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Yes, I know you want to get rid of an outdated negative news story – but the right way to do that is it provide searchers with rich, relevant, timely content that legitimately deserves to displace that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

What Candy Crush taught me about reaching higher

Candy Crush LessonsMy first smartphone (if you can call it that) was a Palm Treo. I spent a lot of time using it to play Bejeweled.

When I became aware of Candy Crush for Android I got hooked and played what I thought were an impressive number of levels – achieving what I believed to be a reasonably high score. Then I started using the feature that lets you compare your achievements to those of your Facebook friends – and I had a bit of an awakening.

My friends, particularly my sister and my sister-in-law,  had achieved scores that were on a completely different order of magnitude.

I wasn’t thinking big enough because I didn’t know it was possible (or reasonable).

It was a bit embarrassing – and it led almost immediately to my attaining much higher scores. I pushed myself harder because I was now aware of what was possible for people similar to me.

As I look at my early career working in technology companies I also felt good about my success. I was growing, taking on more responsibilities, doing good work for my employer, and moving up the rung in salary. When I started my own business I began to realize that perhaps I wasn’t thinking big enough.

If everyone around you earns $50,000/year you are typically happy when you do that well – and satisfied that you continue from there. If your peers learn new skills and take on new responsibility at a normal clip, you would probably be okay with doing the same of somewhat better.

Many of the ceilings that we perceive are artificial.

There is no rule that says you cant build something yourself and it doesn’t need to require a lot of capital. Salary does not have to be capped when you are adding significant (or as my kids say ‘ginormous’) value to the people with whom you work.

The Olympic games are probably a good example of the same thing. When you watch athletes compete and reach new heights – it is a reminder that you may actually be able to run faster or jump higher than you previously can. Maybe not on the level of an Olympian athlete, but perhaps quite a bit higher than you previously thought possible.

My advice – question ceilings. Go beyond your own experience and that of people around you.


You can be big on Twitter!

Google launched a deeper integration with Twitter – a new Twitter box.

I decided to tweet a few times and see if I could get my own Twitter box.

Guess – what, I could – and you can too!

Matching the twitter name to your searched name seems to help.

Also make sure to tweet several times.

See for example:

sam michelson twitter

Update: It also helps to define your official Twitter page using schema.org markup, Wikidata and claiming your knowledge panel. This is especially important if you share a name with others who tweet regularly.

Google Trends on Same-Sex Marriage vs. Gay Marriage

When I opened Google Trends today they had a story on how America expressed interest trough search in ‘Same Sex Marriage’ as a result of the supreme court ruling last week.trends-ssmarriage

I decided to compare the search traffic for Same-Sex Marriage vs. gay Marriage – wondering which phrase users are using more and if there is a difference by location.

The results are clear – overall Americans search Google far more for the phrase ‘Gay Marriage’ than for ‘Same Sex Marriage’


Next I looked to see if search phrase choice was related to location of the searcher. Not surprisingly there were significant differences.

The term Same-Sex Marriage was most prevalent in the following locations

regional same sex marriage

The term Gay Marriage was most prevalent in the following locations

regional gay marriage


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.


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!

Taking Advantage of the Time Difference

12 years ago I created my first company and ever since then I have had to deal with time differences.
I live in Israel and my clients have always been mostly in the US, Europe and Asia.

In my early days doing business online I was up half the night personally handing client concerns – many of the clients didn’t even know I was overseas. Thanks Vonage!

Now, 12 years later, Five Blocks is a company with more than 20 employees – most of whom are in Israel at any given time.

We have started traveling a lot more than before. In the past year I was in the US at least 10 times, as well as business trips to Puerto Rico, Moscow, Zurich, London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Baku.

Often I am asked about the time difference – isn’t it hard to work with people when they are 7 hours behind or 5 houris ahead?
Lately we have gotten into a groove that works extremely well.

We are GMT+2 so working with Europe is easy. New York, Boston and Washington – where more than half of our clients are located – is 7 hours behind. We try  to do our calls with them from 9-11AM (4-6Pm for us). This gives us all day to work without getting too many emails or phone calls from those clients.

Hong Kong and Singapore are 5 hours ahead of us – making morning calls work really well for us – it’s mid afternoon for our clients and partners in Asia.

The time difference forces us to schedule our calls at the beginning and end of the day leaving a big chunk of time for getting the work done – with far less distractions!

Turning a disadvantage into an advantage – that’s Antifragile!

Setting Goals, again

Goal setting has an almost magic power for me.
In January 2014 we set a rather aggressive goal for 2014 revenues.
We reached the magic number on Dec 30th and went a bit over as we got a number of wires and checks on the last day of the year.

While this goal was in the back of our minds all year it cant be what caused us to bring in precisely that amount of money.
Somehow knowing that we have a number in mind guides us to the activities that help create those numbers.

Five Blocks has a tremendous amount of opportunities – the revenue goal may end up serving more as a way to focus efforts.

Who knows? In any case it works.

One more thing. After I created the goal I opened excel and mapped out exactly how many clients we need to sign up each month and at what price point.
Reality didn’t map exactly to my spreadsheet – we got many clients all at one time and fewer than expected at other points. In the end the numbers added up as we had hoped!

Now to do it again….

Wishing everyone a successful 2015!

Details Details.

I have been thinking a lot about Details recently.
It seems that to be successful as an entrepreneur, inventor, builder, etc. you need to care about even the most minute details. They really do matter. even the small ones.

Google Adwords has put together a few really nice commercials for the Israeli market – really compelling. And success in Google Adwords, as we have learned over the past ten years or so, really depends on getting the details right.

So I was amused (and slightly unimpressed) that they missed some details in their otherwise well-executed ads.

The ad can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1I5aQX-lMUk

You can see some errors on this screen:


Note the spelling of the word Malaysia and the switched flags for UK and Australia..
The numbers and percentages also don’t match…

Details, Details, I guess..