Empire Today : How to Optimize a Badly Branded Google Results Page

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Last week was a trying week for me as on top of the normal day to day responsibilities of managing a search blog and a search marketing company, I was also managing multiple projects which were a bit out of my field of expertise.

We decided to renovate my condo just in time for the holidays with a major overhaul including tiling the kitchen, installing a new tub shower and toilet, tiling the bathroom floor and walls, painting and lastly, installing new carpeting. The carpet warehouse type places were a little overwhelming, and many had to actually order the carpeting from a much larger warehouse, then have it shipped, and installation would take another week. I remembered that Empire Today, which was a competitor to a past client of mine, promised next day installation on carpets, so I called them.

Their salesman came to my place Friday evening, showed me some samples, I selected the colors, I paid, then he placed the order. The result was swift and precise marketing and sales … the kind of environment I’m used to being a search marketer. Today, on Christmas Eve, Empire Today is going to install the carpet. Perfect.

In anticipation of the delivery, I searched for them on Google this morning and found quite an interesting array of search results which is a great example of the anatomy of a balanced and branded Google listing which is not very beneficial to the company and needs to be optimized : Empire Today.

First and foremost, Empire Today rules the top results for their brand on Google, for both paid and organic search. If anything, the AdWords copy kind of leads to the organic link itself, perhaps resulting in the user focusing in on the information and links given in the organic results. Very nice.

They also are blessed with very well represented internal links which feature their core offerings.

Scroll down to the second and third organic results however, and the results are Anti-Empire Today listings from the sites ComplaintsBoard.com and RipOffReport.com.

This is not good for Empire Today, as these complaints are ranked quite highly and can lead to a potential customer choosing another company over Empire Today, even when that customer had enough drive to search for their brand name.

What’s even worse is that ComplaintsBoard.com is full of Google AdSense advertising for Empire Today competitors and RipOffReport.com is littered with similar Kontera ads in their content. Hosting ads on user generated complaints sites is smart, but not for Empire Today.

Quick Fix : Empire and their search marketing team should really look into manipulating the Google results and knocking these complaint arbitrage sites off the top. Setting up social hubs on Empire Today throughout social networking sites like Flickr, Propeller and Yahoo Answers is one step, reviews from blogs would be another, as would social bookmarking and tagging.

I would also suggest that they try to target the AdSense boxes on these complaints sites with Empire Today ads or even ads for a site which praises Empire Today.

Optimizing videos of their commericals on YouTube, DailyMotion, MySpace, MetaCafe, Yahoo and AOL would also help them to brand the search results; especially in Universal Search (more on this below)..

The #4 thru #6 results are not that bad. The Empire Today Wikipedia entry is ranked #4, the #5 listing is totally irrelevant, and the #6 listing is a news story / press release from BizJournals about Empire Today.

Why Does Wikipedia Rank So Low?

ComplaintsBoard.com ranking higher than Wikipedia in a branded search result? What’s wrong?!?

The Empire Today Wikipedia page has some mediocre content about the company and its history; but it lacks a photo and only has 10 inbound links which come from outside of Wikipedia. This is not a well maintained Wikipedia page and some balanced additions to the page can be made to make it a gem, and rank above the complaints sites.

Quick Fix : In order to give this Wikipedia entry more juice, Empire Today shoud assign the role of Company Historian to one of their employees (or retired employees) and have them compile every aspect of the company they can from its incorporation to now, including the name of the advertising agent who did their commmercials and voice overs for 40+ years, information on carpeting and services along with an image.

I also would recommend a link building campaign to acquire good links to the Wikipedia entry from blogs and other sites which are relevant to their industry. One major step would be linking to the Wikipedia entry from their own site, giving instant credibility and relevance to that entry, and probably automatically advancing it to #2 or #3.

AdWords Sponsored Links

Even though Empire Today enjoys the #1 listing on Google AdWords, their national and local competitors are heating up the competition with AdWords ads and copy targeted to the Empire Today brand name. In fact, LumberLiquidators and DiscountsCarpet are using the search term, Empire Today as the title of their ad copy.

Luckily, they do not use the Empire Today text on their landing pages, so the irrelevance of the copy title to their content, URL and landing page help to rank them lower than the other listings, but this can still hurt Empire Today’s business and branding, as a lost sale can become a lost customer for life.

Enter Video Search

I mentioned videos and Google Universal search before and after viewing the Google Video results for Empire Today, I was shocked to see that although their happy-go-lucky commercial is ranked #1 on Google Video, the #3 ranking is really bad; it’s titled Empire Today and is of a bobble head doll of the Empire Today man going down in flames at the mercy of a blow torch, with lots of Empire Today branding and logos in the video!

Quick Fix : Smart video optimization including high ratings of their videos, content friendly titles and descriptions, customer testimonials, and guerilla videos of happy carpet laying employees.


The results on the first and second pages of Google for a search on the brand name Empire Today are a mix of complaints, press releases and job openings. Again, with the right touch and targeted linking and reputation management campaign, I do believe that Empire Today could have a much more beneficial showing the in results for their company, which are now a balance act of their site, Wikipedia, complaints, and news stories.

As a matter of fact, 8 of the top 20 results for their company are complaints about their service. Like I said before, these are very fair and balanced results from Google, almost innocently untouched, but a smart search marketing campaign could expand their positive branding and recognition from the world of traditional media, to the world of search engine marketing.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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  • anon

    SEJ is already on second page on google search for empire journal… 😀

  • Steve

    Great analysis! Thanks

  • Gab Goldenberg (Likes Reputation Management)

    I think you’ve got the terminology a bit awry here: “Complaint arbitrage sites off the top[…]” They’re not buying and selling complaints instantaneously…

    Also, I’m not sure that it’s a good idea to use Wikipedia for reputation management. You can’t control modifications to it, and if things get nasty, you’ve helped another complainer rank high for your brand.

    The first thing to do, imho, is to investigate the sources of these complaints. They sound like a good company and the fact that their competition advertises on their name suggests those complaints may not be 100% kosher. If they can expose their competitors as being the source of complaints, that could be a huge PR boost for them at the expense of their competition.

    But if the problems really are serious, I’d look to rank some pages about Empire Today’s response to the complaints, what they’re doing to improve etc. Just ignoring and outranking the complainers – if they are real – is not a long term strategy, because more complaints will inevitable arise (again, assuming they’re legit complaints).

    Another point is to have the lawyers get them to stop advertising on their brand name. The flip side is that if you are a competitor advertising on your competition’s brand name, you’ve got to do a better job with the landing page.

    • Jim

      Mr. Goldberg I fully agree with your response. It is strategically and ethically sound. Mr. Baker’s analysis only produced how EMPIRE can GET AROUND their bad rep. He did not make any attempts to provide solutions on how they should MAN UP and address/confront the issues provided. I too have to assume that not all complaints are legitimate BUT when websites have dedicated sections outlining the issues, the damage has been done. I for one am not sure that Mr. Baker’s approach is any less sleazy than some of the tactics outlined in the complaints filed by comsumers against EMPIRE. And yes, I was a potential customer looking to have my kitchen redone by Empire.

      Which leads me to my question. How do you go about finding an “honest” and reliable firm? Carpeteria, Empire, MMM Carpets all have bad reviews. Is there anyone out there that is honest anymore…?

      • Jim

        Sorry for the typo Mr. Goldenberg. No disrespect intended.

  • Gab Goldenberg (Likes Reputation Management)

    BTW, I submitted this to Sphinn, Loren: http://sphinn.com/story/20205

  • SEO in China

    Nice article. If I was Empire Today, I would assign my PR department to reply to those complaints, it is usually the case in other industries including web hosting, it is a critical mistake to let those complaints without a proper response.

  • Winooski

    Excellent article, many thanks! I’d only reiterate Gab Goldenberg’s first recommendation to dig into the root of the complaints. All the artful SEM in the world is of little use if the company is behaving badly in the first place.

  • SEO for Yahoo Small Business – Terry Reeves

    Many complaints end up being one disgruntled customer with a chip on his shoulder and a little time on his hands. Sometimes these people get more out of their personal rants than they will get with resolution of the issue.

    For those people, a open, honest reply will usually control the damage. Everybody knows some people are just not going to be happy no matter what.

    However, a series of complaints by many different people can do real damage to a business. In our new “socially aware” web environment, you better make your customers happy or else they may just decide to make their cause a hobby and bring down what took a great deal of time and money to create.

  • Matt

    Great article Loren, Reputation managment is one thing I notice many larger firms tend to ignore. Also check out Andy Beal’s post on Gooruze for some more tips: http://www.gooruze.com/articles/31/Own-Your-Google-Reputation-with-these-Ten-Suggestions/

  • Clickfire

    As both a marketer and a customer who has had a very different experience with Empire, I’d agree with the above comments that the most important action Empire can take is to try to learn how to avoid creating the complaints before doing any SEO, RM or PR.

  • SEO Web Design

    Getting your PR department to resolve the complaints issue will not solve the problem because the pages of complaints against Empire Today are already indexed. I agreed that the solution now is to over rank these complaint pages by manipulating SERPs. One way is to create external domains and create positive contents about Empire Today and made use of these domains / pages to push the complaint pages down from at least the first 3 pages of the SERPs.

  • Goran Giertz – Website Marketing

    I love this article, its brilliant. brought upon a great laugh. Broke my serious reading mood.

    Thanks have an exSeollent 2008

  • Greg Website Design South Africa

    If I was their competitor I would definitely send some additional links to Wikipedia. It works both ways.

  • Qip

    Good article, thanks for a analytics..

  • Automotive Social Network

    That is what i love about internet archive.

  • Mike

    I am a consumer who was “ripped off” by Empire Today and wish that in my search I had found those complaints. I have found Empire Today as not the company you proclaim it to be. Numerous phone calls to complain about the lack of adherence to the contract that they drafted, no follow up through their complaint system, promises of some vague notion of compensation, onsite compromise meetings working into an agreement to be slammed hours before the work is to be completed by legalese and double talk to waivers that amount to “sign here” if the work is not completed to your satisfaction after this – tough luck. Please, shelter this company and misled the next consumer – think about it.

  • Oya Örnekleri


  • Mark

    I was happy the complaints were listed where they were. I was in the market to buy new carpet and had already received three estimates – Empire was going to be my fourth. Not after I read the experiences of others. Doing business in a free marketplace demands that you do what you will say and be who you proclaim. If you refuse to do this professionally and with honesty, you deserve to no longer be in business. Empire – either change your practices or change your name.