Why Online Reputation Management is Never Complete

When we start a new program for a RepEquity Online Reputation Management client, we follow a standard checklist for getting their program up and running. Once we've collected all relevant information from the client, we begin by claiming or building out any existing social media profiles. We then build the client a complete bio website that highlights their involvement in business, philanthropy and other arenas. These two steps are the foundation of nearly every ORM program we run and become our leveraging points for cleaning up the search engine results for individuals, corporations and nonprofits.

An online reputation issue is not something that can be quickly fixed and then ignored. It is a constant battle to keep positive results at the top of the search engine results and as an ORM company we remain vigilant for new rankings and strategies that would help our clients.

Updates to Google's Algorithm

This year, we saw two major algorithm updates by Google that shook up organic search engine results.

Originally released in 2011, the Panda algorithm update was updated to lower the rankings and visibility of low-quality sites and push higher-quality sites up in the search results. This benefitted our clients by increasing rankings for their social media profiles, but in some cases it also increased visibility of potentially harmful, untrue, or out-of-date content on news websites.

Google updated its Penguin algorithm on April 24, 2012. Similar to Panda, Penguin was intended to decrease search engine rankings of websites found to be in violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines by using black-hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, cloaking, and deliberate duplicate content. Penguin affected an estimated 3.1% of search queries in English?hugely impactful for an algorithm update. Penguin prompted us to take a closer look at some client websites that were in place before signing with RepEquity. We helped clients eliminate duplicate content and analyze their backlinks for potential red flags.

The Growing Importance of Social Media

Social media profiles are more important than ever for our clients. Today, 91 percent of online adults are using social media regularly. The majority of online conversations occur on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Reddit, and Google is increasingly favoring social media profiles in search engine results.

The social networking space evolves quickly. Today's budding social media site could be tomorrow's SEO darling. For example, in 2012 Pinterest skyrocketed to the third most popular social networking site in the U.S. and now has over 30 million unique visitors. Pinterest pages rank in the SERPs for several clients, and we encourage all clients with a relevant target audience, product list or subject matter to create Pinterest profiles.

In 2013, we will continue to look for new social networks for our clients and optimize existing profiles to maintain high rankings.

New Issues Every Day

While it's easy to manage content that's already published on the web, it is much harder to anticipate what will appear in the future. The most obvious instance of this is the ever-changing news cycle, in which any one client may be mentioned in dozens of articles each day - some positive and some negative. We can find some of these articles through search, others through notification systems like Google Alerts and others are passed along to us by clients themselves. But it's hard to make sure we've found every single article.

Another thing we must consider as ORM consultants is the international landscape of search. Google results can change from city to city and country to country, meaning that a client in the UK may have two totally different sets of search results if they search their company name in London and New York. We are familiar enough with these issues and Google's algorithm that we can modify our results for each country's Google results, but Google only claims around 67% of the global search market. For example, Baidu is the top search engine in China and garnered 13.8 billion searches in the first quarter of 2012, nearly 4 billion more searches than Yahoo! With a completely different algorithm and stricter set of criteria, it is much harder to optimize sites for this search engine.

In 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) introduced introduced a new generic top-level domain program, which is intended to increase competition and choice by introducing new gTLDs into the Internet's address system. gTLDs are Internet name extensions, the most popular being .com, .net and .org. Early last year, companies were allowed to request new gTLDs and 1,930 requests were submitted. As these requests are approved, it's up to us to alert clients and buy new domains to ensure that rivals or individuals with negative intentions do not use these domains maliciously against our clients.

In short, 2012 was a big year for online reputation management and its importance for individuals and companies will only continue to grow in 2013. One topic we look forward to investigating in 2013 is the variety in search engine results across different industries. For example, is a Twitter account more likely to rank for an individual or a non-profit? How many articles, on average, can we anticipate ranking for a company, and now many press releases? One of the best things about our line of work is that it is constantly changing, challenging us to come up with new ideas for each client. Our work is truly never done.

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