Take your time to do reputation defense the right way
Online reputation is a marathon and not a sprint. One thing I have learned over time is that you cannot treat your online reputation like a barn-raising — you can’t construct an entire online reputation in a long weekend by just getting “all hands on deck,” throwing money, availability, strong shoulders, and resources at it all at once.
Rather, it’s more like building a wooden boat from scratch: You can spend a weekend designing it, sourcing your materials, and collecting all your tools, but some things take time; and, in boat-building, some things take longer than others (stains and waterproofing take time to dry, bending and curving and shaping wood also requires wetting and careful molding).
Google wants a long-term relationship, not a one-night stand
If you decide to take control of your brand and think you can do it in a weekend, don’t. Google requires courtship and courtly behavior. While it is perfectly fine to have passion and excitement in your content creation as your write your way into the Web and into Google’s many index servers, it’s not OK to go for a home run on your first date. Take it slow, and make it known that your intentions are honorable and that you intend to commit for the long term. Google wants to start a family with you, with your children as the happy searchers. Build a strong foundation, yes, but then continue building, deepening, and growing your commitment, slowly but surely, for the rest of your life.
Oh, you might have your way with Google right out of the gates but it won’t turn out well. If you don’t keep calling, sending flowers, writing poetry, and maybe even marry into the Google family in the form of Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Google AdSense, and Google Apps for Business, you’ll end up not in the dog house — worse!
The best case is you’ll end up in Google’s quarantine: the Google Search Sandbox. The worse case is you’ll be banished! Purged from the Google Empire and out of the Google Index, needing to make all of your future search connections based only on searches made on Bing and Yahoo! Yes, that bad!
Yard crashing, sure; Google crashing, at your peril!
I’ve become fascinated with the series of channel’s“Crashers” reality shows called Yard Crashers, Home Crashers, Bath Crashers, and Kitchen Crashers (Alison Victoria is very fetching indeed) — though there may well be more. The premise is simple: guileless do-it-yourselfers, shopping at their local DIY store, are approached by a handsome/gorgeous contractor who offers to follow them home and completely demolish and rebuild their yard, home, bath, or kitchen — all for free and for television. I am obsessed. And in three days, a dingy, dog-dirty desert of a yard becomes a Roman bath, complete with outdoor kitchen, a grand stainless hot tub, and a huge fire pit. In three days.
Don’t ever try to go all the way with Google. Never try a Google Crashers. Never. Ever.
Reputation defense beginning with defensive SEO
Back in the day, when I just started doing reputation defense back in 2004 or so (I called it Defensive Search Engine Optimization, or DSEO), it was really only me, so what I would do is burn a few 20-hour days (making up for the years my clients refused to participate online) collecting any and all assets (press releases, bios, news items, awards, links — anything and everything) and I would pretty much pull a DIY-inspired episode of “Rep Crasher” — dumping all of this SEO- and keyword optimized content into the search-o-sphere.
I quickly discovered that this is the equivalent of “going too far” with Google. And Google will very much throw a drink in your face; or, more likely, a slap or — even more likely — a restraining order.
Google is optimized for the real-time Web, something they call real-time search. As a result, Google needs to respond immediately to your barn-building content bonanza with quick wins in search — it has to. Why? Well, because Google aspires to real-time, immediate results — created now, served now.
Google won’t admit it but Google has a severe case of FOMO — a fear of missing out!
In short, Google is obsessed with piping hot bread, fresh from the oven — because that’s what people online want, circa 2012: Twitter serves the hottest bread in town, steamy and moist with a flaky crust; Facebook does a pretty good job; and Google+ is doing its best; the blogosphere performs pretty well still, but Google has had to trust, serve, and then verify. It needs to beat all the others when it comes to speed-of-inclusion. So, in spite of itself, it needs to be quite permissive. Uncomfortably so, for Google.
This puts Google in a very vulnerable situation. It means that Google will bend to your mad-advances, but only at first — for fear of missing something; for fear of losing a single customer to another real-time-web cafe. This sort of mandatory de facto trust and vulnerability pisses Google off to no end; and, if Google discovers its trust has been misplaced, hell hath no fury like a Google scorned.
Cool your jets and take your time, do it right
If you’re going to spend 20 hours a day for three days — no matter if you’ve a team of a dozen or just yourself — spend your 60 hours as follows:
- 10 hours to collect all of your ideas and content — including textual, graphic, and photographic assets — into web-optimized and web-ready content — it might seem like a lot of time but I suggest that you dig deep. I suggest you reach back a decade if you can. The Internet doesn’t care so much when something happened so much as if it mentions you, is interesting, relevant, and searchable — is it textual, searchable, and online? Make it so!
- 10 hours to set up as many social networking profiles as you consider germane and relevant to your reputation (do you really need MySpace, Orkut, or Friendster?). Be sure to spend all the time you need to to completely populate absolutely everything they ask for — even if it spooks you (social networks and search both reward you for oversharing publicly). Go ahead and populate them completely, social networks are not the same as online content such as web sites or blogs. Also, please shamelessly upload all your webmail address books and connect to as many friends and family as is humanly possible: The new Google cares as much about how many people you’re connected to and who they are as they do about your mad obsession with relevant content creation! Google does not reward lone wolves.
- 5 hours to reserve as many domain names as you can afford, including all top-level domains (joe6pack.net, joe6pack.org, joe6pack.co), all variations of your name, without spaces as well as with hyphens (joe-6pack, josephsixpack, joseph6pack), any obvious misspellings that you’ve been plagued with (jo6pak, joe6pac, etc). This may end up costing a couple of hundred dollars — or more, if you need to acquire them from a squatter, a premium store, or from an auction. Spend the money.
- 5 hours to set up a Posterous, WordPress.com, Typepad.com, and Tumblr account. Make them pretty, and then map a couple-few of your domains onto them — also, be sure to populate any and all “static” information you can — the who, what, when, where, why, and how if you — and be sure to link to your hobbies, interests, concerns, and professions as well as refer to yourself and to your brand in the 3rd person — channel your inner Bob Dole. Eschew all pronouns — Google doesn’t get them, nor does Google get context. Aim at being painfully literal at all moments — think about it this way: you’re Kirk trying to communicate with Spock.
- 20 hours to slowly feed in your content, broken into 15-minute increments — 80 of them — that you can then use on a daily basis — yes, for 80 days! That means that all of this will have taken upwards of 90 days, right? Don’t rush. You know how they say that you cannot allow a starving and dehydrated person to eat and drink all they want or they could die? Well, after front loading a bunch of profiles and blogs with a framework of you, Google will have its eye on you! You’ll need to make up for your last mad Dionysian 30 hours of content creation with some more Puritanical daily bread. Take all of those assets you’ve collected — as well as things you’ve done or are doing — and pepper them into your new garden of content. Don’t over-water and don’t show preference to any one plant: in that modest 15-minutes, update your Twitter and do a blog post; then, the next day, update your Google+ business page and Tumbl something
- 10 hours to weave your web of friendship, broken into hour-long, weekly batches, check for friends, follow people back, read what they’re writing and comment, +1, Like, and wish them happy birthday; another day, share something you’re doing. Follow people who are relevant; unfollow people who aren’t Growing and pruning your social networks is as important as anything else. Like I said before, some of the things that robots and auto-posters cannot do very well is make friends and influence people online; so be sure to let Google know you’re a human being! Shake your hand at Google and say, through your real connections, real follows, and real engagements that you’re not an elephant, that you’re not a monster. Come on, say it with me: “I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!”
Online reputation is a marathon and not a sprint
As I said in the subject line of this post, with Google, you need to be willing to maybe spring right off the blocks but then you’ll need to settle into the long game. If you’re too passionate and assertive with Google, you’ll be rebuffed and sent into the sandbox or worse; if you’re catatonic, you’ll be rebuffed as well and sent into archive mode, which is almost as bad. And, after your 80-90 days are over, you’ll have to basically continue that forever and ever and ever, ad infinitum — or at least as long as you care about controlling and maintaining and owning your own search results online.
Frustrated, confused, overwhelmed? No worries! You can simply ask my company, Reputation.com (877-258-3166), for help — or me, of course, via email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Skype or telephone — and we’ll take care of it all!
Indeed, sometimes it’s just a lot nicer and easier to get help from someone who has done this hundreds and hundreds of times — especially if your time is more valuable than your money. On the other hand, if you have some vacay coming up and you hate reading at the beach, the above instructions should do pretty well by you, at least in the meanwhile and at least as long you’re not in crisis mode. If you’re in crisis mode, you’ll want to escalate it to the next level.
(Disclosure: I am a former employee of Reputation.com and they continue to sponsor my work)