Executive Reputation – digital trust in the enterprise

Reputation is a growing concern for executives at many enterprise organizations. To help understand the wide range of impacts that reputation has on both an individual and corporate level, you must consider both a “top down” and “bottom up” effect.

We also have to keep in mind that the nature of healthy reputation relies on the ability for those “in the know” to pass along the correct information to the correct audience. Without having a mechanism in place to highlight success points and positive messages, the resulting absence of information creates a vacuum that is filled with the loudest voices (not always supportive or even correct.) Read more

5 tools for Free Reputation Management

Everyone wants to keep up with the digital conversation and know what people are saying about you through blogs and twitter. You need to be proactive in listening to conversations that are important to you.

There are three basic components of reputation management:

  1. Listening to the conversation (read this article!)
  2. Being proactive and highlighting your information with professional information (read profiles for professionals & executive URLs, personal domains)
  3. Getting involved in the conversation (check out executive branding & online reputation)

Before venturing into your effort, we need to identify a list of things you want to monitor. We don’t want to waste time or energy focusing on the wrong things. Read more

Reputation Trends and market metrics

With the increasing buzz around online reputation and personal brand, I felt it was important to highlight some basic fundamentals regarding the numbers of people searching for reputation. This ten second clip visualizes how audiences interacted with specific keyphrases (in this case reputation), and this saturation map details the focus shift of reputation interest over time.

This example has an important note with the election period of 2009, when saturation across the United States tripled. Areas in darker blue are regions of high search intensity. If we drill these metrics down into specific states and communities, individual political campaigns and impact of reputation can be identified, ranging from build-up of rally points to election day.

[pro-player width=’320 height=’320 type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zob_s-e6KJo[/pro-player]

Executive Branding and Reputation online

There is a lot of buzz about executive branding and reputation. The difficulty in understanding the buzz is that there is a variety of cross-over from dozens of different professional and technical niches: ranging from search engine optimization, social networks, profile creation, video syndication, word of mouth, customer care and personal goals.

We like to take all of those concepts (and a dozen more) and begin with some simple concepts Read more

Online Reputation SCAMS – Part Two

We don’t sugar coat things here. The digital world is evolving at a tremendous rate and professionals of all kinds are struggling to maximize results.

This is part two of Online Reputation SCAMS. You don’t get many changes to “get it right” and it often feels like a brick upside your head when you “get it wrong.”

As a professional, it is amazing to continuously hear about companies that are charging anywhere between $19.95 and $25,000 a month to do online reputation work. At SMR, trying to compare what we do as expert consultants with advanced understanding of business and audience mechanics to an overseas worker who doesn’t speak English is often laughable. Read more

United Airlines brand and reputation value

hotel-brand-theftOften working with corporate communications, our team is asked to review current examples of corporate reputation taken over.

When dealing with organizations that are dealing with digital communication changes, one of the most revealing points is to compare multiple data sources and review how A leads to B leads to C.

In the case of United Airlines we collected a snapshot of material on 10/01/09 and created a simple one page questions and answers sheet that served as a thought catalyst.

There are several concepts that need to be addressed (From left to right)

In 2008, the pilot union of United Airlines created the GlennTilton blog, directly targeting the CEO’s name in an effort to spotlight their request to have Glenn Tilton fired. Through-out most of 2009, the site was averaging two to four thousand visitors a month.

In the center column, brand advocates and disgruntled consumers participated in Untied.com (a letter play on United) – which averaged 8500 visitors a month.

On the right column, Guitarist Dave Carroll created the smash-hit video “United Breaks Guitars” and had nearly five million viewers (as of today: 7.2 million)

Across the center row, we can see the numbers related to estimated search traffic that was exposed and redirected from brand keyword searches. The true box of importance is highlighted (to right) , placing on-going brand damages at $25k a month and higher.

Some other items of note:

Wikipedia has an entry that scores on the third search result of the search phrase “United Airlines.” That Wikipedia resource page was viewed 66595 times in December 2009. (resulting in an additional potential loss of $150k a month)

That brand/marketing damage is not simply about mass audience appeal, but industry investor impact. As a direct connection to poor stock performance and bad reputation, BloggingStochs editor Jamie Dlugosc wrote “Stock to avoid #7 – United Airlines” where the United Breaks Guitar video was highlighted for the investment audience.

To leave on a more comical note:
“Hitler finds out United Breaks Guitars”

[pro-player width=’530′ height=’340′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEqvCktdSBM[/pro-player]

Search Engine Conquesting, brand and reputation

Many professionals have come to the conclusion of ranking for a specific keyword on Google is good for them. In some instances the keyword happens to be a brand name, a professionals name, or simply an associated trademark.

If we put our shoes in the brand of NIKE: we rank on Google result one for the keyword “Nike”, wouldn’t it be great if we could rank for multiple results on page one and keep all the valuable brand traffic we have created? From a marketing and public relations perspective, the answer should be a resounding “YES!” – as roughly 16% of NIKE’s 2.4 million monthly unique visitors are visiting the site with the keyword “NIKE”

That means that every single result on the Google homepage for the keyword “NIKE” is worth 50K+ monthly visitors looking for the brand.

So what is conquesting and why should I care?

When most people think of the word “conquesting” they probably think of roman soldiers claiming Europe or Celtic barbarians ravaging peasant villages. While the term may invoke memories of epic stories, it is also beginning to see a revival in the online marketplace.

Conquesting in regards to marketing is when a competitor purposely places advertising and brand message side by side with similar businesses. In the real world conquesting has been around for years in grocery stores where like-minded products are side by side or in retail malls where cell phone booths are packed within arms reach of one another. In print media conquesting often took the form of advertisers purposely buying strip ads near larger competitive ads in an attempt to leverage the competitors larger ad.

The online world has given conquesting entirely new life.

Popular search engines have enabled pay per click campaigns where competitive ads are displayed when someone searches for a competitor’s name (even when it is a trademark). As online technology has become more precise, conquesting has become more and more prevalent providing side by side advertising… and in actually having the ability to completely replace a competitors presence with targeted advertising. Rather than just sitting side by side, newer versions of online conquesting make finding the original content almost impossible.

The “Google Culture” of the past five years has assisted this trend by training the consumer audience to accept competitive ads when searching and it has also created seasoned marketing veterans who actively focus advertising on competitive brands rather than their own. This has created a trend where the pay per click system has seen increasing cost as businesses bid on terms that reflect their own company’s own brand; and it has slowly evolved into a situation where savvy marketers have realized the benefit of not only controlling company brand, but competitors branding as well.

Organic and natural search results have also seen plenty of conquesting strategies where white papers, professional reviews, and customer opinions are purposely indexed under the names of competitive businesses. The purpose of such articles is to present consumers with competitive marketing information to compare Product A to Product B, to present skillfully crafted and biased articles trying to trigger a consumer response, or to simply derail a competitors ability to have meaningful information found.

Outside of the search engine world the effects of online conquesting can also be seen through social community sites where public personalities have written articles that are conquested by competitors purposely commenting on articles or discussions to lure away readers. Individual blogging platform have allowed companies, employees, critics, and peers to utilize the conquesting tactic to dominate the online realm.

Understanding How It Affects You

The most critical element of conquesting is realizing that it exists as a valid marketing tactic. It may be something your business may implement in its own marketing strategy or it may be utilized to better understand how to defend your brand against competitive conquesting. There are many tactics in understanding how consumers find your business through search terms and it is more effective understanding how your brand is established online and understanding how well your competitors brands are also established.

The Dark Side of Conquesting – Brand Squatting

For every company or professional that has properly taken control of their presence online, talented search engine marketing experts have figured out ways of using the same methodology against them: ranking competitive sites for another company’s brand terms. This is often where reputation management becomes a significant consideration for a company, when a competitor or negative piece of information is brand squatting on important keywords that represent valuable consumers, current clients, employees, investors, and journalists.

Does ‘Conquesting’ Work?

Marketing through conquesting techniques can have huge return on investment. It also risks alienating the marketplace if the attempt is too flagrant or poorly implemented. Consumers love to have choice, so there is merit and even sound strategy in helping prospects find useful information that assists them in making an educated decision to conduct business. When done skillfully- leveraging marketing budget through conquesting can be compared to buying larger advertising campaigns for pennies on the dollar.

In the battle for prime audiences on Google, conquesting online is becoming a significant factor in maximizing online superiority.

Executive URLs and personal domains

Last year Facebook announced that it was opening up “vanity URLs” for members to choose easier to brand URLs. Originally the URL of any Facebook page was just a randomly assigned number like “id=595845231.” , fairly soon you will begin seeing facebook.com/firstnamelastname or facebook.com/pepsi (which is already up and running)

Facebook’s announcement has made a stir in many spaces regarding the value of branding and search engine impact.

Unfortunately, while Facebook may be the largest social network online: the ability to have vanity URLs at a site is nothing new. Twitter has always had vanity URLs, Linkedin uses your name, Myspace has been doing it forever, and 4 out of 5 other social networking sites use “vanity urls”

You may say “but Facebook is the largest network…”

So what?

Issue One

Facebook may see some initial SEO ramifications from the change, but we have to ask a little deeper about the big impact and reaction that major search providers need to make. What would happen to Google if Facebook suddenly had 200 million new vanity URLs in place? I would suspect Google would place a variety of inhibitors on the Facebook.com domain to prevent massive spamming problems.

More importantly, in just the regards of Google and Facebook… they are competitors. Do you really think Google wants Facebook providing top search results for 200 million users? Does Google want to send massive amounts of traffic to a competitor? (probably not)

Issue Two

In the very recent past Facebook attempted to dictate terms of service to 200 million users. It caused a horrendous backlash and Facebook was literally mobbed by the masses. Tens of thousands of Facebook users revolted and created user groups and petitions complaining about the new terms.

As Facebook moves to provide “vanity urls” to help users define the Facebook site as a destination (perhaps on e-mails, business cards, and more) many users should be very wary of the question “who owns this Facebook profile?”

What happens when Facebook decides to change policy about your vanity URL in six months? (you do realize that Facebook doesn’t have a robust business model and is grabbing at ideas…. so change to ToS is expected.)

As a professional who has been operating in the search engine and online reputation niche for a decade, I would only recommend that you professional brand something that you own and control 100%.

This means a domain name, your site, your personal brand. For instance I have barryhurd.com as a test site that I routinely change with new ideas and formats.

Issue Three

Having one profile doesn’t cut it these days. When someone searches for you, they are going to be exposed to 10+ results on the first page search. That literally means you need AT LEAST ten sources of information about you online if you want maximum control over how interpret you online.

In regards to search engines, you may need dozens or hundreds of interaction points to make sure your results on Google are favorable.

Some examples for myself:

Some business accounts that I use for my professional name:

Some Solutions:

There are many ways of looking at how you are perceived online. Far more than can be covered in any one article. You have professional networks, real world contacts, family members, both personal and professional lives, and a mixture of information presented by you and the people interacting with you (family, friends, clients, competitors)

If you are interested in knowing how to maximize your brand and reputation online, you can add yourself to the waiting list for our private beta @ buzzprofile.com

You can also follow our conversation on http://twitter.com/buzzprofile

Online Reputation Scams

In life there are few constants. In the world of online reputation and search engines, anything that could be defined as “constant” last approximately thirty minutes.

Because of the fact of constantly shifting technical issues, 19 out of 20 search engine professionals stopped making the statement they could guarantee certain results in a search engine. Since they factually cannot guarantee anything, they wisely decided to be truthful.

Unfortunately this problem is now creeping into the online reputation field, as more an more unwitting professionals lack the knowledge of what happened in the search engine industry five+ years ago. This morning I received a spammy canned e-mail from an online profile site that said

promise yourself top placements in Google and make sure you are marketing yourself to the right audience“and “Guarantee your presence on Google’ first page.”


Warning. Run. If a company guarantees any search result, ask them how they guarantee that a monolithic corporate entity (AKA Google) is going to be manipulated by them.

Do yourself a big favor and take action on the dozens of expert articles written online about establishing your online profile and reputation (usually for free) and learn to have complete control over your professional brand online. You can also read this article on our CEO’s blog regarding being an “online reputation specialist” or our analyst blog “Social Media Expert – Defining Impossibilities

Your name, the ultimate keyword

As I prepare some of our upcoming whitepapers, I wanted to share some tidbits of tactical wisdom for my professional readers. Everyone online is saying “put yourself out there” to help build personal brand and have a healthy online presence, but few are giving real focus to what you need to be looking at. Read this short detail and then go to Google and check yourself out online.

Once you have, do some preventative self-promotion through blogs, Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook OR continue educating yourself by reading the related articles below.

So why is my name the ultimate keyword?

Lets face it: Corporations are attempting to steal your name. They want access to everyone who knows you.

The numbers are pretty simple: when Professional ABC meets NewGuy XYZ, roughly every other introduction will turn to online search to find out more information about each other. Even on a niche level: that means every networking event, in every city, every day, creates hundreds of thousands of searches online for the name of Professional ABC and NewGuy XYZ (they could be you.)

Many corporations have figured this out. In fact, your name has created a new commodity market.

  • Social networks like Facebook and Myspace love your name.
  • Companies like Intelius and Whitepages want to sell your information.
  • Google wants to make money selling your name as a keyword on a pay-per-click campaign.

Trust me on this, your name represents a commodity that you never even truly thought about.
Someone is making money off your name every day.

What can you do about it?

While you can’t control whether companies try to steal your name and the network of people it represents, you can have the choice of deciding what sites and information is most prominent online. You can start a blog, have a conversation on Twitter, or create a profile on Linked and Facebook.

By knowing the structure of keywords used in finding your name online, you can make some tactical decisions about what names and words you use on various social media sites. This makes your accounts more easily found by search engines, while focusing on phrases that matter the most to you.

The primary keywords for 90% of search engine reputation campaigns focus on “First Name, Last Name” and then the additional derivatives are added as needed. Unless we know that a specific professional is tied to a city or geographic search result, most names revolve around the following structure of keyword phrases:

  • First name, Last name
  • FirstnameLastname (no spaces)
  • LastnameFirstname (no spaces)
  • First name, Last name, company
  • First name, Last name, previous company
  • First name, Last name, title
  • First name, Last name, previous title
  • First name, Last name, city
  • First name, Last name, event (for event attendees/conferences)

In a full-campaign on such terms, there are often some strange phrases people are searching for regarding specific articles or press releases. For instance if you were on a television interview, you may have a problem with that as a specific key phrase “General News Station WX32”. Cities and neighborhoods also play a role depending if the news source of the problem is specific to a local.

As an example, when reporters blog at the Seattle PI, they have the side effect that anyone mentioned in an article on the keyword of “Seattle” has an insanely high prominence in the search engine results for “Seattle”

Hopefully this information helps you create a better, more effective online presence. If you have any questions regarding professional online reputation, feel free to leave a comment or follow me on Twitter @ceoreputation