Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: How to Pull Rank

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: How to Pull Rank

Article excerpt

Brands need to grasp the importance of influencing the prominence of positive references on SERPs.

With records for online commerce smashed again over Christmas, the web has established itself as a major part of the UK retail scene. Bad weather, increased price-consciousness and better websites offset postal problems to deliver a record fourth quarter.

Central to this success is search, which has continued to develop as a key entry point, both in the purchase process and as consumers manage their relationship with brands - researching products, checking out reviews and making contact with retailers.

But like a man who spends half an hour ensuring the knot in his tie is perfectly symmetrical, before going on stage with his fly undone, many brands fail to deal with a very public failure that undoes much careful preparation.

Spurred on by the knowledge that good performance in SEO reduces costs in paid search, real effort has been expended (to variable effect) to improve the ranking of brands in the natural search listings.

For brands, the objective for search has been straightforward: place signposts in search engine results pages (SERPs) so that consumers can be moved through the acquisition funnel with the minimum of friction The focus has been on what the brand says, on positioning that message with maximum effective prominence, and on ensuring it directs consumers through to the right place on the site.

Marketers know this and challenge their search teams to ensure that their brand's presence is effectively managed, against their brand name and against derivatives and associated terms.

So Sainsbury's ranks number one against a search for 'sainsburys customer service', as do Currys, Vodafone and the names of most of the top brands you might type into Google.

The problem is that many of the other results on the SERP are hardly flattering. On the first page of Google results, four negative listings use words for Sainsbury's customer service such as 'sucks', 'terrible', and 'disappointed'.

Worse, for 'Currys customer service', seven out of the nine results on Google are negative, including such gems as 'stinks', 'dire', 'awful' and even 'abusive'.

This is a common picture for lots of brands, with the company itself typically listed at number one, but the rest of the results being divided between neutral or negatives.

Marketers are obsessed with measuring success and this has been carried to extremes on search. …

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