Branding, SEO, and Tiger Woods (DC-MD-VA Social Media & Search Engine Optimization)

Tiger Woods just won his first PGA Tour event in about two and a half years.  Some thought it might never happen.  After shattering his marriage and reputation with his off the course behavior in 2009, he struggled with injuries and unprescedented mental meltdowns in his golf game.  It was one of the greatest falls from grace in sports history, and fascinating to watch as the top golfer dropped rapidly in the world rankings while many of his sponsors jumped ship.  Yet, I was amazed to find out that according to Forbes magazine he remains the world’s most valuable athlete brand, even while the value of his brand has dropped by millions of dollars.

Rebuilding a Brand

Now, we watch as “The Tiger Woods Brand” continues to be rebuilt – his game has come back together over the past several months, and with this first win (of what will likely be many more to come), the public perception evolves.  I asked a friend last week about this and he said that “no matter what, I still pull for Tiger to win.”  That would certainly match the fan support shown at Bay Hill as people cheered him on in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. People are quick to forgive, especially when you’re a winner.  Bummer if you’re Tiger’s former swing coach Hank Haney, releasing a new tell-all book this week about his most famous former student.  Mr. Haney was likely trying to capitalize on the fact that Tiger hadn’t won or played the same since the two parted ways.  Oops.  Talk about bad timing!

A Case Study in SEO

I’m always interested in how marketers use search engines and we can learn a lot by reviewing the online brand image of Tiger Woods over the past few years.  I remember the weeks and months immediately following his Thanksgiving weekend car crash and the revelations of infidelity that followed.   A Google search during that time would reveal page after page of results pointing to negative stories and photos of Woods’ mistresses.  Golf took a back seat to scandal and gossip links.

In early 2010, SEO expert Rhea Drysdale wrote an article for CNN giving the prescription for repairing Tiger’s online reputation.  His handlers most certainly took note, and now, just two years later, the Google search results are quite different.  The first two pages mostly feature links to images and portrayals of Woods on the course, and with this most recent win, the positive news will certainly grow.  At last check, the first direct mention of the scandal was found on page three of the Google results, and even that story was flanked by links to reports about his win on Sunday.

SEO Can Work for Your Business

So, how can you apply the lessons of this story to your business or organization?  Thankfully, you’ll most likely never have to rebuild after a dramatic shift in brand reputation like Tiger Woods has done, but the same principles discussed above can be applied to your everyday brand management.  The key to SEO success can be found in a Social Media strategy that integrates your marketing message with an online presence that builds a consistent, positive brand.   Time plus fresh content heals all wounds….just ask Tiger Woods.