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    March 29, 2017 by Joy Thompson


    Despite the cliche, not all press is good press. This is especially true when the bad press becomes the first impression for a potential customer, i.e. when the bad press lands on the first page of a Google search for your business.

    For example: BP’s catastrophic oil spill was really (really really really) bad press. For a while, and maybe even still, people associated BP with oil spills — not good, obviously. When you searched Google for “BP gas,” articles about the oil spill would dominate the search results, which obviously doesn’t help the brand’s image. BP needed a major PR push to change the conversation. 

    “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” – Don Draper, Mad Men

    BP decided to change the conversation and began to flood the internet with positive stories. This included a lot stories about their environmental efforts and community work.

    Now when you Google “BP gas,” the oil spill gets buried (with the exception of that terrible Marky Mark movie Deepwater Horizon that re-surfaced the oil spill conversation). Now people associate BP less with the oil spill than they did 5 years ago.

    More on how BP cleaned up their Google results later (keep scrolling)

    Don’t underestimate the power of your Google search results. Many times, people will form an opinion about your business based on what they find on Google, fair or unfair. 

    So, how do ensure that positive stories overpower the negative ones on your Google search results…

    Step 1: Do good

    How can you create a positive story about the work your company did in the community if you didn’t actually do good work in the community? Find an initiative that you want to support, and actually do it.

    Step 2: Make sure people know you did something good

    While it’s intrinsically worthwhile for you to get involved with good causes, it doesn’t help your online image if there isn’t any written proof of what you did.

    When your company does something good, make sure you write about it. Don’t stop there though — make sure someone else writes about it. Make sure people read it and share it. Make sure it’s optimized for the search engines. Make sure the story not only lives your website, but on other relevant websites as well. Rinse and repeat.

    Another tactic: optimize your off-site channels

    A lot of times, your Facebook page, LinkedIn Company page, Yelp page, TripAdvisor profile, etc. will show up on the first page of search results. There’s only so many slots on the first page of Google search results, so these kinds of off-site channels (assuming they’re not littered with negative reviews) will help bury your negative search results.

    Use a site like Namechk to ensure that you’ve secured your company name on all major off-site channels.

    Back to BP… how did BP bury their negative search results?

    This is what shows up (and why) when you search common brand searches for BP.

    Today, when you search “BP gas”…

    Organic search results for BP

    Their website surfaces at the top of search results in almost every brand related search. This is a benefit of great website SEO work. You want your website to show up first– it’s an online channel that you have full control over.

    The local search results are important because they take over most of the first page for this particular search. This is a benefit to great local SEO– making sure your brand’s geo-specific locations show up during relevant searches. I performed that search from Fort Lauderdale, and lo-and-behold, all the nearest BP gas stations in the area showed up.

    When you search “BP gasoline”, this is what populates…

    Microsite result for BP

    Notice the top result is a BP-controlled microsite. This microsite was created to educate consumers about the perks of BP gas. It also helps bury search results that BP doesn’t control.

    The spill happened in 2010, this microsite was built in 2011. Coincidence? I think not.

    When you search “British Petroleum”…

    How ads can play a part in Digital PR

    Notice the first result is an AdWords ad. Notice the second result is their official website. Why “waste” money by bidding on your own name, you ask?

    It’s all about controlling what you can control on Google search. BP didn’t want another company to poach that top slot, so they took it.

    You see the same ad when you search “BP oil”. 

    BP oil searching ads

    When you search just “BP,” this box pops up in the right column…

    More SEO factors on the BP name

    You don’t just control your own websites. You also control things like your social media profiles, which usually populate the first page of results.

    Also, notice their stock price is shown. This is just another example of content that can help bury negative search results.

    On the same search, you’ll also see their international sites and their Wikipedia page…

    BP goes international

    If you’re an international company, you need to treat your international sites with the same level of SEO that you would your US site. Why? Because they can be easy ways to fill out the first page of search results.

    If you’re big enough to have your own Wikipedia page, make sure the information is up-to-date and accurate. You don’t want an internet troll to input fake information on your Wikipedia page– people look at Wikipedia pages as fact (for better or worse).


    BP did a lot of things to improve their image on Google. There’s not a single pill you can take to fix negative search results, so you need to try a few tactics to see which ones stick. BP did, and it seems to be paying dividends for them.

    Contact us

    If you’re trying to bury negative stories on Google about your business, please contact us. We’d love to help.


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