Search Engine Reputation Management

I constantly implore my boys to take their online profiles very seriously. A month doesn’t pass without my asking them to expunge from their Facebook pages any obscene wall posts and photos in which their “friends” tagged them in some state of unseemly debauchery, e.g., beer pong games or dubious attire.

Fortunately, compared to others in their age demo, they appear downright conservative — something for which I am thankful and, one day, presumably they will thank me.

Managing one’s Facebook profile is a piece of cake compared to gaming one’s Google profile. The Wall Street Journal‘s tech-savvy Julia Angwin today shared her experience (and success) using search-engine optimization (SEO) to modify her search engine results page (SERP).

In her piece “It’s a New Me (As Seen on Google),” she writes:

“One of the paradoxes of the digital age is that the boundless freedoms of the Internet also constrain our identity. Before the ubiquity of search engines you could go on a date or a job interview and construct a narrative about your life that fit the situation. No one in your book group had to know that you were a punk-rocker in high school. But it’s much harder to package yourself in the Google era. Online, your digital identity often comes down to the top 10 links on your SERP, or search-engine results page.”

Julia proceeded to cull advice from experts, including one of the venerable and still active chroniclers of all things search, Danny Sullivan. Angwin was trying to de-elevate an article she had written years before and even considered asking Google directly to remove it. Sullivan explained that it is “extremely difficult” to remove things from Google’s search results: “They don’t really intervene unless there is some good legal reason to do that,” he said.

On a related note, I recently asked Edelman’s Steve Rubel about the strategy of using keyword densities as a means for elevating one’s news release’s rank in Google’s organic search results. He said, in effect, that the keepers of the algorithm driving the world’s de facto search engine have gotten hip to that, i.e., it no longer works.

Anyway, Julia then collared Google’s Adam Lasnik who offered up what seemed like the company line:

“…create original compelling content about yourself that is easily accessed by Google and earns links from authoritative and relevant Web sites.”

Hmm. Easier said than done.

She finally found one of the myriad SEO experts: Rhea Drysdale of who astutely advised Julia to:

“…focus on linking my online presences to each other — that is, my Twitter page would link to my LinkedIn page, which would link to my biography on my book-publisher’s site. These interlinkages are key to understanding Google’s page-ranking system. Google rates Web sites, in part, by how many links they have from other credible Web sites.”

Now she was getting somewhere: “By interlinking my sites, my efforts soon began to pay off,” Julia wrote. But her efforts to take control of her Google profile soon were disrupted via an article she wrote on Steve Jobs that drew considerable online conjecture. The SERP-altering noise eventually subsided, and she was able to turn her attention to optimizing the meta tags embedded in the WSJ website.

By optimizing her meta data and offering up a steady stream of Twitter links, she exerted even greater control over her organic results rankings, and ultimately her personal brand.

I would recommend reading Julia’s journey into the art of search engine reputation management from which she learned: “the final lesson of SEO: Patience is required.”

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