How to Maintain Your Reputation During a Social Media Crisis

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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.


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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How to Maintain Your Reputation During a Social Media Crisis |

How to Control Your Online Reputation and Identity – Italian Language Book Available Now

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How to Control Your Online Reputation and Identity – Italian Language Book Available Now was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Cover of Online Reputation Management book by Ale Agostini

Cover of Your Reputation on Google and Social Media by Ale Agostini

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” —Warren Buffett

In the age of Google, it might take even less than five minutes to tarnish a reputation. Consider that just one 140-character message directed to a journalist can catalyze the unraveling of a corporation or a celebrity and spark a stain-covered search results page.

Bruce Clay Europe’s director Ale Agostini has written a book in Italian about Your Reputation on Google and Social Media, titled just that. With a third of the world’s total Facebook population residing in Europe (Internet World Stats data from Dec. 2012), this book covers territory that everyone should be aware of as they conduct their business – personal and private – online.

I asked Ale why now was the right time for a book on this topic:

“The difficulty of keeping a good online reputation is well understood in Italy mainly by companies with established brands and by VIP people that are well known. Other than that, it is still a mystery and people only realize the need when the problem occurs. The role of this book is both to spark awareness by bringing evidence to light and to offer solutions to prevent online reputation problems.”

Ale has set the stage for his new book with some words of introduction, which follow. After you read it and are reminded of the complex online environment in which reputation management, monitoring and maintenance is critical for your future, check out his book, available for purchase on Amazon. —Virginia Nussey


In the Age of Free Information, Your Good Name Comes at a Cost

Many people today draw most of their information from search engines and social platforms rather than from spoken conversations and word of mouth; this has given rise to the coining of the verb “To Google”, a term used to refer to the online search for information as a basis for decision making in real life (purchasing a holiday, hiring an employee, short listing a supplier).

Ale Agostini quoteResearch carried out by Google (ZMOT) showed how on average in 2011 consumers used 10 different sources of information during purchase operations, as opposed to the 5 sources accessed in 2009; in other words the bulk of fresh and immediately available information online has broken down the information asymmetry between the opposing parties, redressing the balance and providing a very broad information platform to anyone capable of acquiring information online on anything that interacts with the real world (companies, products, services and people).

So today, when faced with something they are not too clear about, many people try to bridge the information gap by turning to digital information sources that contain more or less reliable/updated information.

If to this we add the conclusions reached by B.J. Fogg in his research on interaction between man and machine which in a nutshell claims that “the more a user uses a digital instrument with a positive outcome, the more they trust that instrument”, it’s reasonable to presume that the average user who doesn’t know us, when faced with contradictory information, is more likely to believe what they find out about us on Google and Social Media than what we ourselves say or write. 

This striking assumption makes the management of our online and digital reputation at least as important as the offline one we build up within the fabric of our social relations. Search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo) and the most commonly used Social Media (Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter) determine our image and reputation in the eyes of those who know us less: however, the individual user has very little control over these 2 giants of online communication.

The book Your Reputation on Google and Social Media (original title in Italian La tua reputazione su Google e i Social Media) helps the user to understand how these search engines and Social Media (mainly Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin) work and the best tools and procedures one might adopt to successfully manage our image as it transpires from a search based on name and surname (or vice versa).

July 13th 2013 Reputation Management

5 Free Deep Reputation Management Checking Tools

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Remember back in the day when search results were just ten blue text links on a page? Back then, the search results were so simple that reputation management was pretty straightforward. You could clearly see if those blue links connected to positive content — if so, your reputation was great….

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

June 18th 2013 Reputation Management

Conversational Marketing Benefits Local SEO

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I began working for a particular type of traditional business industry recently, and I noticed that a great many of the small businesses operating within it were still proceeding as though it were pre-Internet days. They did promotions as though they were a one-way transmission instead of a…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Fresh and Sizzling at Applebee’s: Social Media Reputation Management

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Fresh and Sizzling at Applebee’s: Social Media Reputation Management was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Applebee’s is serving up a lesson in social media reputation management and crisis communications this week. There are multiple layers worth exploring in this story.

There’s the Reddit community whose mob mentality infected this story as it traveled across social media channels.

There’s also the social media marketing industry that has raised its voice against how Applebee’s handled the situation.

Herein I attempt to look at both because, of course, they’re overlapping and related.  Yet because this story is deeply layered and complex, I merely skim the surface. Still, I think it’s enough to add a few things to your business’s guidelines for online discourse if and when your brand ever comes under fire.

To recap what happened with Applebee’s:

  • An Applebee’s customer, Alois Bell, rejected the automatic 18% tip for a large party, opting instead to leave a snarky comment with a religious allusion. Update: In an interview with Alois after the controversy broke, she says her group left the 18% tip in cash on the table.
  • An Applebee’s employee named Chelsea Welch – not the server of this delightful customer – posted the customer’s note to Reddit’s atheist section.
  • Reddit had a grand time making fun of the customer and her religious affiliations. Welch was fired by Applebee’s for breaking rules regarding customer privacy.
  • Applebee’s issued an apology for the incident on Facebook. Across social media networks, outrage rang out over Welch’s firing.
  • Applebee’s defended their position in a middle-of-the-night Facebook posting and tens of thousands of comments accumulated. Nearly all comments are negative, and many point to a failure in using Facebook and social media for public relations and customer communications. home page

Mentions of Applebee’s on Twitter focus on the customer tipping scandal that rocked the company’s social media profile this week. Don’t tell Chelsea Welch they’re hiring because they let her go after she posted customer info on Reddit.

The Arguments Against Applebee’s

I think Applebee’s is being crucified for reasons beyond the incident that went down in a St. Louis restaurant on January 25.

To start, it’s my feeling that Reddit can get pretty uppity. Any action taken against Welch would have been met with righteous indignation regardless of Applebee’s reasoning. The social media community had elevated itself to a mob and would have attacked any argument — and this attack mentality spread to Facebook and Twitter. At this point it was Applebee’s against the haters across the Web.

These haters looked to any opportunity to call foul on Applebee’s. When the company explained Welch’s firing as the result of her violation of the customer’s privacy, this is how the debate that went down:

Applebee’s: “We don’t post customer’s personal information.”

Angry hoard points to a January 12th Applebee’s Facebook posting of a photograph of customer praise with the customer’s name included: “Look, look! You did so post a customer’s personal info!”

What Applebee’s should have said next: “Let us rephrase. We don’t publish customer’s personal information to tar and feather them in the public eye.”

Based on the facts we have, Applebee’s acted well within appropriate boundaries in letting the employee go and in its initial explanations and apologies about the situation on Facebook.

Some social media marketing industry insiders have argued otherwise, pointing to these actions as a lack of planned crisis communications strategy:

  • Posting in the middle of the night
  • Needlessly repetitive copy-and-paste responses
  • Replying to critics as responses rather than definitive status updates

These are all judgment calls in my mind, with no clear right or wrong without the aid of hindsight.

Of course, regardless of what Applebee’s was being persecuted for, the fact is that they were under attack in social media. So…

Could This Have Been Avoided?

If Applebee’s had a social media crisis response plan, could this nightmare have been avoided? It just so happens that two years ago, Jessica interviewed Applebee’s then-social media director Scott Gulbransen about the company’s social media policy.

When he talked to BCI in 2010, he explained the current state of Applebee’s social media strategy as “evolving” with “a ways to go.” What he described was a corporate social communications department that was trusted by company leadership to interact and engage online.

He explained, “We’re in the process of getting more folks in cross-functional roles trained to respond and participate appropriately in social channels with our guests and employees out the in field.” In that level of development, after a year with Applebee’s odds are good he established crisis response guidelines, or at least equipped his predecessors with the needed ideas and background to act appropriately in a critical situation.

He called the company’s voice “real, authentic and transparent,” and as comfortable making jokes as “pointed remarks.” To that point he said, “[W]hen people Tweet at us or post on our Facebook page comments or content that is pushing the limits, we don’t mind calling them on it.” If a brand isn’t “real” in social media, they aren’t worth listening to. If a brand is stiff and always agreeable, people have no reasons to connect.

The Cost of Being Real

So when I hear people arguing that in this instance Applebee’s demonstrated failure in a high-pressure social media situation, I’m wondering if what they expected Applebee’s do is roll over and take a flogging. That’s not a brand I can relate to. Applebee’s established its corporate voice as one who calls out people who push the limits, and as both a social media marketing professional and a social media user, I respect that.

Now add to that, with the facts we have, I don’t think Applebee’s acted out of turn in terminating employment of a staff member who posted a customer’s personal information for the purpose of mocking on the Internet, and you can see how I find Applebee’s in the right on this one.

Was their room for improvement? Sure. Lessons I’ve taken from this are to create a plan of defense before saying anything. It could cover how to respond to individual comments, or if that should be done at all. And a pre-planned blueprint would probably rule out posting at 3 am, an unsacred hour when late-night trolls are just waiting for something to dig their teeth into.

Other than that, Applebee’s should keep calm and carry on. Although tens of thousands of people hated on Applebee’s online this week, how many of them do you think are Applebee’s diners who will now boycott their normal happy hour spot? …See you tomorrow, Applebee’s.

February 8th 2013 Reputation Management

Forbes’ Top 10 Earning CEO’s Reputations

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With the New Year comes a fresh start, but in many cases our past likes to follow us online in the search results, especially on Google. That’s where online reputation management is needed to displace negative results with more favorable positive mentions and notable achievements. In an effort to better understand the types of content users prefer when evaluating companies, brands, and individuals, we’re working on a series of posts and independent research that will hopefully provide interesting insights that we can all apply to the demands of a modern, Google-powered world.

When looking for an authoritative list of CEOs and brands, where better to start than Forbes? Every year they put together a series of lists that document the top performing CEOs, companies, richest Americans, world’s billionaires, etc. I decided to take a closer look at those top 10 highest earning CEOs to see what kinds of reputation management insights we could learn from these powerful individuals.

For this post I’m focusing entirely on their Google autocomplete suggestions broken down by “type” and “keyword.” Google autocomplete suggestions are driven by search behavior–the frequency of searches for a particular or related keyword, the content discovered by Google for that keyword, personalization based on the searcher’s behavior and location, and any recent news for the particular keyword.

The top 10 highest earnings CEOs in America in 2012 were:

Rank Name Company 1-Year Pay ($mil) 5 Year Pay ($mil) Shares Owned ($mil) Age
1 John H Hammergren McKesson





2 Ralph Lauren Ralph Lauren





3 Michael D Fascitelli Vornado Realty




4 Richard D Kinder Kinder Morgan





5 David M Cote Honeywell





6 George Paz Express Scripts





7 Jeffery H Boyd





8 Stephen J Hemsley UnitedHealth Group





9 Clarence P Cazalot Jr Marathon Oil





10 John C Martin Gilead Sciences





In analyzing the Google autocomplete suggestions for our top 10 CEOs by the “type” of information searched on, I found the following breakdown:

Forbes Top 10 Highest Earning CEO's Google Autocomplete Suggestions

The most shocking discovery is that a search for each of their names returned no obviously negative autocomplete suggestions though one CEO’s email address was being searched for by consumers who wanted to submit a customer service complaint. What I mean by no obviously negative suggestions is that at no point did anyone’s name appear beside the keywords of “scandal,” “fraud,” “scam,” “affair,” “arrest,” “lawsuit,” “doping,” “doping evidence,” etc. The latter two did however appear for a certain cyclist. You don’t get to the top without causing a stir at some point, but once you’re at the top, there is so much newsworthy content (in the case of our top earning CEOs, positive content) that it’s difficult for a single negative review or blogger to overtake the empire you’ve built–unless news of Oprah-worthy proportions breaks.

Notable observations of Google’s autocomplete suggestions by type:

  • Searchers are obsessed with the biographical and financial information of CEOs. We want to know how they got to where they are and what they’re making/worth.
  • The “brand” category looks like a larger percent than it truly is because of Ralph Lauren. He is the only CEO who named his company after himself, which means his autocomplete suggestions are weighted entirely to the brand versus the individual. While I haven’t dug into the individual search results of each CEO, yet, this appears to be a very smart move for online reputation management though it extends to much larger considerations for the brand itself. The only difficulty Ralph Lauren might have with his search results is getting users to find information relevant to him versus the company itself.

    Here’s a breakdown of the results:
    ralph lauren outlet
    ralph lauren rugby
    ralph lauren home
    ralph lauren bedding
    ralph lauren coupon code
    ralph lauren paint
    ralph lauren outlet lake george*
    ralph lauren boots

    We can see that all of the mentions are a division of the parent company or a location search such as the mention of “outlet” and “outlet Lake George,” which is a personalized suggestion based on my location in upstate New York. Likely, the Ralph Lauren store nearest you is being suggested as well.

  • Being on the Forbes list generates autocomplete suggestions for the Forbes list. Once you’re on the list, buzz follows and in several instances, which were grouped as “profile” the CEO’s name appeared next to a search for “Forbes” simply due to the notoriety of the list and curiosity of where they might fall.
  • Charity work only appeared for one person, which was a foundation named after the CEO himself–The Kinder Foundation. I personally found this shocking and would hope that all of the CEOs are actively involved in non-profit work though they may not have named their contributions/foundations after themselves, which explains why these aren’t appearing as highly searched keywords for the CEO’s name.
  • Priceline CEO, Jeffery H. Boyd’s suggestions were (like Ralph Lauren) unnaturally weighting the contact information keywords. There were several searches for his contact info and email address. This appears to be fueled by consumer complaint sites who want to reach out to the CEO directly about a concern.
  • Gilead Sciences’ CEO, John C. Martin is brilliant. Like Ralph Lauren and Jeffery H. Boyd, he held down the “notable works” type entirely on his own thanks to his book, “Introduction to Languages and the Theory of Computation.” I love this. It demonstrates that as a CEO you don’t have to just invest in the development of your company, you can keep producing your own unique research or perhaps a book or documentary that drives positive searches and credibility within your industry. I learned the most from Mr. Martin.
  • Political contributions–we want to know where those top earning CEO’s dollars are going and it’s publicly available, so why not look it up? This no doubt informs many business decisions and news stories.

Let’s take a closer look at the bio category to see what searchers specifically wanted to find:

Forbes Top 10 Highest Earning CEO's Biography Types by Keyword

Notable observations of Google’s autocomplete suggestions for “bio” keywords:

  • “Mr.” appeared often as a suggested modification of a CEO’s name. Apparently Google wants us to be proper when searching for the highest earning American CEOs.
  • Education appears for a couple of the CEOs. I’ve always encouraged our clients with a strong tie to their educational background to reach out as an alumni and do their part for the future of America. That sounds quite lofty, but in being a role model for the school, you help promote future attendance, inspire new generations, and positively sculpt your search results.
  • There was only one search for the CEO’s board memberships.
  • “Wiki” appears to be as commonly searched as “bio” or “biography” so for the CEOs of the world who are scared of Wikipedia, it’s time to accept that this has embedded itself in our vernacular.

Now let’s breakdown the financial type keywords, which were the second largest bucket:

Forbes Top 10 Highest Earning CEO's Financial Types by Keyword

Notable observations of Google’s autocomplete suggestions for “financial” keywords:

  • I’m not sure there was anything surprising here. We all want to know what the richest and most powerful people in the world make–their net worth and their salary. There are also many websites that provide this content for politicians, celebrities, and executives, which only fuels those autocomplete results further. Google can’t display what it can’t find!

The most shocking discovery from this exercise was that the only “negative” appeared to be a mention of the Priceline CEO’s email address. While a negative, I want to look deeper at his (and the rest of the top earning CEO’s) search results to determine whether the brand has turned this negative into a positive. Do they own the search results for this query? Are they aware enough to leverage this as a customer service win? I would think that as a CEO it’s a no brainer–your users are telling you what they want. Turn this into a Southwest-style opportunity and capitalize on your values and message as a company. The same could be said for all of the keywords mentioned.

We’ll look closer in future posts and I hope this helped spark some creative PR, leadership, or online reputation management ideas for you as well.

January 23rd 2013 Reputation Management

A Threadwatch Best Post Revival.

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When re-doing my site for the first time in 4 years – I had to get rid of a lot of 404′s.  I also found all my posts to threadwatch.  My buddy Tony Spencer mentioned doing a roundup of some of the favorites.  Enjoy your stroll down memory lane 🙂

Crucial Skills You Need to be a Good SEO

Most believe SEO is a skill in itself and once mastered can be used to orchestrate successful campaigns, a belief that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Instead, one needs to learn many different sets of skills in order to truly understand SEO.

Directories Started Losing Their Value…8 years ago.

We all know in recent years that the value of link building via directories has dropped significantly, but many act as though this is a new thing. The discussion has been going on for a lot longer then you think.

The Debate Over the Lifespan of SEO as a Profession.

It’s far too clear today that reliance on certain types of SEO practices as your only way to pay the bills can ruin your business when big daddy Google waves his hands and updates the algo. What’s interesting is for how long the “death of SEO” discussion has been taking place (hint:forever).

Yet Another Monster Link Building Post.

They never get old, believe it or not. A nice set of resources to re-visit, and see whether or not these various link building tactics can still be used, are still relevent, or possibly even considered penalties in 2012. Great inspiration for those off-page campaigns.

The War Against Blog Comment Spamming

It’s hard to imagine a time without no-follow links, forcing users to sign in to Facebook or just all together not moderating comments and letting threads run free. Well, at one point spamming was a much bigger issue, and it’s interesting to see how we got to where we are today.

Google Filter 101 Discussion

Anyone who knows their SEO lingo should be able to spout off the standard list of Google filters like they do their ABC’s, but if you need a good introduction this thread has it. Also includes a good discussion about early duplicate content filtering.

Yahoo and MySpace Fight Over Pageviews

I’m only including this here to remind everyone to remain humble, no matter what industry you’re in. These sites were once huge considerations, and now account for a very small percentage of search and social market share.  Even the giants can fall.

Google Decides to Take Us to the Dance

Long before the days of Google celebrity Matt Cutts shooting videos explaining algorithm changes and updates, us SEO folk had to figure it out for ourselves. Here we see Google finally taking PR approach to anckowledging SEO.

Clickstreams Enter the Algorithm

Clickstream and user data has evolved into a large part of the algo.  Here’s some insights as to where it started.

Whiny SEOBig Brands Will Always Win

Over the years SEO’s have ousted big brands not playing by the rules Google has set forth, only to complain when those brands were not penalized in a harsher manner. Unfortunately these brands ARE relevant to consumers and Google will always have their backs (and Adwords budgets).

Google VS Link Selling Networks

Once links became a commodity that people could profit from, an economy was created. Google has since attempted to crush that economy based on their system of editorial ethics. I’m sure the debate will continue…

No-Follow Leads to Page Sculpting, Headaches

Google’s reaction to blog comment spamming with “no-follow” lead to the idea of page sculpting, where sites would hoard their link equity. Google’s attack on SEO’s was met with an unexpected counter offensive.  The idea of page sculpting has been revisited often, in this case during the no-follow frenzy.

Valid Code Is Not a Factor

If you really want to get a web developer or SEO fired up about “how the search engines” think – this is a great discussion.  Make sure to introduce the ideas of “black hat and white hat” as well.

Truth is it’s likely never been a direct factor, but well written code has a multitude of other benefits that indirectly aid in search rankings.

The Origins Of Social Network/Media Marketing

When MySpace first arrived on the scene it denifnately got “used” by spammy types creating pages for products and brands, never really developing a mature method of advertising options. But the seed was planted that social networks would lead to marketing and advertising opportunities down the road (in other words, Facebook).

You Don’t Have to Blog to be a Decent SEO

One of the problems with this industry is everyone wants to be talked about, wants to be in the SEO spotlight. Yes, blogging can help bring you exposure and business if you know how to create a conversation, but it’s not essential; many of the world’s greatest SEO minds do so without ever writing an article.

Search Engines Are Not Absolute

As much as we optimize and scrutinize the search engine, one must not forget to think about other traffic sources and visitor retention. The search engine is a tool but for marketing, but too much dependance will always cause problems in the long run.

The Mystery of the Sandbox

Once upon a time the “sandbox” was a place new or penalized websites went and couldn’t rank for anything. Purgatory would have been a better nickname, when the God-like Google judged your worth.

The Good Ole’ Days of the Digg Effect

If you got to experience the Digg effect, you know it was fantastic to be able to crush a server with raw social traffic. R.I.P. digg.

Moves Like Jagger

If you think the recent Panda/Penguin/Insert Stupid Algo Name here updates hurt webmasters, know it’s been going on for years. The same sob story about how Google “ruined” a business that didn’t have a solid buinsess model to begin with.

Seth Godin’s Irrelevant Online Ambition

Anyone using or talking about Squidoo today? Didn’t think so. The title of this thread alone spells out what went wrong with seth’s fact site.

Take a Look, It’s in a Book

We can all read blogs and forums until our eyes pop put of our head, but if you’re running a business you need to know the fundamentals of lots of things – finances, economics, marketing (outside of the web). Take the time each month to digest a classic, it will put everything you do online into perspective.

Understanding These Quality Indicators

It’s amazing reading a thread like this that discusses quality indicators (on-page) that people to this very day still do not prioritize. Eight years later and many of these are a playing a big part in how Google views your site.

Lawsuit Over Blog Comments?!

It’s pretty crazy to think that you could get sued over some random person commenting on a blog post you wrote. But it happened!

Judging Your Site’s Link Building Potential

A straight-up simple but killer thread on how to get into the right kind of mindset to get links. Today there are more social factors involved which makes this mindset all the more important.

How to Determine the Cost in Buying or Selling Links

Understanding the metrics and determining why a link is valauble then determines the monetary value.  Public service announcement – don’t buy links!

Public Relations Disasters Can Easily Be Avoided

This thread isn’t about SEO per se but man can we all learn from it. The intial post itself has some great points about creating positive PR opportunites (and how negative ones will blow up in your face and get the other guy a ton of links!)

The Art & Science of the Link Request

A thread about an old post I did, in the heyday of link building the link request is what coined the term “link ninja”. It’s all about getting your foot in the door.

Dealing With Pain in The Ass Clients

I wish this thread was longer – I could write a book about dealing with client demands. If you’re just jumping into SEO I highly suggest learning the ropes of how to explain things to clients (and knowing how to deal with them)

To Be a Great SEO, Be a Great Business Person

Just because you are good at optimizing web pages doesn’t mean you can help a business. Fundamentals of every aspect of business is also required to be a great SEO.

Google Punishments on Link Sellers

One of the more interesting ways Google has tried to penalize webmasters over the years is by putting the handcuffs on a site’s PageRank. It still shows up but the theory is a penalized site won’t pass the juice.

The Dawn of Persoanlized Search

Yes it was the stone age, a time where everyone saw the same search results. Then along came personalized search and things became more complicated.

How the Public Percieves SEO

Even to this very day it’s quite interesting how the public percieves what it is we do. A good discussion every SEO should sit back and have with someone outside of the biz.

Negative SEO is Nothing New

After Penguin hit last year, everyone began crying about the possibility of “negative SEO”. Truth is it’s been around for years in the form of “Google Bowling”.

All Your Enterprise Clients Belong to Google

Once the big G started figuring out they could get more bang for their buck by managing client accounts themselves, they went after the big accounts. Don’t be fooled by their complimentary assistance – they want you to buy more ads!

A Nice Breakdown of an Early Algorithm Patent

Michael Gray aka Graywolf breaks down a patent that still holds up as a good basic understanding of what Google’s looking for. While many new factors exist, this is a nice breakdown that every SEO should know verbetum.

The Wadrobe Choice of an SEO

What color hat do you wear? The distinction between different styles of SEO will continue to be a question clients ask. While black-hat used to get the job done the more Goolge flexes it’s muscle the less their tactics will be effective.

The SEO Game is Getting Harder? Puhleeze!

It’s amazing to think how good we had it back in 2005 – and even then we new the game was getting harder. Those who really paid attention were smart enough to see most of the updates we complain about now coming from a mile away.

User Metrics Again Begin to Surface

It’s funny to read some of the comments in this thread, as we have some doubters here. RSS reader user metrics influencing spam removal? Makes total sense.

Google and Your Brand’s PR Nightmare

Who would have thought that search would result in a major brand’s PR struggle. It happened with one of the most hated companies in the world, so they struck back SEO-style.

Search Engines NOT Hand Checking Results?

Search used to be an automated land of rankings. Then us SEO’s figured out how to play the game and Google had no choice but to hand pick the results in the most competitive verticals.

Hope you enjoyed the post.  Feel free to post your TW favorites in the comments.

The post A Threadwatch Best Post Revival. appeared first on .

December 28th 2012 Google, Reputation Management

A Business’s Reputation Is More Vulnerable on the Social Web

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A Business’s Reputation Is More Vulnerable on the Social Web was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

There’s a fascinating story in the Atlantic of one historian’s ongoing social experiment intended to reveal the nature of truth on the web. He teaches a U.S. History course at George Mason University called Lying About the Past. The curriculum has uncovered a fragile balance between truth and fiction within online communities as students craft a hoax to see how long it can pass as fact. Outside of academia, one prankster and entrepreneur duped Facebook into believing Abraham Lincoln patented a pre-cursor to social networking.

The lesson the Atlantic draws from the evidence is that the more trusting the community and the less centralized its communication, the more vulnerable it is to believing misinformation. Facebook is susceptible to propagating falsities with viral while Reddit collectively scrutinizes. It’s better to a safe skeptic than a sorry sucker.

girls whispering

What are people saying about your business online? Word of mouth has been amplified with social SERPs.

The findings are a cautionary tale for citizens of the web who avoid becoming victims. But the implications for businesses are equally pressing. A tarnished reputation can do serious damage to a business’s viability. If falsehoods or negative reviews of a business or people close to it crop up online, corrections or rebuttals can come too late to mitigate lasting damage. Active reputation management has always been a necessity of online business, but emerging search and social integrations magnify the issue.

Yesterday Bing launched its new socially enhanced search interface. Billed as another leap beyond blue links, the three column format dedicates the right-hand column to social activity in the searcher’s network. Reviews, both good and bad, become more visible when members of a searchers network have made comments about a business. Google has also made clear its intentions to continue to add social signals to rankings as well as SERP display, saying We think the web is better when it’s social.

Address your online vulnerabilities, be they from negative SEO sabotage or increasing prominence of social mentions. What’s being said about your business online? Isn’t it time to find out?

May 17th 2012 Reputation Management, SEO

The FruitGuys: A Case Study in Follow-Up

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Fruit DeliveryWhat if I told you that you could reduce reputation problems, provide great customer service, strengthen your brand, and live according to your values and mission through a single marketing tactic? The answer lies in fruit. Yes, fruit.

Around the Outspoken Media office, we’ve been on a big corporate social responsibility kick. It’s one way we convey our values, so when I stumbled on a “fruit delivery” service from The FruitGuys, I had to know more. They provide a corporate delivery solution for local and organic produce. Fantastic! I’m a big environmentalist and the team has a love/hate relationship with carbs. This service could provide a healthy, environmentally friendly alternative to office snacking.

The FruitGuys Web site

I signed up.

Happy Account Registration Day to you!

As soon as I set up an account with The FruitGuys, I immediately received an e-mail notifying me of the account creation and providing login credentials. This wasn’t your typical e-mail with a password manager; it was designed as a celebratory event marking our entry into the wonderful world of corporate fruit deliveries. They called it a “birthday,” and gave us their e-mail and phone number to contact them with any comments or questions:

The FruitGuys Contact Information

Once I told the team about The FruitGuys service, there was no turning back. I placed our first order for a recurring weekly delivery.

Follow up with fans to increase conversions and nurture a lead pre-sale.

A Forrester Research report highlights that companies who excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost. –

Order confirmation

Like most e-commerce solutions, The FruitGuys sent a receipt to my inbox. This wasn’t your standard receipt, though. At the very top, before the purchase information and order summary, were their e-mail address and phone number. They really wanted us to know how we could reach them:

The FruitGuys Order Confirmation

Follow up with your customers to give them your preferred methods of communication.

Confirmation of recurring payment

The day after I placed our order, I received another e-mail from The FruitGuys, which was to confirm that my order was meant to be a recurring shipment. Unlike the first two e-mails, this came directly from an account rep at The FruitGuys. Now I had the name, e-mail address, and phone number of a real person at the company in the event of a question or concern.

The FruitGuys Recurring Order Confirmation

I confirmed, and they thanked me for our order. At this point in the follow-up process, it struck me that The FruitGuys had their own language: “Hi Fruit Fans,” “Fruitfully yours,” “Enjoy and be fruitful!” and “Happy FruitGuys account registration birthday.” This was communicated through automated e-mails, and by their team.

Follow up to infuse your brand through messaging and tone.

Quality assurance and guarantee

Three days later, and one day prior to our first fruit shipment, Matthew Macdonald, the East Coast Sales Rep for The FruitGuys contacted me directly with a voicemail and follow-up e-mail. Matthew quickly established a relationship with us, but even more important, he let us know that if we ever had any concerns with the quality of their fruit, they have a 100% quality guarantee, and are happy to replace the entire crate with no questions asked. Sounds like a value proposition to me! With one e-mail, I also knew the company’s mission was: “Delivering fresh fruit as a wellness benefit to companies on a weekly basis.”

He gave me his e-mail address, his phone number, and the main customer service line.

The FruitGuys Quality Assurance

Follow up personally to further define exemplify your values and mission.

Weekly payment status

Each week, we receive a new shipment of fruit, and the day prior, I receive a fun invoice from The FruitGuys marked “PAID” because we’re set up with automatic billing. With each invoice, they include the contact information for their billing department as well as the main customer service contact information:

The FruitGuys Invoice

Follow up to communicate your process for how to handle customer complaints.

Facebook management

Before receiving our fruit, we were so excited that we Liked The FruitGuys on Facebook. They asked us to take a picture when we received our fruit.

The FruitGuys Facebook Page

When we got our fruit, we posed with it as they’d asked of us, but also because we were now swooning over the company and our delicious fruit:

The FruitGuys Facebook Album

We tagged The FruitGuys in our update, and not only did they like it, they commented and then shared it on their wall:

The FruitGuys Organic Harvest Delivery to Outspoken Media

Follow up to establish a strong online community and spread word of mouth marketing.

What’s the secret to reducing reputation problems, providing great customer service, strengthening your brand, and living according to your values and mission?


That’s it. Find opportunities within your organization to increase follow-up and infuse your communication with each of the aforementioned goals.

At Outspoken Media, we’ve recently signed on with InfusionSoft to help us intelligently automate newsletter sign-ups and contact forms. We recognize that as a small shop, it’s difficult to manage the sheer number of inquiries we receive daily. We have to turn to technology to help us scale, but in the process, we don’t want to lose our voice or compromise our values. Below are several tools you can use to improve follow-up, and please take a minute to share your experiences in the comments below.

Tools for Follow-Up

Guess what else follow-up helps with? Link building and outreach. Make sure your team has a process for follow-up, and hold them accountable to it. You’ll see a much higher success rate if you do. If you have trouble managing your inbox, check out Tom Critchlow’s recent post on project management to hone your skills.

May 16th 2012 Reputation Management

The Secret to Good Marketing: Good Business

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Come in. We're Open.Recently, I was contacted by a small business owner who was facing what appeared to be an insurmountable slump in sales. The business owner was a wreck. He’d opened his store in a part of town that no longer received much foot traffic since a new overpass was added to a major intersection. Sales were dismal. He had a good product, but there were stores that were more accessible with similar products at a comparable cost.

One day, the business owner decided to try to capture more sales through new marketing techniques he’d heard about from a friend of a friend. This person swore by his methods and the business owner had nothing to lose, so he figured, “what the heck, why not!”

The first step was to re-arrange his shelves. His products were usually grouped by category, but his friend had told him that instead of keeping all of one product category in a single location, he should move these products to other parts of the store. This would make his customers search for the different products and stay in his store longer.

The second step was to call a press conference each time he stocked a new product on his shelves. Press conferences are a great way to get noticed, so he decided to contact the local media each time he added a new product.

The third step was to hire part-time workers to visit the other local stores that sold similar products. During their visit, they would strike up a conversation with the patrons of that store and casually mention his store, so they knew about him.

The fourth step was to also hire part-time workers to talk to others about his business. He would give a dollar for each time they brought up his business and products in a conversation. He would also hire a big team of people to drive around town telling everyone they saw about his company. They were not to use any negative words, just positive mentions of his brand, products and even his name. Now, others would see that everyone talked about him in a positive way.

The fifth step was to stop using his current point of sale tracking and fulfillment software. He’d been told that the manufacturer knew how much he was and wasn’t selling because of this software and they might make it difficult for him to market their products if they noticed his new sales methods.

The final step was to put fliers up around universities and government buildings, because he knew smart, affluent people visited there. He wanted them to see his business and associate it with those organizations.

The business owner was eager to see his new sales approach in action and once it was setup, he knew this would lead to immediate success.

Can you guess what happened to the business owner?

  • With the new, cumbersome product display, customers became frustrated and left the store before making a purchase.
  • The local media stopped paying attention to him because they were constantly being flooded with news that wasn’t really news. And, the publications that picked him up were so low-quality that he didn’t capture many sales from them.
  • Once the other local business owners caught on to what his part-time workers were doing in their stores, they told them to leave and banned them from coming back.
  • With so many people being paid to talk about his business, the community lost trust in his brand.
  • He switched to the new point of sale software and it was good, but now he didn’t have the data that he usually relied on to make informed business decisions.
  • The fliers didn’t seem to work at all.

The new marketing methods were a disaster. He was losing sight of why he’d gone into business and was on the verge of closing his doors. All of the time and money he’d spent on this new plan had been a waste. He realized that what he should have invested in instead of a quick fix was:

  • differentiating his products or customer experience from his competitors.
  • surveying his current customers and non-customers to discover what they really wanted and thought of his business.
  • communicating the purpose of his business to the community.
  • training for his employees to increase their knowledge of his products and customer service.
  • researching the area to see how he should market himself to his local customers while being respectful of them and true to himself and his company’s brand.

This story was inspired by a post published yesterday on Mixergy, which summarized “how to rank on page 1 of Google (even if you’ve never heard of black hat SEO).”

April 28th 2012 Reputation Management