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|Reputation Management and Google|
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the Title Tag discussion [webmasterworld.com] >
These days having a strong presence for your company name is imperative. There is a cottage industry that has evolved out of assisting companies in removing "unwanted" content about their company from the top 100 results. Part of that process involves establishing a strong presence for "company name" searches.
[edited by: tedster at 3:21 am (utc) on July 4, 2007]
There is one really pesky page that shows up on the first page for searches of my company name. I'd love to send it back a page or two. Can you tell me more about the process involved?
Tonearm, this kind of thing is called "reputation management" - quite a few companies and consultants offer the service. There are different approaches for getting the top ten all to be positive content about the company or person involved, and they almost always include a strong web 2.0 component. You can search for articles about reputation management to get a fuller idea.
I did a Webmasterworld site search for reputation management via Google but couldn't come up with anything solid. Are we basically talking about setting up fake accounts with different sites and posting positive stuff about your own company?
Maybe some do that -- but I prefer it to be done legitimately with real sites entering into real dialog with the market.
Years ago there was a lot of attention to the book Cluetrain Manifesto. In my view, reputation management is taking on the purposes expressed there as intensively as possible. Good reputation management also involves addressing whatever seems problematic to the marketplace, and doing it for real.
[edited by: tedster at 4:54 pm (utc) on July 4, 2007]
This is the most mysterious topic I've encountered in quite a while. I didn't mean to sound emphatically disapproving in my last post. Could you elaborate a little on what might be involved?
Some providers get into the kind of "search sabotage" that Forbes discussed this week [webmasterworld.com]. Again, this is not what I would recommend. I see Reputation Management as a long term effort, and it better darn well be solid and as real as it can get to be effective in the long run. I've seen companies doing various kinds of search sabotage and getting caught and exposed. That just adds fuel to the already burning fire!
So what can be done? Each case is quite different. If a company already has a blog on a separate domain or subdomain, that can be used. If there is a negative forum or blog somewhere that allows responsive comments, entering into that conversation and turning it around can be very helpful. If the critical issue is a really "big deal" it may even warrant a dedicated website.
If there are negative comments on a Wikipedia page, getting involved in that editorial process for real is important, Wikipedia has journalistic standards, and you can require them to be enforced but it takes active involvement.
If you've got a viral video, you can get it noticed on YouTube for your company name. On and on it goes. The variations are endless, but each one involves active participation on a number of different domains. In addition, it's a good idea to mine the market's various conversations so that you can respond to minor compaints before they become PR disasters.
This is where the Cluetrain Manifesto really kicks in. This kind of reputation is not really about "control", in the old sense at least. It's about proactive involvement in the many channels that may be discussing your brand, creating channels that can serve the ongoing discussion in your marketplace, and working that process so that Google has a lot of positive choices to offer when your brand name (or your CEO's name) is searched on.
[edited by: tedster at 4:01 am (utc) on July 4, 2007]
|Could you elaborate a little on what might be involved? |
Reputation Management (thanks tedster)
This particular topic is going to get quite deep! I myself have been the victim of "brand warfare". While the damage was minimal, its still one of those nagging issues that "I" don't like.
There is a long list of Reactive and Proactive solutions. There are onsite solutions to insure that the primary site remains number one for "company name" searches.
Offsite activities might include; press/news releases, feeds, primary directory submissions, local advertising, etc... I'm going to let others get involved and provide their input on how they would perform Reputation Management for their clients, or themselves.
Company name at the end of a few <title> elements is good practice. Usually this would occur at the about us level, privacy, terms, etc. Home page for sure. Always include the company name in the home page title, usually at the end, that's my "best practice" tip. Others may feel differently.
I'm from the school that says if there is something negative about a company in the top pages of the search results then the company should endeavor to deal with that issue instead of trying to game Google into removing the negative content below the drill down depth of the current batch of short attention span searchers ;-).
In short resolve the real issue don't create another one by crap flooding the search engine indexes with spin documents.
By hey, I'm a woodland critter so what do I know.
Hey, I just put up a Web page about how *all* woodland critters are mean and dirty and nasty. This of course is utterly false, but it's going to negatively affect the traffic and income of all of those critters' sites -- especially those belonging to bears.
I'm on a vendetta, because I was once scared by a bear as a child, and I hate them. I'm irrational and cannot be reasoned with.
Now what are the woodland critters to do, spend hours per week dealing with the negative e-mail, phone calls, and blog posts, while at the same time suffering loss of converting traffic, trust, and revenue -- all because of my on-line lunatic rantings, or should they opt to do a bit of reputation management?
In many cases, reputation management is needed because of irrational customers or disgruntled (ex-)employees, not because the company has actually done anything wrong...
In other cases, they *have* done something wrong, in which case the buzz to be overcome will be "strong" and the cost of RM *very* high... :)
So if I'm struggling with a negative page that shows up #2 for my company name, the thing to do is generate 9 pages about my company on different domains that will rank in the top 10?
|Generate 9 pages about my company on different domains that will rank in the top 10? |
That's one way to look at it. Finding those 9 domains to generate the buzz is the tough part. You typically start with a "company name" search and look at those first 20 results. Is there anything you can do within those first 20 to start shuffling them up the ladder. At this point, the primary concern is "pushing" that #2 spot down the chain. So, you're going to need help from those within the chain, if you can get it. If not, there are plenty of other ways to address the issue. ;)
On July 4, 2007 one Tonearm intoned thusly:
" So if I'm struggling with a negative page that shows up #2 for my company name, the thing to do is generate 9 pages about my company on different domains that will rank in the top 10? "
as part of his response pageoneresults made a statement of the form:
"At this point, the primary concern is "pushing" that #2 spot down the chain. ... If not, there are plenty of other ways to address the issue. ;)
this leads theBear to remark:
Is someone hinting at doing a a load of wash using a Google washer or is it get out the pins, dolls, and a personal item from the target time?
I've been wondering about this industry for a while.
Several years ago I googled a potential business partner and the 1st result was a legal document with moderately embarrassing personal information, but with no bearing on business.
So sometimes the bad pages on results have nothing to do with business, but can still hurt image and prospects - so there are good reasons for "reputation management" above and beyond "fixing the problem."
>>>Finding those 9 domains to generate the buzz is the tough part.
In the article I read, the RM consultants were purchasing domain variants of your name or company name, then pointing links to those pages which then lead back to your main site. Be sure to purchase the same variants with blog pages, including squidoo, myspace, flickr and any other service that you can add your name to the URL. And don't forget the power of subdomains.
I remember reading that article and wondering what Google thought about this business, because it could be defined as spamming, i.e. manipulating Google's SERPs.
[edited by: martinibuster at 5:00 pm (utc) on July 4, 2007]
|the RM consultants were purchasing domain variants of your name or company name |
I'd want to own those domains so they would be less likely to come back to haunt me in the future if the relationship with the RM outfit went bad.
|Now what are the woodland critters to do, spend hours per week dealing with the negative e-mail, phone calls, and blog posts, while at the same time suffering loss of converting traffic, trust, and revenue -- all because of my on-line lunatic rantings, or should they opt to do a bit of reputation management? |
I think that was very nicely put. I'm not actually a woodland critter, but here's what I'm thinking.
If I had a group of people that didn't like me for some reason I believed to be false or undeserved, I'd probably spend some time and energy trying to change their opinion. If that weren't possible, I'd probably still spend some time trying to counteract their influence with other people.
I've never had a thought about paying someone for that, but isn't that pretty much the same as what a public relations firm or publicist would do?
I've called this "crowd out strategy" for years but now "reputation management" seems to be the in thing.
This can be achieved quite easily in some cases (depending on the level of abuse the company is getting) and the strength of the page/domain offending articles appear on.
A good starter for ten is go and register in a lot of forums, blogs, web2 bookmark sites etc as your company name if it is unique and soon these pages will appear in the serps.
Throw up a couple of minisites showcasing individual products or services if you can justify having a whole site about different arms of your company and you'll probably see you have control over 50-90% of the top 30 results.
Add to this a few articles and pr mailings and many will find they've beaten all but the strongest, oldest "undesirable" mentions of your company name.
And of course, go back and throw a couple of google friendly links out to "favourable" sites you have nothing to do with to improve their rank too.
About a year ago I put up some blog posts about my search for a good local gym. including *my* reasons that *I* wasn't going to join the gym. Things like child care don't matter to me, but being open 24/7 does.
I didn't "optimize" the pages, they were just blog entries, but some of the gyms have such lousy online presence that I still rank above them for their company names. This has lead to all sorts of pissed-off gym members emailing me about how wonderful their gym is *for them*, and why was I ranking above the gym's website.
My posts aren't bad, but they aren't in favor of the companies either. Of course I would love for all the gyms to address what I consider their shortcomings, but that isn't reasonable. What they should do is care enough about their reputation to do what they can to rank #1 for their name, and get favorable blog entries and newspaper stories ranking above mine.
I have no doubt that those posts have cost them business, but I'm not going to feel bad about it if they aren't going to put in the effort to properly market their company.
|...isn't that pretty much the same as what a public relations firm or publicist would do? |
Sure, but traditional public relations are often not very adept either online in general or with search engines in particular. We could consider RM to be a type of PR or spin doctoring. I consider it active participation in the market's conversation.
Reputation Management might also be understood as part of branding. I found some top-level guidance for reputation management in a book called "United We Brand" by Mike Moser - he's the brains behind branding for many big names such as Dell, Cisco, and Kia.
|...wondering what Google thought about this business, because it could be defined as spamming, i.e. manipulating Google's SERPs. |
Some of the more aggressive actions are most definitely frowned upon and they can even lead to penalties. I know of one case where a widely recognized international brand had their flagship website banned for an extended period until the heavy spamming was completely cleaned up -- and the spamming was being done by their (then) SEO firm specifically to combat online criticism. I alluded to this case earlier in the thread. Now they also had critics pointing out how they would rather spam than fix the problem.
There are other steps that Google takes algorithmically that work against RM -- they try to <represent a variety of viewpoints> in the SERP and they <take steps to help the mom-and-pop website.> Those are roughly paraphrased quotes from Sergey and Matt. Matt even mentioned at one point that he had some concern about Google being overly favorable to critical sites. One angry guy with a blog (and no editorial, legal, or marketing department to answer to) can crank out lots of negative content mighty fast.
When it comes to a major public figure, or a big company, it's pretty much impossible for them not to generate some negative comment somewhere. If you cause big effects there simply will be some fallout, and it's good to know what that fallout is and to deal with it as best as you can.
Having a favorable top 10 or 20 results for a company name search is not the challenge, any SEO worth her salt can take care of that.
Prospects researching your company name rarely just search for your company name alone, they would search for negative keywords related to your business too, and there lies your challenge.
e.g. if you are into finance lookup companyname + Fraud
insurance: companyname + stiffing clients/defaulting
Car sales: company name + sold me a lemon/bad service/too expensive
hosting: companyname + sucks!
Good luck outranking few or many of those, fix the root causes first for if you don't and your service quality does not auto generate its own favorable reviews and links, then you've had it coming, reactive measures cost ten fold.
I have been doing some RM for a client here recently and most of our approaches have already been covered here already, so I won't go into them.
But one thing that has not been mentioned on the proactive side is nipping the problem in the bud. It is not so hard to set up a few alerts for a company's name and monitor new pages and activity. This can be worth its weight in gold. Responding to negative reviews, founded and unfounded, quickly and politely can work well in managing them before they become a problem.
It surprises me sometimes how few companies even do the occassional ego surf for their own name and have no clue what issues they have in the SERPs for their name.
Reputation Management even goes a bit deeper than just people searching for your brand or product as you can be slammed in many ways as most people look for "brand + consumer opinion" or "brand + consumer review". Not sure you can tackle all of those or if it's even ethical to try to do such a thing.
Additionally, scrapers can blend your content into cloaked web pages that associate your site with various affiliate scams, the florist affiliates are hitting me hard at the moment, or worse yet, adult! I lost a couple of advertisers because their name was mixed up in a cloaked scraper affiliate site which I had no control over but they didn't care. Funny thing was the listing in Google continued to persist for months as I explained to them, I had no control over it.
FYI, I was once harmed by a microwave food and now when people search on certain geological volcanic terms this food product is still the #1 result after 18 months. Not what they're looking for, but people will probably chuckle when they see this food product at the top of the volcanic listings.
[edited by: incrediBILL at 8:18 pm (utc) on July 4, 2007]
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 9:17 pm (utc) on July 4, 2007]
[edit reason] change p-word to euphemism for libraries [/edit]
I've had this from the other side: I have a blog where a number of posts with negative viewpoints about certain companies have ranked high in Google.
Representatives from the companies have contacted me (not the company themselves but a PR firm).
One technique was helpful, and one wasn't.
Negotiate: When the company has asked politely if they could tell their side of the story - I was very interested - and even went on to alter my post to present a balanced viewpoint.
Don't bludgeon: When the company has approached me in a heavy-handed way - demanding that I change the title of the post, change this sentence, or even delete the post... In that case I've told them where to get off.
Quite honestly, I find this more immoral and unethical than all the screams and complaints in every post of "bought links", "grey hat" "evil spammers" or <enter your silly moral SEO judgements here>
It's corporate manipulating of the SERPs at it's worst...
to avoid bad publicity or to avoid CONSUMERS getting pertinent information.
As Bear said, it either based on some modicum of truth or
it's slander and libel and that company should be suing the butts of the perpetrators.
God forbid someone express dislike for your product, customer service, workplace environment, dealings with other companies, etc.
And crazy nut balls always come off as crazy nut balls in their rants, so if their page is "scaring" of your profits, then your company has more pertinent issues to deal with.
oh btw. If my company website was example.com and I "pushed" all the other pages off the top 10 for "example", it would be called black hat google bowling.
Calling it "reputation management" doesn't make it any more ethical.
And you're free to choose, but I better not see you talking about SEO "ethics" in other threads ;)
|oh btw. If my company website was example.com and I "pushed" all the other pages off the top 10 for "example", it would be called black hat google bowling. |
Well, you wouldn't be "pushing" all the other pages out of the top ten. There would be a bit of "dancing" while the "unwanted" page(s) got kicked off the dance floor.
As I stated earlier, this topic can get very deep and bring out all kinds of great discussion. I'd prefer not to assign any hat colors to anything. Let's just discuss the methods that "could" be used to assist a company in getting unwanted content either removed from or, "bumped down" in the SERPs. I can tell you from experience that all sorts of technology is being used for Reputation Management. ;)
|It's corporate manipulating of the SERPs at it's worst... |
to avoid bad publicity or to avoid CONSUMERS getting pertinent information. As Bear said, it either based on some modicum of truth or
it's slander and libel and that company should be suing the butts of the perpetrators.
It's not so simple as that. I know of a niche--of which I am not a part, btw, simply a bemused onlooker--where one person has grouped around herself a following based on the force of her personality and her rather fanciful opinions about her own level of knowledge and ability re the niche. Those who are not enamored of her forceful personality or sucked in to her delusions are often cowed by her threats, which involve personal attacks on forums and blogs, character assassination through email, denunciations to isps, threats of lawyers, and so forth. This individual has spent countless hours maligning various individuals and businesses in the most vicious way imaginable. Although a grown woman, she is unemployed and lives at home with her mommy, so she has plenty of time to spend on many, many places on the web where she busies herself blackening the names and businesses of people who have dared to disagree with her or to question her entirely questionable knowledge. She along with a truly cynical individual of the type my mother used to call an "operator" have formed a "guild" as a way to further control discourse in the niche and to make money from something she knows zip about and does not contribute to in any positive way. Newbies flood in and continue to be impressed by, as I said, the forcefulness of her assertions and her constantly reinvented mythology. There is no resolution to this to be had in your either/or approach of either the thing is true and enlightening the masses or you can sue them for libel. There is nothing to sue for in this situation, because this person doesn't own anything. And the accusations she makes are not actionable because for one thing, the businesses she attacks are so small that they cannot afford to take something like this to court either in terms of time or of money. Vicious individuals like this can do enormous damage to a good business. I have seen it time and time again.
If people respond to attackers like this with flooding the search results with phony reviews, maybe the problem is not their ethics but those of the review sites, which far from being run by saints, are not there to perform a public service but to make money by running ads.
So I do not see the either/or morality of this issue at all.
[edited by: encyclo at 12:05 am (utc) on July 5, 2007]
[edit reason] fixed quote [/edit]
|review sites, which far from being run by saints, are not there to perform a public service but to make money by running ads. |
If those review sites were running in the off-line world, many of them would be open to libal and slander lawsuits. Nobody clicks on listings with good reviews, so it behooves review sites to have negative ones. Some are honest, some (as mentioned above) are out to make a buck.
I think we forget that an algorithem is not some magical wand that gats waved and the right sites come up. It is a mathmatical equation, nothing more. It doesn't know if what it is putting out is truth or not. And if it deems a negative review better than something else, so be it. But, if it deems a posative or neutral page to be more worthwhile... well, that is just the nature of the beast and there should be so shouting about black or white.
Most of reputation management is simply giving the search engines more choices, and letting the search engines decide what is best.
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