How to measure the impact of online brand and reputation management – Ashley Reichelt – ORM Strategist
Many reasons have been cited as to why reputation management is neglected until after an attack has already occurred. It is often a misconception that only bad companies have bad reputations. That they deserve the reputation they have, when the truth is that many complaints are false. Many of these complaints are posted by competitors with malicious intent or the former employee who feels they did not deserve to be fired for hitting their colleague!
Cost could be another reason. However, reputation management is far less costly than reputation repair (both in price tag and in revenue lost). It is more likely the lack of a solid matrix to show the value of online brand reputation is to blame. Another factor that we have found is that reputation management is typcially seen as a PR function and PR budgets are usually not allocated to online PR.
Online reputation management companies need to be held accountable. Reputation management needs to be measurable and clearly define the value of the campaign. But how you measure something as ambiguous as an online reputation? The answer is actually quite… complex.
Because this is about online reputation management, the logical place to start is with how users find your brand. Search is how the majority of users will find your brand online. It is a good bet that most of your brand’s organic traffic will be driven by Google searches. Users often search directly for your brand and can be influenced by the results that appear.
The first step in developing a model to measure the value of your campaign is to gather search volume estimates of your branded terms. To do this a couple tools should be used to conduct keyword research for your brand. Using more than one tool will help you get a better idea of what the search volume actually is for your branded terms. Focus in on the terms that have the highest search volume and generate the most revenue (revenue can be determined by the traffic tracking system being used on your main web site). The next step involves analyzing your users search experience.
As research has taught us, people use search in different ways – to investigate, navigate, and transact. Where investigative and transactional searchers are likely to go further in results, navigational users are more likely to click on the first result. Some brands have more investigational searches while other brands have more navigational or transactional searches. User intent is also a huge factor in whether a search is navigational or transactional. A user with a credit card in their hand ready to buy are usually transactional, but a user still not sure what to buy is more likely to be navigational or browsing.
Despite the type of search there are two main actions someone can take when conducting a search for your brand. They can view the results and not click on any of the results or they can view the results and click on one of the results. Not all searches will result in a click. A negative result could be damaging even if the user does not click on that result. Just seeing the result could be enough to create a negative impression of the brand. The number of impressions made can only be estimated by considering a few statistics.
The first element to look at is what will be immediately visible to the user. Google labs recently released a very interesting study about browsers size. Google browser size shows us what users are seeing when they search for your brand.
Using the search volume from your keyword research you can calculate and estimate the number of searches where each result is above the fold. For example, if my branded term gets 20,000 searches a month, I can calculate that 19,000 searches will have the first three results above the fold and only 16,000 searches will have the first four results above the fold. 3,000 searches will not have result four above the fold.
Google browser size is great to show what is above the fold for a percentage of users conducting the search for your branded term. Some of these users will scroll down and look at the results while others click without scrolling below their fold. What users look at is different than what is above their fold.
To get an estimate of what users are likely to view, we look at the famous “Golden Triangle” eye-tracking study of 2005.
2005 eye tracking research study from Enquiro
Rank 1 – 100%
Rank 2 – 100%
Rank 3 – 100%
Rank 4 – 85%
Rank 5 – 60 %
Rank 6 – 50%
Rank 7 – 50%
Rank 8 – 30%
Rank 9 – 30%
Rank 10 – 20%
*Data extracted 2005 eye tracking research study from Enquiro
This image shows the elixir results with an overlay of the browser size and the “Golden Triangle”. Notice that the results that appear in the 80% mark of the browser size search results align nicely with the “Golden Triangle”. This is the most valuable space in online reputation management. From the “Golden Triangle” study and using the search volume estimates for keyword research we can calculate that 100% will likely view the first 3 results. Yet only 85% will view the fourth result (this is probably closer to 90% given the placement of the fourth result in the browser of the above search results).
The next important measurement has to do with traffic. In most cases your corporate web site will rank in the first position of Google search results for your brand. It is a good idea to analyze the keyword traffic data to find what branded keywords drive most of your traffic. This will help to give value to the branded keywords.
Although analyzing your traffic data will help identify some important keywords and assign value to them, your sites traffic data does not necessarily show how other results affect user behavior. A trend should be developed to show traffic from branded keywords with the search results for these keywords in Google. This could help create a correlation between positive results and traffic for those keywords. The same kind of correlation can be made for revenue.
At this point you may be wondering about traffic to those negative results. Although data for the competing negative sites is not available, it is possible to gain estimates of traffic to those negative sites for the targeted term by using the leaked AOL data from the 2006.
AOL 2006 data – Image from SEO Book
Rank 1 – 42.13%
Rank 2 – 11.9%
Rank 3 – 8.5%
Rank 4 – 6.06%
Rank 5 – 4.92%
Rank 6 – 4.05%
Rank 7 – 3.41%
Rank 8 – 3.01%
Rank 9 – 2.85%
Rank 10 – 2.99%
Page 2 – 10.18%
Note: The number 1 position has a higher chance of receiving a click for branded searches; usually approaching 46%. You should always hold this position and ensure that your site is also set up to rank the 8 site links available in Google search.
Again here you can turn to your search volume estimate to calculate the estimated traffic that negative result may get. This is traffic that could be going to a positive result such as a social media page for your brand or an informational microsite page.
It goes without saying that estimates are not a substitute for actual data. Implementing tracking on all assets used for the ORM campaign is essential and will give accurate data.
The traffic from these sites in relation to their position should be closely monitored. This data can be compared to baseline estimates to better refine them and give a more accurate picture of the progress and true impact on the brand.
Other important measures of an online reputation management campaign should not be excluded.
Many reputation management matrices revolve around tracking sentiment in social media mentions. Social mentions should absolutely be monitored but it should not be the only matrix you rely on for a couple for reasons. First sentiment is difficult to detect and no one has perfected the art of measuring it accurately (although I will admit that some tools are pretty good at it). Second most of your customers are likely to be spectators (individuals who do not interact in social media with your brand).
Many companies have also reported negative results have affected their share prices. Monitoring share prices in relation to the progress of the ORM campaign is advisable as there may be interesting correlations.
To summarize the real goal of ORM is to ensure you maintain a positive top10 for your branded name and it is essential based on this data to keep your results above the fold under your control or populated with friendly sites.