdoor appears in the search results of 230 companies, and it has multiple page one appearances for 81 of those companies.
Of these companies, 199 had a rating that appeared as a rich snippet in the search results. We performed additional analyses on these ratings to understand how companies were faring on the site. We found that the average company rating was 3.4. Total review counts ranged from as low as 1 and all the way up to 217. This shows us that even just one review is enough to put Glassdoor in the branded search results with a star rating rich snippet. The following chart shows the rating distributions for our Inc 5000 sample companies.
We often receive calls requesting consulting for Glassdoor to either push it out of the search results or improve its rating. It is now pretty much impossible to push Glassdoor out of branded search results and keep it out. And, as we can see in the data, it appears for 46% of the analyzed companies.
The solution? While we have some special tactics and strategies for this, at the core, developing a great company culture and treating people well will yield better Glassdoor reviews.
Own Your Crunchbase Page
Crunchbase is a great place to create a profile for your brand. And with it appearing for 26% of companies, if you aren’t on it or haven’t curated your presence, now is the time to do so. Like Wikipedia, it is open to being edited by anyone, but the risk of vandalism here is significantly lower.
The key to this page ranking well is to fill it out as completely as possible. This means completing fields such as founding date, all locations, investors, news articles, etc, and populating them with unique content, rather than copying and pasting text that appears on other sites.
Social Profiles are Visible
We wanted to look at social websites as their own group to see which of them appear most frequently. In order of visibility, the most frequently appearing social sites are:
Sites 4-9 in the list above appeared in less than 3% of the companies’ search results. So, from an organic ranking perspective, the focus should be on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter first. Following that, the other sites should be a focus for reputation management if they are highly relevant for your space or are a site you are already very active on.
Most Frequently Appearing Sites
Below are the sites that appeared most frequently for the 500 analyzed companies (included are all sites that appeared for at least 15 companies):
- LinkedIn (appears for 381 companies)
- Facebook (246)
- Inc (236, an artifact of it being our original data source)
- Glassdoor (230)
- Crunchbase (134)
- Bloomberg (107)
- Indeed (94)
- Yelp (67)
- Manta (63)
- Twitter (57)
- Wikipedia (52)
- BBB (49)
- Amazon (45)
- PR Newswire (38)
- YouTube (32)
- Zoominfo (27)
- Instagram (27)
- Mapquest (24)
- Bizjournals (22)
- GovTribe (18)
- ZipRecruiter (17)
- Businesswire (16)
- TechCrunch (15)
How To Use This Data
This data can be useful to you whether you are looking to proactively protect your online reputation or you are in the midst of a reputation crisis. When people search your brand name, you want them to see positive URLs, and ideally content that you have some control over.
To begin, review the list of the websites and social properties that appear most frequently on page one for companies. Identify which of those websites are relevant to your company (most should be), and then you’ll need to develop an individual plan for each property to build out robust pages and profiles. By having these as built-out as possible, with unique information (no duplicate company descriptions!), you make it more likely that Google will rank them well for your brand.
When we are working to improve a company’s online reputation, another strategy we use is to get inspiration from the search results of similar companies (or individuals). By understanding what Google naturally ranks for a similar entity, we can draw up a strategy that plays to these tendencies.
A strong overall approach would involve taking this qualitative “similar entity” strategy and combining it with this new quantitative data. The combination of the two would be a reputation management content strategy that prioritizes sites we know have a good chance of ranking well for our targeted brand phrase. Once these sites are fully built out with good content about the brand, and (if needed) a little help from backlinks, social shares, and clicks, these assets can help protect page one of your branded searches.