Personal Online Reputation Just Got Easier Thanks to Google

Reputation Management Mug Shots

You may not have even known about the scandal of “mug shot websites”; hopefully you never had to deal with the reputation management problem that they caused. Luckily for many people, Google solved the problem for them recently. Personal reputation management was becoming a big business for many different “mug shot websites” that were using public records to rank high for the names of anyone arrested for a crime on Google and other search engines.

These unscrupulous websites have been essentially blackmailing the people to have their names removed from the database to avoid online reputation issues. One of the significant problems is that there is not just one such website, so removing your name from one could have just meant it was the first in a long list people in line for your money.

 

You Were Arrested for What?

Arrest records are public record for anyone who has been arrested; we know in the United States that you are innocent until proven guilty. Even if your arrest charges were dropped, they still remain public record and many different websites were taking advantage of this and creating a reputation management issue for many people. Imagine the ensuing nightmare if a mug shot website ranked at the top of the page, or even in the paid listings, when a potential boss or future father in law searches your name on the internet.

The mug shot websites were charging people anywhere from $30 – $400 for what they describe as “cleaning up your public record”. However the questionability comes in when they are designed to rank high for the names listed on their site, and some were even paying for advertising with the arrest record names as keywords. Up until this month, they were making a hefty profit from because of their high ranking and not just because people were interested in cleaning up their name on the internet.

 

Google to the Rescue!

As part of the many algorithm changes Google has made in the past 2 or 3 years, the latest change was an algorithm that directly affected the page rank of types of mug shot websites that were pretty much just gaming Google’s ranking system and making a profit off of it in a pretty unscrupulous manner. These websites are no longer given priority ranking within Google’s search results.

In addition, Master Card  has even cut these types of websites off from using their online payment systems.

 

Do No Evil?

Most people will agree that the mug shot websites are pretty underhanded and should not be doing what they were doing, even though it is perfectly “legal”. However this specific targeting from Google does still raise questions over what type of control Google has over what searchers see and what they do not see.

At the very least, Google’s page ranking adjustment will make it easier for you to outrank those sites for your name and take control of your own reputation management online.

A SearchEngineLand.com  article further touches on these points and delves into the policies for both Google and Bing and how they are able to remove content from their sites that may go against terms of services or fall under duplicate content guidelines for removal. They also reported an update to the article that the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center now says it’s gotten hundreds of reports of this problem, and is seeking complaints  from people who have been affected. 

 

Manage Your Own Online Reputation

We all make mistakes, it is human nature. A mistake from your past does not have to haunt you on Google and elsewhere online though. What can you do to fix your own problem without paying extortionist websites? Take control of your own reputation management and drown out those negative results by posting your own information about yourself. Here’s how to push the bad results down and boost your own positive results:

  • Fill Out Social Media Profiles: Make sure all of your social media public profiles look professional and show the person you want others to see. Fill in all available fields for each profile and set up something with as many social media channels as you can. Each one will create a Google listing that will push the mug shot website down further.
  • Utilize Personal Websites: There are several different websites  like About.Me and ItsMyURLs that are free. You should set up with all of them.
  • Update Your Google Profile: Your Google profile is now attached to Google Plus and that should be filled out completely with as much information as you can think of and do not leave anything blank.
  • Use LinkedIn: LinkedIn is there for professional networking and creating a professional profile in a social way. You can brand yourself and make yourself look great with a professional looking resume. Join professional groups on LinkedIn and post relevant articles about your industry or profession.

5 Types of Infographics

Eye for Infographics

In the ever-changing world of online marketing, one of the tools that has stayed relatively consistent in its results over the past few years is the infographic. I remember first getting started with building and marketing infographics back in 2008. Things haven’t changed a whole lot since then.

Two things that have definitely changed are the saturation and the search value. The industry is so saturated today that it’s nearly impossible to get the same type of exposure now that we once saw a few years ago. It was once possible to get a great infographic in front of millions of people by having it published on major blogs and websites. Today, the saturation has made it to where getting one posted to Mashable or the NY Times is extremely challenging.

The search value has changed as well. Google is very well aware of the use of infographics for inbound links and they’ve taken measures to make sure that this ultimate form of “link baiting” is not overpowered. That’s not to say that there’s no search value. It’s still there and is very strong. The days of “build an infographic and rank higher instantly” are behind us.

Here is a breakdown (in infographic form, of course) of five of the most common forms of infographics. Click to enlarge.

Types of Infographics

As a Paid Service, Google Helpouts Better Deliver

Google Helpouts

Real help from real people in real time… often for a price.

The concept of Google Helpouts is this – you need help and you may be willing to pay for it. You might need some assistance with a dish you’re cooking. You might want to learn how to play the guitar. You may want assistance on your business school application, but are you willing to pay $300 to get that assistance? Considering that particular Helpout is with a Harvard Business School graduate, you might, but it certainly better deliver.

Most of them aren’t that pricey and some of them are free. The idea is an absolutely solid one, but it just seems a bit ambitious at this point. Google hasn’t perfected their Hangouts feature, something that hasn’t quite made it into mainstream usage. There are three major drawbacks to taking on a project like this:

  • Infrastructure: mobile internet simply isn’t there yet. It will probably work just fine on WiFi but if you’re in your backyard and need help with Landscape Design, you might be on 4G or (gulp) 3G. Will a $50 service work well on a mobile connection?
  • Focus: They have a lot going on right now. Between their attempts to dominate mobile, trying to put balloons in the air to connect the world through the internet, building a driverless car, and trying to find the fountain of youth, Google is pretty stretched… even for Google. That’s not to mention the ambitions they have with Google+, something that they might have wanted to master before taking on a project like this.
  • Trustworthiness: Google needs to be trusted by the populations of America and the world if they want to achieve their goals. It doesn’t matter how well they have vetted the people on these Helpouts – if something goes wrong, it will reflect on Google. They need a ton of these people in order for this to work which means a ton of “employees” that are representing Google in the eyes of the people paying for the service.

Bottom line is that I’m skeptical. Even though this is Google that we’re talking about here, they have not had a major ambition that has worked in a long, long time. They’ve had plenty of successes – that much is certain – but it just seems like these big dreams of doing things that haven’t been done very well in the past by others is simply fueled by Google’s abundance of cash and willingness to fail if necessary.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that Google should stop thinking big. It’s companies that have the cash and are willing to take risks that will mold our future. It just seems like they really need to focus hardcore on making at least one of them work before trying to make all of them work simultaneously. If Google+ was rocking and rolling, this might be the next logical step. Google+ is showing definite signs of a future but there is still so much that needs to be done.

Most importantly, people have to get used to paying Google. Right now, they’re simply not. Google has never mastered the art of getting people to pay for their products the way that Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft have. Sure, people buy Android phones and apps all the time and some of that money is going to Google, but the people buying these things are not really buying a Google product, at least in their minds. They’re buying a Samsung Product, a Verizon service, and an app built by some smart people, none of which work for Google.

This is Google Helpouts. The money is going to Google. The people represent Google. If Amazon had rolled this out, it would have made more sense, not because they’re more qualified but because people are used to paying Amazon directly. Unless you’re a business buying ads, you’ve probably never knowingly paid Google any money directly.

This is not the project through which to start that habit. I hope that Helpouts is a success but I believe it will be another in a long line of Google failures.

Google+ Killed iGoogle

iGoogle

There’s a story in the Washington Post that blames the death of iGoogle, the personalized homepage that Google created but didn’t really tell anyone about, on social media in general. It mentions Google+ as part of the problem but didn’t get the story exactly right.

Google+ was the only problem. iGoogle did not fall victim to Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other social sites because it didn’t compete with them. It wasn’t a matter of mentality switching from personalized selection to crowdsourcing our decisions based upon our feeds. That’s ludicrous. iGoogle failed for two reasons and they both circled around Google+.

The first reason is obvious. Google+ is everything that Google wants to be on the web. They’ve given two years of developing and testing plus two years of hardcore focus after launch before leaving it where it is today – a focus but not the whole ballgame. They have other things they’re pursuing now in mobile and other areas, but they are not taking their eyes completely off the social game. They never will. They’ve put too much into it to allow it to fail like every other social endeavor they’ve tried outside of YouTube.

The second reason goes back to the earlier focus. They could have very easily promoted the heck out of iGoogle but decided to keep it a secret menu item like ordering Animal Style burgers from In ‘N Out. They did this because they knew Google+ was on the way and that it would eventually replace iGoogle. There was an outside chance that iGoogle could be integrated in as part of the evolving Google+ environment, but when that became unlikely a year ago, they decided to let it die.

Here’s what the Washington Post had to say about it:

Customized portals like iGoogle really represented a sort of first step toward the highly personalized experience most us have online now due to the influence of social media. It seems almost quaint to rely on self-selection when you can use the hive-mind of your network to help deliver content to your stream. And with Google’s push toward an all-encompassing social-driven Web experience, it’s no surprise they decided to ax the service.

Read More: Washington Post

Tumblr as an SEO Tool

Tumblr SEO

Many of us who have been doing the hybrid search/social game for long enough remember what it was like to discover Tumblr. I got in pretty early and was able to get Social News as one of my Tumblogs, a pretty decent subdomain that is (unfortunately) completely underutilized and really just focuses on my Instagram pictures. That doesn’t mean that you have to sit around and let Tumblr not work well for you.

SocialMediaToday community contributor Mark Scott posted an interesting piece about using Tumblr as an SEO tool. While there are things in there that aren’t 100% correct such as the concept that all “links you add to all posts on your Tumblr blog are do-follow links” (some are nofollow), but otherwise he gives very sound advice about how to use the platform for something that it’s frankly not very good at for its own self: SEO.

Yes, it’s a great SEO tool and yes, it’s possible to optimize a Tumblog to do well in search, but it’s the benefits that it can bring to other websites where the real juice can come into play. As a supporting site, it’s great for search as long as the content is strong and you’re able to build up a decent following.

Here’s what he said on Social Media Today:

Tumblr essentially functions as a secondary blog you can use solely for the purpose of SEO. You can send optimized links back to the main website, allowing your website’s reach to expand and incoming traffic to multiply. What makes Tumblr great for SEO is the inbuilt promotion and SEO-friendly features that it comes packed with by default.

Read More: Social Media Today

Understanding the Differences Between Adaptive and Responsive Website Design

Responsive Design

There was a huge uproar in the search marketing and website design industry last year when Google came out and recommended responsive web design. While Google has been known to make recommendations in the past, they’ve never tackled this particular issue definitively until June, 2012. Since then, many companies have been scrambling to convert to a responsive design.

They reiterated the need for a mobile solution earlier this year when they said that they would soon stop showing web pages that improperly redirected to a different page when called up on mobile devices. The two pieces of news were combined because of a logical series of assumptions:

  1. Google wants pages to render on any device
  2. Responsive website design accomplishes the goal
  3. Google likes responsive website design
  4. Therefore, Google does not like adaptive website design

Everything is fine until you come to the conclusion. From a search perspective, properly coded adaptive websites with identical intents on all devices combined with proper transfer of HTML content are just as easy to rank well on Google as responsive website design.

As I researched this, I found one things that was disturbing and that needs to be addressed. The opinions most commonly expressed by companies weighing in on the debate between between responsive website design versus adaptive website design always ran parallel with the offerings of the company posting the opinion. If they offered responsive design, they said that responsive design was the only way to go. If they offered adaptive websites, they said that adaptive was the best way to go.

The unbiased publications that I read almost all came to the same conclusion – functionality of the site was much more important than the type of design used. In other words, if responsive design made it challenging for a website to function properly on mobile devices, then adaptive websites were recommended. If the flow was fine between devices and the path to turning to responsive design was an easy one, then that was the way to go.

I’m going to start with the “bias” on my end and finish this paragraph with the punchline. The bias is this: my company is developing responsive website design for our clients. The punchline is this: even with this knowledge, I still recommend adaptive for any website (including my clients’ websites) that are picture- and call-to-action-heavy on important pages such as inventory.

I have yet to see a responsive car dealer website that did not sacrifice functionality and speed for the sake of responsive design. I’ve seen both sides of the spectrum – websites that looked great and worked fine on mobile devices but that were bare-bones in their PC functionality and I’ve seen websites that looked great on a PC but that were too slow and rendered improperly on many mobile devices. I haven’t seen any that have done it “right” yet because of the nature of car dealer websites.

Most importantly, I’ve seen dealer websites that switched from adaptive to responsive that watched their website leads drop as a result. I have yet to see a single one that saw leads increase. This will change as responsive technology, internet speeds, third party plugins, and image crunching (especially for dealers that load up 30+ images on their vehicle detail pages) improves, but as of now responsive has been a huge flop.

I should also note that I jumped on the responsive bandwagon back in 2011 and strongly pushed for my company to adopt it way back then. Thankfully, we didn’t.

Final note on top of the other notes: for the majority of websites, responsive is likely the best solution. Car dealers have unique website formats. On any given page, especially the all-important vehicle details pages, there may be three or four plugins, a dozen calls-to-action, and dozens of photos that have to be brought in through 3G or 4G connections. The biggest difference between adaptive website design and responsive website design is when the changes are made to adjust for the device. On adaptive websites, the changes are server side, meaning that the data being sent is determined from the server before being sent to the device. With responsive design, the changes are client side, meaning that the whole web page is sent through and then the device is told how to piece it all together.

Here’s a very slanted infographic, one that actually does have some valid points (thankfully). Whoever built it likes adaptive and while they are being too harsh in my opinion about responsive, they still bring up some real challenges.

Adaptive vs Responsive Infographic

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Move over Google, Facebook will win the Internet


Mount Google

The Internet Mountain

Having worked in the online marketing industry for over 10 years, I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go.  I’ve also seen companies ascend the mighty internet mountain, only to pass out from the lack of oxygen and come tumbling back down.

Currently, there’s little doubt that Google stands atop that internet mountain.  They’re the biggest, the baddest, and the most influential company on the internet, in my humble opinion.

If you want to find something on the internet, you most likely resort to using Google to find that something you’re looking for.  This is especially true with finding businesses.  However, I believe that the war for internet supremacy, while currently dominated by Google, will not ultimately be won by that behemoth.

Who do I believe will be the victor when the dust settles?  Currently, I believe that company to be Facebook.  Now, this could change.  A newcomer could come on the scene and dethrone Facebook.  My real point is; the internet won’t be won by a search company but rather a social media company.  Here is the reason why.

 

Organic Search Bomb

Any business owner that relies on organic internet traffic has probably had the following experience.

One day, a business owner wakes up and sales aren’t coming in as regularly or perhaps the phone isn’t ringing as often as it usually does.  Flummoxed, the business owner does a quick analysis of his company’s online marketing channels and finds nothing out of sorts.  Then, he goes to Google and types in a familiar keyword that brings up his company’s website in the #1 spot.

To his amazement, his website isn’t in the top spot anymore.  In fact, it’s all the way down at number 6!

He quickly calls his webmaster and asks all the usual questions.  Did something happen? Did we do anything? Is something broken?

More and more I’m seeing this happen with my clients.  And the funny thing is, it has nothing to do with what they’ve done, but rather, how they’re now being viewed.  And the one doing the viewing is Google.

Maybe it was a Panda crawl, maybe it was Penguin or maybe it was some other covert aspect of Google’s algorithm that no longer likes the company’s website.  The point is; they’ve taken a hit.  They’re revenues have taken a hit.  And this drop in rankings has caused serious damage to the company.

I’ve seen entire companies fold because of organic search problems.  I’ve seen layoffs and downsizing due to this as well.

 

Social Media: Steady as She Goes

Now, let’s examine how this scenario would play out if the company we’re discussing drew most of their customers in through Facebook.

The business owner wakes up one morning.  His sales are steady, his calls are coming in as expected, and his company is humming along.  He logs into the admin side of Facebook and notices that his “likes” have jumped from 62,125 to over 63,000.  Great news!

He gets his marketing department to develop an online promotion and posts it on the Facebook page.  At which point, a good number of his followers share it, like it, and redeem the offer.

And this brings me to the point of this article.  A company’s followers on Facebook won’t fluctuate due to an algorithmic change on Facebook’s part.  The number won’t shoot down due to something completely out of the company’s control.

Yes, the company’s follower number can take a hit with bad press or a mistake on the company’s part.  But, those actions are not nebulous and they’re usually easy to identify and find a solution.  Unfortunately, the Google algorithm isn’t as easy to decipher.

 

Google’s Ultimate Downfall

As an SEO (search engine optimization) consultant, I read hundreds of blogs from industry insiders and Google employees.  And I’m shocked at the lack of consensus on what actually affects Google rankings.  You could take two “experts” in the SEO field and ask them what are the top 10 ranking factors and you’ll get two very different lists.

This also brings up the point of Google’s willingness to change the rules of the search engine game.  They will make broad changes to their algorithm that affect thousands if not hundreds of thousands of companies and give little or no notice of the change.  (Exact match domains, anyone?)

Whereas, Facebook actually seems to want to help companies increase their reach and exposure. (Graph Search, news feed optimization, etc.)

All of this doesn’t even take into account the fact that people trust a friend’s referral over an organic search result, but that’s an argument for another time.

The bottom line is this.  Companies are built on the idea that they can make projections on revenues.  A big part of those projections is their marketing.  More and more, companies will find that social media offers a steadier, more efficient, and more reliable medium for marketing over organic search rankings.  As this shift continues to take place, you’ll see more companies divert their marketing dollars towards Facebook.

There are already signs of Google losing marketing dollars to Facebook.  And the pace of that loss is accelerating.

I don’t know when Google will get light-headed from lack of oxygen, atop the internet mountain, and come tumbling down.  But I do know that Facebook is well stocked with mountaineering supplies, and they’ve made base camp just below the summit.  They’re just waiting for their opportunity to ascend.

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Knowing Why Google Embraced Social Will Help You Understand How It Works

Orkut

For the last 7 years, I’ve been watching Google very closely. Sure, they are in the news all the time so it’s not something that’s exactly hard. What has been more challenging is keeping up with their long-standing obsession with social media and understanding why it’s so.

They have some big wins (YouTube, Google+) as well as dozens of losses (Orkut and just about everything else that they’ve touched that smells social). They looked at Facebook before Microsoft jumped on first. They took a long, hard look at Digg during the social news site’s heyday, then suddenly bailed out the moment they opened the books and saw the duct tape coding underlying the site.

Google knows two things very well about social media:

  1. If they have any chance of truly transcending beyond technology to gain a true understanding of intent and desires, they need to get a ton of social data.
  2. They haven’t been able to crack into the type of data that Facebook has about people.

Google+ is similar to people, but does not hold the attention of its users. It will get there. It has to. It’s Google’s last, best hope for getting this data.

The reason they want it so badly is because just about everything they rely upon (search, advertising dollars, fulfilling the hopes and expectations of their customers, just to name a few) as a company would be exponentially improved by understanding true sentiment. They have all of the data that people want. They just don’t have an easy way to perfect the delivery and usage of this data.

With this understanding, it’s much easier to anticipate what Google will do with their advertising platform as well as their search engine. They are close to perfecting the latter, believe it or not. Most will point to the rapid pace in which Google makes changes to their search algorithm, but that’s not an accurate characterization. They made major changes with Panda and Penguin. They made a minor (and completely overblown) change with their recent Hummingbird update. What we see now is close to the end game. Now, all they need to do is tweak it and wait for the next breakthrough.

They have achieved at plateau. Rather than major algorithm changes, they are now in the mode of perfecting the results by turning knobs rather than making the major changes that have hit every year since 2007. The holistic view of Google search that allows optimization to be broken down into the three major components (content, inbound links, and social signals) will not change until the reach a tipping point of understanding social data.

What’s the point of all this? That part is harder to explain. For years, I’ve been reading and experimenting the best ways to market on Google. Now that they’ve reached a plateau, the anticipation game has changed. Those of us who try to stay on top of current algorithm trends while looking ahead to the changes can sit back for a while. What we see is what we’re going to get for a while. It’s all about the three components. However, there is one thing that hasn’t manifested itself yet that technically changes everything.

The primary reason that Google wants to understand social data and personal sentiment is because they are on a quest for quality beyond the empirical data itself. The data is as good as it’s going to get through pure technology. They cannot advance the understanding of sentiment any further until a breakthrough.  Today, the great search marketer will be doing two things:

  1. Put out quality content with the proper mix of high-quality inbound links and social signals to improve rankings today.
  2. Put out quality content with the proper mix of high-quality inbound links and social signals with the understanding that once they achieve their goal of understanding sentiment, the quality component will make the search rankings soar.

As you can see, it’s an approach that will kill two birds with one stone. There are challenges with the data that Google cannot reconcile today. For example, if someone wants to find a phone number for a business, they might search, click through to a website, find the number, and leave. This takes seconds and technically from Google’s current perspective this wasn’t a successful endeavor, especially if the searcher then clicks back to the search results and goes to a different site. Even though the mission was accomplished by the searcher, Google will count this as a bounce and a short time on site.

On the other hand, someone might be looking for something in particular, land on a page from a Google search, click around trying to find what they wanted, get frustrated when they can’t find it, and leave. From Google’s perspective, this was a good visit. From the searcher’s perspective, it was an utter failure.

This is the type of sentiment that Google wants to understand. They want to know if you like what they presented to you. They want to know if their information was useful to you. They want to know if a website they “recommended” by having it listed first in the search engine helped you achieve a goal. Today, they can only guess. Tomorrow, they may be able to find out with a near certainty. At that point, we’ll see the next major upgrade in search. One might even call it “quantum search” since it would probably take a quantum computer for them to make sense of all that data.

Thankfully for them, they’re building a quantum computer right now.

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Google Says Google+ Doesn’t Influence Rankings

Google +1s

Does Google+ influence search rankings to any noticeable degree? It’s one of the most hotly debated issues in all of search engine optimization and digital marketing right now. A lot of people, experts included, are claiming that not only does Google+ have an affect on rankings, it is one of the most important ranking factors going. Other people, also experts included, are saying that it makes no appreciable difference. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Let’s take a look at the newest opinion to hit the scene, one that carries a lot of weight.

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Suddenly Everyone’s an SEO Pilot with a Team of Experts at their Arms

Catch Me If You Can

There are always going to be those who are real experts offering real products or services with proven strategies and the ability to make changes to their techniques as the market and industries change. There are also always going to be those who put on the uniform, slide on the aviator sunglasses, and pretend like they know how to pilot a passenger jet. Sadly, the latter is starting to outnumber the former, particularly in the world of search marketing.

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