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Online reputation management and updates to the Google ecosystem

Businesses can curb substantial losses from inaccurate information: Here is the latest

The way in which online reputation management is handled, has just changed. This is largely due to changes in search, fueled by the rise in content recommendation and curation from newsfeeds, as well as the way search removals are handled under European privacy law. Anyone who is stuck on outdated methods, will likely deplete their budget without seeing satisfactory results. Yet a simple re-alignment to the new realities of the Google ecosystem, can yield better results than before.

Each year, businesses and key individuals lose millions due to misinformation that is often false and harmful. In Europe, the legal system is pivoting closer to a more just reality, yet the majority of businesses cannot thrive without constantly analyzing and managing the accuracy of third-party information.

Even the White House now releases it’s own statements against fake news, yet it is without the ability to remove inaccurate information quickly form other sources. Businesses are forced to manage this process via online reputation management (ORM).

So why and how has the ORM process changed so significantly in recent months? The starting point when training new press officers for agencies is “How Google fights disinformation”. This is  key to understanding how information is self-regulated by the industry. But there is a lot more to master about the ecosystem in order to ensure the best outcome.

The evolution of the Google ecosystem and how reputation management is affected:

The Google assistant, newsfeed and voice search are three features that requires a complete change in how SEO and content marketing is done. The new approach of Google Search, is to prioritize recommendation in newsfeeds and reduce real-time search results. For online reputation management, this is good news, since you can now prepare a strategic plan that will cover both content marketing, SEO and reputation issues in one simple process.

(Suggested reading: the consequences of bad press and how to deal with it)

Search removals under European privacy law:

Another crucial, new component used in ORM is the Google Transparency Report which is an amazing initiative and a forward for Europeans. Yet unfortunately this does not help people worldwide, for example in the US, Asia and Africa, I speak to people on a daily basis that have to make a bigger effort than those in Europe, simply to get results. The transparency report shows that progress is being made in Europe to remove false and harmful information from the web: I see on a daily basis how French, German and British business owners experience a relief as Google accepts a large volume of applications. The technical submission of such a report is off course important to optimize the chances of removing negative and damaging content from the Google search results.

What are the traditional ways of ORM and the removal of false information in the press?

Traditionally, a two-prong approach that included removal & dilution has always been efficient. In the majority of cases it is smarter to start with dilution, where we work with new sources of news websites who are willing to share the truth about a matter with the world. This then dilutes false and harmful information before we request a removal. By the time we speak to the source of the false information, we refer them to other information that contains the correct version of facts and events. This philosophy is still very much in operation: it is just that today, it makes more sense than ever to include this in a standard marketing plan which can be seen as both offensive and defensive by the war cabinet of any forward-thinking business. There are off course cases where both removal & dilution are started at the same time in order to move quickly to limit the consequential losses of harmful and false information.

How effective is social media in ORM?

Choosing the fastest, most efficient channel of information is essential in ORM. If Google is the source of information that affects your online reputation, then “leveraging social media” is not going to be effective, simply because Google does not regard those platforms as reliable sources. Remember that Google actually removed Google Plus, it’s own social platform. So it is certainly not a route into the newsfeed. If Bill Gates or Donald Trump was to tweet out the correct version of a story – well, obviously the media will consider information from a social channel, but it has more to do with the source of the information than the channel itself.

Rules of the road with ORM:

Managing an online reputation is not a magic bullet – it is an ongoing process. Each case is unique and requires careful evaluation. There are several rules of the road to consider:

  1. Move swiftly to dilute and efficiently to remove by providing factual information
  2. Work with information architects that understand content marketing and ecosystems
  3. The media is tough: “Talk to my lawyer” is not always the quickest solution
  4. Consider your region – are there specific rules and benefits?
  5. Learn from mistakes which have led to bad press and avoid any repetition
  6. Stand your ground to protect your business – and understand that the cost of not acting is high
  7. CNN, Forbes and Fox are not more important to the Google News ecosystem than other outlets. Remember this as it will save your business a fortune when selecting channels.
  8. Sentiment analysis and news alerts are crucial to stay ahead of the game.

Conclusion: The way forward for ORM

Some businesses see themselves in an information war with competitors – and at war, you need the best generals with the most accurate methodologies to drive the strategy. Others, see themselves in a blue ocean, where the philosophy is to pretend that the competition does not exist. Whichever approach is taken, the fact is that Google rules the world of information. This means that an up to date understanding of how the Google ecosystem functions – and how to present ethical and correct information in a way that ensures distribution across the ecosystem, is key to deal with information management, whether it be through removal or replacement. Feed-based information systems that are centered around the interest of a user is just the latest phenomenon. This will certainly continue to evolve, necessitating more updated methods in how reputation management is done.

Adriaan Brits

As an analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment and business. He covers mostly topics related to his qualifications. He is a specialist trainer in Advanced Analytics & Media. He also writes for Jpost.com, BestTechie, CEOWorld Magazine and other media outlets.
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