It was said by William Shakespeare that the greatest treasure in mortal times afforded was a spotless reputation.  I think there is a great deal to be said for that quote as the concept of having a reputation has a wide ranging effect on the opportunities available to us be it as individuals, organisations or states.

On a very global scale, the reason why the Euro, US Dollar or the Pound Sterling are quoted as barometers of world economic health is because the political economies behind the currencies are the most stable and least likely to be manipulated for political gain.  It’s not as if the there aren’t bigger economies out there whose currencies could not be used.

On a more micro scale, an individual’s reputation helps people such as peers, employers, customers, investors anticipate the behaviour of the individual in certain circumstances.  Thus their confidence in the individual is highly dependent on the individuals reputation.

So what happens when a reputation is being attacked online?  This could be down to something allegedly committed by the individual or organisation that was either true or false.  Assuming the former, there are several responses to such such allegations published online:

Responses to manage reputations online

Go Legal

The injured party could instigate legal proceedings against the website owner or operator in order to take the offending item of  content down.  Part f this response may include a DMCA takedown request, such that the host ISP may be forced to suspend serving the website contents from its servers.   However, this process is quite costly and slow which may require an interim solution.

Search reputation management

This is a process by which the injured party can initiate an SRM campaign whereby, a firm is engaged to analyse brand searches that get traffic, identify allies and enemies within the top 50 and promote the allies within the top 50.  Given the advances in search engine technology in identifying and discounting sites using manipulative link building, SRM is probably one of the last bastions of search marketing that is likely to retain demand for link building.  Communication managers at brands are likely to want to keep this kind of activity quiet.

Create news

To the uninitiated, this may not be the most obvious course of action.  Creating news is one of the best ways of ensuring you naturally suppress negative news.  From a humanistic perspective, it also gets your targeted stakeholders to focus on what’s currently happening as the alleged ‘bad’ news looks dated.  It also gives the Search Reputation Management team more to work with.

If you or your company has an online reputation management problem, please get in touch to learn more about how we can help.

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There has been quite a bit of discussion and theory in the last five years on the SEO benefits of sidebar links.  Sidebar links were once popular with the SEO community as they could be:

  • Paid for
  • Sitewide i.e. placed on every single page of the website

However, with Google taking the correct stance against paid links, links from the sidebar became unpopular with SEOs as Google would only permit them as long as there was a rel=”nofollow”.  I think there is nothing wrong with a sidebar link afterall, would you care what Google thinks if WIRED Magazine decided to give you a link?  I think not.

So when I read nonsense articles about avoiding sidebar links in response to a Google Penguin update, it shows a lack of understanding or disingenuity on the editor’s part for not realising that Penguin is about the readability of the body content rather than the position of the link itself.  Still I think there are important considerations to take into account other than whether Google will count links from sidebars columns.  What we should be asking about are:

User experience (UX)

What is the impact of links in the sidebar for UX?  That is the real question we should be asking.  Do users like it or even use the links to click through to other pages?   From a pure UX standpoint a vertical column sidebar menu can be justified if you expect your visitors to

  • use the navigation to find what they’re looking for
  • browse multiple sections during the same visit

This is mainly because they help you browse more efficiently and further assist you in finding other related content.  Another question that needs asking how the navigation will impact  the UX for users on tablets, mobiles and desktop users.  Designing for tablets represent another set of challenges including whether to show the sidebar as swimlane or some other form of content interaction thus lending itself well for hierarchical layouts.  Whereas for desktop you would have more control over maybe hiding the sidebar navigation on selection.

Ultimately, the standard is whether the column of screen real estate could be better used to communicate the content that you’re trying to get across to the user.  I’m not sure a vertical column achieves that.

Information architecture

Having vertical navigation in addition to horizontal navigation could flatten the hierarchy of content residing in the website thus disrupting the information architecture.  Having a horizontal header navigation forces the web designer to use links within the page to lead to other pages within the site creating multiple layers.  To achieve this aim, this forces web designers to also think about producing a logical hierarchical information structure where the contents are organised and avoid presenting conflicting situations to both users and search engines.

The use of SEO tools increasingly are used to justify the use of SEO and the agent’s competency for being employed to carry out the task of making a business’s site more searchable.  Whilst the traditional tools of website auditors are still useful, the identification of errors and their type for improving the user experience (UX) and their search-ability is not always enough. Suggestions based on tools and marketing initiatives need to be justified.  There are a number of ways SEO can use tools achieve this aim:

Return on Investment (ROI)

ROI is by far the most important area for most agencies for tool development.   Heads of SEO are interested in determining the ROI (i.e quantifying the cause and effect) for:

  • Making site changes based on SEO best practices
  • Identifying which content performs and what aspects of that content perform
  • Highlighting which links and editorial coverage increased conversions

This also helps justify the agency’s effectiveness in the first instance as well as the client decision to hire the agency.  The MathSight platform has a unrivalled array of techniques that allow to a 95% statistical significance level to identify the above.

Diagnosis of offsite SEO

Quite correctly, more businesses are starting to rely on online PR to generate links for their content, however we at the point where many firms previously relied on grey hat link building to build links.  As a result, SEO professionals are often charged with the task of analysing the client’s back-link profile for the purposes of link removal and disavow.

To carry out this task, SEOs are likely to use a PageRank emulation tool like Moz (for Domain Authority), AHREFs or Majestic.  There are tool aggregators that will use a combination of the above to get a more accurate and holistic view of a site’s authority.  Of course, it’s not all about the site’s PageRank, it’s also about the site’s ability to pass PageRank which would be determined by other algorithms such as Penguin and Panda.  In this instance, the MathSight API would be used to determine such cases i.e. which links are likely to be discounted by such algorithms.

It’s not all about SEO either, other metrics could include traffic from the sites as this is likely to be an indicator of whether the site is likely to be valuable or not.  Alexa and SearchMetrics data would be the data measurements of choice in this regard.  Beyond traffic levels, marketers may want to also focus on the relevancy of the site audiences that would click through on those links.

Of course it’s not just important to evaluate what to avoid but also what is well worth pursuing, after all being a professional is about producing repeatable results.

Competitor analysis and the search space

What can be applied to your own site can obviously be applied to your competitors and the online space by which you all compete in.  This is more about the why SEO’s are recommending a strategy and their tactics.  Analysing the competitors and online space, is the more opportunistic side of using tools to justify a campaign decision whereas the link audit is more of a where are we now and how do we improve on what we already have. So using a variety of tools to determine what is actually working for the top ranking competitors is key for justifying why marketing budgets and resources should be allocated to:

  • Carrying out that research study
  • Graphic designer and copy editor to present it
  • Getting PR people to sell that content
  • Measuring the outcomes

In the industry today there is a deluge of data, every tool provider and SEO data platform is talking about it but none of them right now seem to have the data science skills or platforms to make sense of the data to come up with anything significant let alone present something actionable to the industry.  By all means we need data science in order to be more credible.

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