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Should Airlines Pay More Attention to Their Online Reputations?

How much do you know about your online reputation? More and more often, companies are paying closer attention to their online reps because of the impact it can have on business. A company's online reputation can have a significant impact on the ability to convert shoppers into buyers on their own website. It doesn't cost much to maintain, but it does require some effort. According to one recent study, many airlines are not paying enough attention and need to do better.

Before I get into this, let's have a couple disclaimers. This study was prepared by a company that specializes in improving online reputations for companies. So the determination that airlines need to hire reputation consultants is far from a surprise. I don't know that airlines need to bother hiring a consultant - some of this stuff is easy enough for the marketing/PR crew to handle on their own.

Now back to the study. It seems to focus primarily on Google search results and YouTube video searches. It's true that most people search via Google, so that's a great place to start. This study focuses on the first 10 results when searching for an airline's name. That's the first page of results and it's where the majority of searchers will make their choices. At the top end of their study was Southwest Airlines, which, when I searched, appears to have 7 of the top 10 results. The other three were Yahoo Finance, New York Times topics, and a random Las Vegas Sun article. So there's nothing bad there, and that's important.

On the other end of the spectrum is Ryanair, and airline which has never really paid much attention to its online presence. My search brought up only two Ryanair-controlled links. The third is an independent site called Ryanair Sucks. Uh oh.

So should Ryanair try to create more, relevant web properties that could rank highly in the results? Absolutely. But then again, Ryanair looks at things differently than most of the world. Still, I can't imagine that having the third link being negative is something from which they benefit.

Not all of this study makes sense to me. They advocate trying to make corporate blogs rank better, but I'm not so sure. You want to keep all eyes focused on the booking path. If someone just searches for an airline name, they probably just want that airline's website. Usually, that means they want to book. So if your blog does too well, you'll end up pushing the most important info out of the way.

But you get the point. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the better search results you have, the more likely you are to get traffic to your site. So do airlines need to pay more attention to their online reputation? Everyone should be paying close attention if they aren't already.

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