“If it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist.” Jimmy Wales
That’s a big number. What does it represent? It’s the estimated number of search queries that happen on Google each year. Let me put that number into perspective for you:
If you conducted one search every second, it would take you nearly 60,000 years to match the same number of searches Google sees annually.
The goal today is to highlight the important role Google plays in your efforts to build a better online reputation. And if the shear number of searches doesn’t get your attention, then perhaps this statistic will:
Approximately 75% of American consumers say that seeing negative search results for a brand affects their buying decision (source: Harris Interactive).
In the absence of anything positive that you have published, Google will fill the void with search results that could quickly damage your online reputation. That should send a chill down your spine, but there is good news. Google is not biased. It is sentiment agnostic. It merely wants to display the most relevant results for the searcher’s query, regardless of whether they are positive or negative.
Unfortunately, despite all of the PhDs that tirelessly work to improve Google’s algorithm, the search engine’s spider is still rather dumb—and that’s something you can use to your advantage!
Search engine reputation management
Pure search engine optimization (SEO) is a terrifically complex process. If you want your web page to show up in the first 10 results for the keyword “Seattle real estate” you have to first outsmart Google’s algorithm and then you have to out maneuver all of the other web sites that are vying to rank for the same keyword. Fortunately, your reputation management strategy is focused on ranking for your brand name or your personal name, neither of which face much competition. For the most part, you’re not going to find a lot of other web sites actively trying to rank for your name.
That doesn’t mean that your search engine reputation management (SERM) efforts will be without challenge. While you may not be vying to get you web page to #1 on Google or Bing for a competitive keyword, you are trying to take control of the first 10 results that show up when someone searches your name. Not as much competition, but 10 times the number of pages to optimize!
Fortunately, on day 8, you started building out your web pages and social networking profiles and ensured that each included your personal name or that of your company. That’s a great foundation from which to build out web content that will show up at the top of Google, crowd out any negative pages, and improve your online reputation.
Naming your URLs
When you set up a social media profile, you will like be assigned a URL that looks like this:
You probably have no clue as to the owner of that Google+ profile. Unless you took a wild guess that it was mine, you likely had to type the link into your browser in order to discover the owner. The search engines have the same problem.
Contrast the above with the following:
A little easier, huh?
The point I am making is that, wherever possible, you should customize your social media profile URLs so that they include your name. By doing so, you send an early signal to the search engines that the URL is relevant to you, and isn’t just a bunch of random numbers. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, and Pinterest are just a few examples of social networks that will let you customize your profile URL.
The same approach should be taken with any web page that you are using for reputation management purposes. I make this distinction because I am not advocating that all of your web pages include your name in the URL, but if they are being optimized, or built, to help improve your online reputation, you should include your personal or company name.
The most obvious place to do that, but strangely the one place where many of us ignore this tactic, is with our About Us page. There are almost 7 million URLs in Google’s index that have “about-us” in their page name. That’s 7 million wasted opportunities. You’re not going to make the same mistake. For any page that you build from scratch (don’t change existing pages unless you know what “301” means), you’re going to use “about-name” or “about-companyname” in the URL for your About Us page.
While you’re at it, the visible headline you use on that page? Don’t use “About Us” as the text; instead use “About Name” or “About Company Name.” This is another signal to Google that the page is relevant enough to show in the top 10 of its search results.
Images are valuable too
The same approach should be taken for naming images or videos that you upload to the web. It’s so easy to focus all of your efforts on what web pages show up when someone Google’s your name, that you can quickly forget that images and videos are also pervasive in the search results.
The same approach to naming your web pages and social profiles should also be applied to your images and videos. Before uploading and publishing photos or movies, you should take the time to optimize the URLs for each. The image firstname-lastname.jpg will more likely match against a search for your name, than one named DSC15673.jpg.
Why I’m anti pronouns
The last tip for today will further help your web pages and social profiles to show up higher in the search results. My recommendation is to ditch pronouns and instead make a concerted effort to write your bios in the third person.
It may feel strange at first, but recall that the search engines are not very smart. They need as many signals as possible to inform them that the page they are crawling is relevant enough to show up when someone searches your name. When you complete profiles and bios in the first person—“I am cosmetic surgeon in San Francisco”—you do little to instruct Google that the page is about you. Instead, writing bios in the third person—“Jane Smith is a cosmetic surgeon in San Francisco”—provides the search engine spiders with a clear indication that the content is relevant to you.
Why go to all of this trouble?
It takes a lot of hard work to get your stakeholders to notice and engage with your web pages and social media profiles. These small optimization tweaks are not a magic bullet in and of themselves, but combined with your efforts to promote your online reputation, they’ll contribute their share and help your stakeholders discover your voice.
Oh yes, your voice. We’ll discuss that tomorrow!