Employee Policy Handbook for the Search Engine Marketing Age

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing These days, or in this post search engine marketing age, what employees do online can have a serious impact on a business’s success or failure. While I have no story to share about a business getting blacklisted by Google due to the actions of an employee, I have plenty of stories of employees doing things that inadvertently hurt the business’s online presence, which must certainly cause some financial loss.

(If you have such a story, please do share it in the comments)

Clients request guidance in this area all the time. Therefore it would seems obvious to do a quick search to locate a template from which to start writing your own Employee Policy Handbook (because I’m not a lawyer and nothing here may be construed as professional legal advice). As is often the case, that’s about as effective as trying to drink from a fire-hydrant. Here’s one example:

  • Company employees are expected to use the Internet responsibly and productively. Internet access is limited to job-related activities only and personal use is not permitted.

Duh! we need lawyers to write stuff like that, but that is not what we need to pro-actively help our employees do the right thing. And the other 100 commandments that go with that are not going to prevent employee related search rank mistakes from occurring (and the financial loss that goes with it). Yes, that boiler-plate stuff is good for the employee handbook, but not real-daily-life.

So I have put together a tangible-effective-non-legal set of rules that should achieve our goal of communicating to employees what is right and wrong, and therefore what is dangerous to the business’s well-being. It is important to not only have rules, but also an explanation regarding the reason for the rule.

  • You MAY NOT CREATE an online account for the Company, or use the Company name in ANY online account.
    • Why? (Really? you need me to spell this one out?) Lawyers will tell you that the Company name is a property. Since you don’t own it, its like stealing.
    • The other reason; these accounts will be indexed by search engines and displayed in search results in ways that may hurt the real business listing(s).
  • Do not use the Company name in ANY personal online account TITLE. For instance, you MAY NOT TITLE your Facebook account as “John Doe My Company“. You may use only your name in the account name (title). You may indicate that you work at My Company in your profile, but ONLY in your profile.
    • Why? Because the title will be indexed by search engines and compete in search rank where it is vital the company is displayed to customers searching for the company or its products.
    • Note this applies to ALL online accounts (re. Social Media accounts Pintrest, Google+, Twitter, etc.)
  • Do not click on the Company’s PAID ADS. You may occasionally see ads run by the company while searching  for something or reading articles in a trade website. DO NOT CLICK on any Company listings you may encounter.
    • Why? These listings cost money for each click. They are designed to bring customers to the website, and convert into sales. Your click amounts to a waste of valuable resources.
    • If you must search for the company’s website, scoll down the page to find the natural results listing. Ads are usually clearly marked.
    • Note you should bookmark the URL in your browser instead or simply type the URL into the browser address bar. Its quicker.
  • Do not post online reviews of yourself or of the Company. Reviews should come from real customers.
    • Why? There are several ways Google can tell its a fake review and penalize the Company website accordingly. Also, Most self-reviews are easy to recognize and it could serve to turn people off.
  • Do not try to “Claim” the Company website on Google+, Google Maps, Bing, Bing Maps, etc.
    • Why? The website/business listing is already claimed and managed by the appropriate person in the Company. You will be required to provide a phone number to verify the account and it will be easy to identify you. You don’t want that 😉
    • If you wish to help keep the Company profile fresh with photos and posts, please talk to your manager. Often they will welcome your help.

While this is not a robust list yet, the intent is to grow this non-legalese version of an Employee Policy Handbook for the Search Engine Marketing Age, so that this can be appended to your Official Employee Policy Handbook. These rules may be copied without permission or attribution. (but linkbacks are very welcome)

Your contributions are welcome and will be added so long as you agree to also share without permission. I will give attribution via linkback from this page if you like.

Some notes for Managers and Owners

  • Create Sub-accounts for Employee-Managers
    • You should already have your accounts ( GoogleMyBuiness, Google+, Youtube, Twitter, etc. ) setup with a webmaster (email) account. Employees should not be given access to webmaster accounts (if possible). Rather, best practice is to create sub-accounts that are given permission to manage the same account, thereby making a disgruntled employee departure much less dangerous.
    • Write it down! While regularly maintaining your online accounts makes it easy to remove a manager who has since moved on, you will forget who has permissions to what. Better to keep a log.
  • Use a good password manager (per the prior item)
    • I like Keepass to not only manage passwords, but to also keep notes on who has access to what.
    • It also has a document attach function – very handy