The art of search reputation management

I was asked recently by a company interested in my skill sets about search reputation management and I essentially said it is all about listening. Knowing how to listen and knowing where to listen and knowing what tools to use to listen are all critical. The reason is, there are so many places where your company, brand, or name can be discussed, but trying to be everywhere at once is a challenge, so it’s important that you use as many monitoring sources as possible to keep as on top of it as is humanly possible.

 

But more importantly, it’s also imperative to consolidate or use as many aggregators as possible. Here are some of the ones I use to listen and why I think they are important in just the listening aspect. Once I get past the listening, then I will show you the tools I use to specifically manage and drive down a negative online reputation. Your methods might be different and I understand that, but these are just mine.

 

Google Alerts and Google News and Google BlogSearch– I absolutely love these because of the simplistic nature and the ability to tie it into igoogle/reader/email alerts.

 

Another monitoring tool I have been using a lot of lately has been Filtrbox.  The results are not where I would like them to be on a consistent basis, but that might just mean I need to tweak and adjust them some.

 

I’ve also used Trackur, it’s a pretty robust tool that can track any news mention of a particular term but… it also searches over everything from images, blogs, news sites, and videos. Great filters.

 

Some others I’ve used are Blogpulse to track conversations but not as extensively, as well, I’ve obviously used Delicious to see who’s book marking our sites and Keotag for a down and dirty quick look to see who is tagging certain key words.

 

Don’t discount the usage of tracking your reputation on forums and BBS sites. I met these guys Twing, at the Web 2.0 expo up in New York and they have a sweet product. Prior to meeting them, I had been using Boardtracker, which I still use from time to time.

 

With the 10 tools/Sites I have mentioned you can have a pretty good handle on monitoring the online reputation of your company or business. If you desire more, then you can set up RSS feeds from other sources to pipe in the information that you desire. Speaking of Pipes, I’ve been playing around with Yahoo Pipes as of late but haven’t really formulated an opinion on it yet. Finally I’d be remiss if I did not mention Radian6, another monitoring type of company, but more on a social media level. I have done a few twebinars with them in which they hosted the event.

 

 My thoughts on this are simple: Identify the point or source of pain and then you can begin to treat it.

 

By Listening, we can now determine the amount of management that will be needed to drive down the noise. In some cases the noise may be contained quickly and effectively with a few choice blog posts or articles or comments. But in some cases, it requires a larger and more concerted effort.

 

Now To manage and drive down a bad reputation, there are certain things that are a must and if you have not done these things yet, then you are way behind the eight-ball so to speak. First and Foremost, I would like to see/audit your current website. Is the message working? Is the content serving the right purpose? Is there any content that’s worth it’s weight? Sure most will admit that having a website is sufficient, but a website that doesn’t work for you, for SEO, or for your customers is useless. Even more-so, if it’s with reputation management in mind. So lets see what we can do right off the bat that may improve your company’s web presence just by improving a website that might be hurting. In some instances, just optimizing a few more pages either better, or for the first time may be enough to at least drive negative press off the first page of the SERP’s.

 

However, another way to continue to push down a negative reputation is to create a blog-site. A free one, no less. It doesn’t have to be a robust, busy, “chock-full of stuff” type of site. Just a site that has the right key-words, tags and page elements will do. And who knows, if you allow it, maybe it will become another viable channel of doing business for you? This effort is completely measurable as well because of the analytics associated with some of the Free services like Typepad and WordPress. Again blog sites are very search engine friendly. Speaking of analytics, you better have something in place, I’ll assume you do.

 

Once the blog-site is done you have a couple more website options. You can create some micro sites devoted to your company, product, or keywords and or you can create sub domains. Either way, the more pages you can get out there that have more to do about what is right with your company than what is wrong, the better off you will be.

 

The great thing about all of these suggestions is that they are completely measurable, can happen very quickly, and you can adapt or change your tactics on the fly. The proof is there for the client to see.

 

Taking a cue from what social media has to offer, I would highly recommend creating a social media presence via LinkedIn, Ning and Facebook, Flickr or YouTube or a Podcast. Doing none of them is not a good thing. Of the group, obviously if we’re talking corporate presence I would go with Facebook first followed by Ning and Linkedin. Since LinkedIn is more of a personal networking, branding type of social site, I would rank it a tad bit lower.  With Facebook, you can create a group devoted to your company. With YouTube, Flickr, or a Podcast, you can create audio visual elements of photos, videos or audio, tagged with key words and company references which will all be search engine friendly and also increasing the company reputation.

 

I’d also suggest creating a wiki devoted to your company as well. You could even created a wiki-how on something that your company might do. Search engines love wiki results.

 

One thing that seems to work rather well, actually 2, are creating or writing articles that you can submit about a topic that can be linked backed to you and your company. This is huge in pushing down negative elements. The other is PR Press releases. There are at least 20 Free PR sites out there in which you can create a PR release that can become SE friendly quicker than you can say Widget.

 

Speaking of widgets. If I wanted a viral reaction to my company, my product or my service, I would look into the creation of a widget that can be shared and virally spread to users. SpringWidgets allows you to create a Free widget which you could then drop on all of your social networking sites in which you have a presence. I know it might not be relevant to everyone, but when it comes to managing a bad reputation, I have to look at this challenge almost from a Guerilla marketing standpoint. Everything is fair game, in other words.

 

One last option would be to create a Google page devoted to your company through Google sites. Google sites is a way to create CMS type of web pages that the public can actually see and that are searched on. Anything that originates through, Google, has to be Google friendly, right?

 

In conclusion, managing and monitoring your reputation online are 2 very separate but equal acts that are uniquely joined at the hip. To ignore one for the other or vice versa is not highly recommended.

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Your SEO mantra

I read the blog post the Yin Yang of PR and SEO by Lee Odden and I’m going to sum it up right here:

If a digital asset (text, image, video, audio) can be searched on, then it can be optimized.

No go forth and prosper

5 huge tech trends that you can’t ignore.

That’s it. Just 5. But why just 5? Because these 5 are rockin’ our world now and will continue to do so for the next 10 years. Do you remember the Gartner Hype Cycle? I blogged about it awhile back in regards to certain things we can be excited about over the next 5 years. Take a look at it real quick.

Ok Now look at this next slide real quick:

 

Ok, one more and I will let you off the hook.

 

 

So the hype cycle pretty much lets you know where certain “things” are in their growth development. It’s a great point of reference and doesn’t take a long time to figure out. Samw with the next slide, what does it tell you? It tells you that music is important to us. Always has, always will be. Here’s a quick 1 question quiz: What does the MySpace business model revolve around? Music and social networking. Ok So there’s 2 trends that will not be dipping anytime soon. Awhile back I wrote a blog post about the top 44 music related social networks and to this day it still pulls traffic. I recently tweeted a question as to what brick and mortar industry has completely dried up but thrived online-answer: music

Trend #1 Music will continue to thrive online and you cannot ignore it.

According to Comscore  In August 2008, Americans conducted 11.7 billion core searches, virtually unchanged from July, as Google Sites extended its lead in core search market share by 1.1 percentage points.

Search is, the gateway to everything that we do online. You may see some play in regards to trying to refine search into more of a niche based environment, but the bottom line is search will alway be the mainstay of any internet based activity.

Google Sites led the U.S. core search market in July with 63 percent of the searches conducted, up from 61.9 percent in July, followed by Yahoo! Sites (19.6 percent), Microsoft Sites (8.3 percent), Ask Network (4.8 percent), and AOL LLC (4.3 percent).

Americans conducted 11.7 billion searches at the core search engines, nearly identical to the number of core searches conducted in July. Google Sites handled 7.4 billion core searches (up 2 percent), followed by Yahoo! Sites with 2.3 billion and Microsoft Sites with 977 million.

In the comScore August 2008 analysis of the top properties where search activity is observed, Google Sites led with 10.2 billion searches, a 2-percent increase versus July.  That’s billion! Yahoo! Sites ranked second with 2.4 billion searches, followed by Microsoft Sites with 1 billion and AOL LLC with 839 million.

Trend #2 Search ain’t going nowhere.

According to Hitwise, MySpace.com received 67.54 percent of the market share of U.S. visits in August 2008 among a custom category of 56 of the leading social networking websites.  The market share of U.S. visits to the social networking site decreased 2 percent in August 2008 to 6.40 percent of all U.S. visits compared to July 2008. Visits to the category decreased 17 percent year-over-year. But check out the chart below:

What do those numbers mean to you? It means that MySpace had 66 million visits in one month and Facebook had 28 million. The fact of the matter is that social media and social networks are interwoven into the daily fabric of our lives. I know, it’s not like it’s earth shattering, it’s just not a fad anymore. It’s legit. It will continue to evolve and the potential will always be there for someone to do something different and exciting and unique with the social media application. Could that be you? I hope so.

Trend #3 Social networks will continue to evolve and grow larger and gain in importance.

A recently released UN study indicates that by the end of 2008 mobile phone use worldwide will reach 50% of the earth’s population for the first time in history. Although the percentage of mobile phones in North America, Western Europe and most of Asia is much higher than 50%, in developing countries, a mobile phone is still considered a luxury.

Mobile phone ownership rates have been rising significantly, almost at an exponential rate. Countries like  India, Brazil, and China are seeing crazy growth in the number of people owning a cell phone. In fact, China had an estimated one billion cell phone subscribers in 2007. At the current rate of growth, there will be over 3.3 billion cell phone subscribers worldwide by the end of 2008.

So there’s no escaping the fact that cell phones are now-another essential part of our daily lives. Grab the keys, grab the wallet, the purse, the backpack and the cell phone. Ok so we get that. But now, pay attention.

According to a recent online survey conducted by ABI Research, nearly half (46%) of those who use social networks have also visited a social network through a mobile phone. Of these, nearly 70% have visited MySpace and another 67% had visited Facebook. No other social networking site reached 15% adoption mobile adoption.

So what are these consumers doing when they access their mobile social network? They’re checking for comments and messages from their friends, with both of these features registering above 50% for mobile social network users. Posting status updates also has proven popular, with over 45% of mobile social users letting others what they are up to via their phone.
What we are seeing is a melding of 2 functions into one via the hub of the cell phone. Or is it the hub of the social network?  There’s no doubt that a social network is increasingly becoming a central hub for communication across online and mobile domains for a lot of people. Because it’s  allowing them to consolidate activities or processes. From text, to email, to chat, to phone calls, to exchanging of data, uploading images and downloading songs. The phone and the social net. allow thesee things to occur almost seamlessly. As a trend, the centralization of a consumer’s cell phone activities combined with their increased social network usage is only going to make adoption of mobile social networking more inevitable as we move forward.
Trend #4 The growth of the mobile social network will be steady and exponential.

Here is trend 4a for you as well:   comScore M:Metrics reports that in June 2008, 20.8  million U.S. mobile subscribers and 4.5 million European mobile phone subscribers  accessed search during the month, an increase of 68 and 38 percent from June 2007, respectively.  The U.K. had the highest penetration of mobile subscribers using search at 9.5 percent, followed closely by the U.S. at 9.2 percent.  That’s right, Mobile Search.

Ok last one-And it’s a no-brainer. Check out the slide below. It’s from December 2007, but the message is loud and clear.

Google Sites  ranked as the top U.S. video property in December with 3.3 billion videos viewed (32.6  percent share of videos), gaining 1.3 share points versus the previous month. YouTube.com accounted for more than 97 percent of all videos viewed at the property. Fox Interactive Media ranked second with 358 million (3.5 percent), followed by Yahoo! Sites with 340 million (3.4 percent) and Viacom Digital with 238 million (2.3 percent).

In total, nearly 141 million Americans viewed online video in December. Google Sites also captured the largest online video audience with 79 million unique viewers, followed by Fox Interactive Media with 43.9 million and Yahoo! Sites with 38.2 million. So if you don’t already know it online video consumption is growing at a sick-ass rate.

Trend #5 Online video consumption will evolve into an acceptable replacement for a TV.

In conclusion, here’s the most interesting aspect of them all. The hub for all of the above trends can and will be centered on one thing, Your cell phone.

SEO and SMO are conversation starters.

Last year Jason Calacanis wrote a blog post how he thought that SEO and SMO were bullshit. Now I know in some parts Calacanis is approaching demi-god status and in other parts he’s villified to no end. Hell, he has 35,000 followers on Twitter, which is a fairly significant number of people who put a lot of stock in what he says. I’m one of those followers too. But that doesn’t mean that I agree with everything he says.

I had been thinking about the role of SEO and SMO in internet marketing lately and decided to do a cursory search and that’s when I found Jason’s article. It’s not the driving force behind this post but it does give it some legs since Jason and others have deemed some of what is done on the level within SEO and SMO circles as unacceptable.

Over the last year and half and even before that, I have engaged in some pretty healthy SEO as well as SMO for clients. And it has worked. I utilized what was available and knew what I was doing. According to Calacanis that would make me a snake oil salesman. Talking SMO then, Calacanis said the following:

Anyone who hires an SMO firm is an idiot. The whole point of social media is TO BE REAL NOT FAKE!!! Just be yourself and participate… that’s all it takes (and note, participation is not just putting in your own links, it’s voting/commenting on/submitting other people’s content too!).

To which I have to say that “SMO is the process of realizing that being authentic and strategic within a social media marketing context or environment can be beneficial.

Here’s a generic example. I have a demographic of women smokers in their mid 30’s for instance. They  happen to use Facebook. So I create a widget that provides them a way to maybe quit smoking and track the results and share them, which in turn drives them to a blogsite, a branded microsite and a branded community. To get this ball rolling, I’ve also seeded/posted articles related to all of these sites and the product and the campaign on Digg, Stumbleupon, Delicious, Technorati, Propeller and say Reddit. All of these linked together creates a tremendous opportunity and buzz for these users to not only meet, but also to share, and perhaps learn more about a product dedicated to them. Does this mean that what I have done is black-hat or disingenuous? No. Does it mean that I have taken certain elements, linked them together and have enjoyed the linky-goodness via SMO and SEO? Yes. Am I bad? Am I evil? Am I hiding? Am I not being “transparent enough”?  Why can’t I let these social bookmarking sites know about a product launch?

Want a good example?  Buddy Media created the Check your Dudeness app for Facebook-Couldn’t this be construed as some element of SMO? They’re taking a product, a branded one and using social media to promote it. Is that gaming the system? No.

We need to get away from the fact that what the system allows us to do, does not neccessarily mean that we are up to no good, or that we’re not being transparent enough. Ok I get it. I don’t need to be told over and over and over again to be transparent and authentic. Yes there is a difference between black hat seo and white hat seo as well as black hat smo, no doubt about it. Just check akismet for aspects of that. But.. most of your brand marketers are only using the tools that are available. I can show you at least 130 examples where companies used certain aspects of social media to promote or further their brand exposure using some of the above mentioned sites and tactics. This doesn’t mean that they are operating behind a cloak of deceit.

Listen, there is a big big difference between gaming the system and utilizing what is provided to promote your product, your brand, and your company. It truly boils down to how you use it. I’m all for engaging in conversations but someone has to start the conversation. The better you are at starting a conversation, the better your chances are of someone listening and responding back. Maybe we should be looking at not how to be transparent and authentic, but more on the proper way to enagage and start the conversation.

Mobile, Social, and Search. Quick hits.

In a quest to pare down my already slim posts, I’m going to fire off a couple of quick blurbs for everyone to chew on until the next post:

  • Aside from Microsoft not backing down in it’s quest to buy Yahoo, AT&T and Yahoo have entered in a multiyear deal to share revenue from advertising on Mobile phones. Yahoo will provide search and display advertising for AT&T customers. I’m shocked that Google did not get there first.
  • Speaking of Microsoft, the Wall Street Journal just cut a deal with them in which the WSJ’s paid search and contextual advertising services will be provided by Microsoft. Not to sound redundant but, I’m shocked that Google did not get there first…
  • Social media giants Facebook and Myspace will become application hubs and launch pads for niche based “smaller” social networks. Alot of this is the residual effect of Facebook opening its platform last fall.
  • Word of Mouth marketing is the new mode of marketing on the cheap. It’s also just as effective as traditional forms of marketing and has much more of a “buzz” factor.
  • Magazines drive more than 50% of online searches, followed by reading an article in a magazine and lastly by seeing something on TV.
  • According to Anderson Analytics, 32% of  the 1700 marketing executives polled cited “Green Marketing” as an important emerging concept along with it being considered the trendiest marketing buzzword.
  • The hottest demographic that you need to be marketing too, but are probably ignoring are the hispanic and baby boomers.
  • According to Informa’s latest report entitled “Mobile Social Networking: Communities and Content on the Move,” the number of mobile social networking users exceeded 50 million, approximately 2.3% of the global mobile user population on December 31st, 2007

Global search revenue will reach $60 billion by 2011

As if Google and company did not make enough money, by years end, global search revenue will reach $30.5 billion according to a recent JPMorgan report which hinted that investors still should view the web as a good  “buy” or investment.

Contrary to the dot com bust of the early 2000’s, 2007 was actually a very good year for internet companies. In fact, due to the rising world GDP, according to the report, internet companies with a global reach would continue to enjoy a healthy profit due to the broad and seamless appearance of a global marketplace. Conversely, the US GDP growth has slowed in recent years.

By 2011, look for search revenues to exceed $60 billion according to the report. A lot of this groth will be tied into paid search as a global marketing vehicle. The growth will also be attributed to keyword price inflation and increased web usage. Tied to this will be an increase in the user experience and increase in click-through rates for all sites.