What is the right way to manage an online reputation challenge?

Over the past week or so, a number of news articles have appeared detailing how one university handled an online reputation issue. Rather than get into the specifics of that case, I want to address the general question – what is the right way to manage an online reputation management challenge.

I am the CEO of Five Blocks, a boutique digital reputation management company. Individuals, brands, organizations, and companies retain our services to handle online reputation crises. More than half of the clients engage us because they don’t like something they see when they or their brand is searched, typically in Google or Bing.

Our message to them is that their best bet is to utilize Google and other search engines to tell their own story, or that of their brand. This means optimizing their own website/s to appear prominently and to tell their story. It also means utilizing social media and business profiles to present what their organization stands for. Many of our clients need to publish more content or produce more video than they have previously. Our job is to provide the expertise to help them do it.

Yes, I know you want to get rid of an outdated negative news story – but the right way to do that is it provide searchers with rich, relevant, timely content that legitimately deserves to displace that news.

In some cases our clients will need to address specific negative news and in so doing, start putting it behind them. In other cases they may choose not to address the crisis directly within their online presence.

Our experience has shown that a long-term strategy should be about telling a story rather than hiding a story. You have far more resources available to use when you are telling a story than the opposite. You will also find yourself and your organization spending efforts on ensuring accurate information is easily found, addressing stakeholder concerns, and sharing thought leadership – all efforts you may have neglected in the past. And best of all, you will be working with Google’s algorithm rather than against it.

There are many tools and platforms that are available to you including: on-page content and technical SEO, Google and Bing Webmaster Tools, Wikidata, Social media profile optimization, YouTube video and channel optimization, Google images, Google Plus, etc. To really tackle these, you will often need expert help – and this is what digital reputation management experts should be helping you do.

For me, the difference between addressing unfavorable results correctly vs, incorrectly boils down to attitude. If your plan is to outsmart Google and subvert their algorithm, you will usually be unsuccessful – certainly in the mid to long-term. If instead, you use the situation as a catalyst to do a better job of telling the story of your brand, both through your owned properties and via third-party websites, and you utilize all of the tools available to do so, you are likely to be far more successful. In the process you will have added significant value to your brand’s reputation.

Maybe this should be the litmus test. Are you better off after the crisis than you were before. Is your brand better equipped to handle unfavorable news? Are you in better control of how your own presence appears online? If the answer is no – you have treated the symptoms of your problem. If you are now stronger – you have gotten to the underlying causes and you are well on your way to a long-term positive digital reputation.

Using Google Trends to follow breaking news

Friday saw a worrying set of Islamic terror attacks in three different locations.

Google’s newly launched Trends feature allows you now to see how the search volumes change in almost realtime.

Some of this analysis was available before, but the ability to zero in on very specific days is yielding a more meaningful ability to analyze.

See this chart I just created showing the interest of English language searchers in each attack.

terror-attacks

Sohn Conference Hong Kong 2015 – Focusing on Asia and Reputation Management

CGlU1E7UcAEY4Jg[1]In early June my colleague Yakir Hyman and I had the opportunity once again to participate as sponsors in the Sohn Conference in Hong Kong presented by the Karen Leung Foundation.

The Sohn Conference is a high-end NY-based investment conference that attracts the top minds in investment to share specific recommendations on investment with all of the proceeds of the conference going to fight cancer.

The Karen Leung Foundation was founded with a similar goal – a charity to raise money for critical research and action with a goal of reducing cervical cancer and its impact on families in Hong Kong. It also attracts investment professionals from Asia and around the world.

Five Blocks is proud to support the efforts of the Karen Leung Foundation and, over the years has gained a great respect for the kindness and professionalism of the Foundation’s staff.

This year much of the investment discussion centered around opportunities for investment in Asia – notably Japan. There were recommendation’s regarding Kyocera, Airbus, and Electric utilities in Japan.

For Five Blocks the opportunity was especially great. We provided assistance in the Search Engine Optimization and Social Media campaigns leading up to the conference. We also live-tweeted the event on behalf of the Karen Leung Foundation to ensure the best online real-time impact.

It was an opportunity for us to meet with several of our Hong Kong–based PR partners as well as to check in with all of our China and HK clients.

In conversations I had with various attendees one recurring theme was that in addition to seeing the need to curate reputation for their won names and firm names, there is now a greater understanding of the direct impact on stakeholders of having an optimized online presence.

There is no question that when I go to invest $100M in a steel mill in China, it will be easier for me to write that check when Googling the brand yields a positive even curated variety of web results including a robust wiki page, the corporate logo, a video for the brands accomplishments, info about key execs etc. third party validation etc.

Many industries in the US seem to ignore Asia – I believe we cant afford to do that any more!

What do Reputation Management and Snorting Nutmeg have in common?

Strange question, perhaps.

It turns out they have a great deal in common!
Over the past couple of days I have been experimenting with Google Correlate , a tool I recently discovered.

Basically, Google Correlate looks at the search volume patterns for any keyword and identifies other keywords whose patterns match.

So in addition to finding useful patterns, Correlate finds patterns that seem utterly meaningless (though perhaps they are statistically significant).

Google Correlate

So it seems the connection between Snorting Nutmeg and Reputation Management is that at both had a huge rise in search volume around the end of 2010, followed by a similar increased interest on an ongoing basis.

Using this tool, we have discovered some interesting patterns related to some of our clients – though there is a lot of chaff to work through!

Meanwhile snorting nutmeg is not recommended, while reputation management is!

 

Google outsmarts webmasters – chooses “better” titles

As we work with more Fortune 100 companies in various industries, we have decided to study the entire Fortune 100 to learn about what Google tends to rank as well (Wikipedia ranks at#1 for more than half of the CEO’s of Fortune 100 companies!) as well as the type of content, social media, and corporate giving sites that each company is promoting to prominent locations in Google.

Along the way we see some interesting things…
Search for Philip Morris and one result looks like this:

Note the word Logo in the title…
it’s there because the Alt tag on the first image on the page contains that phrase.
My advice: don’t use the word logo in your alt tag of your logo – it may become your site’s title.
Not sure what this new system is giving Google…

Want to Game Google +1?

We are seeing very interesting behavior in our testing of Google +1.

As I mentioned on Rand Fishkin ‘s post a few days ago, we started doing some testing of Google +1.

We tested buying packages of 30, 50, 70 +1’s using Fiverr.
We also tested a system on http://www.plused.net in which you +1 a bunch of sites (in rapid fire from their site) and other people return the favor. We used this to add tens of +1’s to several webpages.
We also tested getting REAL +1’s from a modest group of people who actually like a page.
We did our tests on pages we wanted to move up as well as ones we wanted to move down.

Conclusions so far –
– Google figured out that the rapid fire +1’s and the bought ones were fake and, they actually removed them from the count.
So we saw he numbers go up to say 60, and then the next day they were down to 10 again.
They could be seeing a large group of users with common +1’s and ruling them out. They could also be looking for rapid fire +1’s.
In any case, our conclusion is that Google has at least a basic system for identifying fake +1’s – which is good to know.

We did not see any evidence of fake +1’s causing a page to move in either direction in the SERPs.

We did see a possible connection between the real +1’s and a ~15% bump in traffic for a site receiving 2,500 visitors/day.

That’s it so far – we will keep you posted!

Your Reputation is…

This is what Google returns when you type “your reputation is”

the one that really sums it up for me is the last one “Your reputation is what Google says it is.”

I was speaking with a journalist yesterday who confirmed what I believed was true. If a Google search brings up some issue, it is difficult if not impossible to completely ignore it when you write an article about a given topic.

Food for thought!