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Reputation Management- A History and a Guide

Reputation Management is a derivative industry of SEO or SEM. SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) essentially were born when people began to heavily rely on search engines to guide their buying/hiring/retaining decisions. Before 2001, there was very limited methodologies for individuals to really sort, investigate, and learn about products, businesses, or people since search was a very simple function that had limited complexity and was offered as a secondary feature by ISPs like MSN and AOL.

Google, quite obviously, changed all that. Google began to develop and create complex automated algorithms that evaluated a websites relevance and quality with the intention to provide the best possible search results to end users. This wasn’t done by Google with any altruistic intention- it was done with the right thought that if they provided the best search results, they could generate significant amounts of money through advertising and marketing relationships. And the internet has never been the same.

Of course, once Google began to sell advertising, and once search results became one of the biggest means for a customer to choose a new business provider, choose a new professional service company, or choose a product, lots and lots of money was spent trying to garner first page ranking in Google (and Bing/Yahoo) results. The earliest Google algorithms were rather simple to manipulate. Certain factors on a website counted for a lot of ranking value with Google and so the earliest SEO/SEM companies sold changes to those websites that didn’t necessarily improve quality, but did improve search ranking.

That started the evolution of Google’s algorithm- once the highest spender was able to generate the top ranking, the quality of the search results were degraded or corrupted.

Over the last decade Google has taken into account thousands of additional variables, measurables, and elements to produce its search rankings. It is still a flawed system, and their algorithms don’t necessarily always improve search results quality. Because the algorithm factors have become more technical and complex, and the interval at which changes are carried out has decreased, the SEO/SEM industry has begun to garner significant strength and value as the marketing/advertising of the next century. Television, newspapers, magazines, and yellow pages ads show decreased ROI, decreased reach, and decreased impact as the web becomes the source for consulting for purchasing/hiring decisions. That makes SEO and SEM quite important to most businesses and individuals as a lifeline for their success.

But search results are a double edged swords and news stories or things that garner ‘buzz’ or ‘discussion’ (like a criminal trial or high profile court case) can quickly overtake a company or individual’s reputation online. In the pretrial phase, news and publicity seem to be especially fickle and public opinion can be cemented even before a case has been tried or an iota of evidence presented.

A good reputation management company works to populate the first two or three pages (thirty to forty search results) with content that is neutral or positive in nature. If these rankings are established before a news story breaks, or soon after, a reputation management company has the opportunity to strengthen these results before the other search topics become more relevant. If we begin service after these stories have gained prominence, they’re more difficult to dislodge and the speed at which we’re able to affect change is decreased.

We populate those first thirty to forty results by targeting the individual’s/company’s name, relevant industry keywords, professional service areas, location specific items, topic specific items, and social media profiles. Because the web offers hundreds of ways to promote something, we generally can control and buttress against negative publicity items or critiques or negative reviews/commentary/editorial.

Ultimately, this means that the individual or company in question is better able to survive and move on from these types of occurrences.

There are a growing number of companies offering reputation management, and as with any growing industry, the skill and product outcome are hugely different. I’m sure that this is true for the law profession and all others. There are some who practice their profession with skill, dedication, and a higher degree of knowledge, and those who falter in any/many of those areas.

Some of the largest reputation management firms in volume of clients and revenue (Reputationdefender.com, etc) focus on low quality, spam type reputation management campaigns. This means they automatically generate hundreds of web pages that are supposed to protect a client’s name. However, since these sites are auto generated, are not actively managed, and are of low quality in Google’s eyes, they are easily replaced and supplanted by news websites (which Google gives significant prominence in search ranking, compared to individual company websites/profiles). In some instances, these low quality, auto created pages are damaging in and of themselves.

As an attorney/law firm/PR firm, reputation management and SEO can be quite helpful in a number of ways. SEO can be used to actually promote your firm as the number one selection for certain practice areas. It can also be used to promote successful outcomes that you’ve achieved in your cases or on a client’s behalf. A good SEO & RM campaign can help maintain distance from especially negative court cases, poor results, and can help protect named partners and others from reputation attacks. A solid reputation management campaign early, helps to control the court of public opinion, may help to sway prosecution or opposing counsel towards more beneficial settlements or agreements, and could potentially help control the information that a jury pool is exposed to. Obviously, these items directly impact outcomes.

If you want to see some good examples of reputation management, Google search ‘BP’. The oil spill, which garnered so much news coverage and so much outrage recently, is nowhere to be found. Similarly, news coverage about it garners little interest and little emphasis since search seems to indicate that users are no longer interested. We know for a fact that someone has run a very extensive RM campaign on their behalf (and on their executive teams behalf), with great results. This campaign could help BP settle lawsuits more favorably, settle government fines and regulations more quickly, and limit the damage/impact on investment, funding, and efforts for expansion.

Owning Your Face Space- Reputation Management

I’ve made a short video talking about Google’s efforts to move into facial search and what some of the implications are for our clients in Seattle or in Los Angeles who might be in need of Reputation Management services.

Google has been slowly gobbling up companies offering image recognition software and has been building up its patent protections around image search technology, especially as it applies to social networking and social media. Google Goggles, a mobile application, already exists and allows users to search for information on an image captured with the application. Now the technology is going one step further- facial search.

Facial search would be a big step forward in some regards for Google’s search product offerings. Already they have a significant market share on search users and search advertising so its no big surprise that they might want to strengthen their product lineup. Facial search would give them a unique functional upgrade over other major social networks like Facebook, and Twitter, and would help to expand on their own burgeoning efforts to make a social splash.

But what does facial search mean to the end user and how does it apply to our service expertise of reputation management?

Facial search offers some very big advantages and some very big privacy concerns if you think about it. IF someone has an image of you they could simply upload that image and then conduct a search based on it. Google would create search results based on similarities its software sees in facial structure and other identifying features and would return with a list of recommendations. The big fear here is that you don’t necessarily have control over all of those images and you don’t necessarily want someone to easily find all the images associated with you through various activities you may have participated in throughout your life.

You’re in your thirties now, have a successful ecommerce website, and are looking to raise capital and investors, BUT that old photo of you at a frat party in college that was posted on a school newspaper site now populates in your search results when they do a face search for you. Yikes! Perhaps it doesn’t feature prominently, but the fact that Google could find these images should raise some concerns. Because most of these images will be tied to further data about you, someone could grab a snapshot off of your web page, run a facial search, find out where you live, where you work, the type of activities you’re involved in, and find others who associated with you. That could mean some major liability issues for you! Before, someone had to have some information about you to really conduct a meaningful search. They needed to know your first and last name, general place of residence, and maybe what type of occupation you had to narrow it down. By and large, this meant that people searching for you already knew you or knew of you. Now, not so much.

For reputation management purposes, we have to approach a facial search the same way that we would approach any other search engine optimization (SEO) project or RM campaign. Our job is to ensure that all of the images that feature prominently for you contain controlled content that you want seen, rather then content you don’t want to be associated with. This means that if someone does pull a facial search on you, we want your name coming up, details you want published featured, and other items buried. Because this technology functions on an analysis of facial identifiers, we might need to use pictures that involve specific facial positioning, expressions, etc, and then build up image tags and descriptions around them.

Undoubtedly, it will expand how we identify and experience search. But with websites already conveying so much information about you, who knows if this added experience is positive.

LA Reputation Management for Executives and Companies

Joel, our web design and search marketing firm’s founder, demonstrates the value of reputation management in this video clip (hosted on Youtube).

I’ll provide you with a brief summary of who needs reputation management, when it should be implemented, and how it works.

  1. You need reputation management if your name/ identity/ reputation has the power to impact your income. This statement is true for almost everyone, but especially for company executives, celebrities, athletes, corporations, politicians, and other high profile figures. It doesn’t matter whether you live in Seattle or LA or Des Moines, Iowa. If your reputation has the ability to positively or negatively impact your income, then reputation management is right for you. Seriously, its a fact. Whether you’re applying for a new job, or up for review, or looking at seeking investment, or reelection, it doesn’t matter. As long as your reputation has the power to guide that process, then you are an excellent candidate for reputation management.
  2. So we’ve established that almost everyone needs reputation management. For those of you who realize that a negative article or review or criticism could have a large effect on your income, revenue, profits, votes, etc, then you likely want to begin reputation management immediately. Yes, I said immediately. Why? The simple fact of the matter is that most CEOs, Senators, athletes, and companies have a rather tenuous hold on their reputation online and thus have a significant Achilles heel exposed for competitors, disgruntled employees, and hungry journalists eager to make a story. They have one or two personal and corporate websites and a few social media profiles, but none of them hold any significant weight with the search engines. Should one article be written, properly published, with good SEO structure, and a few links pointing to it, you could very quickly find your reputation being trashed every time someone looks you up online. Reputation management is most effective and provides the best buffer, if you begin building your online name space now, using hundreds of social media sites, websites, and blogs to thoroughly cover your search rankings with content you control. A firm like ours, based out of Venice Beach, Los Angeles, can help create those profiles and then organically increase their prominence in the search rankings so that they are more secure from breaking news stories, smear campaigns, or litigation.
  3. You’ve already gotten an inkling as to how reputation management works, and we’ll cover why having a skilled web design team, a great set of search engine optimization techs, and excellent marketing consultants can work to your advantage. Most businesses understand at this point in time that SEO can be used to increase their customer base and client leads. What most of them don’t know is that it also has an important role in how their business is perceived online. (This also applies to individuals). Most clients/ investors/ voters/ businesses examine what we call a ‘name space’ online. Using a search engine like Google, they look up your business or your name (PetSmart was the example that Joel used in his video). Often your actual website property appears first in search ranking. What happens behind that in ranking usually are a loose conglomeration of articles, social network sites, etc. BUT most of these items are very loosely ranked, meaning that they can be easily dislodged. One targeted news article or complaint, or bad piece of publicity can climb easily up your rankings and even supplant your top search results. IF we’ve begun reputation management (RM) in advance, those articles and negative reviews have a very difficult time even reaching the first page. If there is a significant amount of publicity around them, they might still break into your top ten results, but you should still hold the highest rankings. Because of this, the end user who carried out the search query, will see four or five or more articles showing how you want to be perceived, before they find anything bad. At that point, you’ve already made the most important impression- the first one. Coalition uses organic, white hat search optimization and marketing techniques to cement your control over the top search rankings. By content management, web design and coding reviews, social media campaigns, link building, and more specialized techniques, we can control your reputation online.

Best of all, we’re much more discreet and subtle then a traditional PR firm. Public Relations firms generally make a lot of noise when they try and help you. Sometimes, the fact that you’ve even employed a PR firm makes your own statements and press releases more suspect in the general public. With Reputation Management, we can quietly generate positive results in the one location most people turn to for information- online.

Contact us at 310.736.2848 if you are in the Los Angeles or LA county area. Or call toll free at 310.827.3890 if you are a national or global customer.

Reputation Management in Los Angeles

So many potential clients, who really need good RM and SEO services, and so little time!

I’ve been posting pretty extensively on this blog about how to change bad Yelp reviews, and how to handle bad reviews online in general, but I wanted to be sure to draw attention to the people who really need reputation management.

If your name, or your company name, earns you money because of the assurance of your reputation, then you absolutely need to have a LA reputation management company. Even if there is nothing bad associated with you, it is still very important to have our Venice reputation management firm be proactive on your behalf.

Why?

Suspect child holding your reputation monkey hostage
This could be your reputation at the end of the gun!

Its not a difficult equation, really, and I’ll explain why.

Firstly, we established that your name=income. Either corporate or individual, if this equation is true for you, then you need to protect what we term your ‘name space’ online. Essentially, this is the first three to five pages of each search engine (30 to 50 results) that someone searching for you is likely to find information on you. This person searching could be a potential client, a potential employer, a coworker, a boss, a competitor, or a journalist. In any instance, you want those first search engine results pages to be clean, and filled with the information that you want, not that someone else has dictated. If your name equals income or possible income, those first results should be under your control.

But what if they are not? Well just think about it this way- each result that lists in those search engines that is outside of your control, is essentially a resume that someone else built for you. In the non-digital reality, we’d never hand our resume off to a stranger and tell them to rewrite it for us, and post it with all of your potential clients, all of your potential voters (?), all of your potential employers.

There are thousands of ways to get your name out there and control high level results. Building a personal website and maintaining it, submitting and maintaining dozens of social network profiles, rewriting your company content pages for better SEO, blogging on a regular basis, hiring other bloggers to help post press releases, bios, and other promotional pieces, being active in community organizations, and more! Once you’ve established that these pieces hold the highest relevance for you, you have to build up their prominence in search engine rankings through technical SEO (search engine optimization).

Sound like a lot of work?

You’re right, it is! that is why Coalition Technologies exists! We provide high level reputation management services around the country and have great success. We’ve worked for Fortune 500 companies, for high profile CEOs, celebrities, and are contributing our efforts to political campaigns.

Best of all, unlike traditional PR agencies, we don’t have to be high profile. In fact, everything we do for you is blanketed by a strong mutual NDA. Our work is most successful when it looks completely organic. We comply with the best practices of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines (which is very important- wouldn’t it be sad if your Reputation Management company dinged your reputation) and only use white hat tactics that generate the best long term results.

If you are thinking about running for a political office, or are already in politics, or if you have a high profile job or company, and want to start protecting yourself proactively, then give us a call. It is better to get these reputation management and SEO efforts going now, rather than later. IF something comes up down the road, you’ll have built a much more solid footing that you can use to defend and repel, online reputation attacks and smear campaigns by the news media, by your opponents, or by disgruntled consumers.

We’re based in Venice, California but have worked with clients from across the United States and the world. We’ve assisted major corporations, their executives and advisory boards, political candidates and office holders, and individuals looking for career changes.

Reputation Management

Coalition Technologies uses best practice search engine optimization techniques in Los Angeles and throughout the United States to help resolve issues with online reputation.

More and more individuals, and companies, are finding that their reputation online can have a direct impact on their bottom line. For smaller, direct to consumer businesses, these ‘reputation factors’ can be reviews on popular service rating sites like Yelp, City Search, Google, TripAdvisor.com, and more. While the overall comments and ratings may skew positive, one negative review can achieve prominence quickly through a variety of means, and can dramatically impact the ability of a business to assure potential clients of their quality of service. Because the negative articles can also achieve more viral popularity, they tend to spread and be repeated faster than the positive reviews.

This is especially true for high profile individuals in positions of authority or with celebrity status. CEOs, executives, stockholders, political figures, and more all need reputation management firms to ensure that one slip up is not devaluing their companies, their causes, or their own net worth. Most celebrities can live off of the notoriety and even turn a buck doing it- just look at Lindsey Lohan, OJ Simpson, and Charlie Sheen. All have managed to be ‘winners’ for a period of time at least, by using the negative press to push themselves to the forefront of the American public. But when you are running a tech start up or an investment brokerage, or are trying for reelection, then its next to impossible to turn these bad items into good items.

Let Coalition Technologies help you on your reputation management. We can ensure that the good work you do, and the items you want publicized, show up prominently in Google search results. Not the other stuff that your competitors or detractors are trying to promote.

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