5 SEO Best Practices for Crisis and Reputation Management


When a crisis breaks, users inevitably Google the brand or business in question. But no professional communicator wants negative headlines and bad customer reviews topping the list of search results for their brand.

That’s why Ali Haris, senior manager of SEO at Macy’s, argues that SEO should be an "integral and immediate" strategy when developing a crisis management campaign. Haris spoke on using SEO as a crisis management tool at PR News’ Google for Communicators Boot Camp Aug. 9 in San Francisco.

John Carroll, manager of local business outreach at Yelp, co-led Haris’ session and covered an SEO challenge small businesses often face: managing customer reviews, which can affect brands' Yelp rankings, as well as Apple Maps and Siri results. Haris and Carroll offered several SEO best practices for brands to follow around reputation and crisis management:

Put the user first. "On Yelp, we produce very little content," said Carroll. "Instead, we feature customer reviews." Carroll referred to those reviews as user-generated content, and pointed to heavy social media users as the best source of social proof businesses can hope for in boosting their reputation. Haris spoke to the importance of creating content with the user in mind first, rather than "writing for the search engine."

Create new content to overtake negative search results. Haris named ads, crisis-specific landing pages, searchable social channels, videos, blog posts and search-optimized press releases as the most helpful content for managing the search result narrative.

Use hyperlinks in the first paragraph of press releases. Haris advised communicators to “link to specific landing and detailed pages instead of the homepage” to rank higher in results. He recommended creating a microsite or landing page with crisis-specific content, like product recall information or a list of customer service contacts.

Respond to all customer feedback—good and bad. Responding to meaningful feedback is often a missed opportunity for brands, according to Carroll. “We see most businesses only respond to negative reviews, but making time to respond to positive reviews is also important,” he said. “This helps drive up loyalty of those happy customers and ensures they keep coming back.”

Prioritize storytelling in Yelp listings. Carroll advised communicators to tell the story of a business’ founding or mission in its Yelp description, as well including a number of compelling, high-resolution visuals.

Follow Ali: @aharis

Follow John: @J_R_Carroll

Follow Sophie@SophieMaerowitz