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

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 or (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 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 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 @

You can also follow our conversation on

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

Social Media Profiles for Professionals

Creating a robust and professional image is a hard thing to do. As online identity and reputation becomes more valuable, focus on profiles that get “maximum bang for the buck.”  Take a moment and setup these three, which will help serve as a healthy foundation for your online presence and give you the benefit of showing up in mainstream search engine results.

There are many reasons you have to consider for maintaining a healthy online presence. You may simply want to have easy to find information, you may want to connect with industry peers, or you may simply want to have some reputation insurance in case Google finds some strange tidbit from your past.

If you are unsure of where to start, the following services will provide a fairly strong online presence. Read more

Online Reputation Repair

Professional communicators have many names for it: Brand Management, Brand Preservation, Reputation Control, Public Relations, Identity Messaging. It all comes down to having a unified presence for your professional image. When people search online, they begin with the initial step of reviewing information about the “who, what, where” of your company and staff. The decision to do business with you may come down to a brutal but simple “thumbs up, or thumbs down”

This situation can be boiled down to one or two very simple questions: Do you remember a professional situation where you found out through a friend of a friend that some nasty rumor was floating around? What about the time you found out six months afterwards – or the time it seemed like everyone but you knew the rumor?

While the online world is transforming business, it is also transforming the way potential customers, employers, employees, and mainstream media is finding out information about your business. The blogosphere has begun transforming search engines into conversations about your reputation.

Many businesses understand the value of showing up for a beneficial keyword such as “New York Real Estate,” but what happens when your business shows up for “Real Estate Fraud” because an unsatisfied client or unscrupulous competitor managed to get a story to show up under searches for your company name?

When such reputation nightmares happen, companies face the challenge of removing those negative results off the first few pages of the search engines or with getting information out there that provides a balanced dose of positive articles. Unfortunately it is often impossible to get a negative article removed from search engine results, but it is possible to make sure that it is hard to get information to show up instead.

Here are ten recommendations for establishing a healthy presence and reputation on the search engines.

1. Make sure your own Web site shows up.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but unfortunately I’ve seen several $25k sites that don’t even show up in the search engines for the proper name of the business or the executive team. Do not trust your Web designer when they say your Web site shows up. Check yourself. Try doing a search for your company name and brand, along with the personal names and brands of the people on your team.

2. Buy the domains that are important to your business.

When you created your site, sounded great. How about your personal name How about your Domains cost less than $10 a year each, so spending an extra $20 to $100 dollars a year could be a very worthwhile investment if you plan on having control of your brand. If properly setup all those extra domains provide a sure-fire way to have your main business site show up on a variety of names that are important to you.

3. Start a blog.

You have, but how about buying as a blog? You can use popular blogging software such as to create an almost free blog attached to your current Web site. By providing fresh and weekly content to the blog, the articles in it will show up on various long-tail keyword phrases for your company name. After a few months you will have multiple results whenever someone searches for your company.

4. Use sub-domains.

If you really do not want to budget for buying individual domains, try sub-domains on your primary domain. Most hosting services allow you to have multiple free sub-domains such as Sub-domains are treated as individual sites in the eyes of the search engines and have almost as much power as the primary domain. By adding a few pages of information to sub-domains such as biography, careers, location, and team, you can add dozens of results for searches to find your information.

5. Use social media accounts on other sites.

There are literally dozens of social media sites out there that can be used to create free profiles that show up for your company name.,, and offer free profiles that show up in the search engines. When you are given the choice of creating a profile name or adding a title to the account, think carefully about the exact phrase you want to be found under and try to utilize your company’s most common name.

6. Grow a social media site.

Search engines love constantly growing and evolving information. By starting your own forum or social media community, you can provide the search engines with new pages of information under your company name every time one of your users creates a new page or comment on your social media system.

7. Check out pay-per-click ads.

While I almost never endorse paying for pay-per-click advertising, you may find someone has decided to spend the $1 a click to advertise why they hate you on your own name or for the terms that drive business to you. There are ways of requesting this advertising cease by contacting the search engine, and if you spot something on your own name make sure you click it once or twice… you’ll find some quick comfort knowing you just cost the person a few dollars.

8. Use free directory profiles.

There are literally hundreds of free directories online. Google, Yahoo, and Superpages are all examples of sites with free directory profiles. In addition to having the benefit of being found by the search engines, having profiles on these directories is a way of being found by fairly substantial user communities. After creating the profiles, be ready for the follow-up sales call looking to offer you a lot of fairly useless advertising enhancements.

9. Volunteer your information and expertise on other sites.

The blogging world is always looking for fresh information. If you have a recent article or viewpoint to share, contact a local blogger or newspaper. Good information is always newsworthy, and it is usually fairly easy to get information published about a local community event you are sponsoring.

10. Use video.

You may be saying “but I don’t have a $5k budget to waste on fancy video.” Don’t listen to your budget! It doesn’t take a huge budget to put on a business suit and find a decent backdrop to take a quick thirty second video of your office. Even a casual video on YouTube under your company name is a hundred times better than an aggressive attack from an opinionated critic.

There are hundreds of other ways that can be tied together into a solid foundation for your business reputation and brand. Depending on the goals of your business, the above points can be integrated into search engine marketing plans to drive SEO results, to aid specific business projects, coordinate affiliated business partners, or even to establish your own business community. Taking a few minutes to examine and detail your current situation and the goals of your brand is essential to safe-guarding a company’s future. Understanding what people find when they search for your company name and how they interact with that information is critical to making sure that searchers find the information you want them to.