Reputation Management – Online Marketing Blog – TopRank® http://www.toprankblog.com Fri, 19 Jan 2018 16:02:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 Online Reputation Book Review: Repped by Andy Beal http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/03/online-reputation-book-review-repped/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/03/online-reputation-book-review-repped/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 10:45:49 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16563 Many years ago when the role of search in brand reputation was really coming into it’s own, Public Relations and SEO were becoming unlikely partners as way to position positive messages about brands and individuals in search results. The combination of Search and PR was actually the genesis of TopRank Marketing. As Google became a [...]

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Online Reputation BookMany years ago when the role of search in brand reputation was really coming into it’s own, Public Relations and SEO were becoming unlikely partners as way to position positive messages about brands and individuals in search results. The combination of Search and PR was actually the genesis of TopRank Marketing.

As Google became a powerful reputation engine, the need for individuals and brands to monitor and manage their online reputations increased too.

Today, with billions of internet users empowered to post content anytime, anywhere, the articles and presentations we originally published on Online Reputation Management (ORM) are even more important today. And yet there are thousands of brands and even more individuals that are oblivious and in dire need of ORM.

The good news is that an excellent resource on the ORM topic has just been published by my longtime pal, author and owner of Trackur, Andy Beal. It’s called, Repped – 30 Days to A Better Online Reputation. Here’s a review of this highly useful guide that will serve both your online reputation and online marketing needs.

Andy Beal The premise is pretty straight forward: Whether you’re a brand, an individual or a “brandividual”, online reputation is an increasingly influential contributor to your success. Or failure.

What Andy sets out to do in Repped, is provide a 30 day plan to help any person or company build, manage, monitor and protect their online reputation.

For business people, think of how many times you’ve “Googled” someone you just met at a conference, vendors that you’re considering or a candidate that you’re about to interview. Have you ever found something that made you decline a meeting or feel differently (in a bad way) about that person? Do you think they were aware the information existed? Even more importantly, were they doing anything about monitoring and managing it?

What you find on the search and social web becomes a very important first or second impression.

As a business professional responsible for being in the public eye or managing business communications and marketing, being able to assess and affect how people see you online should be a top priority.

The good news is that Repped provides a handy framework for taking control over how you and your brand are known online.

Two great things about this book:

1. It’s designed to be used, get dog eared, post it noted and turned into action. At 176 pages, Repped is (thankfully) no War and Peace, so you can skim through. But it’s also structured as Day one, Day two etc so you can keep going back and get your daily advice with specific things to do with “Today’s Exercise” at the end of each chapter.

Some of the key questions answered in Repped include:

  • What is ORM (online reputation management)?
  • How do you set up social media monitoring?
  • How do you find influencers?
  • What kind of content should you create?
  • How do you build social networks and community?
  • How do you audit your brand or personal online reputation?
  • What do you do if someone is trash talking your brand?
  • How do you clean up negative search results about your brand?

2. What works for Online Reputation works for Online Marketing. The core of brand marketing is understanding how you want to be known. What is it that you should be the “best answer” for? Following the advice Andy gives in Repped will help you take control of your online reputation. At the same time, many of the tips and tactics offered in the book are just good marketing in this age of brandividuals, influencers and author authority.

Everything from social media monitoring to content planning to social media and community building are covered in Repped. It’s not a deep dive though, it’s a primer. It’s a smart introduction to 30 days of things you could be doing to optimize how your target audience, peers, and industry see you and your brand.

If you would like a good guide for the kinds of things your business needs to do in order to take control over executive and brand online reputation, this book is it.

You can get Repped at Amazon and here’s Andy’s site in case you want to know more about him and his social media monitoring company trackur. If you want to meet him person, make sure you attend the ClickZ Live conference in New York April 1-2.


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How to Maintain Your Reputation During a Social Media Crisis http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/08/social-media-crisis/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/08/social-media-crisis/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 11:05:58 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=15656 In our digitally-driven age, most companies will eventually encounter a social media-driven crisis. Perhaps an employee accidentally tweets an insensitive remark on the company account, or the business is suddenly caught in a whirlwind of negative commentary on Facebook. Whatever the case, you need to be prepared for any blowback that might occur – and [...]

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social media crisisIn our digitally-driven age, most companies will eventually encounter a social media-driven crisis. Perhaps an employee accidentally tweets an insensitive remark on the company account, or the business is suddenly caught in a whirlwind of negative commentary on Facebook. Whatever the case, you need to be prepared for any blowback that might occur – and it likely won’t be comforting.

Whether the crisis was instigated internally or externally, it’s important to develop a social media crisis plan before engaging with your communities.

Here are six tactics to help manage a social media crisis:

1. Establish Social Media Crisis Guidelines

Does your social plan account for crisis responses? Even if a post or comment seems harmless, your followers might be confused by the sudden shift in messaging. Create guidelines for responding to posts or comments during a crisis. In most internal cases, an offending post should be deleted – and a correction or apology quickly offered. For external comments, evaluate the content before deleting it – most followers won’t appreciate being silenced on the company page.

2. Respond Immediately, and Follow Through

Don’t let offending posts linger on your account. Pull them immediately, and issue an apology or retraction. This shows that you are actively monitoring your social channels – and that you give great weight to your brand’s social reputation. Follow up on this retraction post by responding to user questions and concerns, so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to hide from the crowd.

When a rogue tweet was sent criticizing President Obama on the KitchenAid account, the company’s senior director of marketing took control and invited followers to discuss the issue.

KitchenAid

3. Be Sincere

The worst crisis response on social media is the copy-and-paste response. Companies use this to blanket networks with the same prepared remarks, often in direct response to consumer questions and comments. Such a strategy leaves the company in reactionary mode, flailing their virtual arms and hoping things will get better.

Applebee’s found itself under scrutiny earlier this year after they fired a waitress for posting a customer’s receipt on Facebook. Users flocked to the company page to express their frustrations – which prompted Applebee’s to commit several sins of social media.

After deflecting blame and trying to stifle the conversation, Applebee’s simply began publishing the same post for each commenter:

Applebee's tweet 1

Applebee's tweet 2

Effective crisis response begins by putting a sincere, human face behind the messaging. When a company resorts to copy-and-paste social crisis management, all sincerity and authenticity is instantly lost.

Use Humor…When Appropriate

It may not be effective in every circumstance, but humor can be used to quickly deflect a crisis situation. The American Red Cross posted a clever reaction tweet after one of its employees accidentally posted about her evening plans on the organization’s account:

Red Cross Tweet

It’s a gutsy move to respond with humor, so make sure your audience can get the joke. Otherwise, you’ve only made the problem worse by appearing aloof and desperate.

4. Monitor Scheduled Posts During Crisis Response

Social management programs like HootSuite are valuable for organizing your content, but they can also disrupt your crisis response at exactly the wrong time. As you respond to the situation, make sure any previously scheduled marketing posts aren’t published in the meantime. It doesn’t help your brand to publish unrelated content as you manage your response. Suspend scheduled posts until you’ve fully addressed the situation according to your social management plan.

This should also be done in the event of a national or global crisis, so your brand doesn’t appear disconnected or insensitive.

5. Use Follower Feedback to Update Your Response Plan

After the crisis has died down, evaluate your social team’s strategies and tactics. Research new ways to control social content, and revamp your crisis plan based on feedback from followers. Learn from your mistakes, and you’ll be less likely to repeat them.

Social media communication is instantaneous, and it can magnify mistakes in seconds. Use these tips to prevent brand miscommunication, and ensure your social management plan is fully equipped to handle crises. Your brand’s online reputation can survive an accidental tweet or post – but only if you act fast to remedy the situation.

Does your company have a social media crisis plan at the read? What monitoring tools are you using to stay on top of potential developments?

Photo source: Shutterstock


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Six Critical Steps to Take Before Starting Your Social Media Monitoring Initiative http://www.toprankblog.com/2010/09/6-steps-social-media-monitoring/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2010/09/6-steps-social-media-monitoring/#comments Mon, 13 Sep 2010 11:31:34 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=11524 Note from Lee: This guest post comes to us from Andy Beal, CEO of social media monitoring tool Trackur and coauthor of Radically Transparent: Monitoring & Managing Reputations Online. Andy and I have known each other for many years and in fact, Andy was the first “famous” SEO blogger I had the opportunity to meet in [...]

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social media monitoringNote from Lee: This guest post comes to us from Andy Beal, CEO of social media monitoring tool Trackur and coauthor of Radically Transparent: Monitoring & Managing Reputations Online. Andy and I have known each other for many years and in fact, Andy was the first “famous” SEO blogger I had the opportunity to meet in person. He was gracious, helpful and very smart then and continues those traits today. He literally wrote the book on Online Reputation Management and I appreciate his willingness to share practical insights into the world of social media monitoring.

Social media monitoring. Reputation monitoring. Buzz monitoring. Call it what you want, but it’s all the rage. All the cool kids are doing it! However, friends don’t let friends monitor social media without first teaching them the six critical steps that most companies overlook.

Don’t start any kind of online monitoring effort until you’ve worked through these important steps. Ignore them, and you’re setting yourself up for failure.

1. Understand Your Goals

Just because you can monitor everything that’s being said about your brand online, doesn’t mean you should just jump in, without setting clear goals. That’s the monitoring equivalent of hanging out at an open bar–you’ll quickly get dizzy and will end up with a major headache!

Take the time now, to write down what your goals are for your social media monitoring campaign. Are you trying to better understand how Twitter users talk about your products? Are looking to measure the success of your new viral marketing campaign? Or, perhaps you suspect a rogue employee is sharing too many company secrets.

We talk a lot about “monitoring” social media, but you also need to “measure” the information you collect. You can’t do that without first defining your goals!

2. Know Which Keywords to Monitor

Now you know your goals, you need to determine your keywords. What exactly do you plan to monitor on the web? Your company name? That’s a given, right? Your CEO’s name? Check! Depending on your goals, you might also consider the following:

  • Your product brands–iPhone, Android, Windows, Fiesta, and Motrin are all buzz-worthy products.
  • Popular company employees–are they saying too much?
  • Your trademarks–watch for infringement
  • Super secret products–the ones you worry might leak to the web
  • TV and Radio slogans–is that cute jingle resonating with your audience?
  • For more suggestions, download this PDF.

3. Start With the Free Monitoring Tools

Trackur is one of literally hundreds of social media monitoring tools you can pick from. You might think that the CEO of a monitoring tool would want you to immediately invest in a paid solution, but I’m not your typical CEO. Instead, I want you to try all the free tools first. Google Alerts, Social Mention, Twitter Search, if it’s free, use it!

Am I insane? Possibly, but not because I want you to use free tools. I want you to use free tools for two reasons.

First, for 80% of you, the free tools will be quite sufficient for your needs. Maybe you don’t get a lot of online mentions. Maybe you are a small mom-and-pop shop. Maybe you’re a Realtor and only need to monitor your name–that’s it! You won’t need the extra tools and features that come from paying for a social media monitoring dashboard.

Second reason: you won’t know what’s worth paying for, until you’ve tested the free tools. For example, maybe you need a tool that can tell you not just who’s talking about your brand on Twitter, but who’s talking about your brand on Twitter AND is influential. Or, maybe you need a way to let various employees have access to your social media monitoring reports. Until you use the free tools, you won’t know what features are worthy of opening up the company check book.

4. Roll-up Your Sleeves and Monitor This Yourself

That leads me to tip number four: monitor your reputation yourself, before outsourcing it.

Just as I don’t recommend you pay for a monitoring solution until you’ve tested the free tools, I also don’t recommend you outsource your reputation monitoring until you’ve attempted it “in-house.” Why? Because, until you’ve attempted this internally, you won’t know what your needs are. Go straight to a marketing, PR, or specialist online reputation monitoring firm, and you’ll likely be taken for a ride. You won’t know what questions to ask, you won’t know what reports you need. You’ll simply hand over lots of money and hope for the best.

Monitoring social media in-house gives you the opportunity to learn directly from your clients. React in realtime and learn first hand what your weaknesses are. The moment you outsource that, you add an extra layer between you and your customers. If you’re going to add that extra layer of insulation, you’d better have clear goals and set clear expectations. It’s hard to do that, when you’ve not been in the trenches yourself.

5. Don’t Silo the Information Collected

OK, so you’re monitoring in-house with either free or paid monitoring tools, or you’ve outsourced the entire task. Next, you need to decide where this collected information is routed. Who in your company is alerted when a customer complains on Facebook that his laptop battery just exploded? Whose responsibility is it to ensure that your cars’ gas pedals doesn’t stick in the 2011 models?

I’m seeing more companies tackle this “chain of command” question by appointing a social media quarterback–aka a Community Manager. Call them what you want, but their job function is to collect and collate the data that comes in from your social media monitoring efforts and ensure critical information is passed on to the most appropriate person, or department in your company. They’re the social media silo buster! They ensure there are no bottlenecks or silos of data.

6. Commit to Act on the Information Collected

The data is flowing in to your company. Your Community Manager is making sure that same data is flowing to the most relevant person in your company. OK, so now what? What’s actually happening to that data?

The last step is to make sure you have a process for ensuring you take action on the important information gleaned from social media. Are you actually improving your products? Are you actually training your employees to provide better customer service? Are you actually ensuring your deep sea oil wells don’t leak in the future?

Commit now that you will not just pay lip-service to your customers. Get commitment from your executive team that they will actively listen to what’s being said about your company. Or as Dell puts it:

“We want the customer is walking the hallways…this is not a communication exercise, this is not a feel-good thing, this is part of the DNA of Dell!”

Are you ready to make social media monitoring part of your company’s DNA?

You can find Andy blogging at Marketing Pilgrim and on Twitter.


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Reputation Management for Affiliate Marketing http://www.toprankblog.com/2009/01/reputation-management-for-affiliate-marketing/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2009/01/reputation-management-for-affiliate-marketing/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2009 20:00:40 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=4202 One of the best examples of the convergence happening between search engine optimization, social media and digital public relations is online reputation management. This is a topic very close to home not only because our marketing agency emphasizes these practice areas, but because the need for brand and reputation management continues to increase in importance [...]

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Digital Reputation ManagementOne of the best examples of the convergence happening between search engine optimization, social media and digital public relations is online reputation management. This is a topic very close to home not only because our marketing agency emphasizes these practice areas, but because the need for brand and reputation management continues to increase in importance as consumer time spent on the social web replaces traditional media.

Recently I presented on a panel at Affiliate Summit West on the topic of online brand management and it was eye opening for many merchants and networks what goes into a good brand monitoring program. Companies spend huge budgets, time and resources building their brands and reputation. Not paying attention to that investment can be disastrous.

In my presentation at ASW09, I worked to answer several question. The first of which was, “Why is brand and reputation management important in Affiliate Marketing?” Here are six reasons to consider:

Current affiliates are online – It’s important to know how current affiliates are representing the merchant’s brand. Affiliates become the “face of the brand” for those consumers interacting. However, in many cases, there are very specific limitations to brand name use and both merchants and affiliate networks need to monitor what’s being promoted and how. It’s important to know about how affiliates are using brand names and whether there are anti-marketers or infringement issues.  

On the flip side, affiliate marketers that are allowed to promote specific brand names AND follow terms of use, can provide a huge advantage for a proactive online reputation management effort. The ideal situation would involve thousands of affiliates promoting unique product/service information under their own domain names. Such a scenario could facilitate the “ownership” of the top few pages of search results in a relevant way.

Prospective affiliates are online – While the world of affiliate marketing is growing fast, many more enterprising marketers are not involved. Established web sites are now, more than ever, looking for ways to monetize content and affiliate marketing is an attractive channel for that. How a merchant’s brand is being represented by affiliates has everything to do with the impression potential affiliates have towards a program. Participation on the social web and the intentional effort towards building a positive brand representation is important and best not left to chance or you may get a “bad rap“. The same goes for affiliate networks.

Customers are online – Customers who find products and services via affiliate marketing channels have various experiences. Many consumers blog, write reviews, make comments and share opinions on social networks. It’s important to have a good handle on customers that are publishing both negative and positive information so the brand can monitor and engage in the right way.

Journalists are online – Public and media relations is an effective marketing/communications channel for merchants, networks and in some cases, affiliates. Journalists are increasingly researching stories online and the way affiliates represent brands can influence whether a particular company is considered for a story or not.

Competitors are online – Brand monitoring online and within digital media provies companies a real opportuniy for competitive research. Discover what other affiliate programs are doing to be effective and whether their affilaites and publishing negative information about your brand in order to attract sales from products and services that offer a higher commission. In fact, it may be the realization that not having an affiliate program leads to affiliate marketers presenting certain brands negatively in order to promote the products that do, to motivate the start of an affiliate program.

Future of your brand is online – However you look at it, the trend towards commerce and information consumption will increasingly involve online and digital communication channels. Where consumers can be influenced, companies need to be present and engaged from both a brand monitoring/management perspective as well as participation.

OK, so reputation management is clearly important for merchants, networks and affiliates, what should they do about it? We’ve posted a number of reputation management articles here on Online Marketing Blog addressing online and digital reputation management from a variety of perspectives:

affiliate reputation management

What should affiliate managers monitor?  Here’s some sage advice from UK based Envisional Affiliate Monitoring:

  • Police inappropriate content and keywords (indecency, obscenity, hate or politics) on your affiliates’ websites
  • Enforce compliance with regulatory requirements, company policies and industry codes of practice
  • Identify out-of-date or fraudulent offers, wrong or inappropriate marketing material or keywords (e.g. free money)
  • Hit back at competitors and criminals who pose as affiliates, divert traffic to their sites and use your domain name or logo to imply authorised status
  • Detect copies of your logo, trade marks or domain names that have been adapted or faked and detect any out-of-date logos that are being used
  • Evaluate comment on your brand in blogs, forums, news media and IRC sites
  • Recruit new affiliates by targeted searching of websites, blogs and forums
  • Proactively deal with SPAM from your affiliates

The bottom line for merchants is that by the time a groundswell of negative activity has built momentum and “yourbrandsucks.com” types of sites are starting to rank top ten on the major search engines, it’s going to be VERY time consuming and expensive to deal with. Better to be proactive and begin monitoring more effectively now, as well as pay attention to the creation of content and the aspects of your business that might result in negative experiences. Monitoring can provide an early warning, but it’s best to engage in content creation, the optimization of digital assets, community building and engagement with the social web to foster relationships that result in the publishing of a better picture of what your brand stands for.

If you work in the affiliate marketing world as an affiliate/publisher, part of a network or as a merchant, we’d love to hear your opinions and experiences with online brand management. Challenges and successes are equally welcome.


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PubCon: Online Reputation Management http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/11/pubcon-online-reputation-management/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/11/pubcon-online-reputation-management/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2008 04:00:13 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=3632 The sheer quantity of different information sources online has resulted in a media circus. The various blogs, tweets and mainstream media outlets are like different acts vying for user attention. Online reputation management amid all the chaos can be difficult. It seems only appropriate that a circus insider, Jessica Berlin of Cirque du Soleil, weighed [...]

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Lee Odden Speaking on Reputation Management

The sheer quantity of different information sources online has resulted in a media circus. The various blogs, tweets and mainstream media outlets are like different acts vying for user attention. Online reputation management amid all the chaos can be difficult. It seems only appropriate that a circus insider, Jessica Berlin of Cirque du Soleil, weighed in with some tried and true advice in Reputation Monitoring and Management.

Andy Beal, Internet Marketing Consultant with Marketing Pilgrim and Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing and primary author of this blog, also contributed their advice for keeping the positive spotlight on your brand in this session moderated by Todd Friesen.

Why Monitor Online?

Lee pointed out that both your brand influencers and those influenced by your brand live online; your customers, prospects, competitors, etc. What is being said about your brand online can have a huge impact, both positive and negative, on your business.

“It’s not just a search engine, it’s a reputation engine,” Lee said.

Rankings in the search engine results page (SERP) can be as valuable as a hit in mainstream media due to the volume of people who see it. A negative SERP ranking for your brand can come in the form of a YouTube video, blog post, Flickr image, forum thread or just about any format imaginable.

Andy Beal pointed out a wide range of reasons to monitor your brand online, both positive and negative, including:

  • Getting product ideas
  • Finding new relevant keywords for SEO
  • Reaching out to brand evangelists
  • Learning blogger sentiment
  • Conducting informal market research
  • Discovering industry trends

Regardless of your reason for brand monitoring, a brand can be missing huge opportunities by failing to properly monitor and manage online reputation.

What to Monitor

Andy stated that a given brand should be monitoring more than just the brand name in order to effectively manage online brand reputation and fully utilize online resources that can improve brand perceptions online. He mentioned monitoring the company name, individual products, company executives, competitors, clients, industry patents, reviews and more.

Different companies will want to monitor online buzz for a unique mix of these elements in order to serve their purpose. To effectively monitor the online brand reputation of its six different Las Vegas Shows, the marketing team at Cirque du Soleil looks for:

  • Customer Experiences Cirque du Soleil considers its customer experience to encompass everything from purchasing the ticket to when they leave the theater. They look online for both good and bad customer comments relating to any part of the overall experience so they can address concerns and build strong brand connections.
  • Information Accuracy The team looks into any negative online mentions of Cirque du Soleil to correct any inaccurate information.
  • Brand Mention Wording With six different shows in Las Vegas, Cirque du Soleil’s marketing team wants ensure each show is getting mentioned distinctively and not under the Cirque du Soleil umbrella term.
  • Sphere of Influence The team looks for indications of how far and wide mentions of Cirque do Soleil spread, to see if one blog post mention can spread into social networks, bookmarking sites or even mainstream media.

Monitoring Tools to Use

With the circus of different media outlets online, brand reputation managers need an arsenal of tools in order to effectively monitor brand sentiment online. All three panelists mentioned several good tools to use in order to monitor your brand reputation. With most of these services, you can set up an RSS that alerts you of new items relating to specific brand names or keyword terms:

  • Moreover.com Monitor competitors, industry news and trends with this site’s very granular news categories
  • Google.com/trends Monitor up and coming industry trends to get ideas for new products or promotions
  • Technorati.com Monitor blog posts and social media mentions
  • Backtype.com Monitor blog comments about your brand or a competitor, or blog comments relating to your keywords
  • Blogpulse.com/trend Monitor the trending of keyword phrases or your brand name to see if people are talking about you more or less
  • Keotag.com Monitor tags of your choice across several bookmarking and tagging sites
  • Boardtracker.com Monitor forum posts
  • Copernic.com Monitor changes or updates on any given website
  • Radian6/Buzzlogic Monitor a variety of different online media outlets and a wide range of social media

Marketers should also monitor their brand name in social media sites like YouTube, Flickr and Twitter to effectively manage brand buzz in multiple media formats.

How to Monitor

Lee outlined both a short-term and long-term approach to effective online brand reputation management. In the short-term, a company wants to ensure positive brand mentions are ruling the SERPs, as the search engine rankings tend to be highly visible. To do so, a company should focus on:

  • Creating a brand optimization process
  • Optimizing all digital assets including text, video, images, audio, press releases, etc.
  • Optimizing across departments to ensure online assets from all departments are optimized. For example, HR should be optimizing job posts

In the long term, a brand should be working to identify, qualify and engage dissenters by correcting any inaccuracies and responding directly to negative mentions.

Jessica outlined Cirque du Soleil’s current online PR practices to illustrate the changes online brand reputation management has undergone in recent years. In particular, she highlighted transparency and building long-term trust between Cirque du Soleil, journalists and fans. Cirque du Soleil actually allows fans to control several of its ‘official’ groups on social sites such as MySpace, and gives them inside information to post as content. They also allow journalists and bloggers greater access to Cirque du Soleil content to build strong media relations.

What are the Results?

Companies can decrease attention on negative brand mentions with effective optimization tactics that result in multiple positive rankings on the SERPs. By directly addressing negative brand mentions in a personal manner, a company can turn a brand de-evangelist into a brand evangelist. Strong and open relationships with content producers in the form of journalists, bloggers and fans can prevent negative buzz and help ensure only accurate brand information exists in the online sphere. The comprehensive brand management advice from Jessica, Andy and Lee can help you make sense of the online media circus and keep a positive focus on your brand.

Check back with the TopRank Marketing Blog for more blog coverage of Pubcon 2008 and the Pubcon photos set on Flickr.  Also be sure to visit the video interview on reputation management with TopRank CEO Lee Odden and Mike McDonald of WebProNews.

Other Search Industry blogs covering this session include:

And lastly, you can view Lee’s PowerPoint deck here on slideshare: Online Reputation Management TopRankMarketing.

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PubCon: Managing Brands Online http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/11/pubcon-brand-management/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/11/pubcon-brand-management/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2008 23:35:13 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=3626 The speed and availability of information online has given more power to the individual to be vocal about their opinions and feelings, both positive and negative.  Social media, blogs, forums and online groups can leave you vulnerable to negative attacks if you are not involved in the conversation. This panel of brand ambassadors, including Jessica [...]

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PubCon Brand Management

The speed and availability of information online has given more power to the individual to be vocal about their opinions and feelings, both positive and negative.  Social media, blogs, forums and online groups can leave you vulnerable to negative attacks if you are not involved in the conversation.

This panel of brand ambassadors, including Jessica L Bowman, Sr. Marketing Manager for Yahoo!, Lauren Vaccarello, Director of Publishing for Forex Capital Marketers, Tony Wright, CEO and Founder of WrightIMC, and Brian Combs, Senior VP & Chief Futurist for Apogee Search, discussed the ins and outs of how to manage both your reputation and brand in the intricate and sometimes hostile environment on the web.

Jessica Bowman kicked off the session, giving a broad view of brand management, stating that as an organization you need to deliver a consistent customer experience to build credibility for your brand.

The ‘halo’ affect is your ability to deliver that positive brand experience across all customer touch points, including your’ in-store location, your customer service line, as well as the interactions your customers have with traditional news, the search engine results, Facebook, MySpace, your blog, Twitter, and YouTube.

Traditional approaches such as your customer service line, in-store experience, and news releases address less than 50% of the ‘halo’ channels, and the ratio continues to decrease as online platforms evolve.

The opportunity for your customers to complain about your brand online gets easier each day.  Technology such as the iPhone puts the power to be vocal in their hands.

The main difference today is speed of information, customers can post complaints in the heat of anger, as technology advancement eliminates the ‘cool off’ time.

It’s imperative to train your company to maintain the positive brand.

  • Great customer service needs to be the company culture
  • Train all employees that interact with your customers on how to handle complaints
  • It’s too easy for anyone to complain to thousands of people via Twitter, Facebook, iPhone

Establish boundaries and rules. Jessica urged the audience to add guidelines for online commenting and blogging to your employee handbook.

Grant employees access to social media sites so they can monitor what’s happening and what comments are being made about the brand.

What might an upset customer do to voice their complaint?

  • Comment at Yahoo and Google local
  • Write a blog post
  • Twitter update (which may push out to their Facebook network)
  • AdWords ad with the complaint
  • Primary purpose to get the attention of a VP who can instill change

Next up is Lauren Backarello, offered tips for maintaining your brand online. Defending your brand online requires both a defensive (preventative) strategy as well as an offensive strategy to deal with negative attacks that occur.

Defensive Strategies:

Get the best players

  • Buy domains around your target keywords and brand name
  • Make sure to own ‘mybrandsucks.com’
  • Own your ‘CEOsname.com’

You don’t have to use these brand names, but have them so no one else can.

Don’t overlook social media

  • Register your brand name on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Naymz, Wikipedia, and Squidoo.

Know what your competitors are doing

  • Know who is bidding on your branded terms.

Keep an eye on your key players

  • Create alerts for your brand name, executive names, and key product names.

Monitor everything

  • Twitter is a great place for people to connect and interact. It is also a great place for people to complain about companies to hundreds of their friends at once. Tweet Pro is a tool that helps you organize the contacts that are talking negatively about your brand

You can use Twitter to help manage your reputation by monitoring tweets for complaints and responding to help them find a solution for their problem.

Offensive Strategies

  • Empower your loyalists
  • Respond to negative publicity quickly

Brian Combs talked mostly about how to pre-empt a negative attack online, giving advice about online customer service.

Before you have a problem:

  • Dedicate resources to online customer service
  • Monitor online conversations
  • Use consistent Naming conventions
  • Create and propagate multiple sites

Upon finding a problem:

  • Engage and attempt to diffuse
  • May create an online fan
  • Don’t be defensive or attempt to strong arm, you’ll make it worse
  • Don’t engage with trolls and internet tough guys
  • Take it offline if possible
  • As if they’ll block with robots.txt (instead of asking to take the negative content down)
  • Attempt to scrub the list

Own more real estate in the Search Engine Results page with:

  • Sub-domains, product sites, int’l domains
  • Social media like Facebook, MySpace
  • Articles on their party sites
  • Microssites to address specific concerns
  • Blended search
  • Content must be Unique
  • Sites may require link building

Risky Techniques:

  • Wikipedia
  • Pay Per Post, ReviewMe (for scrubbing)
  • Google Bowling
  • Deceptive Practices

Key takeaways:

  • Reputation problems are easier to prevent than to fix
  • Customer Service 101: Engage and don’t be defensive
  • If you  must scrub the listings, take a diversified approach

Tony Wright started off by telling a story about a Paris Texas and a reputation management issue between the local elementary school teacher and the ramifications of a situation that spiraled out of control.

Lessons Learned:

  • Emotions can ruin an online reputation
  • Sometimes responding makes it worse (if you are emotional)
  • If you are an employer, you need to have policies in place to keep employees from responding inappropriately
  • Threatening violence on the internet can be dangerous, but most of the time it makes you look like an idiot
  • Local politics is very interesting indeed

Reputation, Influence and Branding:

  • Reputation, branding and influence are not the same thing but are interconnected
  • Of the three, start working on reputation. The others will come if your reputation is good
  • Don’t let good branding get in the way of a good reputation
  • Monitor your reputation. Create a formula for keeping your reputation solid, deal with snags as they come

Creating a formula for online reputation:

  • Items to consider, sign weights to how each affects the brand:
  • Reach of the venue (ie: New York Times, vs. unknown blog)
  • Influence of the poster (what is the page rank for the blog, how many visitors)
  • Tone of the content (Look at the comments to the post, are they all negative?)
  • Follow-up on the post (watch for on-topic vs. off topic)
  • Viral effects (has the post been picked up on other sites?)

The panel closed with a discussion about the need to have a full time person in the company dedicated to monitoring, managing, and maintain a positive reputation and brand online.

What are your thoughts about having a full time brand ambassador? Does your company have a full time representative dedicated to connecting with customers online?

Check back with the TopRank Marketing Blog for more blog coverage of Pubcon 2008 and the Pubcon photosset on Flickr.


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Digital Reputation Management with SEO, Social Media & PR http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/11/online-reputation-seo-social-media-pr/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/11/online-reputation-seo-social-media-pr/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2008 17:07:55 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=3585 One of the hottest topics that transcends the public relations, social media and search marketing worlds is online reputation management.  Search engines are fantastic for finding things. They’re also a significant contributor to influence online. Blogs, forums, social networks and media sharing sites all offer venues for customers to express their opinions about brands – [...]

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ORM

One of the hottest topics that transcends the public relations, social media and search marketing worlds is online reputation management.  Search engines are fantastic for finding things. They’re also a significant contributor to influence online. Blogs, forums, social networks and media sharing sites all offer venues for customers to express their opinions about brands – good and bad.

The influence of search visibility as well as word of mouth on social media sites (the social web) is too significant for companies with any kind of brand equity to ignore. Lucky for readers of this blog or those you pass it on to, there are two upcoming opportunities to learn in depth about how to tackle online reputation management.

I’ll get to those opportunities in a moment, but first I’ll offer some context for why this is such an important issue.

There are plenty of CEOs, executives, brand and business managers that are facing the dilemma of what to do about their company and brand reputation online. Some have been oblivious and have no real idea what customers and the marketplace are saying about their brands. Some are dealing with motivated dissenters blogging about negative issues and soliciting followers. Yet others are experiencing another kind of energetic consumer – evangelists.

Dealing with each situation is different and from conversations I’ve had will companies and other digital marketing consultants, most companies have no idea what to do.  Online Marketing Blog has outlined the key considerations for dealing with search and online reputation management issues in the past which is a good primer. Judging by the growth rate of the social web (Facebook 10 million new users per month) in terms of adoption and new social communication/connection tools, the effect of social media on corporate, brand and even consumer reputations is not going away anytime soon.

Companies like Kryptonite Locks, Comcast, Dell, Walmart and Sony have all experienced what it’s like to ignore the influence of the social web and the subsequent effect on how their brands are reflected, both in the search results and within social media channels.  These are classic examples that have been well documented, which is one reason why they persist in the search results. Some like Dell and Comcast have learned and acted on their observations, becoming case studies for how companies can engage customers on the social web.

Any company publishing content online or that has customers engaging with content online (producing, interacting or just reading) is a candidate for an online reputation management effort. That covers just about every company in business, don’t you think?

Don’t wait until somebody decides to launch a “yourbrandsucks.com” site because by the time a web site ranks well in the search results for your company’s brand names, you’ll be hard pressed to compete. It’s possible and will take both time and expense. It’s much better to be proactive about your online reputation management.

As with all things involving social media, the first step is listening.  To find those dissenting and evangelizing customers early on and before they have a major impact, it’s impotant to implement a social media monitoring effort. This also includes monitoring search results on different types of search engines. There are plenty of tools to do this ranging from Google Alerts to Trackur to Radian6.

In the course of listening, those opinion makers and their followers will become evident and the task of qualifying current and future influentials will be an important next step.  Some companies have enough community management staff to address nearly every concern they come across. A great example is what H&R Block and Zappos are doing by listening on Twitter.

Dissenters can be engaged by customer support staff and evangelists are often engaged by marketing staff. Other situations might necessitate legal, PR or product experts.  The process of listening, qualifying and engaging opinionated customers online presents tremendous learning opportunity for companies that want to champion communicating on the social web.

A SEO-centric and proactive approach to search repuation management involves monitoring both search listings and social media, optimizing and promoting content in more locations than just your own domain name, analyze the effect of your efforts and refine as necessary.

You might be reading this and thinking this is all fine and good, but you really want to sink your teeth into the topic with some actionable advice and a clear plan on what to do next. Lucky you, there are two such opportunities coming up quickly that will offer examples, tools and advice.

From a search perspective, there’s WebmasterWorld Pubcon coming up next week, where Andy Beal of MarketingPilgim / Trackur, Ted Murphy of IZEA, Jessica Berlin of Cirque du Soleil and myself will be presenting on a panel called “Reputation Monitoring and Management”. There we’ll deal with the SEO aspects of reputation management along with monitoring and how SEO and PR can be used as a proactive measure in dealing with reputation issues within search.

The second opportunity to learn more about online reputation management comes in the form of a workshop called, “Social Media Smarts” in New York December 4th & 5th. The DMA has partnered with TopRank Online Marketing to offer an intensive introduction to the world of social media from a marketing perspective including advice and case studies dealing with online reputation management issues. Visit the DMA social media seminar site for more information on the workshop.

I hope to see you at one of these two events and for those that have urgent questions please comment or email and I’ll connect with you.  Also, I’m always looking for good social media case studies. If you have a great story with references I can point to online, please share in the comments.


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A Brand is Worth Protecting http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/05/a-brand-is-worth-protecting/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/05/a-brand-is-worth-protecting/#comments Wed, 21 May 2008 17:37:35 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=2430 Companies large and small spend significant proportions of their revenue on branding efforts as well as those things that influence customer perception of brand like product development, support and customer service. While there is debate about who “owns” a brand, the company or it’s customers, partners and employees, it can be agreed that there is [...]

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Companies large and small spend significant proportions of their revenue on branding efforts as well as those things that influence customer perception of brand like product development, support and customer service.

While there is debate about who “owns” a brand, the company or it’s customers, partners and employees, it can be agreed that there is tremendous value and equity in a company’s brand. Something of value is worth protecting especially when it contributes to the livelihood of all the employees of the company and their families.

In the past week I’ve presented on online reputation management both for Public Relations and and Direct Marketing audiences and it’s reminded me of how important it is to protect a brand whether it’s new or established.

Not long ago I came accross a few web sites using the same and similar names to our own trademarked name. Upon contacting one company, it turned out they were no longer a company and ended up selling the domain name to us – a mutually beneficial outcome.

Another situation proved to be a bit more concerning. The same individual had multiple versions of the same site on different urls, some redirecting with 302. Some were on domain names and others were domain names pointing to a frame with the actual site was hosted on a third party domain. With the cheap price of hosting these days, who does that anymore?

Many of the pages used keyword stuffing and it was obviously a network of sites to promote a SEO consulting practice as well as promotion of their clients.

Maybe it was not exactly against search engines terms of use and webmaster guidelines, but it was/is certainly very sloppy and unprofessional. These pages/sites use multiple identities including a name very similar or exactly like our own.

What impression would a prospective client get when Googling your company and finding sloppy, near spammy web pages from some other company/individual that include references to your trademarked brand name?

It’s concerning enough that a name very similar to our trademark was being used but the use was inconsistent and in a way that hardly contributed to the brand of those promoting it, let alone our own. A company’s brand and trademark(s) are worth protecting for the sake of employees, clients, prospective clients and the future of the company.

To enforce trademark use at large like some big companies do is one thing, but to protect the brand experience of your potential customers in a situation so sloppy like the one above is reasonable by all definitions.

In our case, we contacted the subject individually for a reasonable outcome without success. The follow up was done via attorney which has made some progress towards removing trademark references. We continue to monitor and will address each situation individually.

It’s important that any company that is investing in it’s brand make the effort to monitor their company, brand, product and executive names online. Free services like Google Alerts and RSS feeds of search results are a good start for collecting raw data. For advanced analysis and measures of influence and sentiment, premium tools like Radian6, BuzzLogic, Collective Intellect, Cymfony and Converseon are the next step.

As for the situation described above, I am not listing this company/consultant or linking to the numerous live and archived examples we’ve taken screen shots of because I have no interest in further promoting them or having them benefit from all the work TopRank puts into promoting the search marketing industry via speaking, blogging and publishing articles.

What I am interested in is hearing from our valued Online Marketing Blog readers about copyright, brand protection and trademark enforcement situations experienced online. What situations can you share that describe others’ use of your branded names and what did you do about it?


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Online Reputation Management for Direct Marketers – ACCM 2008 http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/05/online-reputation-management-for-direct-marketers-accm-2008/ Sun, 18 May 2008 17:49:51 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=2424 Lee and Rob at PRSA International 2007 On the marketing conference circuit, online reputation management is a hot topic now more then ever. Whether it’s search marketing, public relations or direct marketing, companies are trying to make sense of how to monitor and manage the brand impact of online conversations and their visibility in search [...]

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Lee Odden Rob Key
Lee and Rob at PRSA International 2007

On the marketing conference circuit, online reputation management is a hot topic now more then ever. Whether it’s search marketing, public relations or direct marketing, companies are trying to make sense of how to monitor and manage the brand impact of online conversations and their visibility in search results.

Last Thursday I did a national PRSA teleseminar with Kami Watson Huyse, “Reputation Management in a Google World” and tomorrow in Orlando, Florida the DMA’s ACCM conference is hosting: “Reputation Management: Protecting Your Brand in the Search Engines”, a session with myself and Rob Key of Converseon presenting. Moderater duties will be handled by Heather Lloyd Martin of SuccessWorks.

Rob will present on the importance of SERPs (search engine results pages) as shelf space and the need to impact underlying conversations. He’ll also share insights on conversation mining and engagement approaches.

I will be covering:

  • Search engine usage data
  • Brand examples in SERPs
  • SEO 2.0 principles for direct marketers
  • Keyword research and link building tools
  • Digital asset optimization
  • Monitoring tools

It should be a great session. Rob has been presenting on SERPs as PR and reputation management opportunities for as long as I’ve been attending SEM conferences. He’s a real pioneer in this area and his agency Converseon has a robust conversation monitoring/mining toolset.

If you’re attending the ACCM conference in Orlando next week, be sure to attend the Reputation Management session. Here are the details:

ACCM
Gaylord Palms Resort – Orlando, FL
Reputation Management: Protecting Your Brand in the Search Engines
Monday, 05/19/2008 2:00PM – 3:00PM
Room: Gainsville 1-2

Other resources from Online Marketing Blog on the topic of online reputation management include:


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Personality Not Included: Cultivating Corporate Personality With Rohit Bhargava http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/04/personality-not-included-cultivating-corporate-personality-with-rohit-bhargava/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/04/personality-not-included-cultivating-corporate-personality-with-rohit-bhargava/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2008 17:03:36 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/04/personality-not-included-cultivating-corporate-personality-with-rohit-bhargava/ This past Saturday, I visited local Twin Cities brewery, and soon to be local institution, Surly for their weekend growler sale. As per usual, my group and I were not alone in our quest as local denizens lined up to purchase as much as they could carry of the finest locally produced brew since the [...]

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This past Saturday, I visited local Twin Cities brewery, and soon to be local institution, Surly for their weekend growler sale. As per usual, my group and I were not alone in our quest as local denizens lined up to purchase as much as they could carry of the finest locally produced brew since the Hamm’s bear danced straight into our hearts.

So what is it that makes Surly, a beer that’s only been in existence on a local scale since 2006, a brand already demanded for by name and housed in a brewery that has become a Saturday destination point for many? The answer for Surly as well as other brands with an enthusiastic following can be found in Rohit Bhargava’s new book “*Personality Not Included.”

I was lucky enough to have a chance to interview the author in greater detail about some of the overall themes of his book, particularly whether the impetus for writing it was to share new themes and techniques, or to wake up the market to the frequent mistakes they were exhibiting. Rohit Bhargava is the Senior Vice President, Digital Strategy & Marketing at Ogilvy Public Relations.

Bhargava responds, “Actually, the real reason I wrote the book was because I was hearing a lot of talk and interest from businesses about social media and authenticity – but the larger theme was what these tools represented – that organizations cannot afford to be faceless anymore. I set out to write a book that wasn’t about why a company should start a blog, but about why they need to change the way they act, and offer them a useful guide on how to do it.”

Surly Beer does not have a blog and the beer they produce – whether by the bottle, can or jug – is just beer. Great beer, but just beer nonetheless. What they have done an excellent job of however, is act and position themselves in a way that has quickly cultivated a corporate personality allowing a remarkable and rapid connection with an already oversaturated marketplace.

Guy Kawasaki illustrates in his foreword to Bhargava’s book that it’s not enough anymore to produce something great, rather, an absolute necessity to create something “insanely great.” Otherwise, you are simply pushing your great product out into the market flush with other great products.

Surly’s personality is what makes it an “insanely great” beer competing with other “great” beers such as Premium or Hamm’s (yes, it’s great – and yes, they still sell it.)

The methods for cultivating a personality shared in Bhargava’s book, while applied here to corporations, can apply in equal respect to the personalities of other large entities.

In the interview with Bhargava, he pointed out the example of China, in particular how they are dealing with the world around human rights issues and the Olympics.

“Right now, public opinion is against China for policy, but also for their unwillingness to engage and offer a personality behind their actions,” continues Bhargava. “Of course, one point I share in the book, which is particularly relevant in this case, is that personality cannot help you if what you are doing is wrong.”

Doing the right thing is, luckily, a logical starting point for any company, country or person struggling with the idea of how to cultivate a personality – and in the end – when boiled down to its basic elements, cultivating personality is one of the easiest things in the world to do.

Unfortunately, the exact same can be said of golf. (For those of you reading locally in Minnesota by the way, is the spring fever obvious enough in this post so far?) The power of Bhargava’s book stems from its ability to make high level marketing themes instantly relatable through exercises, case studies, and pop culture analogies ranging from The Simpsons to Fletch Lives – from Die Another Day to Star Trek: The Next Generation.

As such, many of the overall themes of the chapter’s within this book are made so relatable that the golf analogy alluded to above acts as the perfect compliment to the more traditional business interpretations, for example:

In Chapter 1, “faceless” used to work because big meant credible. This no longer works. Simply put, large corporations, who’ve based their past success on metrics like price point, rather than relationship cultivation will soon be staring into the face of a rapidly moving new market they can no longer comprehend enough to tame.

As it relates to golf: Forget everything you thought you knew about how your body is supposed to move and prepare yourself to learn something entirely new.

Chapter 2 discusses how accidental spokespeople are speaking for your brand. Embrace them. As Subway learned when it found Jared, the people and elements that will shape the story of your company’s personality are likely already out there – you just have to listen.

As it relates to golf: The elements that will shape your game are already swarming you – from the hush of the wind in the trees to the babbling brook of approaching water, to the seemingly nonsensical tips of a friend who barely graduated kindergarten but can somehow drive the ball 300 yards. Nothing can afford to be ignored.

In Chapter 4 we find that backstories establish a foundation of credibility. You need one. Surly Beer has been around less than two years. But there is a real, personifiable story behind its creation. There is for every company. If you think yours is the exception, your targeted customers most likely will, as well, and choose to spend their time with someone a bit more interesting.

As it relates to golf: If there simply is nothing new you can learn from a golf partner after walking the course for 3 hours together, shouldn’t you find a better one.

What we find in Chapter 5 is that fear of change leads to barriers. Finding your authority overcomes them. If NBC were a chubby little kid and old Saturday Night Live clips were bits of inexpensive – yet delicious – candy he refused to share – how would you feel about that kid’s personality? Now, go out to YouTube and conduct a search for Will Ferrell + Robert Goulet. How do you feel about NBC’s corporate personality?

As it relates to golf: You’ve never had any trouble getting out of the bunker and see no reason you’ll ever have to adapt to an alternate club or swing. Well what happens when they start using sand so soft it might as well be from Venus?Adjusting your game to adapt to changes in your environment may be frightening, or at the very least, frustrating. However, it is this ability to adapt that helps shape our personality as people and our company’s as personifiable.

Of course, sharing themes is only one half of the battle – and also almost exactly one half of this book.

It’s second half is stunning in that it exists as a virtual how-to guide sharing new, yet proven, marketing techniques that can turn even the stodgiest, faceless corporations into the next corporate darling – seemingly overnight.

Techniques shared include:

Karmic Marketing – or doing something good without asking for a reward. In other words, allowing users to upload Will Ferrell’s Goulet sketches from SNL simply because they – shocking concept – make your customers happier.

Antimarketer Marketing – or making fun of traditional marketing techniques in general to prove you are above it all. An excellent example shared in the book is that of Axe body spray and body wash that irreverently plays up its own image in each new campaign that lets us play along with the joke that all a man needs to land the girl of his dreams is to exude the scent of “Vice” or “Groove” or “Kilo”.

(Full disclosure: I use all of the above in my work with M&O.)

Fallibility Marketing – or playing up your own mistakes to build a personality. Position the logos of each of the major airlines to launch a blog recently onto a dartboard – and I can nearly guarantee that each was launched in the spirit of this technique.In the conclusion of my conversation with Bhargava, he commented further on the idea of fallibility marketing by citing another excellent example pertaining to server downtime. Much like dealing with a flight delay, server downtime will never be something customers will be happy with, but it is something understandable and it is ideally infrequent.

However, unlike flight delays, server downtime issues are something most companies have the power to clearly communicate reasons for, if they are a planned occurrence, well in advance.In this sense, the idea of fallibility marketing blends with the traditional project management technique of simply managing expectations. Done properly – companies can exhibit an even stronger personality by transforming what could be considered a mistake if not communicated, to a clearly thought out plan implemented for the customer’s benefit.

Taken to its next level, this could encourage customers to tell others how responsive and well organized your company is – providing an even stronger marketing opportunity.

In the end, “*Personality Not Included” exists in equal measure as a text book new marketing students will find themselves hiding behind the jackets of stodgy, traditional marketing tomes; and as a vital “how-to guide” for rapid cultivation of something many corporations will be embarrassed to admit they may have never had.

Students and kings of industry alike are encouraged to hold this book close at bay.


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Online Reputation Management: Living Radically Transparent with Andy Beal & Dr. Judy Strauss http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/03/review-radically-transparent/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/03/review-radically-transparent/#comments Sat, 08 Mar 2008 12:55:28 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/03/review-radically-transparent/ In the film Hollywoodland, Adrien Brody plays a private eye tasked with determining whether TV star George Reeves, famous for playing Superman, did indeed commit suicide or, as his mother suspects was murdered. Brody’s character remarks that if the biggest headlines are insisting that Reeves’ case is indeed closed, the only way to reopen it [...]

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In the film Hollywoodland, Adrien Brody plays a private eye tasked with determining whether TV star George Reeves, famous for playing Superman, did indeed commit suicide or, as his mother suspects was murdered. Brody’s character remarks that if the biggest headlines are insisting that Reeves’ case is indeed closed, the only way to reopen it is to sway public opinion to the mother’s side by manufacturing their own headlines, simply too large to ignore.

I was reminded of this scene, and how far we’ve come in a relatively short amount of time, while reviewing Andy Beal & Dr. Judy Strauss’ excellent new book “Radically Transparent: Monitoring & Managing Reputations Online.”

In approximately fifty years, we as a culture have moved from the necessity to create large, mass media headlines in order to sway public opinion, to the ability to create small, targeted online posts – incredibly more far reaching, helpful, or hurtful, to a reputation than was ever before possible. When applying this concept of reputation management to a large corporation, whose reputations are the lifeblood of thousands of employees, this is something that cannot be taken lightly no matter how much good will is seemingly stored.

Take for example, JetBlue, the first firm’s reputation management disaster covered in this book. Without peeking, what is the first thing that pops into your mind’s eye when thinking of JetBlue?

  • Their stellar reputation, culled over 7+ years as the premier low cost flight alternative?
  • Their unheralded generosity, illustrated via the free snacks available on every flight?
  • Their award-winning service with a smile from flight attendants not yet grizzled or frazzled?

Or is it the image of a nightmarish experience of being trapped on a claustrophobic tube stuck to the tarmac in an ice storm for 10+ hours, with no food, toilet or explicable reason why you’re not allowed to get off the darn plane?

Despite JetBlue’s best efforts, including public apologies on major news outlets – straight from an old school PR playbook – they simply could not connect with an audience they had built up no existing relationship with. The large headlines they sought – and achieved – in a desperate effort to repair their tarnished relationship, were no match for the far more prevalent, and smaller headlines holding more sway over their targeted community.

JetBlue’s case is not unique. Word of mouth, seen on a much larger scale online, will always be influential – and their will always be plenty of good and bad to go around. What JetBlue failed to understand, and again, this is not unique, is how vital it is for a corporation to have a good foundation, or network built in advance to combat a tsunami of negative word of mouth as soon as possible.

Take the case of Aquafina, also profiled by Beal & Strauss. Aquafina proactively built its own MySpace community, complete with 11,000+ dedicated friends and loyal followers. Later, when potentially damaging news broke that Aquafina was less a source of effervescent refreshment from the land of sky blue waters, or some such nonsense – than, essentially – filtered New York tap – it had little to no effect on their overall business performance.

Is this because consumers are so enlightened that they already know and accept that all bottled water is little more than tap? (Seriously. Bottled water is little more than tap.) Or is it because it’s far easier to manage a bump in your reputation among friends, than among a general audience who is far more turned on by bad news than good news?

This book proves most invaluable in outlining methods for proactive management and reputation repair:

  • Know right off the bat that the rules of PR, like SEO, are always changing, and with online PR, this is becoming more & more true.Today, we are in the midst of the “Twit-volution” as Twittr, with its targeted groups and microblogs can hold potentially more sway over harried professionals, who may not have the time to read an entire Sunday edition of the New York Times, no matter how often I they claim to.One of the best strategies a company can implement is to join, or even launch, an online group to communicate with early. Like Aquafina did, build a group of friends and supporters that will have your back, even if you are exposed to be a big refreshing scam.
  • Monitor your reputation. There are millions of blogs and forums, and billions of “tweets” where your firm could be getting nailed to the wall. Sure, this could be just a few crazies today – but never underestimate the ability of few crazies to start a groundswell of negative online talk against you.With all the talk out there, how do we catch it all – and once we do, how do we determine if it’s even relevant enough to be concerning? The market has luckily answered, and now offers several social monitoring tools to choose from
  • Like the book says, be transparent. Have fun with your business and share what you love about it with your friends and community at large. Even a large, faceless corporation had to have been at one time started by someone who truly loved what they do – at least enough to start the firm.Share these stories from the top with a corporate blog – and why not let your interns post to it once in awhile?
  • When attacked, always begin by taking a deep breath. While it’s important to respond quickly, it’s just as important to ensure you have all the facts, figures, advice – and most importantly, strategy – down to make a good solid case for why your reputation does not deserve to be tarnished.In other words, before you hop into the ocean try to save someone from drowning, it’s probably best to ensure the ladder isn’t stuck up on the boat.

In the end, reputation management boils down to ensuring people like you – ideally, enough to want to do business with. With online reputation management, firms have the unprecedented ability to be liked, or disliked by a vast number of people – and the choice is becoming more and more up to them.

Beal & Strauss’ book is a vitally important study, both for those looking to refine, as well as those just learning about, how to best manage an online reputation.


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Online Reputation Management for Individuals http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/02/online-reputation-management-for-individuals/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/02/online-reputation-management-for-individuals/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2008 21:08:16 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/02/online-reputation-management-for-individuals/ Recently I’ve had several discussions with a reporter on how small businesses can effectively use blogger relations and PR to market themselves. Out of that conversation came another topic about Online Reputation Management – not for companies, but for individuals. There’s a tremendous amount of content and in some cases debate, being generated in the [...]

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Recently I’ve had several discussions with a reporter on how small businesses can effectively use blogger relations and PR to market themselves. Out of that conversation came another topic about Online Reputation Management – not for companies, but for individuals.

There’s a tremendous amount of content and in some cases debate, being generated in the search marketing and public relations communities about the need to measure brands and reputations online. The first step in a ORM program is to start monitoring and there are some pretty incredible and often times costly software tools emerging to do that.

That’s all fine and good for measuring brands or companies, but what if the brand is you?

For example, there’s no doubt that both companies and candidates do a bit of “Googling” on each other to get a sense of what they’re getting in to before an in-person interview. I’m sure you’ve heard of stories where a company either didn’t hire or in some cases fired employees because of what was discovered on Facebook or MySpace.

Alternatively, candidates use search to look up companies they might want to look for and the top ten search results on the company name are distinctly influential in the mind of the searcher. Are the results littered with complaints, law suits and “yourcompanysucks.com” entries? Or are they displaying social profiles, blog, press releases and news coverage of the company?

There’s a case to be made for individuals that anticipate working or being involved in an industry where their “online persona” could significantly affect (positive or negative) their ability to get work or maintain employment. Whether a person is starting out on a job search after college or a tenured executive is making a career change, it is without question that the ease of being able to type a person’s name into a search box will drive some queries. The question is, what will come up?

Monitoring one’s own personal brand (whether it’s your name or an online user account name) can easily start with Google Alerts. You can also subscribe to the search results on a blog search engine like Technorati or to something like Google Video search results.

Let’s assume we’ve made the case for taking charge of our online persona. What can a person who’s not savvy in the ways of SEO, social media and online public relations do to make sure they are represented positively and at least accurately online? I could spend another 500 words answering that topic but what I’ll do is update this post when the article comes out and point to that. Awwwww, you say? OK, I’ll put a few ideas below:

  • Be smart about what you allow strangers to see on your Facebook and MySpace profiles or blogs. There’s a reason you have a network of friends and why some people are in it and the rest of the world is not.
  • Create business profiles on social networks like LinkedIn as well as niche social communities according to your interest such as YouTube, Flickr, Digg or any of the other many social media sharing and news web sites.
  • Start a blog. Register your own domain name and use the Blogger.com service to host the blog itself. The domain name costs $10/year and the Blogger.com service is free. You could also spend just a little more and use WordPress.org software on your own hosting account.
  • A domain name that uses your own name is important so your dopleganger doesn’t get it 🙂 and also because the likelihood of others linking to it will use your name as anchor text. Use the blog to cross link to your social profiles and embed any videos, audio or images – even your resume – that you would like people to find.
  • Find the good stuff that’s already out there about you that might not yet be ranking on the first page and get links to that content. Cross linking between profiles is one way to do this, but promoting your interests and even content that you’ve created online with links to the pages that represent your accomplishments can also work well. A few social bookmarks on anything that presents you accurately and positively isn’t a bad idea either.

There are many more things an individual can do to improve their online reputation but the important thing to remember is that whatever gets put online, is pretty much forever. Sometimes it seems like a good idea at the time and now it’s not, sometimes it’s simply not accurate and sometimes the information reflects a person’s previous situation but is not an accurate representation now.

Whatever the situation, there are many individuals that would do well to make an effort to take control of how they’re represented online before undesirable information gets published. As it is for companies, a proactive approach is insurance for individuals as well. If something does happen and a person already has multiple personal networks established with several different social networking, news and media sharing services, a blog and plenty of links coming in, it’s likely to be a nominal issue.

That all sounds like a lot of effort but spread over time, it’s not difficult or time consuming and networking/making friends is a good thing. Plus it’s a lot better than being put into a reactionary situation and starting from scratch.

I’m curious what readers of Online Marketing Blog think in terms of the need for individuals to be aware and proactive about their online personas. Does it make sense? Have you experienced the positive or negative of being easily found online?


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Reputation, News and Blog Optimization at SES London http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/02/toprank-ses-london-2008/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/02/toprank-ses-london-2008/#comments Mon, 04 Feb 2008 18:30:53 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/2008/02/toprank-ses-london-2008/ Coming up fast (February 19-21) is the 2008 Search Engine Strategies show in London. It will be my first time speaking at an event in London and luckily I’ll be involved with 3 panels that are spot on with the marketing consulting work we do at TopRank. The two panels that I am presenting on [...]

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Coming up fast (February 19-21) is the 2008 Search Engine Strategies show in London. It will be my first time speaking at an event in London and luckily I’ll be involved with 3 panels that are spot on with the marketing consulting work we do at TopRank.

The two panels that I am presenting on are concurrent Wednesday, Feb 20 with “News Search SEO” starting at 10:30 a.m. followed by “Blog and Feed SEO” at 11:45 a.m. I will also be moderating the “Brand and Reputation Management” panel on Thursday at 3:30p.m. Below are more details on those sessions.

News Search Engine Optimization – News search engines such as Yahoo News and Google News offer a great way to receive targeted traffic related to breaking topics or to help with a public relations effort. Moderated by Anne Kennedy of Beyond Ink, this session looks at how to make use of tactics such as press release optimization and optimizing news content to best tap into traffic from news search. I’ll be focusing on news content optimization, particularly online newsrooms. Speakers include:

  • Greg Jarboe, President and Co-Founder, SEO-PR
  • Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Online Marketing
  • Tim Gibbon, Director, Elemental Communications

Blog & RSS Search Engine Optimization – This session session will be moderated by the VP and Editor in Chief of The ClickZ Network, Rebecca Lieb so I’d better be on my best behavior. Search U.S. Google for “blog optimization” and after seeing who is at #1 and #2, you’ll see why TopRank is on the panel. This panel of experts is set to explore how niche blog and RSS feed search engines work followed by tips on how companies can use blogs and RSS feeds as online marketing tools. In this session I’ll be giving a personal example of how we’ve leveraged Online Marketing Blog to build industry credibility, extend our network, grow our consulting business and attract media attention including book offers. Speakers include:

  • Amanda Watlington, Owner, Searching for Profit
  • Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Online Marketing
  • Massimo Burgio, Founder and Chief Strategist, Global Search Interactive

Online Reputation Management – This topic has long been a hot issue and as increasing numbers of consumers are “empowered to publish” via blogs and social networks, companies are becoming keenly aware of the importance of managing brand and reputation online. This session will provide an overview and big picture issues related to online reputation management, a range of ORM tactics and a great collection of localized examples. Whether it’s PPC trademark issues, engaging legal help or blogger relations, there’s a lot to cover in the hour we have allocated. Moderated by TopRank CEO Lee Odden, speakers for this session include :

  • Andy Beal, Consultant, Blogger, & Author, Marketing Pilgrim LLC
  • Greg Jarboe, President and Co-Founder, SEO-PR
  • Nan Dawkins, President and CEO, Serengeti Communications

The SES London show will be held February 19-21 at the Business Design Centre in Islington and hosted by search marketing guru Mike Grehan. Tracks at SES London include: Fundamentals, Search Advertising, Global, Kelsey Group Local, Organic & Beyond, Organic, Issues & Tactics and an “Improve Me” Track. You can get a glance of all sessions here.

If you’re attending the Search Engine Strategies conference in London, I hope you can make the sessions above and certainly say hello after. I’m looking forward to meeting up with UK friends Andy Atkins-Krüger, Mel Carson, Mike Grehan, BC Europe’s Rory De Niro and Marie Howell plus many U.S. based SEM pros that will be speaking/moderating.


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Public Relations Benefits from SEO http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/10/public-relations-benefits-from-seo/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/10/public-relations-benefits-from-seo/#comments Tue, 30 Oct 2007 18:50:09 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/10/public-relations-benefits-from-seo/ On the heels of the PRSA conference last week, the topic of how search plays a part in online PR effectiveness has continued to enter into the increasing numbers of discussions we’ve been having with companies working on figuring out where to best leverage their 2008 marketing/PR dollars. It’s that time of year again. 🙂 [...]

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On the heels of the PRSA conference last week, the topic of how search plays a part in online PR effectiveness has continued to enter into the increasing numbers of discussions we’ve been having with companies working on figuring out where to best leverage their 2008 marketing/PR dollars. It’s that time of year again. 🙂

Now more than ever, PR and media relations efforts can benefit from attention to how search engine visibility influences consumer perceptions and the way both consumers and the media find information online. With an increasing variety of search types to choose from including standard search like Google, Yahoo, Live and Ask as well as platform or content type specific search such as news, blog, image, video and options within social media web sites, brings new opportunities to optimize content.

In the past I’ve used the Push and Pull PR model to explain how traditional media relations outreach fits in with the idea of optimizing content. The “Push” includes standard tactics like the distribution of press releases via news wires and pitching both traditional media and bloggers via phone, email or other creative methods.

The “Pull” is where the content optimization opportunity comes into play. Optimizing not only text based content such as press releases, but also the various media types being produced for PR purposes will result in a greater footprint of visibility on the web for journalists doing research on topics and looking for subject matter experts. In essence, to “pull” themselves to you.

News, blog, image, video and social bookmarking search channels each provide excellent opportunities for writers to monitor emerging trends and to find information sources for articles. Making it easy to find relevant content on those search channels can increase opportunities for companies to present their topical authority and subsequent PR coverage.

Visibility to the media is not the only benefit of optimizing of PR content. By optimizing and promoting the media types available, especially blogs, video and images, benefits for online reputation management can be achieved. With the combined search results features implemented by the major search engines this year, it is a fairly straightforward task to achieve multiple representations of the same company within the search results for a single query.

Typically, a web site is limited to a maximum of two URL listings in the search results for a unique search phrase. With positive brand representations on media specific or social media sites often included in “Universal” search, companies can push down negative search results and/or occupy numerous positions outside of the normal and indented listings that are typically possible. It’s possible for those representations to appear on their own as well, but Universal search provides additional opportunity.

By making the optimization and promotion of multiple media formats a normal part of the process for publishing PR content, companies can build up a more solid “defense” against dissenting blogs that try to “Googlebomb” brand names. Such a process also improves overall search visibility of the corporate web site.

Overcoming the challenges involved with moving companies towards a more search engine and social media savvy PR process must start with the fundamentals of how these channels work. Understanding the mechanics and social rules of content sharing and social media sites will help make the decision as to what types of PR content to start optimizing and promoting first. In most cases, starting out with the basics such as optimizing and distributing press releases and incorporating a blog powered online media room can provide ample opportunity for increased exposure of PR content via search.


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25 Ways Marketing Agencies Market Themselves http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/09/signals-credibility-marketing-agency/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/09/signals-credibility-marketing-agency/#comments Mon, 10 Sep 2007 14:44:02 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/09/signals-credibility-marketing-agency/ With so much uncertainty due to inflated promises, bad press and a fast changing industry, what “signals” of credibility do companies look for in trusted internet marketing partners and resources? Our gift to you today is an annotated list of 25. In one way or another, TopRank is involved with all of the following marketing [...]

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With so much uncertainty due to inflated promises, bad press and a fast changing industry, what “signals” of credibility do companies look for in trusted internet marketing partners and resources? Our gift to you today is an annotated list of 25. In one way or another, TopRank is involved with all of the following marketing and PR tactics either for ourselves or for our marketing and public relations clients.

But I’m also curious what Online Marketing Blog Readers have to say on this topic. Let’s have a little vote shall we? After the list there is a poll so you can vote for your favorite.

  • Client Testimonials – Tried and true, the client story of success is often one of the first things that catches the eye when looking at potential vendors. Common mistakes include testimonials that are too enthusiastic or those that are benign but packed as if they’re something special. Most importantly, testimonials should reflect issues of interest to the target audience.
  • Case Studies – With more complex situations, companies want to drill down into specifics of how a company does what it does. The changing nature of the search marketing industry means a continuous set of problem/solution exercises. Case studies present a picture of a company’s breadth and depth of ability to solve a variety of issues.
  • Industry Awards – Getting recognized by a respected third party can mean a quick trip to the credibility club. However, such awards are only as meaningful as the credibility of the entities giving them out. Outside of OMMA, ad:tech and MIXX, search marketing has not had much in the way of industry awards compared to other industries like public relations. However, the Direct Marketing Association is launching a search marketing category in this year’s DMA07 ECHO Awards.
  • Being Quoted by the Press, Blogs – Being cited as an authority on a particular topic in a high profile publication can transform an agency’s reputation and credibility overnight. Getting profiled with a photo on the cover of a regional print publication had amazing effects for TopRank but not nearly as much as getting mentioned in a very favorable light in The Economist or mentions on blogs such as Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land and the Yahoo Search and Search Marketing blogs.
  • Rock Star Employees & Thought Leaders – Because of conferences, blogs, forums and the love/hate relationship mainstream media has with the search marketing industry, certain people have become well known as subject matter experts and pundits. Having one or more of these “rock stars” on staff can give the indication that the agency has a competitive advantage. How many agencies would jump at the chance to have someone like Danny Sullivan as an employee?
  • Speaking Gigs – Baring it all in front of an audience so to speak, can go both ways. If the speaker knows their subject matter and can entertain as well, speaking at conferences, regional events and at Universities can be very productive. However, if the speaker does not prepare, present well or “know their stuff” things can go badly.
  • Web Site’s Design & Functionality – A web site still says a lot about a company and we’re as guilty as many, perhaps more so, for not updating our company web site in a very long time. TopRank is in a unique situation in that despite the sorry state of our web site, we receive 3-5 inquiries per day anyway. If that was not the case, our web site would have been updated several year ago. In a way, our blog has become our company web site but we do realize the power that a properly designed and informative web site can have at fostering a sense of authority and credibility. Finishing touches are in progress and a new site will be launched soon.
  • Editorial Contributions to Industry Publications – Contributing articles to prominent online or print publications gives companies an opportunity to show their unique problem solving abilities and expertise. By association with the publication, the agency also gets a boost in the credibility department.
  • Advertising – One way of “buying your reputation” is to advertise in all the places your target audience looks for credible information. This takes a crack creative team and a very healthy budget.
  • Conference Sponsorships – Primary sponsorships of the Platinum, Gold and Silver sort at prominent industry conferences can put companies front and center of the most desirable audience: Companies looking for more information on the industry and vendor sourcing. This also takes a healthy budget and as such, gives the impression that the sponsoring agencies are also very healthy. Media sponsorships are another avenue for promotion with most going to prominent print publications and some online pubs. Rarely if ever, is an agency allowed to be a media sponsor unless their blog or newsletter is highly visible and relevant.
  • Frontline Staff – Answering the phone, speaking to prospects in meetings, networking online and offline, front line staff behavior can have leave a big impression (good or bad) on potential clients.
  • Existance or Lack Thereof, of Embarrasing Employee or Executive Photos/Videos Online – If you’ve been to industry conferences, especially search marketing or blogging related events, then you know that attendees are “packing”. Packing cameras that is. Why some companies actually promote irreverent behavior of employees, I don’t really know. In fact, some agencies might even take seemingly blase photos and make them seem somewhat irreverent in the name of “humor”. Without context, such images can be as damaging to a brand as if they were true.
  • Client List – You are who you associate with. Big brand clients brings a whole other set of challenges and opportunities. But seeing those big names often gives lesser known brand prospects a certain kind of warm fuzzy feeling, “If this agency made it through the vendor sourcing process with a Fortune 50 company, then they’re probably of the right caliber for my $500m company.”
  • Competitors List – Same as item above. When lists of the “top agencies” are published, lesser known search marketing agencies listed along with other top firms successfully deploying the tactics on the list gain credibility by association.
  • Search Engine Visibility on Competitive Industry Terms – I can’t tell you how many times companies have said, “We found you on Google by searching for (insert industry term here) and we figured if you can do it for yourself, you can probably do it for us.” I know, I know. There’s so much wrong with that kind of ranking logic these days, but it’s a fact of life in the search biz. Search engine visibility is a form of public relations and showing up for relevant, broad terms (as well as your niche specialties) makes your brand name (if your Title tags are written properly) associated with those terms.
  • Brand – Message, Identity, Logo – There’s a lot that goes into creating a brand. I like the definition: “A brand is a promise kept”. Each interaction between a prospective company and something that communicates information about the agency is an opportunity to make a brand promise. Repeat interactions provide the opportunity to keep that promise. Thoughtful messaging and a well designed logo also convey important messages that evoke feelings which can either build or detract from credibility.
  • Press Releases – Sending out non-news press releases, “We just moved to a new building” or “We launched a new web site design”, is worse than not sending any press releases at all. But sending out press releases to wire services and directly to cultivated lists of relevant industry publications sends signals of your credibility. And with clever pitching, they might even get you some press coverage.
  • Social Media FootprintForums, Social Networks, Images, Videos, Podcasts – The boon in social networks usage by members of the search marketing community gives abundant opportunity to see another side of an online marketing agency. Forums can be very useful to find helpful and knowledgeable staff that work for good agencies. Promoting unique knowledge through social media formats and networks can give important indications of an agency’s expertise in formats that can match the information consumption preferences of a variety of potential clients.
  • Research Published – In the same way that faculty at Universities gain prominence and reputation by publishing research in professional journals, companies that have the insight and resources to conduct real research and publish their findings create very strong signals of credibility. It is not only the execution of such research that makes it an effective “signal” though. The intelligent promotion of these learnings is as much or more important.
  • Industry Association Involvement – Investing in the future of the overall industry through association involvement can give the impression that a company has a higher level commitment than those that are not involved. Being involved with setting industry standards, guidelines and even training programs can set an agency apart and give an indication of their expertise.
  • CEO, Executive and/or Company Blog – Blogs can be exceptionally effective at imparting a company’s “genuine” philosophy and corporate personality. Company web sites tend to be dry and careful or conversely, full of hype. A well written and promoted blog can do absolutely amazing things for an agency’s reputation in an industry. Online Marketing Blog is a good example of that.
  • The Agency’s Offices – While many internet marketing agencies operate virtually, most maintain physical offices. Depending on the manner in which the agency pitches potential clients, those offices can give an impression of the agency’s style, personality and health.
  • Word on the Street, Buzz, Word of Mouth – First and foremost, doing good work is the cornerstone of building positive word of mouth. At the same time, successfully engaging the tactics on this list will build positive buzz, but the longevity of that buzz is only sustainable if the agency has something significant in it’s ability to deliver results, to back it up. There is such a thing as over-marketing and people are smart enough to realize that one company can’t do everything. Making it easy for clients to pass on the good news or making sure testimonials are properly promoted can extend a company’s reach with nominal marketing investment.
  • Being Included on Industry “Lists” of Top Agencies – No matter how you slice and dice it, getting included on a list sends a signal. Lists are inherently controversial because getting included means others are excluded. If you know how to create and promote the right signals, like doing great work for clients and letting the world know about it, getting on the kinds of lists that build credibility is pretty straightforward. Leaving it to chance and expecting inclusion based purely on merit is flat out naive.
  • Quality of Their Tchotchkes – Conference Schwag – I suppose indirectly, the quality of the schwag given out at conferences can influence in a very small way, what a company things of the brand of a vendor. But if a company makes decisions on vendors based on tchotchkes, then there are bigger problems to deal with first.

Quite a list to be sure and certainly applicable to any industry, not just online marketing. If you have other signals of credibility for agencies in the internet marketing business, let’s hear them in the comments. You can also vote!

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

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Basics of Online Reputation Management http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/03/basics-of-online-reputation-management/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/03/basics-of-online-reputation-management/#comments Tue, 27 Mar 2007 16:22:05 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/03/basics-of-online-reputation-management/ As much time and effort that marketers put into improving visibility within search results, not all search engine ranking pages (SERPs) are good. Increasing numbers of companies are experiencing the sharp edge of the sword from disgruntled employees or customers taking advantage of the amazingly simplistic process of publishing content to the web. You may [...]

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As much time and effort that marketers put into improving visibility within search results, not all search engine ranking pages (SERPs) are good. Increasing numbers of companies are experiencing the sharp edge of the sword from disgruntled employees or customers taking advantage of the amazingly simplistic process of publishing content to the web.

You may recall such situations as “Dell Hell” or Googlebombing “miserable failure” for examples.

Because these references occur within the search results, many companies percieve search engine reputation management as a SEO problem. But displacing negative search results only treats the symptoms of the problem. It’s not a cure.

While other companies see tarnished brand issues as more of a public relations issue, it’s important to understand that sometimes it’s the PR firm that is at the root of the problem. Look no further than the Edelman and Walmarting across America situation for an example of that.

Negative search results are not limited to standard search engines either. Blog search engines, video sites like YouTube, social news such as Digg and news search can be affected as well. See Google Blog Search for examples of the recent comments about Microsoft from former employee Robert Scoble.

Negative commentary can have a significant impact on brnads that companies have spent years and immense resources to build. It pays to protect those brands where ever consumers can interact with them.

No company wants to experience a situation like Kryptonite locks so what can businesses do? Here are three fundamental concepts to master when dealing with search engine reputation management: Monitor, Optimize and Engage.

What to monitor?

  • Brands
  • Products
  • Company
  • Key Executives

Include modifiers: “sucks” “scam” “kudos”

Types of content to monitor include: News Search, Social Media/Tags, Standard Search Results, Blogs and Forums.

Where to Monitor

  • Google Alerts – google.com/alerts
  • Yahoo Alerts – alerts.yahoo.com
  • RSS feed subscriptions to search results Technorati, Yahoo & Google News, BlogPulse
  • Social Media via tags: tagbulb.com, tagfetch.com, keotag.com

Optimizing is most effective as a preventive measure rather than a reactive measure. However, reactive optimization for displacing negative search results is what most online reputation management services focus on. It leaves the company chasing after the various dissenters and does not put the brand in a position of control.

Treat the Symptoms

Companies that want to protect their brand visibility on the web would do well to make optimizing their brand content a best practice. Optimizing all digital communications including: PR, marketing, SEO, HR, investor relations and related electronic content that is publicly available on the web as well as social media: text, images, audio, video will produce more branded content in the SERPs. Doing so doesn’t necessarily put the brand in control, but it’s a much better situation than scrambling after the fact.

Engage – Address the Cause

Once a negative mention has been identified, here are a few basic steps in dealing with it:

  • Research the situation – is there merit?
  • If not, provide the facts and ask for corrections
  • If yes, then offer to discuss
  • Be ready to respond with your own blog
  • Be honest, be transparent and LISTEN

Results can be a anything from a positive turn around to a loyal brand evangelist.

Implementing a proactive monitoring campaign provides insight into the kinds of content interactions audiences are having with your brand. When identified and qualified, situations need to be addressed directly. At the same time, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and companies need to implement holistic brand content optimization as a best practice. The more branded content in the search results, the more diluted any negative brand content will be.

What kinds of search engine brand protection situations have you encountered? I’d be curious to hear what tactics others have used and what kinds of turn around situations have resulted.


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Interview with Andy Beal of Marketing Pilgrim http://www.toprankblog.com/2006/12/interview-with-andy-beal-of-marketing-pilgrim/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2006/12/interview-with-andy-beal-of-marketing-pilgrim/#comments Mon, 18 Dec 2006 16:29:42 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/2006/12/interview-with-andy-beal-of-marketing-pilgrim/ Spotlight on Search: Interview with Andy Beal I’ve known Andy Beal via blogging and search marketing conferences for a while now and had the privilege of speaking with him on a SEO Blogger and Reporter panel at the last WebmasterWorld Pubcon in Las Vegas. While I had great respect for Andy’s accomplishments at building search [...]

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Spotlight on Search: Interview with Andy Beal

andy-beal.jpg I’ve known Andy Beal via blogging and search marketing conferences for a while now and had the privilege of speaking with him on a SEO Blogger and Reporter panel at the last WebmasterWorld Pubcon in Las Vegas.

While I had great respect for Andy’s accomplishments at building search marketing companies and developing top notch blogs, his performance during the panel was genuinely impressive. His grasp of the big picture and business aspects of search marketing were/are very insightful. My public relations firm has even hired Andy for some consulting on reputation management and I am happy to recommend him.

Andy started in the search marketing business with KeywordRanking and also the blog, Search Engine Lowdown. He moved on and started another company, Fortune Interactive and a new blog, Marketing Pilgrim and then moved on to becoming an independent consultant which he continues to do today.

In this interview Andy talks about his background in search marketing from corporate guy to independent consultant, he offers some valuable insight into search marketing agency management issues, a response to the Dave Pasternack SEO silliness, tips on business blogging, partnerships and his British/Southern accent. Enjoy!

Please describe your background and how did you get involved with search marketing?

I mostly just fell into search marketing. Before I moved to the U.S., I worked as a paralegal, financial planner and mortgage broker. However, I’ve always had a passion for computers and have technically been online since 1987 – the pre-WWW days – so, when I moved here, I decided it was a good time to make my hobby a career.

You’re worked for a large SEO company, started your own SEO company with VC funding and now you’re and independent consultant. Which do you prefer? What do you like best about your current situation?

Well, there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to each. I wouldn’t change anything I have done, as each role has been a great experience and has helped develop my expertise in some way. I will say that I am having a lot of fun being an independent consultant.

In the past year you’ve done quite a bit of public speaking on the topic of reputation management. How can companies tie proper online brand monitoring and reputation management to the bottom line?

I think there’s a lot of ways that monitoring and managing a corporate reputation can have a positive effect on the bottom line. You need look no further than Kryptonite locks to learn that not monitoring your online reputation can have a negative effect on your business – they lost over $10 million due to a flaw with their locks. You can also benefit from gaining insight on your market and customers by listening to conversations that are going on each day. By listening to the community, you can learn about their needs, what products they like, and what your competitors are doing to please them.

You’ve done some organizational development consulting for several prominent SEO firms this year. What are 2-3 tips you can share with small SEO companies in terms of organization and management issues?

When I switched to consulting, I didn’t expect that my experience and knowledge would be in demand by other search marketing firms. Fortunately, business coaching for other firms is very interesting and has allowed me to gain insight on the common problems marketing agencies face. When I meet with clients, I typically discover common areas that they need assistance with.

The first is that many small firms rely on the expertise of the owner or some senior executive. This works when the company is very small and has just a handful of clients, but as the company grows, it is limited by the amount of time that person has available. I help companies learn to share that expertise among other employees, freeing up the time of the executive and allowing the company to grow.

Another common mistake I see is that many firms simply don’t know the best way to promote themselves. They rely heavily on referrals from existing clients or business partners and don’t really pay attention to other ways to grow their business. This reliance is fine when you are smaller, but as you grow your business, you need to put in place other channels to bring in new revenue to sustain your growth.

The winds of change are strong right now in the search marketing industry. What do you think things will look like this time next year in terms of conferences and SEO/SEM media?

Wow, good question. I’ve tried playing the prediction game before, but the industry is so fast moving, it’s hard to predict beyond the next three months. I definitely believe that search marketers will become a lot more integrated with their client’s other marketing channels. I also feel that social media marketing is going to become a very important skill set. I’m not talking about simple “linkbait” tactics, but strategic marketing that identifies social networks and utilizes word of mouth and viral techniques to attract clients and increase brand-awareness.

What is your advice for companies that are thinking about starting a blog? Can you give 2-3 tips or best practices for corporate blogging?

Whenever I meet with a company looking to start a blog, I always try to get to the root of their motivation for having one. Often, companies don’t have a good reason for starting a corporate blog, but feel pressure to have one, because other businesses do. So, my first tip is to don’t feel compelled to jump into the blogosphere, if you don’t have the passion or a clue about what you’ll put on the blog, you’ll likely fail.

For those that do want to start a company blog, I advise that they should have a two-way conversation with readers, otherwise it’s not so much a blog but a public relations web site. For a company blog to build a following and become a success, it needs to be committed to engaging its audience, even when it becomes a little uncomfortable to do so – such as when your customers start criticizing your business.

You have a marketing partnership of sorts with Converseon. Can you describe the nature of that relationship and how valuable is it to partner with other companies?

I consult with Converseon on a number of different topics including reputation monitoring, blogging and search engine optimization. They are a great group and I enjoy the opportunity to assist them with client campaigns.

In the past, I have found partnerships to be hit and miss. Some relationships work out well for both sides, while others never really amount to much for either party. I think it’s a good idea for firms to partner with companies that provide complimentary services – don’t try to specialize in everything – but I’m never afraid to ditch a partnership that’s not benefiting my company. I think that’s key for any small marketing firm – partner with companies that fill the gaps in your own service, but remember that they don’t have to be long term relationships if they become fruitless.

Competition is increasing in the search marketing industry and despite some questionable analysis (Marketing Sherpa) and characterizations (Dave Pasternack) what are some of the most significant opportunities for companies that still have not yet embraced SEO into their marketing budgets?

Well, I’ve never heard of Dave Pasternack but I see he’s the co-founder of Did-It.com. Two things spring to mind. First, it’s no wonder that Kevin Lee is the public face of the company, with comments like this coming from Pasternack! Second, is it any surprise that a paid search company is writing negative things about SEO?

While SEO may not be “rocket science”, as Pasternack puts it, it’s certainly a lot more effort than a paid search campaign. SEO is going to evolve, becoming a mixture of optimization, viral marketing, buzz generation and public relations. Pay-per-click, on the other hand, will become easier to manage, with better tools being provided by the search engines (look at Yahoo’s Panama), so anyone can manage a campaign without the need for outside assistance.

SEO may not be rocket science, but the coming year will see PPC becoming as easy as putting together a child’s Lego set.

What could search engines be doing better in terms of communicating with the SEO community? Are there tools for search marketers from the search engines that you would like to see?

I definitely believe that Google’s Webmaster Central is a big step in the right direction. As the search engines become better at pinpointing spam, they appear to be a little more relaxed when it comes to communicating with search engine optimizers.

I think we certainly need better guidance from the search engines, so we can understand what they like and what they don’t like. We’re already seeing isolated cases of better communication – Matt Cutts appears to be leading the charge in that regard – but I think the search engines can take further steps to share information.

Since you’re from the UK but living in North Carolina, I am curious if you speak with a British accent or a southern drawl at home? 🙂

My accent is now at the point where it’s somewhere over the mid-Atlantic trying to figure out which direction to go. I think my wife misses the days when I sounded more like Hugh Grant instead of Andy Griffith, but I’m afraid the drawl will continue in its quest for domination. In the meantime, “Tally Ho, Y’all!”

Tally Ho to you too Andy and thanks!


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MarketingPilgrim 2.0 http://www.toprankblog.com/2006/10/marketingpilgrim-20/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2006/10/marketingpilgrim-20/#comments Sun, 29 Oct 2006 20:50:23 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/2006/10/marketingpilgrim-20/ It only took 5 years, but Andy Beal has finally come over to the world of WordPress for his blog, MarketingPilgrim. Previously, Andy ran SearchEngineLowdown.com on Google’s Blogger platform, building it up to one of the top SEO blogs on the Internet. Then after going out on his own, started MarketingPilgrim.com using the same tools. [...]

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It only took 5 years, but Andy Beal has finally come over to the world of WordPress for his blog, MarketingPilgrim. Previously, Andy ran SearchEngineLowdown.com on Google’s Blogger platform, building it up to one of the top SEO blogs on the Internet. Then after going out on his own, started MarketingPilgrim.com using the same tools.

The new design sports links to Andy’s consulting services of which I now have first hand experience. My public relations agency recently engaged Andy to provide some training via webinar to our PR team on the subject of brand monitoring and reputation management. Eight of our staff were in attendance and I have to say, Andy knows his stuff. Not only is he a great consultant on SEO firm management and search marketing, but he has established himself as a subject matter expert on the topic of brand monitoring and competitive intelligence as well.

Like Rand and Jim, I wholeheartedly endorse hiring Andy Beal as a consultant. He’s a search marketers’ “search marketer” and I have no doubt that those who make the investment are getting a distinct, competitive advantage.


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Tips for Online PR http://www.toprankblog.com/2006/04/tips-for-online-pr/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2006/04/tips-for-online-pr/#comments Tue, 11 Apr 2006 22:14:32 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/2006/04/tips-for-online-pr/ [TopRank is a full service provider of digital public relations services] I did an interview recently and thought some of the Q/A would be useful for Online Marketing Blog readers: What’s the difference between online PR and offline PR? Basically, online PR invlolves activities geared towards influencing media, communities and audiences that exist solely on [...]

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[TopRank is a full service provider of digital public relations services]

I did an interview recently and thought some of the Q/A would be useful for Online Marketing Blog readers:

What’s the difference between online PR and offline PR?

Basically, online PR invlolves activities geared towards influencing media, communities and audiences that exist solely on the Internet using online channles. That includes search engines, blogs, news search, forums, discussion threads, social networks and other online communication tools. Brand reputation monitoring and management is also a focus area for online PR.

Offline PR deals with the same things except with print, radio TV, conferences/events and other “real life” venues. One difference between online and offline PR is in pitching. For example, before pitching a print journalist, the publication’s editorial calendar is researched to see if there are any planned story opportunities. The subsequent pitch is specific to the upcoming story.

Popular blogs can be as influential as many print publications, but pitching a blogger requires a careful approach. There is no editorial calendar for blogs so it is important to read previous posts and become very familiar with the subject matter covered. When pitching a blogger it is better not to include the press release in the pitch, since most bloggers don’t write stories based on press releases, they point links to a release and write their own commentary.

When you pitch a blogger poorly, they may post your pitch to their blog for all to see. A print journalist will just hang up on you.

Are online PR tactics appropriate for any business?

As with all marketing tactics, a company should really consider the overall marketing strategy and choose the appropriate mix of tactics that will support the execution. That said, I’m a bit biased as my company focuses on SEO, blog marketing and press release optimization. The mix of those online PR tactics along with integration with offline marketing/PR tactics can be very powerful.

If a business has news, they should make it easy for the media to find out about that news. Tools include press releases, wire servies such as PR Newswire and PRWeb, an online media kit, an optimized blog and a good SEO effort. Whenever a company gets online media coverage, they should be sure to use social bookmark services such as furl.net and del.icio.us to archive them. It’s also a good idea to use a company blog as a way to reach out to other blogs in the same space to encourage coverage of company news.

What are your favorite online PR tools and sites?

PRWeb has a great mix of tools for distributing press releases as well as hosting high resolution images, permanent redirects for URLs and a podcast feature for certain levels of press releases. PRWeb also offers a trackback url on press releases so blogs are encouraged to link to them. Doing so creates an automatic link back to the blog. Other wire services we use include: PR Newswire, Business Wire and PR.com.

Some of the online PR sites I like most are: micropersuasion.com, mediarelationsblog.com and thenewpr.com. There are many more, but I like to keep it simple.

The most important online PR resource you can have is a talented PR pro that can research story opportunities and persuasively pitch both online journalists and bloggers accordingly. Sending out press releases alone is like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks. Software tools can help make things easier, such as blogpulse.com or Google Alerts for brand monitoring, but it is human interpretation that provides the most value.

What skills, knowledge and contacts are important for online PR practitioners?

Like SEO, online PR requires a mix (although in a different order of priority) of social, creative, persuasive and technical skills. Developing relationships with online publication editors and bloggers is also particularly useful.

When is it a good time to outsource public relations and when should you keep it in-house?

When companies have an internal public relations staff, they often only need consulting from a online PR specialist on best practices or with a particular situation. For companies that do not perform their own PR, then an online or offline PR firm can help on an ongoing basis for as long as that company has a need for public and media relations.

What is “reputation management” and should companies be using it for their own sites?

Basically, reputation management (online) is the business of monitoring what the marketplace is saying about your brand. It also means responding to situations before they run out of control. Venues include blogs, discussion threads, forums and social networking sites. A simplistic forumla is to allocate a proportion of resources to reputation management in relation to how important your brand is to your overall business.

Monitoring how consumers talk about your brand can provide early warning signs for product or service issues as well as promotion opportunities that can be leveraged. Companies can start by subscribing to RSS feeds of search results on their company name from blog and news search engines, set up a Google Alerts account or use the BlogPulse conversation tracker.
What three tips would you give companies that want to optimize their press releases for search engines?

The first priority for the release is the reader, not the algorithm. An optimized press release is the means, not the end.

Map keywords to the press release like you would map keyword phrases to a web page. Use keywords in the title, sub title and in the body copy of the release.

If possible, create a strong call to action or incentive to click through on the release to destination content on your site. A free guide, report or discount can be effective. Use tracking urls to determine how effective the release is at generating traffic and inquiries.

Be sure to check out a previous post, Lowdown on Press Release Optimization for more information on how to leverage press releases for SEO and online promotion.


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