Corporate Reputation and Recruiting

As founder of Social Media Reputation, I am always interacting with multiple professional groups and coordinating dozens of projects. As such, I maintain a “personal blog” that connects several of our partner services and serves as a home for articles that fit into several categories. In that facet, I wanted to point you over to my personal blog where you can find several items regarding how online reputation and corporate brand affects the recruiting silo.

The first article is for job seekers: How to Write a Resume, Interactive Personal Branding 101. – This includes several tips on maximizing your digital presence as a professional. It is really helpful even if you are “safe and happy” in your current position. The steps I review are valuable assets that gain over time and get better with age.

The second and third items are two webinars that I have the privilege to recently present for the Wall Street Journal.

Webinar #1Corporate Reputation and Online Recruiting. Confused about how Twitter, Facebook, and Local search interact with job hunting? This twenty-five minute presentation discusses some interesting points on how candidates in the digital world interact with business brands during the recruiting process. As an employer or a job candidate, both type of professional gain some great insight to how different cogs interact during the job process.

Webinar #2Social Media Recruiting – this covers some useful tools for gathering information about candidates and potential employers. When trying to present a company as an “employer of choice” or trying to stand out as an “amazing candidate”, online information and your ability to find useful data creates dozens of exceptional opportunities that less savvy professionals don’t have access to.

International Reputation Reaching Critical Mass

Our global neighbors in England launched Reputation Matters, a campaign to profile corporate reputations through an alliance between the Newcastle Journal newspaper, Bradley O’Mahoney public relations, and Newcastle University Business School. It is both refreshing and encouraging to see local support systems being created by professionals in the field of reputation (a niche that has been sorely neglected in recent years.)

Reputation is, after all, not how we see ourselves, but the opinion that others form about us.

We are not looking just at well-known brands. We want to highlight both large and small firms, those operating in niche markets that most people have not come across and those that may have been in business only a short time, but who clearly understand the need to build their reputations.

On the Newcastle Journal, you can read about the business case for reputation. At four pages long, it serves as a good entry point and strategic setting for reputation concerns impacting your business (and includes a little international perspective not always considered here in the U.S.)

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.

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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 (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”

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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

Corporate Brand and Reputation – How Digg Kills

Corporate social media is a huge buzz phrase. A company’s brand online- through social media reputation and word of mouth marketing is beginning to have more and more weight in today’s marketplace. In the past, the saying used to be that one bad customer could relay the story to ten you never met. In the social media world, one customer can reach thousands they have never met (sometimes millions). Today’s contender for brutality to a companies reputation is “The Worst Company in America Award“, via Digg, Google, and a million online readers.

This years contest winner was Countrywide Home Loans. 123 deals with companies having severe reputation and brand problems online, but Countrywide beats most of them on a scale of how problematic it can be.

I first found out about the tongue-in-cheek contest at Digg. The story had received over 1000 “thumbs up” votes. When an article receives that many votes the information is pushed onto the front page of Digg (which has 230 million+ pageviews/month and 26 million uniques) where it sat for the better part of a day. That roughly equates to about six million page views, along with 161 comments.

Examining the “big picture” of the “Digg Effect” brings in some truly amazing numbers when you search the site for other articles including Countrywide. In the past year they have had many articles involving them (all bad) submitted to Digg, with a total of 11,820 votes. Multiply the number of page views by the number of times one of the stories found itself on the homepage and you have a much bigger issue.

Most marketers immediately think that the damage is self-contained to the community users of Digg. Unfortunately Google loves Digg. Stories reaching the front page often emblaze themselves permanently into the search terms for the article. In this case – the term was “Countrywide Home Loans

Countrywide Social Media Reputation

Within 24 hours, the Digg story was prominently on the sixth result for Countrywide’s own name- reading ” Digg-Worse Company in America – Countrywide Home Loans”

By the end of the day Google had found the original content for the site running the contest and replaced it with the actual link to the consumerist article.

On the Consumerist site, the two originating articles that ended the contest received 31,000 and 34,000 views, with a total of 266 comments.

Before counting all the social media traffic that read these articles, we can assume that some of the 189 to 236 people a day who search for “Countrywide Home Loans” also read the articles when they see the search result.

How much brand damage does social media expose a company to? I would say a lot. In Countrywide’s case, proudly displaying the “Worse Company in America” title on your own name via Google is costing them millions.

Countrywide Home Loans has also found itself displayed on two other sites: where a neglected author states “Please take the time to read my story and see how I was ripped off by Countrywide Home Loan.” and which is a community forum that has 446 conversational threads about Countrywide.

Some other examples of how social media is driving reputation into the ground:

Growing Pains Hit Dell’s Customer Service: In 2004 CNET had a review of Dell’s customer service, garnishing 129 comments. As time went on, customers lovingly began referring to dealing with Dell customer service as “Dell Hell

Other sites dedicated to promoting company mistakes:

Rip-Off Report: Probably the most well known reputation destroying site, this site ranks in Google’s top ten search results for all sorts of rip-offs and scams, as an example case PepBoys (the auto store chain) has 115 mentions on the site. In the search engine world, Ripoff Report has been reviewed by experts like myself and Rand Fishkin over who examined if Rip-Off Report was merely a scam and extortion scheme. This site ranks in Google’s top ten search results for companies like Capitol One, featuring a dozen or more reviews of the company that have received three to five thousand readers in the past two months.

If you have stake in a company, take some of the steps required to protect your brand and assets online. I’ve included links below to some of my articles on reputation control and brand protection, in addition to ways you can monitor and leverage different online assets in your favor.