Can Tiger Woods Do This? Online Reputation Management Case Study

Tiger Woods

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At SES Chicago 2009 last week, a number of speakers were asked what advice they’d give Tiger Woods. I’m not sure if he’d sent agents to the show or if attendees were hoping to learn some lessons from this online reputation management case study before their boss or client faced a similar situation.

During SES Chicago 2009, Brent Payne, SEO Director, Tribune, said the recent news about Tiger Woods drove over 1.5 million visits to its site in a single day.

And my friend Katie Delahaye Payne, who writes a regular column at The Measurement Standard entitled, “Can this Reputation be Saved?,” says when you google “PR” and “Tiger Woods” you get 12,700,000 results.

So, maybe it’s too late to help Tiger get out of the woods. But Payne also did a quick analysis of the 20,100 comments left in response to the statement he left on his website, and the gist of them was: “Come clean and we’ll support you.”

So, maybe this is a “teachable moment.” What can Woods do?

Now, if I was doing PR for Woods — and I’m not — then I’d do a search in Google for “Tiger Woods” and see that news results appear in the universal search results. So, my initial PR efforts would focus on Google News.

When I searched for “Tiger Woods” in Google News this afternoon, I saw a story about Tiger Woods being named athlete of the decade in an AP poll. Who knows, maybe his PR guy pitched the LA Times the story that appeared in The Fabulous Forum Blog at the top of the news search results.

But I also saw ads from E! Online and promoting their stories about Tiger Woods. When I clicked on the E! Online ad, it took me directly to their story. But, when I clicked on ad, it took me to their home page — where the lead story was entitled, “Nerd Girl Porn: Hot Guys Wearing Bow Ties.”

So, I’d spend time talking to the E! Online reporters, because their stories are being promoted effectively with Google AdWords.

Then I’d go back to Google and look at who else was advertising for “Tiger Woods” in additiion to E! Online and And I’d decide to talk with the producers at AOL Television and the editors at Daily Finance, because they are also promoting their stories effectively with Google AdWords.

Next, I’d go to YouTube, which ranks second after Google in properties where search activity is observed. That’s right, YouTube. And when I searched for “Tiger Woods” this afternoon I saw a news video from the Associated Press. So, I’d get on the phone to them.

Then, I’d do a search for “Tiger Woods” at Yahoo! News results appear at the top of Yahoo! blended search results, so I’d go through the same drill with Yahoo! News that I did with Google News.

Next, I’d do a search for “Tiger Woods” at Bing. News results appear at the top of blended search results there, too. So, I’d repeate the drill with targeting media that have top rankings there, too.

In parallel, I’d contact Matt Tatham at Experian Hitwise and ask for the top 1,000 search term variations for “Tiger Woods.” You know, variations like “Tiger Woods wife & moves out” or “Tiger Woods affair.” Then, I’d launch campaigns on Google Adwords, YouTube Promoted Videos, Yahoo! Advertising, and Microsoft Advertising.

According to Tatham, “The most important thing for any company or brand – e.g. Tiger Woods – is to make sure you are buying your brand online. This way you know that you are going to show up – hopefully first – in the search results in order to get your message out there.”

He points out that iProspect did a study awhile back that found “68% of search engine users click a search result within the first page of results” and EyeTools released a study showing how the top 5 results on the page get the most clicks. So the more space you can occupy with your message for people to click on the better.

Tatham adds, “Right now is the #3 result on the search result page for a search on ‘tiger woods’ after his site and his Wikipedia page. Your examples show how media sites will try to get their stories out there simply with a paid search and you can’t always count on people clicking on the first organic listing. So buying his name and terms surrounding the accident like ‘tiger woods accident’ could’ve helped drive even more traffic to his site early on, instead of having people head to news sites like CNN and Yahoo.”

Tatham also recommends that companies and brands should also monitor the searches performed on their name and the variations used. He says, “You want to know if there is a negative association out there with the searches and track the lifecycle of those searches. You can reinforce the brand with a positive association with posts on the ‘Tiger Woods being named athlete of the decade in an AP poll’ or links to stories covering that announcement – hopefully not mentioning the other recent info. A little work can help drive up this sort of story in the results.”

However, there are more than 5.5 million searches a month for “Tiger Woods” and related terms and they cost between $0.05 and $1.77 per click. The average is about $0.34 per click, so an ad campaign might cost $1.9 million a month just for the media.

In many cases, Woods would be competing with media companies and comedians for the top position, but he could bid as high as he needed to in order to rank #1. It would help if his ad content were compelling, because then he might be able to keep his cost per click to a more reasonable level. But the most compelling content out there isn’t what Tiger Woods — or Accenture, Gillette and other sponsors — want people to see.

So, Woods would need to add $300,000 a month to manage the ad campaign and another $300,000 a month for PR to deal with the 82,333 stories a month that are being written about Tiger Woods. That brings the total cost for online reputation management to about $2.5 million a month.

So, can Tiger Woods do this? According to Forbes, he’s worth an estimated $600 million. And according to EA Sports, Tiger Woods can “walk on water.”

Tiger Woods 09 – Walk on Water

So, yes, Woods can do everything mentioned above for months and months and months.

But it would have been a lot cheaper to have remained faithful to his wife, Elin Nordegren. And they have two little kids. So, what was Tiger thinking?!?

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