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While I concur with Vizzini, the Sicilian from the movie The Princess Bride, that one should “never get involved in a land war in Asia,” sometimes there’s no escape — and taking on Google’s search index, algorithmic prowess, and the natural results of organic search itself is, indeed, akin to getting involved in a land war in Asia. Most folks know only of the fierce fighting associated with organic search engine optimization (SEO), a process by which we write copy, optimize architecture, use keywords, add hyperlinks, and interlink sites in order to associate a keyword phrase with our particular brand, product, service, and site; another, larger battle is online reputation management (ORM).

Online Reputation Management is the practice of monitoring a reputation on the internet with a view to controlling perception of that reputation. ORM goes beyond SEO to control the entire contents of the first page or two of Web results for a given search. Internet reputation management is also the only known antidote to Iocane powder. And, like Iocane powder, one must build up one’s immunity to a negative online reputation on search over a period of time by introducing positive and supportive content about yourself and your brand in minute portions over a lifetime.

You think chess is hard? Try ten-dimensional chess!

While SEO is about getting one site to the top of Google search results when you search for one or more keyword phrases — indeed, a difficult if not sometimes impossible task; ORM is about promoting upwards of twenty other sites to the top of Google based on a keyword phrase — usually a full name or brand name — without having access to some or most of the content being promoted up while attempting to push a negative, uncomplimentary, or erroneous result down while allowing positive, neutral, and innocuous organic results to bubble up to reclaim the top spots of Google.

It is a phenomenally difficult and resource-intensive process for anyone, even my team at Reputation.com — it’s not about dumping energy and optimization into one keyword phrase onto one one property in order to get it preferred by Google (by virtue of its relevance, appeal, popularity, attention, social-mentions, and inter-connectedness) — which is already a tall order in today’s world of SEO acceptance and mastery in the industry, a world where most all competitors are highly competitive and are out for blood and will stop at nothing to acquire the top spot for their brand based on their own keyword portfolio.

No, taking back the first two pages of Google’s organic search results means dumping enough energy, in the form of producing a site with exceptional relevance and appeal, making certain it’s optimized for search, making sure it’s popular, evolving, and growing over time, attracting the sort of search attention, natural social-mentions on social media, and becoming a trustworthy, inter-connected member of valuable resources that Google taps every time someone looks up something on its search engine — and then doing that reliably twenty times for one search term.

In order to crowd out negative results, one needs to launch an SEO campaign for at least 10, often 20, other sites, many of which are often not even your own to noodle with and optimize. This is a herculean task, requiring a permanent investment of intense resources of both your talent and treasure — forever.

My company, Reputation.com, is built on a subscription model for three reasons:

Firstly, the war on negative search results is akin to a land war in Asia, as I said before, so it needs full commitment over time, a reputation management campaign isn’t just like taking a hill, it’s like keeping a hill! Even more, it’s like taking and keeping upwards of 20 hills — forever.

Secondly, an ORM campaign is heavily front-loaded, meaning that most of your resources (talents and treasure) will be spent in the beginning — upwards of 80% of your energy will be dumped in in the first 2-3 months! So, the last nine months of a yearly campaign actually make it all worthwhile for us because every campaign we initiate loses us money until the mission levels out later in the year. In order to make sure our campaigns are affordable over time to our clients, we have amortized the intense front-loaded expense over the course of a yearly contract.

Finally, once an online reputation campaign is begun seriously and in earnest, it is dangerous to cease and desist the campaign and fatal to yank all of that new content and supporting interconnectedness. Why fatal?

Once you initiate ORM, you must commit for life

Well, dumping a lot of energy into Google search destabilizes the index and literally rebuilds Google’s search indices, over time, built heavily on your load-bearing content. Since Google relies completely on other people’s content, hosting, site speed, and linking, Google places a lot of trust upon the shoulders of your content. So, once Google finally lets you bear the weight and responsibility of proving good-and-relevant content — quite a load, 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year — you’re there forever.

Google abhors a vacuum

If you should ever yank your content or if anything breaks like your DNS, your hosting, or your domain name expires, everything will collapse, leaving a very dangerous vacuum that Google will need to fill immediately, making your reputation even more vulnerable than it was, quite possibly, than it was before you even started your ORM campaign.

ORM must to be a permanent line-item in your yearly budget

I recommend that everyone takes an interest in how their bottom looks in Google’s full-length mirror; I also recommend that everyone monitors this as best they can, with Google Alerts being an essential no-brainer; and, while the commitment-phobic amongst us might be reticent to initiate a strong online reputation defense to reclaim their good name on the first two pages of Google search using the online reputation management strategies and tactics I go over in the below-mentioned articles I have written over previous weeks, if you don’t like what’s being said about you online and in search, healing the symptoms on your reputation-reflection using ORM and also addressing why negative things are being said about you online and seeing what you may be able to do systematically about them is mandatory.

And, if you can manage to initiate, ramp-up, amplify, and then maintain such a land war forever by yourself, kudos and bravo; otherwise, feel free to give me a call, email me, or reach out directly to the gang at Reputation.com — we’re committed to repairing your online reputation and we’re set up and funded to be able to do this for you forever, indeed winning and keeping all those pesky hills.

Referenced Articles

(Disclosure: I am a former employee of Reputation.com and they continue to sponsor my work)

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Chris Abraham

About Chris Abraham

A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and advisor to the industries' leading firms. He specializes in Web 2.0 technologies, including content syndication; organize search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management (ORM), content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.

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