Company RM

What You Should Look For In Reputation Mangement Companies

As my work with businesses continues as a part of my tasks here at Reputable.com, it has become evident that many firms are actively seeking out the services of companies that have become involved in the Reputation Management business. Admittedly, there has been quite a bit of demand for general SEO work – some of which has opened my eyes when it comes to just how primitive some of the services offered still are. In this article, I want to go over a few of the mistakes that I see corporations making when outsourcing their SEO, online marketing, public relations and RM needs.

Do The Research

This is by far the biggest failure of businesses who outsource their online marketing tasks to specialty companies: they fail to do their own research ahead of time. Unfortunately, with all the updates to search engine software such as Google Panda, it is no longer feasible for a firm’s representative to rely on third party experts. Even in 2014, I still see companies focusing their website content creation efforts exclusively on keyword density campaigns, link farming, link purchasing and other practices that have long been countered by search engines.

The result is almost always the same. The website in question gets a few days (maybe even a few weeks) atop the search engine rankings for various keywords, then gets penalized by Google and faces extinction after the software detects efforts to game the system.

By doing the proper research ahead of time, you can request that the company you outsource your efforts to pay close attention to content creation and focus on building website authority via organic methods such as proper linking, correct coding, social media outreach, and becoming involved in communities.

Social Media Outreach

Enough can’t be said about the importance of using social media to achieve your company and website goals. Far too often, these tasks do not get the attention they deserve when they are outsourced; leaving the company woefully short when it comes to customer feedback and getting involved. In almost every case, having a website is not enough when it comes to online marketing. A firm must also build a relationship with clients who frequent sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and so on.

Failing to get involved in this type of direct feedback can be costly to a company that is relying fully on its website’s search engine results in order to receive exposure. By working hand in hand and combining your efforts, you can more effectively get your brand established online.

Focus On Organic Results

The days of having a cookie-cutter SEO or online marketing campaign are well behind us. If you want to become successful in today’s online environment, you (or the company you hire) must be heavily committed to providing true, real time, unique content and replies to potential customers. There is simply no substitute for ensuring that there is a human aspect to your website, marketing campaign and SEO efforts at all times – no exceptions.

Search engines are giving higher authority rankings to those with a complete online profile that extends to social media and communities such as the Google Plus service. If you rely on your website alone, it won’t be long until someone else capitalizes on using social media. There is also the possibility that a company will have a very limited platform for gathering in new business if no social media is utilized.

All in all, it is a good idea to be as informed as possible when it comes to outsourcing your online marketing and SEO work to a third party. There are all sorts of promises out there, but remember that no one can guarantee that a common keyword ranks on the first page of popular search engines. This just isn’t possible anymore. However, there are plenty of measures that can be taken to build a website’s authority and tie it in to community posting as well as social media.

Take some time to browse through the articles I’ve posted on Reputation Management and SEO efforts here at Reputable. As always, feel free to contact me at your convenience if I can be of assistance in any way.

-David H.

Online Company Image

The Emergence Of Reputation Management Companies

If you’re starting up a new company are have been managing a small business for a few years, chances are you have recently been introduced to the term Reputation Management and are learning how it applies online. What may have been just a simple Public Relations effort a few years ago for some enterprises has quickly blossomed into a full fledged online strategy to not only release data about your company, but also control that information in a way that is beneficial.

No longer can small businesses rely solely on the traditional PR movements that consist of giving out press releases to certain local media outlets while also counting on word of mouth marketing. All of that has changed with the online realm and one must depend on either his or her own skills when it comes to forging a new marketing path or contract the services out to a third party in the form of outsourcing.

Why Reputation Management?

The emergence of reputation management companies since 2008 has not been a coincidence. More and more, companies are finding it difficult to balance out all of the responsibilities that must go in with SEO, Public Relations and RM. In fact, there are so many social media facets to this practice alone that it can often be too intimidating for a small start up business owner to actually dedicate time to improving online reputation while at the same time keeping on top of any new information that is spreading through the Internet.

It can all seem simple enough at the beginning, but once negative reviews, undesired search results and other information begin being archived online about your business, the general tendency is for a small company rep to panic and react incorrectly. After all, the main goal is to push down unwanted search results and stay on top of information that can be controlled via accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, and so on.

Reputation management companies differ quite a bit from one another, but all offer some blend of online marketing, public relations, and other services that can be extremely general or specific depending on what a firm’s needs are at the time they reach out to outsource a third party.

Why RM Is Important To Your Company

It’s no secret that the Internet has changed the way the general population views its news, information, and other resources. No longer is a small business limited by region. If planned correctly, even a one person company (depending on which services are being offered) can benefit from tapping into a global market thanks to the Internet. It only takes a few Do It Yourself methods and a business owner can easily begin gaining exposure provided that he or she takes the time to research Reputation Management and how it applies to online use.

If you’re new to this site, I suggest taking a look through the many articles we have archived and learn what you can from the information that is written out. We encourage our readers to do their own research in order to save both time and money in the long run, yet we also have our own staff who deals with different aspects of the business on a more personalized basis.

Either way, there is plenty more coming from Reputable.com in the form of guides, tips, and additional info on how to best assist companies who are seeking out Reputation Management needs. As always, feel free to contact me at your convenience if I can be of help in any way. You can also leave a comment below this article and I will reply as soon as possible.

-David H.

Search Engine Information Image 2

The First Page Of Search Engine Results

Small business owners often contact us for advice on how to better improve their in-house Reputation Management campaigns and either start or improve on their online presence. Only a few years ago, it was somewhat difficult for a virtually unknown enterprise to work its way up the search rankings ladder in order to become recognized for the commonly searched terms its owners wanted to gain exposure for. While this is certainly still the case for generic terms such as coffee, restaurant, landscaping, etc., the online realm has changed quite a bit when it comes to being able to get your company name to rank highly (assuming it’s not fully encapsulated by a term that is nearly impossible to rank highly with). In this article, we’ll take a look at how important the first page of search engine results can be, as well as explore methods for getting your business to appear as much as possible on the first page while at the same time pushing down any negative results.

The Importance Of First Page Search Engine Results

Why should almost all of your reputation management focus go into what is contained on the first page of search engine results? The answer to that is very simple: less than 5 percent of current or potential customers will wander past Page 1 of a popular search engine such as Google when doing quick research on your company. Basically speaking, your RM campaign will consist of two prongs when you proactively become involved: the first is gaining a presence on as many popular social media sites and review sites as you can (because these will be the places where clients can seek feedback on your business by simple searches on those sites), and the other will be the first page of search engine results.

To achieve a better perspective of why most people do not go further than the first page of Google search engine results, we need to put ourselves in their virtual shoes so to speak. For the sake of illustrating this, let’s take a real life example and put it into practice. For this part of the article, we’ll assume that we’re in the city of San Antonio, Texas and are planning a child’s birthday party with a group of his or her friends who want to go bowling – simple enough. When I enter the search term “Bowling In San Antonio” into the Google search engine, the first result that comes up for me (this may be different for you since results are now more personalized than ever) is University Bowl. As a matter of fact, the company’s official website is the top result when I search the business specifically; meaning that someone who manages its online presence has done a good job when it comes to the center’s RM efforts. When I go to the official website, it advertises itself as NOT YOUR ORDINARY BOWLING CENTER.

I’m already intrigued, and if I have a party of 25 who is looking for some bowling fun on a weekend, it’s probable that my search efforts have already ended if the business is conveniently located to my current location. If not, I can do more specific searches by geographical location to get the closest bowling alley, and go with that. Such is the case when people conduct online searches for things such as bowling, Italian restaurants, plumbing, etc. They’re not typically going to be meticulously going through reams of virtual online paper in order to find what they’re looking for – they’re going to click on one of the first three companies or results that appear and not go any further – at least until they’ve had some positive or negative experience with the business in question.

University Bowl – A Closer Look

Search Engine University Bowl Banner

When I go to University Bowl’s website, it appears that all the general information I need is at my fingertips. Useful tabs such as Take A Look, Parties, Reservations, Leagues, Specials, and Freebies are all there, so I click on the Parties tab to see what the bowling center can offer for a group of twenty five. The questions that I’m looking to answer as a potential customer include information related to prices, discounts, family fun (Do they have lanes that can adapt to kids so that their bowling fun is extended by not constantly visiting the gutter?), and so on.

Search Engine University Bowl Parties

With this particular entry, I seemed to have hit the jackpot in terms of what I’m looking for. There are three well laid-out plans for birthday parties; each with their own benefits and pricing. Best of all, BUMPER BOWLING is available and all plans include the same amount of bowling time. All I need to do now as a parent is check my budget, match it with the number of paid guests, and select a plan according to whether I want Kids’ Meals and Invitations to go along with the basic bowling package.

While University Bowl’s website doesn’t boast the most appealing design (it could certainly be improved to include a responsive layout for smart phone devices and tablet computers), it does an adequate job of relaying its services to potential customers in a direct, easy to find way. I would also recommend placing the company’s address (since the physical location is vitally important for this type of business) more prominently on several of the site’s pages rather than having it available solely at the bottom of the TAKE A LOOK page. I’m also not a fan of CONTACT US pages that don’t include a telephone number, address and map for businesses that rely exclusively on getting customers into an actual door.

Not surprisingly, the very next search result for University Bowl in San Antonio is its Yelp page. Again, to prove my point about patrons seldom going past Page 1 of search results, it’s relevant to point out that there is so much content contained within the links of the first few search results that there is rarely any need for the casual, everyday client to seek out more. If I were looking for verifiable reviews and feedback of this business, I’ve certainly found them on the Yelp website.

The first review is informative enough. The reviewer gives the business a perfect score and outlines that she was impressed with the quick service as well as the lights and music. However, I see that University Bowl has an overall rating of 3.5 out of 5 Stars, so I delve a litter further down the page and discover a long, detailed review from someone giving it a moderate score. Daniel C. says that the games are a bit on the expensive side (not a concern for me if I’m going to lock in to a party special, but I file away this bit of info for future reference), plus there’s not enough room for spectators in his opinion. This is a bit of a concern for me if I’m a party chaperone, as I want ample space for parents to look over their kids and not feel cramped, although with a large party of 25 paying customers, we’ll likely be assigned at least five lanes.

There are more unflattering reviews with complaints ranging from poor service to overpriced drinks; from stale odors to unkind security. Whatever I need to form my opinion of this business, it’s likely contained within the pages of Yelp. Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for a business to receive bad reviews and in most cases they shouldn’t be taken as an assurance that you’ll have the same experience. To be fair, there are also positive reviews that compliment University Bowl on its service, amount of space, prices and security. At the very least however, you’ll have a list of concerns to discuss over the phone with the company’s representative before booking a reservation, and this is the extremely useful part of review websites such as Yelp.

More On The First Page Of Search Results

Already, I have more information than I could possibly process in a reasonable amount of time as a potential customer. If I’m looking to book a bowling party for my kids in the next couple of weeks, I’m probably not going to be doing an extensive amount of research and delve into pages 3, 4, and 5 of the search results. After all, I’ve got work to do, other commitments, and all I’m basically concerned with is the kids having a good time without costing a small fortune. This is why it’s so important to focus your company’s reputation management campaign on social media websites and the first page of search engine results. Think about it… one of the most hard-selling ideas behind using the Internet when seeking out the services of companies is convenience. Potential clients are mostly interested in basic research of a business they might patronize – at least until they’ve had an experience that prompts them to leave a positive or negative review online. Do I really have a need to know a company exec’s golf handicap, the business’ corporate structure, stock price, legal activity or other tidbits before I do business with them? In most cases, the answer is no.

This takes me back to a memory of mine from a couple of decades ago. I was dating someone and went to pick her up to go see a movie (Forrest Gump if I recall correctly). When she opened the front door, the look on her face immediately let me know that something was drastically wrong. I was sure that she had lost a family member or a close friend and that funeral arrangements were pending, but to my surprise, the emergency revolved around a piece of jewelry (a ring, to be specific) that had slipped off her finger and found its way into a bathroom drain. Even though it was already 8:00 in the evening, it was very clear that movie night was going to be postponed until the situation at hand was dealt with. What we needed was a plumber… RIGHT NOW.

Although this situation would prompt the parties involved to grab mobile phones and look up a number of possible suitors in a matter of seconds in today’s world, this was a time before we had all become heavy users of the Internet. Our only resources were a telephone and the Yellow Pages – which was a thick book rather than a website at the time. Believe me when I tell you that my friend was not at all concerned with any aspect of the plumber’s business who we ultimately ended up contacting. She wanted her ring back as soon as possible and the first person who offered to remove the sink drain and take out the heirloom on a Friday night was going to get the job – regardless of his company’s history, reputation, or even his physical appearance. We wound up giving him a couple of beers and some leftovers (and were more than happy to do so) after the job was finished.

The point I’m getting at is that as a business with an online presence, it’s important not to overly focus on all the available information that can be found within the obscure Page 3s and beyond of search engines. This brings us to the next section of this article, which contains some practical tips for managing your online presence in an environment that includes anyone with an Internet connection.

Target Market Analysis, Emotional Investment

When beginning or improving an online marketing campaign, one of the first things that is almost immediately forgotten about is in-depth analysis of one’s target market – and how negative feedback ultimately affects a company’s bottom line. Since I’ve had my fair share of dealings with restaurant owners as part of my commitments here at Reputable, I’ll use the restaurant industry as a prime example to outline my points.

As a former 24-hour restaurant manager, semi-professional chef, and also as a Reputation Management consultant who has run several online marketing campaigns for eateries of all types, one fact is certain. If enough people dine at your establishment, sooner or later (probably sooner) you’re going to run across someone who has something negative to say about your food, your prices, your staff, your location, your menu, your operating hours, your decor, the air conditioning, the heating, your jukebox playlist, or all of the above. One time back in the 1990s I actually had a customer leave a complaint because he was really craving a baked potato with his steak but instead opted for french fries. It didn’t matter that he clearly saw a baked potato as an option when browsing the menu and wound up going with the fries, all that mattered in his eyes was that he didn’t get a baked potato (which he didn’t order). This may seem silly to someone who hasn’t been involved in the restaurant industry, but those of us who have can tell you stories that range the entire spectrum of negative feedback. Taking criticism in stride in person is considered to be a very valuable skill for business owners, yet many of those same owners are quite inexperienced when it comes to the online realm.

I’ve discussed dealing with negative online feedback in some of my previous articles. In general, there are two types of criticism when it comes to review websites (which absolutely generate more website traffic from negative reviews than positive ones). The easiest to deal with – surprisingly to some – are the ones that focus on what I call flaming a business without getting into specifics. Usually the reviewer gets personal and goes out of his or her way to write a scathing review that is on par with how that person would address his or her worst enemy. You know the type: your food stinks, your prices are highway robbery, the waitress was wearing colored contact lenses that didn’t appeal to the customer, the reviewer was in a terrible mood when the review was uploaded, has some personal issues, and it shows. The emotional investment when dealing with these types of reviews from a business owner or manager’s perspective should be zero. The best course of action in cases which revolve around a flame review is to either type out a polite, non-specific, short reply or none at all. Simply sit back and analyze how the review is being perceived, and be on the lookout for fellow reviewers who hop on the proverbial bandwagon while also bringing up issues that might need to be addressed more thoroughly.

The second type of negative review is one that goes into detail about what the reviewer didn’t like about a company’s service, prices, etc. Focusing on being helpful and addressing the issue under these circumstances is vital, which is why I almost always suggest a polite, relevant reply from business reps who are confronting a negative review. No business is perfect, every dining experience will be unique given the undeniable human element it revolves around, so your best bet is to attempt to be helpful while working with your staff to ensure you’re doing everything reasonably possible to avoid having a similar issue arise in the future.

Still, enough cannot be said about focusing your online marketing efforts on aspects that directly affect your company’s bottom line rather than spending too much time on obscure feedback that can’t be remedied. If some unsatisfied customer decides to create his or her very own website dedicated to running down your business, then so be it. Because you know how Reputation Management works, how to improve your online reputation by using social media websites, and how irrelevant search results can be if they don’t appear on the first page, you’ll realize the disgruntled individual is going to have to put in quite an enormous effort into Search Engine Optimization in order to compete with sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare and rank higher than Page 3 when your name (or company’s name) is searched.

The exception to this rule are reputable (or at least widely recognized) food reviewers who have enough online authority to sink a business with a single paragraph. In the restaurant industry, this is especially prevalent (check out the The Most Scathing Restaurant Reviews Of 2013 at Eater.com for more insight into this). Unfortunately, there is an unwritten rule in the restaurant business that if you give free food to a well known reviewer, he or she will return the favor by writing a positive review piece. In fact, this practice is at its peak in 2014. What’s more, many reviewers expect free food when dining at an establishment and will purposely be critical even when it is not warranted if they had to pay for their meal. These expectations can extend to family members and friends of the reviewer. In these cases, a restaurant owner should analyze the pros and cons of offering a free meal to certain reviewers and go from there. Each situation is different and, while it’s an unfortunate side of the business, it’s also a reality – for now.

Search Engine Results Summary

While I’ve given plenty of practical examples of how to deal with criticism in this article, the main focus is on recognizing how vital highly ranking search engine results are when it comes to improving and maintaining your company’s reputation. Although it takes some time, managing your online reputation and controlling the information that ranks highly in search engines is a relatively simple process; provided you’re willing to do some tedious work.

Take the time to maintain accounts on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and focus on pushing down negative results in order to keep them away from the eyes of 99% of your customers. This way, you can establish direct communication with customers via platforms that are specifically designed to address feedback while at the same time promoting your business’ services.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and are able to take away some positive tips for marketing your business. If you have any feedback, you’re more than welcome to leave a reply in the comments section or contact me directly at your convenience.

All the best!

-David H.

Newspaper Reading

Reputation Management: What Is Considered News?

It’s not every weekend that I get to dedicate two full days to actual research. With the responsibilities of real time projects coupled with the everyday chores of personal and family upkeep, getting in a good 15+ hours of new research is what many of us in the industry would call a productive vacation. With that in mind, I’ve decided to write an article that specifically deals with the search term Reputation Management, and its appearance on Google News.

As someone who has directly managed an uncountable number of Google News acceptance campaigns (defined as dealing with the uploading of content as well as backend programming methods for ensuring the best chance possible of getting a website entered into the News department of Google’s search engine), I feel I have a solid grasp on the Do’s and Dont’s of said campaigns. With that in mind, I’d like to focus on a recent discovery that has been begging for an article for months.

Reputation Management In Google News

News For Reputation Management

If you’re a Reputation Management expert, then the screenshot I’ve pasted above will no doubt give you a general idea of where this article is going. If not, then suffice to say that Google News gone through an extensive process over the last few years to ensure that the links appearing highly on its search engine queries are actually news (and not public relations excerpts). Nonetheless, there are still some very popular terms that have yet to get the royal treatment (in programming terms), and one of those terms is RM.

You’ll notice in the screenshot that the top two results happen to be press releases when RM is searched via Google News. Honestly, with all the work that has gone into Google Panda, Google Penguin and Google Hummingbird, I was somewhat surprised earlier this year when a general news search for our all-inclusive term resulted in a number of spam-like entries. What’s more, as this article is being written, eight out of ten of the top results under Google News for the term Reputation Management happened to be press releases. I suppose this is a good thing for the industry, as it shows an undeniable trend toward competition, yet the focus of this article to make another point about how search engine algorithms have adapted (and will continue to correspondingly update) in favor of genuine news rather than public relations snippets.

What Is Really News?

For a more in-depth take on the algorithmic process behind search engines, take a look at the SEO Demystified article I wrote back in 2013. It outlines how search engines have evolved from the beginning days of the Internet and explains what SEO methods have become outdated. If you’ve read that article or already have a solid grasp on how SEO works, then the fact that so many PR stories happen to show up under Google News when RM is searched may come as somewhat of a shock.

However, this is something that is going by the wayside in more ways than one. Not only are popular search engines constantly updating their software to filter news, there is also a swift change currently happening in the social media department when it comes to which articles, viewpoints and advertisements are considered authoritative.

While the Reputation Management companies (all great ones I’m sure) that happened to get their press releases to appear on the Google News platform are sure to benefit from short term exposure and a potential massive influx of business, it won’t be long until it becomes much more difficult – if not impossible – for such an event to transpire. What’s more, websites that offer press releases as news could find themselves penalized for such acts due to how algorithmic filters are created and implemented.

Tips For Avoiding Soft, Promotional News

There are several things to avoid when categorizing your website publications as News if you ever endeavor to enter a large search engine database and remain there. For one, news entries should be precisely that – news. Topics that include pointers, promotions, tips, guidelines, and opinions are being filtered into their relevant categories in real time by most search engines, and the fact that Google hasn’t completely polished its software for the Reputation Management term is simply an exception to this trend – nothing more.

Only a few years ago (namely before the creation of Google Panda), websites could easily enter into Google News and have their spam appear highly in the company’s search engine since acceptance into the News site was pretty much automatic. All you had to do was apply. That’s no longer the case, and the restrictions that have been placed on news sites are growing yearly if not more often than that.

The canned 500-600 word news articles (along with their effortless 50-word cousins) are all but irrelevant and a waste of time in today’s environment where search engines can sniff out a line of garbage in less time than it takes to type it out. As a website owner or administrator, don’t put yourself in a position to be made an example of when it comes to publishing useless updates and hoping that they will get you into Google News. It may still work in the very short term, but running the risk of having those stories subsequently wiped from the database and your website penalized for future search rankings far outweighs any short term benefit unless you’re planning on closing your virtual doors by year’s end anyway.

As a website publisher, you need to be very careful about how you categorize content. It is absolutely fine to publish whatever you like – opinions, news, photographs, videos, reviews, gossip, mortgage rates, stock market insight, your pet’s favorite treat… whatever – as long as you’re up front about what is being posted. Gaming Google is not nearly as profitable as it used to be and can come with severe consequences.

Working Towards Authority

It all comes down to being perceived as an authority figure on a given topic; especially when it pertains to sites like Google News. Author Rankings are just now becoming mainstream in our industry, yet they will almost undoubtedly be instrumental in search engine categorization for years to come. The more quality content you publish related to a certain topic or topics, the more you will be perceived as someone of authority on that subject. It sounds simple and really should be, but the effort to game the system has forced search engines to update their software to counteract with spammers. With each passing day, it becomes more important to upload content that will interest the target audience rather than turn them off. The best way to give yourself a shot at having a search engine consider you as an authority figure on a particular topic is to write about it and express your thoughts in a way that will be well interpreted by an audience.

Posting in formus and chat rooms will also play a substantial role in paving the way for the future of Online News as well as how entries are ranked in general. Already, there is a growing trend towards showing links forum feedback when a popular term is searched, so becoming an active member on forums is one of the best ways to improve your personal authority ranking.

The Ins And Outs Of The Reputation Management Business

After reviewing the press releases that appeared as News, I came up with an idea to do further research into various Reputation Management companies, the services they provide, the cost of those services as well as their overall value. Although this article probably isn’t the best place to insert that information, I’ll be working on this for one of my upcoming articles. It serves as a win-win situation by providing our readers with updated data on how RM providers work as well as allowing me to compare our services here at Reputable with our competitors.

I look forward to publishing my research in the weeks to come, and as always appreciate any feedback you have. If you’d like to make a comment about this article, feel free to leave a reply below or email me directly. I’m happy to be of assistance in any way and enjoy discussing how Reputation Management can help your business or personal image online.

-David H.

Public Relations Touch Screen

The Evolution Of Public Relations (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this two-part series, we delved into the history of Public Relations and which methods were effective during the 20th century. Not surprisingly, the definition of authority figures has quickly evolved due to the widespread use of the Internet – as have the methods employed for the distribution of information to a large global audience. In this article, we will go into detail on the recent changes in PR strategies, and how the invention of social media has shaped the 21st century in terms of public perception.

The World Goes Online

Admittedly, I had some idea that real time online media would pave the way to the future – even back in the early 1990s when very few people were aware of the Internet. I experienced something similar to a shock when I transitioned from a local radio disc jockey in the early 90s to programming content for a satellite based radio station. Before that time, I had just assumed that all these celebrity recording artists were popping in to a nearby radio station and that its programming was vastly superior to what our staff of 15 could muster. It wasn’t until I got into the satellite based radio business that I fully came to comprehend how communication networks function. By entering our local news programs and other content into a computer’s hard drive, I could personally designate at what time a broadcast interjected with a headquarter’s feed as well as how it would be perceived by our listening audience. It was evident at that time that the future would soon be online, in real time, and shared by a massive audience.

To some, the Internet has been around and in full use for about 20 years, but that isn’t actually true if you compare 1994 virtual traffic to 2014 – not by a long shot. The old dial-up service of the 90s can’t hold its own against DSL and broadband connections of today; which zip data back and forth in less time that it takes someone to enter a search query.

Public Relations StrategyThe result of that has been a gradual (yet relatively quick) transfer of public relations strategy that has come with its share of headaches from an industry perspective. After all, those with a PR background grew accustomed to controlling all information related to the controversial topic of the moment and shaping overall views by a wide variety of tactics ranging from social pressures to outright dumbing down of a message to push forth its principal goal of providing the public with as little information as possible which could be reasonably squeezed into soundbites. Although those methods are still commonly used today, they have become a prime example of diminishing returns due to how diversified opinions now are – and how they can be absorbed in real time by millions worldwide who are connected to the Internet.

More and more, the release of information is controlled by no one and anyone. Mass media outlets such as television networks, syndicated newspapers and radio stations still wield quite a bit of influence, yet that influence has been severely trumped by the everyday blogger on the Internet who can often publish content online just as efficiently (if not more so) than his or her counterpart. Add the WordPress platform and its premium themes to the mix, and any person can boast a professional website with all the bells and whistles for about $100 per year plus any expenses that deal directly with the uploading of content, news stories, etc.

Social Media Amalgamation – Collectivism Versus Individuality

Social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and so forth changed the landscape of public relations in the mid 2000s, yet many in the PR business have been slow to adapt and are just now getting around to using these outlets for their own benefit. Even so, the methodology used by many in regards to posting content on these websites is also sorely outdated in my opinion. Perhaps five years ago it would have been justifiable (from a profit based standpoint) to spam these services with a massive marketing campaign that published glowing reviews of a particular product. That’s not really a practical use of a PR rep’s time anymore in the vast majority of cases however. Just take a few moments to read the comments pasted below five random news stories or promotional posts on sites such as Twitter. You’ll quickly notice that they are often highly negative.

Everything from the release of a new video game to the pedaling of a new product of a well known brand goes through the proverbial clothes wringer when it comes to social media; making it vital to respond to feedback with something other than canned tidbits. Even then, you’ll see a large number of retracting views, but the chances of building a positive brand image revolve 100% around replying to those who disagree with you or the brand you represent in a timely, polite, and customer service oriented manner. Anything less can be more costly than paying for the effort to customize your responses either personally or via a third party.

Regardless of your stance on collectivism versus individuality (there are pros and cons to both for sure), contradicting opinions are here to stay at least in the short term. PR reps can no more control the release of information than they can control the average Internet user who is informed – something that is becoming more commonplace thanks to the encyclopedia-like nature of the online realm. Practically anyone with an Internet connection can access more information that they could possibly process in several lifetimes; and it’s all at their fingertips in real time. To illustrate this point, take a few moments to enter the term Prescription Drugs into the Google search engine and you’ll see what I mean. Sure, you’ll find a number of websites that define the term , another couple that are government related and yet others that dedicate their efforts toward their sale – but you’ll also see a number of stories that are negative and offer an opinion that would have been unthinkable on a global scale just a short decade ago. This is today’s reality. Even if – as a PR rep – you come up with some fancy new term to define something that is receiving bad press, you’ll still be inevitably faced with the presence of dissenting opinions for that term in practically no time at all.

So what is the future of social media promotion? Is it based on collectivism or individuality? Will controlled bits of information and a majority opinion rule the roost or are the individual views (even if they happen to disagree) poised to make the overall difference? This is a question that is unlikely to be answered for at least a few years, yet currently there is quite a bit of weight tugging away from snappy soundbites and other pre-programmed responses that offer something that closely resembles a press release. Remember, the perception of authority on any topic still remains vitally important, and that perception is going the way of the individual – provided he or she is capable of expressing thoughts and ideas in a sensible manner that can be related to.

Paving The Way For PR Efforts In The Future

That leaves us with adapting to the real time reality of information, and dealing with data in ways we couldn’t have dreamed 20 years ago. No longer are PR reps restricted to the canned response boundaries of the 1990s and early 2000s, they must now adapt to the virtual realities of dissenting opinions and provide more personalized information if they wish to succeed at brand positioning. Large database personalization now makes it possible for websites such as Facebook and others to be highly specific when targeting its audience with relevant advertisements, and this will only become more prevalent for the remainder of this decade. If you happen to find that your social media account is being barraged by negative publicity, it may not be too long before your ad campaign loses traction since the banners won’t pop up as often as they would otherwise.

Of course, there are still ways for ad-driven websites to get around this and force feed their users ads that are irrelevant to their desires, yet this won’t affect the advertiser’s bottom line one bit – it will only serve as a short term method for websites to increase revenue.

The future of Public Relations will require creativity, patience, and a knack for gauging online perception more than ever before. Although challenging, there’s simply too much information at the disposal of your everyday reader to rely solely on outdated methods and philosophies that are based on the control of information. That’s no longer possible at all with so many highly ranking (search engine wise) websites out there.

Now more than ever, those of us who work in Reputation Management must seek out new ways to be innovative while taking into consideration how educated the general audience has become. This is a good thing in my opinion, as it finally shifts the bulk of PR efforts away from control and actively upon engagement and communication – where it should have been all along!

-David

Public Relations Like

The Evolution Of Public Relations (Part 1)

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the evolution of public relations and how it relates to (and more importantly goes hand in hand with) Reputation Management in today’s world. It wasn’t all the long ago when the art and science of public relations revolved around one on one telephone calls and press releases sent via a facsimile machine. Wow how times have changed! In this article, I’ll provide a description of public relations as well as background information on how media has constantly forced PR experts to adapt to the times.

The Birth Of Public Relations

Before real time data sharing applications, social media, electronic mail services, the Internet, fax machines, telephones, television, radio and even telegraphs, the methodology behind public relations was rather simple. We’ll begin our run down of how the existence of PR became necessary around the turn of the 20th century – during a time when global relationships were something that only a few wealthy businessmen cared to contemplate.

In the old days, your reputation (defined in this article as the public’s perception of you as an individual or your company) was dependent mainly upon a local base. Even if a person in the early 1900s happened to be located in a large metropolis, there were truly only a few individuals who held the power to legitimately affect one’s rep. From a business perspective (let’s use the Coca Cola Company as an example), reputation management was almost exclusively handled between the wholesale or retail distributor and its customers. The personal contact with clients was typically performed at one’s doorstep where vendors such as milkmen, insurance providers and religious groups had to make a sale in an extremely personalized environment in which one of the heads of household would immediately make a decision whether to buy a product.

Since times were much different before the days of media, a company’s salesperson became the tip of the spear for public relations efforts, as clients neither possessed the means nor cared to communicate with corporate headquarters when an issue arose. If a doctor in the local area happened to get a number of recommendations through grassroots word of mouth marketing, the he would very likely receive more solicitations with time and quickly build his business as long as the potential regional market was large enough to cultivate for a profit. One misstep by a salesperson who wasn’t quick on his or her feet in matters of verbal communication, and that person (as well as the company being represented) could quickly find its products being shunned with practically no options except bankruptcy or relocation. You absolutely had to please your customers and provide a worthwhile service back in those days, and business representatives who went door to door were often charged with directly resolving issues related to everything from additional distribution to price changes.

Even if a company desired to run a direct mail promotion, that was often an impossibility due to the degree of privacy that customers enjoyed at the turn of the 20th century. Post office employees simply delivered whatever mail was designated for their route without any preferential treatment to private agreements. In a nutshell, public relations in almost all cases began and ended with the small business owner and his or her representatives who relied on personalized service to keep their business afloat.

Media Arrives

With radio and later television, mass marketing finally became a possibility. The amount of research that went into marketing – even in the early 1900s – is astounding even by today’s standards. Take Edward Bernays as a prime example of this. Commonly referred to as the father of Public Relations, Bernays (who was the nephew of Sigmund Freud) is not only credited with making cigarettes a non-gender specific product during the late 1920s but could very well be the reason why so many Americans have enjoyed a breakfast containing bacon and eggs for approximately half a century.

Not only did Bernays employ propaganda methods such as using attractive models to illustrate an example that turning certain potential clients on to the acceptability of a product could work in a massive market, he also wrote essays on how something highly unpopular could quickly make its way into the mainstream and become accepted provided the proper philosophy and psychology were used. Many of us today believe that bacon is one of the tastiest (and most necessary) parts of a complete breakfast, but that certainly wasn’t the case 100 years ago. A complete breakfast as we consider it today was shunned by the vast majority of Americans who ate an extremely light meal in the morning that consisted of tea and perhaps bread. After all, who in the world would eat the undesired belly parts of swine so early in the morning?

By using what he then defined as authorities (usually public leaders or well known individuals who could sway opinion), Bernays argued that markets could be manipulated to not only desire a product, but to require it; often foregoing other necessities in order to possess it. In these early days of public relations, radio listeners and television watchers were constantly bombarded with programming that not only sought to entertain, but also to delve into the psychological aspects of what made a human being change his or her perception toward just about anything.

Public Relations Becomes A Necessity

During the early days of media, those who listened to the radio almost exclusively considered announcers, advertisers and other figures as authorities. If a baseball fan happened upon a live transmission of a Cardinals game, you could almost rest assured that he or she would desire products that were promoted on the show. The same can be said about mid 20th century TV programming which brought previously socially unacceptable products such as instant coffee into the mainstream. Radio and television news reporters cut their teeth on the two world wars, which often had those in the audience captivated with the latest news.

However, as the media market became more saturated, it became necessary to employ the use of Public Relations to deal with situations in which the customer was no longer satisfied with a product, or no longer believed in a particular brand. Take a well publicized pet food scandal that took place during the 1960s when the general public became aware that horse meat was actually used in dry pet foods (an event in history which was dramatized in a somewhat recent episode of the hit television series Mad Men). The company the dramatic series likely pulls its quotes from is Kal Kan (founded as the Stirling Company and later known as Pedigree; subsequently absorbed by Mars Inc.) which routinely employed that practice of using horse meat in its pet food products decades ago. Another prime example would be the massive amount of university studies that began being published midway through the 20th century outlining the dangers of cigarettes.

Since large scale marketing operations could potentially grind to a halt if an authority figure suddenly found himself on the outs with the general public, it became necessary to issue statements, press releases, and other detailed information that was typically authorized by the executive branch of a company. In some cases this would prove useful due to the fact that many customers who had been purchasing one of their favorite products for years normally desired an explanation that came across as personalized as well as an assurance that someone calling the shots was addressing the problem at hand. In this way, a brand’s perception could sometimes work its way back into the hearts and minds of its customers (at times, with an even stronger hold on its market). Radio and television advertisements were the most common methods used for PR efforts, with well contacted people in the business resorting to directly contacting everyone from media execs to the on-air announcer in order to get their point across.

Believe it or not, that’s most definitely how many music recording artists broke out into the mainstream. Representatives of those artists would go directly to large radio stations and sometimes get the record played by going through a well known disc jockey. The real life record spinners of the 1950s could then sway a younger crowd to the popularity of a singer or group; even if he, she or they were not yet recognized as premium artists. If a song had certain appeal among a demographic, the rest would take care of itself. There is even an example of this in somewhat recent history when, in July 1990, recording artist Robert Van Winkle (more commonly known as Vanilla Ice) suddenly became an overnight sensation when a DJ decided to flip the 45 RPM record over to the B side when not liking the formally released single. The rest – Ice Ice Baby – is history. Yes it’s true, that song was not originally intended to be released as a single to the public. There’s quite a bit of history on this at this Wikipedia page.

Public Relations, Psychology, And Effective Methods

Throughout the pre-Internet age dating back to 1950 through the mainstream use of the World Wide Web, PR experts were considered by many to hold significant weight at a corporate meeting table. When a crisis hit – and plenty of them did – it was often the PR people who got their staff involved and began controlling and manipulating perception in ways which have slowly but surely become ineffective as more and more people become exposed to contradicting opinions online.

Those who spoke through media outlets such as magazines, newspapers, radio and television often held the upper hand when it came to overall public perception. A local constituency’s general view on topics ranging from war to tobacco could often be influenced by a paper’s editor, who would publish his or her opinions with the expectation that the majority of readers would follow. The same can be said for radio, magazines and television. This was successful due to the fact that those who communicated their ideas to large audiences were automatically considered authority figures; regardless of whether they had been paid off in backroom deals in exchange for their promotion of an idea, concept, or product.

Simply put, when someone is considered an authority on any given topic, their opinion is typically placed on a pedestal and can even override a majority of contradicting views by region or locale – or even globally in some cases. Situations in which customers outright refused to purchase an established brand were very rare until the widespread use of the Internet, because contradicting opinions seldom found their way into the mainstream due to the outright control that PR representatives had over what was ultimately broadcast. Those who controlled the podium were the ones who could influence public opinion on a massive scale. The local opinion – if it was contradictory – could be drowned out via a barrage of advertisements and public relations efforts. Scandalous activity surrounding a brand or an individual could quickly be eliminated in the minds of millions of listeners or viewers; resulting in continued prosperity despite information that could practically sink a brand if it became embedded in the minds of those millions.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this historical view of how Public Relations came into existence. In the second part of this article, we will take a look at how PR efforts have quickly evolved into Reputation Management over the last decade, as well as how the service has evolved in recent years due to social media.

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Top 10 Easiest Solutions To Build Your Reputation (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this two part series, we took at look at some of the most popular methods for building one’s online reputation by using social media websites, as well as the ability to run your very own site, to enhance the chance the keywords will appear on the first page of respected search engines when terms are searched. For the second part of this article, we’ll go into further detail and provide a list of the easiest methods for boosting your online reputation.

#5 LinkedIn

LinkedIn Logo

Well known worldwide as a business platform website, LinkedIn is commonly used by individuals and businesses who are just not getting into other social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Business contacts from government officials to local restaurants share the ability to link to their colleagues via a friend-like software module that allows members to view who is linked to who.

As for signing up for an account, it’s easy and free. All you have to do is provide an email address along with your name and your profile page can be activated in less than a minute. Upload your photo and information and you’ll almost be ensured of ranking high in a search engine once that account has matured for a few weeks.

LinkedIn Sign Up Page

There is an alphabetical directory that LinkedIn uses to enable simple searches for members and it’s a cinch to quickly find the person or business you’re looking for. This website is over 10 years old, was started by Reid Hoffman in 2002 and launched approximately a year later.

The ability to add a customized news feed is a new feature that you get as a LinkedIn member, yet it isn’t featured so prominently as on other social media websites. Nevertheless, the value of having a LinkedIn account for search engine result purposes can’t be overlooked. What’s more, LinkedIn doesn’t come with the significant time consumption requirement that maintaining profile pages and current events on similar social media hubs does.

LinkedIn Coca Cola Page

If you take a look at the LinkedIn Coca Cola Company page shown in the screenshot above, you’ll notice that the profile page owner can easily insert links to other content on separate websites that is in line with a corporate or personal image. From a Public Relations standpoint, the end result of frequently updating a profile page on a widely used social media website can’t be overstated. If you’re currently facing a situation where there are a few undesirable search results when a term linked to you is searched on a site like Google, creating multiple profile pages (one on each website listed in this article) can quickly and effectively push those bad results down and replace them with content that you directly control. That’s the entire idea behind building your online reputation by piggy-backing on the SEO efforts of huge, well known websites.

#4 Twitter

Twitter David Harold

Requiring members to compose a Tweet in 140 characters or less may have seemed like a risky venture back in March 2006 when the company was created, but the trend has more than caught on and is viewed mostly as a convenience by mobile phone and tablet computer users on the go. With approximately 2 billion search queries performed on the site daily, the mainstream appeal of Twitter can’t be denied.

Adding friends and acquaintances into your Followers feed is extremely easy and you can obtain hundreds of contacts in a few short days with minimal effort. In fact, I happen to personally know one of the first people to ever accumulate 1 million followers on the website, and it was a chore he performed putting in a couple of hours per day for a year.

Due to its mass use, Twitter may be one of the most difficult websites to get a URL to directly correspond to the name you want to incorporate into your RM efforts. If this is the case in your situation, try using the word real before your name if you’re dealing with a high profile search term or you can otherwise distinguish the account by using a word that closely relates to your business or personal image goals. For example, if you’re in the restaurant business, try placing the word chef before your name. A physician might try the word doctor, etc.

The personalized news feed that comes with Twitter is impressive to say the least. You can infinitely scroll down to view recent entries from a particular source and use the website as your own newspaper. Best of all, all entries are limited to a very short excise with the ability to include photos and links available. Twitter is a sure-fire method for getting a search term to rank highly while controlling every single aspect relating to what is published for that term.

#3 Write Your Own Wikipedia Entry

Wikipedia Logo

In three words, I love Wikipedia. Launched by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger in early 2001, this website serves as a global online encyclopedia in which any reader can create and edit pages (with the exception of certain high profile pages which are protected). There are well over 4 million articles published on Wikipedia, and if you’ve ever focused on the website that most often comes up as #1 when a popular search term is entered, you’ve noticed that Wikipedia is often at the very top – even more reason to write your own Wikipedia entry.

Wikipedia InfoThe charm of Wikipedia is undeniable. All you have to do is sign up for an account and begin editing unprotected pages. Be sure to include relevant info and quote your sources, as this will quickly improve your reputation as an editor and make the weight of your future entries more authoritative. Wikipedia is a very fun website to become involved in – even more so than Amazon in my opinion due to its extensive database and source-heavy format that makes entries much more relevant when the original source of information is linked to. The ability to include small screenshots is available to members when they create or edit pages, and the collaborative accrual of data makes Wikipedia one of the most popular websites on the Internet bar none.

If you have never done so, check out the Featured Content section for Wikipedia to see just how effective the concept of mass collaboration can be. In fact, Wikipedia may very well have paved the way for the public at large to get accustomed to the idea of sharing updated information in real time – something that is now taken for granted with software such as Google Apps that boast real time collaborative sharing.

#2 Facebook

Facebook LogoThe online behemoth of social media sharing, Facebook has become a household name whose service is enjoyed by more than 1 billion users. Founded in the mid 2000s by Harvard students Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin, it’s difficult to fathom a world without Facebook. Mobile phone and tablet computer friendly, users can easily input their ideas, current location, photos, videos and links with just a few clicks of a mouse or taps of a smart device.

Facebook Sign Up Page

Of course, Facebook is so widely used that it may in fact prove impossible to get the exact name you’re looking for as your URL, but you can use other words to distinguish your profile page rather than going for the numbers approach that Facebook attaches to profile pages by default. Updating your profile information is a breeze and inserting individual news items can literally be done in seconds. Facebook is a must-have social media network for anyone looking to build an online reputation regardless of the fact that an exact URL match may not be possible.

It’s a tough call between whether Facebook is indeed the easiest method of building your online reputation. I don’t give it the top spot due to how dominant another social network may very well become in future years.

# 1 Google+

Google Plus Logo

Social media, communities, forums, hangouts, live chats, real time sharing and the world’s premier search engine. In a nutshell, Google has it all and then some. The importance of already having the most widely used search engine in place makes the Google+ service the number one social media network around the globe – at least that’s my opinion. Who knew over a decade ago that online indexing and archiving would become so profitable? The mainstream verb to google something refers to the action of looking for it online by using a search engine. After all, most of us don’t Yahoo.

So enough of glorifying the Google platform. Let’s talk about how the Google+ service can aid you in your reputation management endeavors.

For one, it goes without saying that some day in the future posts, profile pages, photos, videos and commentary published within Google Plus may receive preferential treatment when it comes to the in-house search engine. This is already taking place in some instances although with a subtle implementation.

The value of getting involved in the thousands of Google Plus communities can’t be over exaggerated. Moreover, there are so many categories (reputation management, food, photography, video games, accounting, legal, and so on) that it’s nearly impossible not to become immersed using Google+ once you get started.

Although the interface isn’t quite as user friendly as Facebook or Twitter, the massive amount of options and ways that one can build his or her online image more than makes up for the not so streamlined controls (which may very well be improved significantly soon).

Reputation Management ImageIn fact, I personally manage a Google+ Reputation Management Community that you are more than welcome to join and seek advice on. If you’re looking for free online resources on just about anything as well as the ability to discuss topics with like-minded people, Google+ is the place for you! Google is an all encompassing service that uses smart apps to give companies like Reputable the ability to manage projects with multiple collaborators around the globe as long as they have an Internet connection.

If not the easiest method for online reputation building, Google+ is certainly going to be the most effective in my opinion. There’s just too much going for the website and company as a whole for it to be dethroned in the near future.

All you have to do to become an active member is create a Google Mail (G-Mail) account and sign up for the service. As with similar websites, you can easily upload your own content, media, and opinions with just a tap of your smart device or click of your PC mouse.

Build Your Reputation Summary

You can build your reputation in three ways: hire an RM company to do the work for you, go it alone, or a combination of the two. It doesn’t matter which route you decide to go, the ten methods outlined in this article are key to receiving actionable results and getting your name to rank high on all search engines; with sole control of every character that is published.

If you do decide to hire a rep management business to do some of the work for you, make sure that the ten options laid out in this two part article are incorporated into the overall strategy. There are various pricing plans available and all websites are different, so be sure to shop around before entrusting something so potentially valuable to just any website. If you wish, you can contact me directly and we can discuss your reputation building needs via email, our Google+ community page or via a live chat service such as Skype.

As always, feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions or feedback on this or other articles. I look forward to hearing from you and hope that this guide will serve you well in your present and future efforts to build and manage your online reputation.

-David H.

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Top 10 Easiest Solutions To Build Your Reputation (Part 1)

With so many social media websites doubling as informational hubs in today’s online environment, I thought it would be a good idea to write an in-depth article relating to the Top 10 Easiest Solutions to build your own reputation. Building your reputation online is something that requires time along with a somewhat meticulous attitude toward what content you ultimately decide to publish. Regardless of whether you hire out reputation building services to a third party, take the project on yourself or combine the two, there is no getting around the time investment that is necessary in order to get your name (or your company’s name) to rank highly when it is searched.

Online Reputation Management

Before social media websites became a staple of online society and forced their way into the mainstream, the best way to control the data you published online was to build your own website and update it frequently with hand-selected content. While this is still one of the easiest ways to affect your reputation, there are a variety of other methods that are equally (if not more effective); not to mention less time consuming. While the element of time is definitely something to be considered when taking on an online rep-building project, this article outlines the easiest ways to get your corporate or personal brand in the mix.

#10 Yelp

Yelp Reputation Management Enthusiast

There are two ways to get involved in the Yelp community. You can either write a review relating to a business in your area or that you’ve visited or upload information pertaining to your company and allow it to be reviewed by patrons. Either way, Yelp is a website that has picked up quite a bit of search engine momentum over the last couple of years with no signs of slowing down in the short term. The reason for this is that Yelp is a highly convenient platform for those who want to find out more about businesses in their area before patronizing them.

As with most easy to access informational hub websites, signing up for a Yelp account is painless (all you need is a valid email address) and takes very little effort to begin using. Deciding how much content to publish about yourself or about the businesses you review will be the main factor as to how popular your profile becomes and how often it is viewed. There is a short “About Me” section that is worthwhile and will give fellow members a great introduction to your likes and dislikes as well as the ability to publish your own photo (which I recommend if you are using Yelp as a way to improve your online reputation.

Due to its popularity, an individual or company who has filled out all or most of Yelp’s optional profile information will have a great chance at ranking high when a term is searched on sites such as Google. There is also the option to get your own URL (http://yourname.yelp.com) that will further enhance the probability that your personal Yelp profile page will be located on the first page of relevant entries when your name is searched.

Remember, the idea behind improving your online reputation is to push down Undesirable Search Results. Put in the time and effort to write informative reviews about other businesses and complete your own company’s profile (when applicable) to ensure your profile is ranked highly. If you are contracting a company to do this work for you, insist that they add Yelp to their to-do list along with all other popular social media websites.

There are undeniably some benefits to be gained by becoming a premium member of Yelp if you actually own your own company and have it listed there. I will get into this in another article, but for now you should know that paying customers of the Yelp website often receive preferential treatment when it comes to getting negative reviews of their businesses removed!

#9 FourSquare

Foursquare

FourSquare is perhaps the fastest growing social media website on the Internet due to its almost exclusive focus on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet computers. Through its real time interactive platform, members are allowed to Check In to a particular business and even view what percentage of customers Like the product or services being offered. There is an interactive map module to the right that lets potential patrons search for related businesses in a certain area, and the potential for companies who are listed at FourSquare is practically limitless. In fact, I personally predict that FourSquare will soon rank much, much higher on search engines due to its real time facet.

FourSquare Mobile Devices

For example, let’s say you’re running a bar and are looking for a way to increase business while at the same time gathering relevant, precise statistical information on customers. There’s virtually no better way to do this than to offer promotions to thirsty individuals who you know are currently in the neighborhood or searching for a place to go in the near future. Due to the nature of today’s information age, you can set up your account to comply with the FourSquare software parameters and offer a 2-for-1 special on Rusty Nails, White Russians, or Domestic Beer that is unique to each customer. How’s that for bringing in new customers and rewarding return visits?

As always, you (or the online RM company that you hired) will need to take the time to completely fill out your company’s profile page on FourSquare in order to maximize the advantages of an online marketing campaign. As for Reputation Management in general, FourSquare is only useful for businesses and doesn’t focus at all on individual names.

FourSquare Sign Up

Signing up for a FourSquare account is extremely easy and can be a one-click process if you use your current Facebook or Google+ account. From there, simply complete your profile, upload a photo and viola! You can then use your tablet or mobile phone touch screen to instantly Check In to businesses in your area and view personalized stats such as how many visits you’ve accumulated and which friends have been hanging out at the same location. Become active on FourSquare and you’ll very likely get your profile page to rank highly in the future when your name or company name is searched… and that’s what RM is all about!

#8 Instagram

Instagram Logo

Ah, the old saying: a picture is worth a thousand words. Never has that been more true than with Instagram. This one-stop online locale for publishing photos and videos has become all the rage in recent years thanks to its customizable filters and software that allows members to manipulate photos as if they were seasoned Photoshop veterans.

You can download the Instagram software directly through Apple’s App Store or get it on Google Play. Needless to say, if you’re at all concerned with your current or future online reputation, you should only upload photographic and video content that is in line with your reputation management goals. Believe me, that somewhat innocent media file of you and your buddies taking part in recreational drug use can result in a world of harmful consequences if it ever gets enough interest from those who have a negative opinion of you or your business! From my experience as a reputation management consultant, undesired photos and videos are some of the most difficult to get removed from the Internet once they have gone viral because of the immediate impact they can have on a viewer along with the amount of times they are shared. For more detail on what I’m referring to, read both parts of my Revenge Porn article here at Reputable. You might also want to take a look at Criminal Records, Privacy, And The Future Of Public Information for more insight into how obscene media can land you or your business in hot water. There are well over 100 social media websites in existence, which can be beneficial or harmful to your online reputation depending on how you manage the unique content that is pegged to your name.

Instagram Beautiful Beach

Pictures and videos can be highly controversial and inflammatory. Therefore you should use utmost discretion when uploading files to sites such as Instagram; especially when you or your company is directly attached to the website’s profile page that files are being published on. G-rated content is always the best way to go when uploading media files to any social media site profile – unless you’re specifically in the business of publishing non-family oriented and/or Not Safe For Work (commonly referred to as NSFW) content. As a guide, if the content is something that might not be in line with the public image you wish to project, don’t publish the picture or video!

#7 Pinterest

Pinterest Sign Up Module

Pinterest has been around a while, and employs a broad-stroke approach to social media. Through its 25 billion+ unique Pins, this website has become a behemoth of a social media platform although its lack of specific functionality has rendered it second-tier when it comes to converting members into paying customers or patrons via advertising. Other sites such as Facebook and FourSquare have a leg up on Pinterest because of this.

Regardless, Pinterest is a great method for getting yet another high ranking search result to show up under your name or your company’s brand. For this reason alone, it is worth your time (or your Reputation Management service provider’s) to become a member and begin posting unique info.

By customizing your very own Bulletin Board, spending time on your Pinterest account can organize various hobbies while making it possible to browse only the content that you’re interested in. Still, this can be quite a chore for someone who’s sincerely motivated to wipe out all the proverbial background noise and it’s not nearly as popular as Twitter or Facebook. Therefore, if there’s one website on this list that I would particularly recommend hiring a third party to perform RM tasks for (aside from running your own website), Pinterest would be it. With that said, you can take a Do It Yourself Approach to managing content on Pinterest with relative ease – provided you have the time to do so.

# 6 Run Your Own Website

Website Hosting Companies

Quite honestly, I could probably write an entire article on this topic (and very well may in the future). I’m old enough to not only remember how difficult it once was to run your own website, but to also possess extensive experience creating workable clones of popular 1980s video games in the Basic programming language. Wow, how times have changed! Not only is it possible to get immediate hosting for your own website, you can pick up pre-designed premium WordPress themes for well under $100 and have a very professional looking website up and running in well under 24 hours.

It wasn’t that long ago when owning your own website (and getting a decent amount of traffic for it) entailed weeks if not months of expensive programming work that would often run into the tens of thousands of dollars. That’s not the case today. YourName.com or YourCompanyName.com should probably run about $100 US Dollars total per year to program as long as your using the WordPress platform. Seriously, the only thing you or your website administrator will likely need to worry about is the expense of creating and uploading unique content on your website.

As for the Reputation Management end of this, running your own website can be one of the most effective ways to get your personal or corporate brand on the map; plus you can control what ultimately gets published just as you would for a social media website such as Twitter or Facebook.

It may take a few hours to become familiar with the WordPress back-end system, but it’s nothing that someone who is proficient in software such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft Office won’t be able to pick up very quickly. There are tabbed content areas and you can create unique webpages instantly with software that is specifically designed to work without any extra coding effort on the owner’s behalf.

Avada WordPress Theme

Take the Avada WordPress Theme for example (screenshot shown above). This is an inexpensive piece of software that comes with its very own flexible design, built in Search Engine Optimization, as well as a responsive layout. What this means is that your website will automatically adjust to the screen size of each individual member and adjust the format of your content to fit everything from large desktop monitors to tablet computers and cellular phones (just like major social media sites do).

It may take a few months for your website to begin registering highly for the keywords you wish to emphasize, but as long as the name your website is under isn’t something that is extremely common (such as Michael Jordan or Coca Cola), having YourName.com rank on the first page should be a virtual lock provided you’re consistently uploading new content focusing on that keyword. What’s more, Google tends to place more importance on domain names that include key terms.

Publishing multimedia content such as videos and photographs is pretty much a cinch with WordPress themes because of how easy they are to work with from an administrative standpoint. There are also preset pages for portfolios, contact information, sliders, and much more already built in.

It may seem a bit intimidating to run your own website, but believe me it’s not that difficult if your only initial goal is to control the articles that go up on it. However, this is definitely something that can be outsourced to an RM enterprise if you don’t feel like you have the time to put in to such a project. Regardless, don’t overlook the power that running your own website can have when it comes to getting a very effective search engine result registered under the keyword(s) you’re looking to market. Keep in mind that an entire website, even if it doesn’t enjoy a large amount of traffic, will likely come with a corresponding maintenance fee if you’re outsourcing the work.

Steps To Setting Up Your Own Website

There are a few things you need to do before getting your own website up and running. First of all, you should decide on a domain name. If you’re using the site for Reputation Management purposes, hopefully your name or company’s name will be available immediately. If not, try to choose something that resembles the term you’re looking for as much as possible and see if that is available. Hosting companies such as BlueHost.com and WPEngine.com are the best places to go for this service, and you can check in real time whether or not the domain name is available. Hosting generally costs between $10-$20 per year although you can get it for a cheaper price that that if you’re locking in a long-term deal.

Download WordPress

From there, you’ll need to install the WordPress platform onto your website. Although this may incur some cost, there are many hosting companies that will install this for you free of charge if you send them a nice email requesting them to do so. The only thing left to do after that is to decide whether to use the default WordPress theme or download a premium software package from a company such as ElegantThemes.com or ThemeForest.com. This entire process should take somewhere around 24 hours to complete.

There are tons of resources available free online that refer to how best to work with the WordPress platform, so an hour or so of research could be highly beneficial if you’re planning on taking on the project yourself. If not, an RM company will probably charge a monthly fee of over $100 US Dollars to manage the website for you, with extra expenses depending on what designing and content uploading responsibilities you place on the third party.

End Of Part 1

Hopefully this article has given you quite a few ideas about how you can build your online reputation easily and inexpensively; using the allotted time to rank highly on popular search engines while pushing down negative results in the process. In Part 2 of this article, we’ll look at the most popular solutions for building your reputation online as well as how to manage your profile pages on those websites.

As always, feel free to leave any feedback in the form of a comment below, or you can contact me via email at your convenience if you’re in need of personalized assistance.

-David H.

Google Search Page Logo

Google And User Endorsements

When it comes to staying on top of the latest Reputation Management trends, it’s vitally important to analyze how policy decisions (especially those implemented by search engines) may affect the future of how one is able to manage his or her reputation online. Such is the case with Google’s recent decision to publish user endorsements in advertisements (see the new Terms of Service here). Since November 11th, 2013, Google has been using your recommendations, photos and other info in targeted advertisements that will be displayed to select individuals and companies contained within your own “circle” of friends, family members and acquaintances.

This concept isn’t new (as a matter of fact, Facebook has done this for some time through its Sponsored Stories program), yet it is sure to come as a shock for some Google users who will soon see the likelihoods of their friends – along with photos of food, children’s toys and more spattered across their screen. There are quite a few angles to discuss regarding the new trend which I’d like to go over in this article. Mainly, we’ll be looking at how Google’s latest decision affects Reputation Management, Privacy, and whether it will be a Cost Effective measure in the long run.

Personal Endorsement Advertisements For Reputation Management

In a nutshell, the new Google program can be a dream come true for those aiming to improve their online reputation. The reason for this is simple: Google is granting users a way to easily get their info published in an SEO friendly environment that can do wonders for bumping down unwanted search results. Since the growing trend of search results is that they’re easier to bump down rather than remove (especially when it concerns criminal data), those seeking out Reputation Management services will be much better served by services that can quickly rank higher than some misdemeanor charge that was grabbed from a public database and plastered on any number of webpages.

Generally speaking, “bumping down” an undesired search result is the science of creating personalized social media accounts and other content that will eventually rank higher than a negative review or minor crime entry – thus allowing the person or company to more easily manage his or her reputation by ensuring that unwanted entries on Google, Yahoo and Bing are harder to find by prying eyes, potential employers and clients.

Through Google’s new system, individuals and corporations will easily be able to control the flow of information and direct it toward some meaningful end. For example, if you’re a person who’s interested in video games, you can begin publishing content on your Google+ account and participating in forums that are specific to that topic. The result will likely be that your screenshots of consoles, video reviews of games and other information will be displayed in advertisements to those within your circles and that the data will eventually rank relatively high in keyword searches. This will likely work for just about any industry, and you could even become recognized as an “authority” by Google; furthering your reach as well as improving the probability that your Google+ entries will be among the first displayed when someone searches your name or company’s name.

This provides a whole new method for “gaming” Google when it comes to Reputation Management; as you can simply use its service (which it is heavily promoting and attempting to get people to not opt-out of) to get a positive search result for the keyword(s) you’re looking to manipulate.

If you’re a Do It Yourself junkie and are looking for a sure-fire way to manipulate keyword search results for your name or company’s name, then signing up to a Google+ account and participating in discussions, groups and publishing photos can be highly effective beginning in mid-November due to Google’s desire to make this program more successful than its Facebook counterpart. Although Facebook has had an enormous head start when it comes to competing in the Social Media realm with Google, the latter has a significant advantage due to its ownership of the most widely used search engine – something that should not be lost on those who are looking to improve their online reputation.

Privacy Issues

There are plenty of privacy issues that revolve around Google’s decision to follow suit with Facebook, and there are sure to be plenty of people who become frustrated with having their information captured and subsequently used for marketing purposes without their written consent. Google’s new program is an “opt-out” feature, which means that you are automatically participating as of November 11th unless you specifically opt-out.

To opt-out of the Shared Endorsements feature, go to your Google+ Settings and click the Edit option under the Shared Endorsements tab (see screenshot below).

Google Plus Settings

From there, you will be taken to a separate webpage where you should uncheck the box that says “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.” I’ve included another screenshot to display this.

Google Plus Uncheck Shared Endorsements

Once you have performed these two steps, you will be opted-out of the Google Shared Endorsements program and will not have your likelihood used in advertisements.

Needless to say that if you’re making use of Google+ for Reputation Management purposes, you’ll likely want to leave this setting alone in order to maximize the full potential of desirable search engine results, but if you’re concerned about the privacy issues surrounding Google’s new policy, then this will effectively omit your account from the latest feature.

Perhaps the most nagging bit about Google’s Shared Endorsements program is that users are not reimbursed for the use of their data and images in advertisements. Let’s say for example that you are a well recognized person within a random industry and another person within your Circles searches for a relevant keyword. Up pops a screenshot you’ve published on your Google+ account (or a recommendation you’ve made), and that person subsequently makes a purchase. Your total commission is zero. If you really want to profoundly analyze it, Google’s form of reimbursing users for their loyalty has always resided in becoming recognized as an “authority” on a handful of topics and exploiting that to improve keyword search rankings. This has a much better chance long term of being successful due to Google’s ownership of its own search engine – as users will be much more inclined to participate.

However, the Shared Endorsements program is not without risks on Google’s end. Facebook reached a $20 million class action lawsuit settlement with its users and was forced to change the Sponsored Stories term to ads (they are advertisements after all). Google could potentially face a similar situation as users become more aware of how their data is being used by private enterprises for financial gain.

Long Term Monetization Of Shared Endorsements

In my opinion, if any company has the potential to generate significant revenue from a program such as Shared Endorsements it is indeed Google. Once again, having the world’s most widely used search engine can provide a multitude of incentives to end users that other online companies simply cannot compete with. This isn’t to say that the program will be a long term success, but it is reasonably probable that more individuals and companies will make use of the feature due to their desire to have their profile rank as highly as possible within Google’s search engine algorithm.

There will indeed be an amount of financial gain to be had for those who are able to parlay a well recognized account name into higher search rankings due to the data that is published within it, and Google may be all too happy to oblige loyal end users with higher search rankings in order to indirectly promote the usage of its programs.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how the Shared Endorsements program is rolled out beginning November 11th, and to gauge subsequent criticism of the feature. Due to the fact that I’m heavily involved in the Reputation Management business, I will be recommending the feature to a large percentage of my clients despite the potential privacy issues. This is because individuals and companies that I have relationships with are usually looking for a way to substitute “desired” online data for “undesired” entries – and Google+ is one of the most effective ways of making this happen.

Undesirable Search Result 1

How To Approach Undesirable Search Results

So many of us spend a large portion of our time on the Internet. Being online has morphed well beyond connecting with friends or communicating via email. Even if you’re not a frequent “surfer,” chances are that you’ll be interested in how your name or business is perceived to the online crowd. This is due to the fact that so much can “ride” on search results – with the trend of potential clients and employers taking to Google (or other search engines) to find out more about a person or company steadily rising upward. In this article, I will explain how to approach undesirable search results as well as provide a step-by-step rundown of how to proceed when you need a particular entry to disappear or move much further down the rankings list.

What Is An Undesirable Search Result?

An undesirable search result comes about when you go into Google, Yahoo or another search engine, enter a keyword or term directly links to you (usually your legal or business name) and find something that is unwanted, unflattering, incorrect, negative, or otherwise undesired. The range of entries varies widely. A business could be concerned about a highly-ranked negative customer review. An individual might run into issues getting hired when somebody (who happens to have the same name) else’s police mug shot appears in the top few results. Someone might have written a slanderous article about you or your business and published it online. All of this is fodder for curious minds. If someone wants to discover additional information about you or your company, the place to go is online.

Who Can Benefit From Reputation Management?

This question comes up more often than you might think, as not everyone can benefit from the practice of Reputation Management – which can be defined as an effort to remove or at least lower undesired search results. In very basic terms, search rankings depend heavily on a search engine’s preference toward certain websites and webpages when a specific term is entered – or searched. Entries that rank highly for a term will appear first and are most likely to be clicked on by the interested reader, while lower results (on page 3 and beyond) have a far greater chance of being overlooked or ignored.
As I mentioned above, not everyone can benefit from Reputation Management efforts. For example, someone who is famous is going to find it impossible to manipulate search engine results no matter how many social media accounts, self-written articles or emails he or she sends. To illustrate this, I’ve pasted two screenshots below that display the top search results for a couple of “famous” search terms: Peyton Manning and Papa John’s Pizza.

Undesirable Search Result 2For better or for worse, these two search terms are going to have high profile stories written about them for some time. There is also a load of content from highly reputable websites already published for these two search terms that is going to be impossible to override regardless of how much personal or professional information is uploaded to articles or social media accounts. For all intents and purposes, Peyton Manning and Papa John’s Pizza are not going to benefit from Reputation Management practices. (It is important to recognize the different between Reputation Management and Public Relations. The former refers to online search results while the latter revolves around affecting one’s perception in general terms.) They can try hiring a reputation management company, out-source SEO specialists and even personally make a few phone calls, but their RM fate is pretty much sealed for the rest of their respective lifespans and even beyond that. Anyone who has at some point in time been in a high profile situation or national spotlight is not going to have a use for RM services.

Conversely, if your name happens to be the same as someone who fits into the above category, there is a lesser chance that you’ll have to worry about manipulating search results; as most if not all of the highest ranked entries on a search engine’s list will pertain to someone else. Let’s say your name is Michael Jordan… you may not even appear within the first two pages of Google when someone searches your name.

I Want To Do Something About A Bad Search Result – What Can I Do?

REMOVAL

So assuming you have a bad search ranking, let’s discuss what you can actually do about it. First of all, realize that you’re not the only person going through this situation as that the steps that should be taken are pretty much the same for everyone. Regardless of how urgent the matter may seem, it’s important to keep a cool head rather than bring emotions into it – as that won’t assist you in any way and sometimes will work against you if there’s a chance you can actually get an entry removed.

Removal of undesired content published on a webpage that ranks highly in a search engine is always preferable to knocking it down. However, getting something removed can be highly difficult or even impossible under some circumstances. Still, you can try to contact the owner or administrator of the website in question via email or by using whatever contact information is provided on the site itself.

In one case I worked with where an individual happened to have a mug shot published on a municipal police website, he was able to call the department and request that his picture and data be taken down. Since it was a DWI arrest from more than five years ago and he had maintained a clean record since the incident, the city’s website administrator agreed to take it down. This won’t always be the case though. You’ll also find there is pretty much no way to get something removed from a major news outlet website such as CNN, Reuters, Associated Press, etc.

One angle of Reputation Management that some of our readers may not have considered is that there is a growing industry revolving around websites that actually run a business model that depends on receiving funds from individuals who want to have something an entry on their website removed. I won’t get into a lot of detail about this in this article, but it is an unfortunate part of this business. Many times, someone will contact the website owner or use the contact page information to solicit that something be taken down – only to learn that the administrator will remove the entry complete for a fee. If this is the case you’re confronted with, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether the price requested is worth the expense. Normally you can negotiate to reduce the cost, but not always.

If there is no contact information available on the website, you can try doing a DomainTools search in order to get the email of the person who is responsible for the site in question. To do this, simply go to DomainTools.com and enter the website and click SEARCH FOR DOMAIN. An email address will appear.

If you’re representing a company, you may be able to get the entry removed depending on which website the information is published on. If it’s a negative review on Yelp for example, there are situations in which you can get the review axed (especially if you’re a paying customer), but we’ll discuss that in a future article.

KNOCK THE SEARCH RESULT DOWN

If there are multiple search engine result entries that are causing concern, chances are you won’t be able to get them all removed. This means you’ll be forced to “knock the unwanted results down.” What this refers to is publishing flattering content online on websites that normally rank high automatically in search engines. The most common type of websites that fit into this category are those related to social media. By piggy-backing onto the Search Engine Optimization of sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and others, you can slowly but surely get those pages to rank highly for your particular search term (your name or company’s name) in order to knock down a less flattering result.

Although this method doesn’t result in getting the content removed from the Internet, it does do wonders for eventually getting more flattering entries to “drown out” something that you don’t want a lot of people to see. This requires data entry skills more than anything else, as you’ll need to input as much information as possible in order to encourage the page to do well in search rankings. This means attempting to get your real name or company name precisely entered in the social media site’s database, completing your profile to the best of your ability, and updating it frequently.

You can also work at trying to get content published on blog websites that is much more flattering, although in order for this to work the website in question will need to be ranked highly by search engines in order to have any impact. You can even start your own set of websites if you have the long-term desire to update them frequently and work on their SEO. Although this is very time consuming, it can pay dividends if you stick with it.

Summary

Nobody enjoys being on the negative end of a bad search result. This affects many more individuals and companies that one might assume regardless of whether there is any justifiable reason for the content to be there. There are many more “tricks” that one can use depending on the specific circumstance, but hopefully this guide will get you started and help our readers decide how to proceed once a high ranking negative search result is discovered.

If you have any questions or would like to comment, feel free to leave a reply below and I will respond as soon as possible.