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April 29, 2009
Search Engine Reputation Management: How Many Web Pages Does it Take?
 
How many web pages? How many web pages does it take for you to defend your reputation? Immediately you’re thinking…what the heck is this guy talking about?
 
If there is negative information about your company online that appears high in search engine rankings for searches of your company…well, that’s bad news. We’re not talking about some touchy, feely image/branding problem; we’re talking about a full blown lost customers, lost revenue kind of problem. If a search of your company’s name brings up negative information, you need to take action NOW.
 
The first thing you should do, and it doesn’t even have anything to do with search engines, is to openly and publicly address the negative information about your company. And if the people who are complaining and posting negative information about you are justified in doing so, then you need to make amends and stop doing whatever it is that is turning your customers against you.
 
Moving on, assuming you are not deserving of having your reputation tarnished and business damaged by negative search results, you have to take steps to reduce the visibility of those negative results. So how do you make it less likely that people doing searches of your company will see the negative stuff? You beat it down. You beat the hell out of it.
 
You’ve got to push those negative search engine results down to the second page of search results (of a standard ten result page) and lower. If you can get them to the third page, they will be practically invisible, except to the most diehard searchers. But just getting them to the second page makes a massive difference in the number of people who will see and click on search results negative to your business.
 
So…how do you do that?
 
You have to create lots of web pages optimized for the keywords that are showing the negative information, and then do the things necessary to get those pages to rank higher than the negative pages. But here’s the rub, you may have to create a LOT of web pages to make this work. How many pages depends on how many keywords you’re trying to clean up and how highly ranked the negative content is. The good news is that, for most companies, there are far fewer competing web sites for searches of their company name than there are for more generic searches. The bad news is that complaint web sites tend to rank well, and the higher ranked the negative information, the more work you are going to have to do.
 
My company has attempted to create a formula to tell you how many web pages you will need to create and optimize to depress a negative search listing. This is difficult to do because every situation is different, and there is no way to capture all of the required data and stick it into a universal formula that will work every time. However, I am going to show you a couple of different formulas, one simple, one slightly more complex, and one much more complex, that can be used to derive a pretty good estimate of the number of pages you will need.
 
Here is the simple formula:
 
Number of pages for one keyword = (11 - R) / S
 
where
 
R = the highest ranked negative listing; and
S = your expected success rate in getting the web pages ranked.
 
This formula would be applied to every keyword you are trying to clean up, and then those values added together. The total is a good estimate of the number of pages you will need to build.
 
Let’s do a hypothetical example so you have a better idea of what I’m talking about. Here is some data:
 
Keyword 1: For this keyword, the highest ranked negative listing is at number 3
Keyword 2: For this keyword, the highest ranked negative listing is at number 5
 
Let’s assume that we expect a 50% success rate at getting our new web pages ranked in a reasonably short period of time.
 
Using our formula from above, the number of web pages we need to knock out the negative listings for Keyword 1 is 16. N = (11 – 3) / 50%, or 8 / .5, which is 16.
 
Plugging in the numbers for keyword 2 ((11 – 5) / 50%) gives us 12.
 
So the total number of web pages we have to build and optimize to accomplish our goal of removing the negative listings for both keywords is 28 (16 + 12).
 
A slightly more advanced way to do this calculation would be to base the expected success rate (the “S” variable) on the number of competing sites. For example:
 
Number of pages for one keyword = (11 - R) / ((1/N)^(1/3))
 
where
 
R = the highest ranked negative listing; and
N = the number of directly competing sites for the keyword (based on an “allintitle” search).
 
This formula becomes less accurate as the number of competing sites (N) goes up.
 
For illustration, let’s say there are 100 directly competing web pages for each of the two hypothetical keywords used above. The values would now be:
 
Keyword 1: (11-3)/((1/100)^(1/3)) = 8/.215 = approximately 37.
 
Keyword 2: (11 – 5)/((1/100)^(1/3)) = 6/.215 = approximately 28.
 
Finally, here is a much more complex formula (which we continue to develop):
 
Number of Pages = Round((11-R/SQRT(1/SQRT(N)) – B /SQRT(R)),0)
 
where
 
R = the highest ranked negative listing;
N = the number of directly competing sites for the keyword;
B = a buffer to adjust the results based on your personal preference. In our testing, we found a buffer value of .08 to be appropriate.
 
What I like about this last version is that it creates the most accurate picture. What I don’t like about it is that it is overly complex and not easily explained. Our search for the perfect formula continues.
 
Regardless of what kind of formula you use, or if you even use one, you are probably going to discover that pushing negative results off of the first page of a search engine is a lot of work. However, using strategies that leverage your time, such as article spinning and distribution, will make the process a lot easier…but still not easy. So is it worth the investment in your time, or the investment in money to hire someone else to do it? It depends what a lost customer is worth to you. But the thing is, you’re not just going to lose one customer because of negative information about your business, you could lose multiple customers.
 
So how much could multiple customers be worth to you?
 
Exactly. Get your search engine rankings cleaned up today.

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Jerry Work is president of Work Media LLC, a Nashville SEO firm that specializes in orchestrating Internet marketing campaigns that blend organic search, paid search and social media. He is also the author of "Be the Magnet," a new book on using social media and content distribution to promote websites. For more info, click here.

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