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This is an area that I’ve always been questioned with by large businesses that want as much ownership from their brand in Google’s search results as possible. There are a number of reasons for wanting to own the first page of Google’s results (be it 10 or 7 results) but the simple fact is that if a potential customer is searching for your brand then you want to do your upmost to ensure that it’s only your brand they can find, not a competitor.

It’s something that Google has also tried it’s best to address with numerous, and not always successfully updates to its algorithm; think of the various versions of sitelinks, multiple listings from the same domain in search results, Google+ integration and the most recent destruction of extract match domains which will eradicate any attempt of tapping into your brand share by affiliates.

I do, however still see many brands, big ones too, that are losing out on at least 25% of their brands search volume – simply by not owning listings after position 3. So what can you do?

Social Networks – Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube

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This is the most obvious of locations to start with but don’t confuse them with being easy to rank for, if you don’t optimise them they won’t rank for your brand name for a long time. Remember to use your business name where possible when setting them up i.e. in username, URL, bio, descriptions. To really get better rankings for all these networks there needs to be a verified relationship in place, essentially link back to your website from all profiles and on your website link back to all the profiles (think reciprocal). Even with the setup in place it will take time (but nowhere near as long as before), you’ll need to post regularly of course, your own content as well as others – build your fans & followers etc.

Wikipedia

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This is again one of the more obvious ideas for protecting your organic brand listings but another one that’s not as straight forward as you might think. If your brand page already exists on Wikipedia then it will either be for another company with the same name or generally just a skeleton profile with very little or inaccurate information showing. Creating a Wikipedia page is something of an art form; to ensure its setup correctly be sure to provide as much company information as possible, be neutral when writing, highlight key historical dates, stats and achievements and be sure to cite credible references throughout.  In the external links section make sure to link back to your business, although this is a nofollow link it does show Google again that it’s a relevant result and there is some relationship in place – this is one of the results that can very quickly start ranking for your brand phrases and is certainly a good place to start.

Applications

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Although iTunes and Google play applications have been around for a while now it’s only quite recently I’ve started to see the landing pages for them appear on the first page of brand searches. This could be for a number of reasons; brands are now leveraging mobile more with the building of apps and Google’s ever changing algorithm assigning more authority on iTunes landing pages. This will certainly be one of the more expensive ways of adding another owned listing to the search results but whatever application you have it will add to your brand experience and draw a high percentage of the CTR in from the search volume opportunity.

Sub Domains

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This is probably one of the oldest methods of protecting a brand in Google, often unintentionally of course. Whatever the reason for your company using them, be it an international/language strategy or simply a way to segment a section of the main domain (think press and jobs) Google will still list these under the main domain if they carry enough authority. You just need to search for Google to see how they’ve segmented all their services (like maps, images, news etc.) and they are one of the few brands (that until recently) own all 10 listings (if you search in .com). As sub domains are treated like separate websites you will of course need to build up links and authority which may take some time.

GEO-IP Detection with TLDs

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Top Level Domains are my preferred choice when thinking international targeting, sometimes, depending on your location you could have multiple language versions of the same site appear in Google. This usually happens in locations that have the same language i.e. US, AU and UK results are often mixed – when searching for a specific brand this is even more apparent. There is one area which boarders on being sneaky and not entirely in line with Google; if you own a .com then set the server side GEO IP detection to that of whichever country the user is in so they get redirected to the correct content. At the same time promote/link build for the local TLD and what you’ll get is both (for example see Alexander McQueen websites) the .co.uk and .com appearing in the same search results.

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Microsites

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This is one of the more expensive ways to ensure your brand occupies the entire first page of results and since the EMD update slightly less effective. If your company is large enough and you have a genuine reason to create a microsite; could be for a PR campaign, launch of a new product or even a sister company – then this is still a viable option. You’ll need to optimise the sites for your brand keywords as well as supporting the authority with external links and links from your main website.

LinkedIn

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LinkedIn could fall under other the social platforms point but as its more business orientated it provides an alternative way to take up organic space in Google. A LinkedIn profile can be enhanced by the way you set it up as well as by the number of employees you have within your organisation. If your company has a few hundred employees that all link to your website externally as well as internally you’ll find the profile building up authority reasonably quickly. If you have fewer employees then participation in discussions is the best route to building up a good profile. Finally a good tip is to have certain employee’s link to other areas of your business such as sub domains or microsites, i.e. Head of HR link to a jobs. sub domain or a specific microsite. Besides taking up space in the organic results it also illustrates a good overview of your business and who’s involved in the running of it, for certain niche’s, especially marketing and technology these act as trust enhancers.

Google Local

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Let’s not forget of Google local and how powerful this can be in certain verticals, especially travel and high-street retail.  If you run a business that has many physical locations then you should consider this an advantage for SEO, especially when thinking of organic brand visits. Currently in the UK, high-street retail/travel brands display up to 3 local listings within branded search results, usually within the top fold of the page. My personal tip for local is that to try and make each local listing link to a related landing page on your main company website, the content on that destination page is heavily considered by Google when looking at generic phrases.

Authorship Integration

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Google Authorship and author-rank has already grown in value over 2012 and this will continue in 2013. This is quite a recent addition to the SERPS but Google will now display people when users search for brands; this makes complete sense as people’s search intent could now shift towards people included or involved with brands. The example above shows how Rand is now displayed for SEOmoz related search queries – of course you need to have strong social signals for the personal profile and between the brand.

With all these options in place you should be able to capture as much of your organic brand search volume as possible, not only that but reinforce to potential customers how much of an authority your brand is online and deliver the best experience over multiple websites.

 

I’m not sure if this observation is a bug in Google or intentional but a recent local review I made has replaced my author image and has triggered stars for my name.

I first noticed the result on my iPhone on which you can see the stars above the description but also with a smaller thumbnail of my author image:

I thought that a bit strange, so I also tested on a desktop too and got the same results (also same on tablet):

Now the particular restaurant was good (although not great) and the stars look ok but what if I had rated the place a much lower score? This would have then triggered a low star rating in Google for people searching my name, which could be misinterpreted as I’m not trustworthy or of low value – which I like to think I am not.

If this is intentional I’m not really sure what value this adds, perhaps if they include a phrase like “latest review” that might clear the confusion up.

Another morning, another search results hijack appears to surface. Car insurance is one of the most competitive search terms to try and rank for in the UK and it often takes years to establish yourself at the top. However this morning when searching in Google for Car Insurance a result that was only 1 hour old appears to rank in number 3 position.

Now in the past Google has tested including news results into top positions for competitive terms but having worked on a car insurance client for a few years I was unfamiliar with this particular site, so I looked a bit closer. Here is the page that ranks number 3 in the UK for the term car insurance:

Looks trustworthy huh..

The content on the site is very small, there’s nothing I could find that indicates hidden text or mass on-page spamming. Looking at the categories on the site it’s obvious this site is used to spam multiple categories/verticals as it’s all unrelated:

What’s worrying to me on this result is that for the last 3 years I’ve not seen this happen on a keyword of this magnitude, so something new must be being used by the spammers or there’s a new hole in Google’s ever changing algorithm.

The site is 5 years old and the is a fairly low number of low quality links but nothing out of the blue – I’ll have a look further into this but if anyone has any insights please comment and let me know!

**Update – Google dealt with the spam within a matter of hours, but given the search volume for that phrase these guys probably made quite a bit of cash.