Grigory Malenko, managing partner of the online reputation management agency SERM, in his column for ebizz.co.uk, what is SERM and how to work with online reputation.
Search engines have long and, apparently, for a long time become one of the main sources from where we get information. Moreover, unlike other sources, search engines are consistently highly trusted. We believe in the results of Google search results and on their basis we buy goods, get a job, choose where and how to spend a vacation, form an opinion about events, people, brands.
Sometimes those very brands and people are justifiably dissatisfied with how they are presented in the search engines and how this affects their reputation. When defamation, slander, or simply irrelevant information is found in search results for a person’s name or company name, it’s time to think about SERM.
SERM stands for Search Engine Reputation Management, which stands for Search Engine Reputation Management.
In fact, SERM is a set of methods that can improve the reputation of a company or person on Google. Often, a SERM customer does not have a comprehensive understanding of the subject area in which he will have to make decisions.
Below I will describe 10 important points that you should consider before ordering a service, or doing SERM yourself.
1. The optimal strategy for managing reputation in search engines is a set of the following measures:
- removal and replacement of negative materials at sites where there is such an opportunity, taking into account that there are no additional reputational risks. The Barbara Streisand Effect should be kept in mind:
- writing new relevant content in news and article format (review, analytics, curriculum vitae, company profile). New materials should not be laudatory odes, but be different in style of presentation and tonality (positive, neutral, pseudo-negative);
- posting content on sites that meet a certain set of technical requirements and have a greater chance of getting the TOP of search results for the required request;
- promotion of materials (SEO) – the creation of a favorable set of external factors that increase the likelihood of a successful hit of a particular material in the Top 10 search results on request.
2. Only 1.5% of users go to the second page of search results. Accordingly, the primary task of SERM is the “top ten” of results. Nevertheless, it is worth analyzing and taking into account the Top 20 results for each request, since the materials from the second page have a high potential to get into the Top 10, already with the next update of the search engine algorithms.
3. The main task of the search algorithm is to give a relevant and complete answer to a query within the Top 10 search results. In many cases, the search robot deliberately mixes negative content and critical sentiment into the search results in order to give the user a diverse and widest “picture”. In such cases, when managing reputation in search engines, a technique is used with the promotion of pseudo-negative materials that compete with the real negative.
4. Materials that have been posted for a long time, but are not displayed in the top results of search engine results, have practically no chance of successful promotion. Such pages are determined by the algorithm as either less relevant or not relevant to the queries.
5. Removing negative material from a specific link solves the problem only for a short period or does not solve it at all. Since the search engines rank not links to sites, but the content itself (the entire content of the page is by reference), then when you delete material by reference, the search engine will quickly find another resource where the “deleted” material is located and return it to a high position.
Even if the “deleted” material did not have a duplicate and the removal from the SERP was successful, then you solved the problem only half. Removal will remove some of the negative, but will not increase the amount of neutral and positive information. As nature abhors a vacuum, so in Google – the information vacuum is always filled with negative. Accordingly, the information space must be regularly saturated (see point 1).
6. Search results in different geolocations are often and very different. This is due to the fact that in different countries and cities, both sites have different priorities, and user behavior is different. Therefore, for a SERM project, it is necessary to clearly define the base geography to which all activities will be targeted and by which the result will be measured.
7. Algorithms of search engines imply certain inertia, which is why new material that appears on the web goes through several stages before it can get into the Top 10 search results. Materials of different forms and tonality go through these stages at different rates (from a week to four months).
News stories quickly “take off” to the top of the search results, but also quickly “fly-out” of it. Article materials are relevant for a longer time, therefore they are at the top longer, but take more time to promote.
8. “Black” methods “of leveling the negative, such as DoS attacks, hacking of sites, and others, in addition to being contrary to the criminal code, are ineffective and do not replace systematic work on the sustainable improvement of reputation in search results. (Again, see paragraph 5 ).
9. Search results are dynamically updated and depend both on hundreds of external factors (information environment, activity of competitors) and on constantly changing algorithms of search engines. It is impossible to completely occupy (replace with your own materials), and then “freeze” the results of issuance. Accordingly, the specificity of SERM does not allow to guarantee the result in the long term.
10. The contractor’s responsibility does not lie in the guarantees of the final result (which cannot be provided for extremely objective reasons (see paragraph 9), but in choosing the optimal strategy and using the most effective tools for solving the problem.
A competent contractor, whether it is a SERM agency or a SERM specialist, is obliged to guarantee the implementation of the set of proposed measures, the transparency of the processes, and constant access to the system for evaluating the result.
As a conclusion
In order for Google to love you or your company, you need to remember the mission of Google: “It is convenient to organize all the information in the world and make it accessible and useful to everyone.” Help Google organize all of your information by systematically filling it with useful, usable, and relevant information.