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People may say that I’m a bit of a saddo, but there is nothing I enjoy better than listening to The Archers on my way home on an evening. Those people who listen regularly will understand my excitement when the current Bridge Farm e-coli story began to get a search related angle. For me it’s the best story since Brian had his affair with Siobhan!
I thought that maybe the story would be used to help people understand how they could overcome negative press and online stories but unfortunately it just seems to be re-spinning myths and providing poor advice.
The issue being covered relates to an e-coli outbreak in the farm’s dairy, which resulted in it being shut down for a short time before everything was cleared up – needless to say the characters are pillars of the local society and they acted perfectly properly to sort out the problem and no-one was hurt. Unfortunately, the story made its way online and the damage to the brand (their products are largely organic) is ongoing. Tom Archer, the son of the farm owner, is doing his best to boost their listings online to try to overcome the problem.
There are a couple of problems with what he’s doing and how he’s doing it:
- Simply boosting his site’s listings is not going to prevent people from seeing any negative comments further down the search results. He may be able to get a couple of listings and some site links in the search page but it is unlikely to push too many results off the first page.
- He seems to have been advised that visiting the site himself multiple times will help improve search results – this has even gone into so much detail as ensuring he refreshes his cache before each visit.
I’m sorry, but each of these things is going to have little positive effect. In particular, visiting your own site repeatedly won’t help you rank better because Google will know that all the visits came from the same IP address so were not unique – even if you’ve cleared your cookies. That said, it’s not even clear that click throughs are a ranking factor.
If Tom wanted to help his site to rank using underhanded, black hat tactics, he could pay for some Google +1’s, which Google is likely to begin using as a ranking signal; but we wouldn’t recommend it as that would effectively be false advertising as they wouldn’t be from real customers and they wouldn’t be clearly identified as marketing (see this recent blog on fake reviews).
So, what should The Archers be doing to help restore the brand credibility?
It is very difficult to kill and issue like this, but there are a number of steps a business can take to help people move forward and past the problem:
- Be open about the issue and let people know that it has been resolved fully. The Archers should consider producing a press release for their site detailing what had happened and the steps they have taken to ensure there are no outbreaks in the future. It would be good if they could also publish a copy of the Environmental Health Officer’s report showing the issues all resolved.
- This press release could also be syndicated by one of the online PR distribution services – this may have the effect of taking up another space in the search results with a positive story.
- All negative online press articles should be responded to through comment forms if possible, or alternatively though emails to the editors. The Archers should ensure their side of the story is portrayed accurately.
- Pip Archer has mentioned using Twitter and Facebook and this is a good strategy – The Archers should be monitoring what is being said about their brand on key social media platforms – they should ensure they have accounts on these platforms and use them to respond honestly about the problems.
- Ideally, they would get some respected independent people to validate the quality and safety of their products publically – again these messages of support can be promoted online.
- Finally, the brand should consider some online offers, perhaps issuing coupons that can be used with stockists to get big discounts on their products, just to get sales moving again. This might cost them in the short term, but should help restore the brand more quickly.
Finally, An Offer
If anyone needs advice on this type of issue, including the producers of The Archers, get in touch we’d be more than happy to help.