Do a Google search for "walmart" and you'll notice the top results include a few sites that aren't exactly favorable to the Wal-Mart brand.
Among these: Wal-Mart Watch, which, according to their Web site, is a nationwide campaign to reveal the harmful impact of Wal-Mart on American families and demand reform of their business practices. This site ranks number five.
Below this, you'll find WakeUpWalMart.com ranking at number nine. According to their site, they are a U.S.-based group that provides research, action steps, and resources for community-based efforts around worker rights, local development, and foreign trade policy.
Coming in at number 10 is the official site of the movie "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price." According to their Web site, the documentary film is "changing the largest company on earth. The film features deeply personal stories and everyday lives of families and communities struggling to survive in a Wal-Mart world. It's an emotional journey that will challenge the way you think, feel...and shop."
That would be three of the top 10 Google results with not so flattering things to say about the Wal-Mart brand.
Mind you, Wal-Mart has tried to address this search-based reputation issue. This is evidenced by the fact that they have set up other Web sites, which are "authoritative" Web sites -- sites that the search engines would want to rank -- although the search engines have tried to balance their search results with positive and negative listings.
Here are some things that Wal-Mart is doing right and some things that they may want to consider doing, to improve upon their SEO Reputation Management program. Hopefully, you, the business owner or executive, can learn some valuable lessons from this example:
What They're Doing Right
Walmartstores.com -- A Web site dedicated to providing corporate information. It carries information for careers, investors, suppliers, and journalists. This Web site is currently ranking number two.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wal-Mart -- Easy enough to set up and essentially "guaranteed" to rank highly for "walmart."
musicdownloads.walmart.com -- Search engines see subdomains as separate Web sites, so these can be successful in riding the coattails of a major branded site, such as Walmart.com. My suggestion for using subdomains is to use them when you have enough information to populate a free standing Web site. I never recommend a five-page subdomain, for example. Let them be content rich Web sites that could stand alone on their own domain. Having them attached to the walmart.com root just gives them the authority that they need to rank well.
www.walmartfoundation.org -- Currently ranked at number six, this site has recently been redirected to http://walmartstores.com/GlobalWMStoresWeb/navigate.do?catg=216. This is a big mistake. Search engines love to rank .org Web sites. Wal-Mart has eliminated one of its Web sites that has (soon to be had) a top ranking for their brand name.
www.walmart.ca -- Why not? Develop a unique Web site for each country that you do business in (and where you have a physical presence). If I were Wal-Mart, I'd invest in a unique Web site for each country, if that doesn't exist already (disclaimer: I didn't do any research for this article; all high level observations/recommendations). This Web site ranks at number seven.
www.walmartfacts.com -- Wal-Mart's fine attempt at addressing the unfavorable Web sites that rank well in "walmart" searches. This site puts a positive spin on the company, its future, the way that they treat employees, and links to their charitable efforts. This Web site comes in at number eight.
mediadownloads.walmart.com -- Once again, this is a great use of a subdomain (as mentioned above). However, if they would take the opportunity to optimize their Web site for organic search, they would be able to move this Web site from its current ranking of number 12 to within the Google top 10, in a short amount of time. With two of the negative Web sites ranking in the bottom two slots of the top 10, there is a real chance they could bump one of these down a notch, or so.
Last, I'll offer this tip: write articles.
For example, I could title this article "Walmart – Brand Reputation Management," include the word "Walmart" in the Header (H1) Tag and get a few folks to link to this column, add it to their bookmarks, and perhaps even get a few other folks to blog about it, Digg it or otherwise promote this article. In a short amount of time, I'm sure that it would rise to the top.
Hopefully you were able to walk away with some actionable insights from this column. As always, I love to hear feedback from you, so please send it along.