Google Knowledge and Online Reputation Management

As you may be aware, Google unveiled it’s plans for the Knowledge Graph yesterday. Its essentially an enhancement to the Google SERPs that will allow people who are searching for terms that have multiple meanings and references to find exactly what they’re looking for more efficiently.

Source: Google

Google uses the term Taj Mahal as an example. A user entering this phrase may want to research the landmark or maybe, instead, they’re trying to find info on the Taj Mahal, the musician or maybe you’re just trying to find the local Indian Food restaurant that happens to go by the same name. With Google Knowledge, you will be presented with a sidebar of examples loaded with rich graphics from around the web to assist in your query. Not only will it present results in a way that you’re more likely to notice, but it will also present them in a manner that’s more informative at a glance without having to click deeper. According to Mashable, it’s a switch from simple keyword recognition to the identification of entities, nodes and relationships.

Of course my immediate question was what will this do for Online Reputation Management and Personal Branding? People are currently thinking big in terms of Taj Mahal and Frank Lloyd Wright but it would make sense that Google would include it anytime there were various results for any given keyword like… say… almost every name on the planet typically being shared with hundreds of people if not millions.

So today, I was doing my routine proactive reputation Search Engine check for my name, when I noticed something different:

More by Lauren Starling

The by Lauren Starling and the More by Lauren Starling that had not been there yesterday.  Not without a sense of borderline-geeky excitement, I clicked the two links. One led straight to my Google+ page and the other to a Google custom search for Lauren Starling, ME!

A double check on my last SERP result screenshot for Lauren Starling on May 8th shows that, no, I’m not imagining things.  I was also logged out at the time of all of these screenshots (very important, if you want unbiased search results). However, upon looking at my logged in screen I see a notice informing me that my profile is not complete.

Considering this sidebar is pulling information directly from my Google + account, it’s no surprise that when I click through to update the profile, I’m brought to the page where practically gives you the third degree:

It’s clear Google wants to know everything about me so that it can be the authoritative source for Lauren Starling.  I guess now we know what all that privacy policy hoopla was about earlier this year.  People may be given pause here: “How much more do I really want Google to know about me?” In the end, that will be your decision, but remember to factor in that they are going to produce results for your name with or without your input; At least with this method you are controlling what people will see about you.

I imagine once I complete the Google profile, my little side bar will be even more enriched. (I’ll be sure to post back with updates) Clearly, though, Google has introduced a new player in the game of Online Reputation Management. I guess it remains to be seen who comes out the biggest winner.

How to Remove a Url from Google in less than 24 Hours

url removalWhen you Google your name, you may cringe to realize that you have content out there that possibly even you put out that may not paint you in the most professional light. What might have seemed like harmless fun in your college years, may not be something you want your future boss finding down the road. Or maybe you’ve decided to have a specific username for personal purposes while using your given name for your professional image.

On the plus side, these are profiles or content that you control so it should be easy to adjust or remove. The problem is, even after these pages have been removed they can stay indexed in the search engines for weeks even months after you’ve altered them. Not so convenient if you’re attempting to clean up the SERPs just in time for that big job interview.

This actually happened to me a while back, when I was going through a routine search with my name. I realized that I had carelessly used one of my personal usernames on a site attached to my full name and it was showing up at the mid top of the SERPs for Lauren Starling SEO.
Lauren Starling
The first decision you need to make is what to do with it. Delete the account all together? Or try to alter the account to the appropriate name? Since it was ranking pretty well for my name already, I decided to see if I could change the username to my full name, instead, and solve the problem that way. Some sites will let you do this, others tell you you’re stuck with what you signed up with. Luckily, this one allowed me to switch out the username for my full name.

So it’s logical to assume that a massively popular social site would have the search engines reflecting any change quickly, right? Ironically, because it’s a massively popular site, Google is going to use it’s resources efficiently when dealing with it. Meaning-Unless Google detects a good reason to, it’s not going to continually crawl profile pages. So even though I have a fresh new page on the site for my name, the old page with my username (now with a 404 error) is still the one showing up in the Google results for Lauren Starling SEO.  I have no idea how long it will take for Google to naturally find the 404 error on this Juggernaut of a website, so instead of waiting around to see, I decide this is a perfect opportunity to try out the Google URL removal tool.

Google URL Removal

Google understands that sometimes you want a page removed from Google’s index faster than they are able to update it organically. So they’ve set up a url removal tool to help you expedite the process of removing the outdated page from the SERPs. It’s important to note that this tool only works if the site has already been updated to reflect the changes.  This will not help you if you’ve not already had the information, from the source, updated.

Google URL Removal Tool

To remove a url from Google, first make sure that you are logged into your Google accounts. Next, go to the Google webmaster tools and click on the New Removal Request.  Then, type in the exact url that you want removed and then click continue.  Finally, click Remove this page. You will see that there is a pending request for your URL removal.

Removing a Page from Google

*Note:  Google will only remove the url you submitted and will not investigate further. It’s common for large sites to have multiple urls with the same content, so be sure you weed all those out and submit the request for multiple removals.   The quickest way to find all the urls you want to remove is to do a query in Google for site:whateversite.com/username.  So, in my case, I did a search for site:pinterest.com/mytopsecretusername  While only one url was showing up in the search for Lauren Starling SEO, using the site:domain.com/username query showed that there were still many more indexed urls out there. I ended up having to submit 19 urls all together.

Remove Google Cache

A URL removal is not to be confused with an attempt to remove Google cache.  For the above example, I had physically altered the url by changing the username, thereby rendering the previous page unusable. Therefore, I wanted the old url removed completely. If, perhaps, the url had been fine but, instead, I needed to alter the username on a page in the site; I would need for Google’s cache to be updated if wanted it to be reflected in the search engines results. Google does offer you the opportunity to remove a cached page from Google by submitting the url that you want updated and then typing a word from the previous (out of date) version to demonstrate that the live version and the cached version don’t match.

Remove Search Results from Google

Your part is done. Now it’s time to let Google take over. Once you’ve submitted the URL, Google will  check the validity of the request. In my case, Google could clearly see that the page was returning a 404 error and so they updated it accordingly.  The period of time from submission until actual removal from search results was less than 24 hours.

Remove Name from Search Engine

How To Remove a Website From Google

Some of you maybe thinking: Good to know, but my real problem is I want to remove my name from Google, or remove a page from Google or even remove an entire website from Google. Oh, and by the way, I don’t control these sources. But, man, they’re truly harshin my online reputation. Don’t worry, I’ve got tips on how to remove all of the above a from the search results… in my next post. So be watching for it.

How to get Google to Show a Positive Online Reputation in under 10 minutes

Controlling Your Online Reputation with a Custom Search Engine

I bet you’ve heard SEO takes months, sometimes years to optimize. When it comes to something as vital as the results displayed for your name though, you may not have the luxury of time. Luckily, you have alternatives. Using Google custom search will have you controlling all the results for your name or brand in a matter of minutes.

Google Search for your Website

So you’ve finally decided to take control of the content out there on the Search Engines regarding your online reputation.  Well done!  Part of managing your reputation online involves using the online reputation management tools (Many of them free monitoring tools like Google’s custom search bar) that are out there at your disposal.  I’m going to demonstrate how you can use custom search engines to control the content for your name or brand. First, however, we need to find all the neutral or positive results Google already has for you.  These are the sources you will use in this custom search search on your website a little later.

There are a few ways you can Google your own name, depending on your goals. You may want to see just what you are up against first, in terms of competition, as there may be plenty of other people out there with your same name. The best way to do so is to tweak the query search a bit with different search operators. I’ve tried out a few with regards to googling first and last names and probably the best is just “firstname lastname” (quotes included in the search) this way you are sure to get the full mention of the two names together in Google’s index.  If you have an unusual name, you will see significantly fewer results than a more common name. For example: If you type into Google  “zeffie zimmerman” you will only get 9 results where as if you type in “john smith” you will get  22 million results. Yikes.  You may think you would prefer one situation over the other, but both have their pros and cons. For example, with a name like John Smith, you would have a pretty simple time staying under the radar. Zeffie, on the other hand, would have nowhere to hide: If it’s out there with her name on it, she better hope it’s something good! However, if you’re like the majority of us, your own name results will fall somewhere  in between.

It probably didn’t take long for Google to figure that most people will probably share their first and last name with other people on this planet. Therefore, Google really does like to present as many appropriate options for the search as possible when presented with a bare or broad search (like John Smith) So you can see the kind of dilemma a person is facing if they want to maximize control the content for their name reputation but Google, in it’s ever ending desire to ensure a positive user experience, is constantly presenting multiple names and mixed results, right? So is it time to throw in the towel before you’ve even begun? Not at all. You still have the option to tightly control your content with the method I previously spoke of called ORM Funneling.

Online Reputation Management Funneling using a Custom Search Engine.

You may not be in a position to control all the general SERPs but, since Google is interested in continually promoting appropriate results, you are certainly in a position to put your best internet foot forward. In other words, pick a source that will be your authoritative source and use that for your ORM funneling efforts. You could go for a public Facebook page which Google already loves.  Or you can set up an official tumblr or worpress.com blog. My recommendation, however,  is own your own domain name. It’s professional, proactive and Google loves it.

Lauren Starling Serp ResultsLet’s bring it back to the situation at hand, shall we? When doing the search for “lauren starling” you’ll see approximately 2500 results. While this tells me what I’m up against in terms of competition, remember what I’m also needing to know is the variety of people Google is serving up for the broad search term Lauren Starling. So to be sure, do the search again, this time without quotation marks, bringing up all the different Lauren Starlings out there. Clicking to expand the the image to the right, you’ll see that I control 2 of the top 3 results for my name. Chances are a searcher is going to click on at least one of those top 3 results. This puts me in a great position to utilize that ORM funneling.  One way that I have been doing it was to drop content links from one site to another, steering the audience in the appropriate direction. Another great way, however,  is to create a Google Custom search on your site.

Google Site Search

Google Custom search is a platform that allows anyone to create their own Google Search Engine which will display only results you dictate. Can you see how this is optimal for the situation of brand and name control? You can add this search for your website with just a few lines of code that I’ll quickly walk you through.

Add Google Site Search

Start by clicking on Creating a Custom Search Engine. Note the “Sites to Search” category. The key is to enter in all the URLS that you already control, so that when someone searches your name in this Google site search bar, Google will only choose from these URLs when presenting results. To get a good list, I would recommend doing another search for your name to see what Google currently has indexed for you. This time try using a niche or geo qualifier. Appropriate qualifiers for me might be lauren starling seo,  lauren starling orm, lauren starling houston…etc.  Once you’ve added your urls and customized it the way you want it to appear to your audience, you simply click save, grab the code and put it where ever you’d like on your site.  As you can see, I’ve put it in the side bar of this site and also in the top content of Lauren Starling.

So, go ahead and invite those hiring managers, potential clients or that college admissions board to use your custom search bar to make their research a bit easier.  Everyone will soon find, that by adding Google search for your website, you’ve not only enhanced your searcher’s experience, you’ve just brought yourself one step closer to controlling the content for your online reputation.

Google Search Bar

Google CSE Autocomplete
If you have a moment, play around with the customized search bar on the top right side by adding in search terms surrounding my name. It should even autopopulate for you. Imagine how impressed your potential employer will be when they start to type in your name and John Smith Employee of the Month auto completes!!

How Search Engine Results for your Name Should Look

I had an old  friend from my youth longtime friend call me up the other day and say: “Lauren, what is it you’re doing with this new site of yours, exactly?”

One of the mistakes I find myself making, sometimes, is that because I associate with a large tribe of people who are as knowledgeable as I (and, many times, more) about the world of SEO and ORM; I sometimes forget myself when addressing the general public. While I hope my peers are aware and utilizing best ORM practices, the goal of this site is to help educate everyday people about taking control of the content on the web for their own names.

Since you are reading about my goals to rank my name in real time, I’ll go ahead and use Lauren Starling as the example. However, since my total SERP domination goals for that term alone have not yet been obtained, I will have to show you an example of how I would like my results to look.  The best way to do that is to post results from a different search term similar to Lauren Starling.   So, for this example, we’ll use the term Lauren Starling SEO.  Truth be told, this is actually a valid term; potential clients, when researching me on the web, may indeed type something to that effect.

So, for Lauren Starling SEO we see:

Lauren Starling

Every single one of these results are about me and equally (if not more) important, they are all results from content that I control. Keeping the content from those sources fresh, along with some basic SEO technique, ensures that those results stay in place (more or less) so that in the instance of nefarious event, you’ve already got aged content in place. Aged content is a significant factor in what Google deems to be relevant when showing results. So, for example, if a disgruntled ex-partner suddenly decides to go after your name on the internet in an attempt at a smear campaign, that ex-partner is going have a lot of algorithmic obstacles to overcome to beat out your results. Assuming your content has been there awhile and you continue to maintain active involvement in those sources; (e.g. Posting links on your twitter account, updating your linked in with the current resume info, posting status updates on your brand facebook page…etc) you literally have first dibs.

*Sidenote: You may have noticed the blurred out result for Pinterest. This particular result shows a username that I sometimes use.  I’ve spoken previously about keeping usernames and professional names separate as a way of keeping your personal life private.  When you do your own search for your name, you may indeed see a mixing of usernames out there. Don’t panic. Remember, if it’s an account you control, many times you can do something about it.  In this case, I was able to go through the Pinterest settings panel and just change my name to Lauren Starling. Just the mere instance of me linking to it in this post with the anchor text of “Lauren Starling” will most likely change the Google SERPs for this particular result sometime soon.  So, this is a key example of SERP manipulation for ORM and the empowerment that comes along with controlling the Search Engine results for your name.

How to Increase Facebook Likes

As I’ve mentioned, it’s important to have a facebook page dedicated to your public image, that ranks for your name or brand. When you first start, however, you may find yourself in  a sea of facebook names or you may not find your facebook page there at all (especially if you just recently created it). My hunch is that both Facebook and Google have a few filters in place when dealing with new pages. As you can probably guess, the best way to break through those filters is by getting likes and shares. There are a few key ways to do go about doing this.

1. Build it and they will come.  As a person whose job it is to constantly manipulate the SERPs, I find this idea to be a tad bit on the naive side. Does it happen? Sure. If your content is really ground breaking or really awesome you need only to get a few people to notice and let the viral yummyness take over. However, lets be realistic. The vast majority of business owners selling Green Widgets are going to have a hard time getting people to get excited about their Widgets. Most likely, you’re going to have to get a little more creative.

begging for likes2. Beg for likes. I know people do this when they first start out with usually nothing more than “Please like my page”. I’m not going to fault this method but, for me personally, I  just don’t care to pressure my friends that way. I’ll certainly make the page available on my personal profile and may even mention something along the lines of “feel free to like it, if you do”  but I really only want to have to do it once. Your friends aren’t going to want to see you begging for likes over and over; it get’s annoying real quick.  So this might work when you first start out but it’s not really a sustainable long term strategy.

3. Buy likes.  There are plenty of services out there that sell Likes and shares and comments and pretty much anything you can think of associated with your Facebook page. Fiverr has some pretty good deals. The complaints about using the services, however, are generally that most are bots and that Google and/or Facebook will be able to figure that out. I doubt you’ll be punished by either but you’re probably just wasting your money (even if it is just five bucks).

4.  Exchange Likes.  I really kind of like this idea. Infact, I had this idea for a site like this a few years back but, alas, one person can only do so much in a day. The idea behind the link exchange is you get points for every like you click and you cash in those points for others to like your pages. Are there going to be bots involved? Sure, but probably not nearly as many as out right buying them from vendors. That being said, I’m sure Google probably has it’s own way of determining authority for facebook profiles (they certainly do for public pages) so I’m sure Google also has a way of determining the amount of unbiased to biased Like ratios. However, if your goal, to start, is just to get your page noticed by the SERPs, then this is a fairly good way to go. There are a bunch out there and I’ve tried them all. Surprisingly, most are pretty crappy but the one I’m using now (mostly because it works well with Ubot) gets the job done.

5. Share Awesomeness. Probably the most natural way to get likes and shares is by posting great stuff. Don’t worry, I’m not repeating myself. While this sounds like we already covered this in #1, it’s actually an alternative method for those poor souls and their boring Green Widgets.  Before I get ahead of myself, though, let me point out the power of viral sharing and liking.

Getting Likes naturallyHave you ever paid attention to a picture or comment that is getting alot activity? For example, pretty much anything on Ron Paul’s Page gets multiple shares, likes and comments. It’s no coincidence that this guy’s page has a Google Page Rank of 7.  How can this help you? Many social pages, like this one, will allow you to post your own content from your own facebook page on that page. Now, you most likely won’t have admin privileges, so your post won’t be on any news feeds. However, many fans of these pages come to the page it’s self to see what’s new, and when they do, they’ll see what you posted.

I decided to test out this last method using a page other than the Facebook page for Lauren Starling. I choose another page of mine (in another niche) that I wasn’t doing any other active campaigning for. One of the quickest ways to get likes or shares is by posting something funny, especially funny pictures or memes. So I went over to 9gag and found some funny, yet appropriate pictures, and started looking for facebook pages to post them on.  You are going to want to make sure whatever page you find has both a high amount of likes and the ability to post without being an admin. For the purposes of keeping things seperate, I found five pictures and posted them on five different pages. Over approximately 2 days I received around 20 likes on the 5 pictures. Some were definitely more popular than others (usually the cutesy animal pictures got the most likes. Shocker, I know).

This particular post to the left got 8 likes. After looking further at the likes some of the people/profiles/pages that did the liking came with some decent PR. So Google is not only going to see these as more natural, Google will also see it as more authoritative, all of which will pass on to my page.  (*Note it’s very important to make sure that you are posting these pics and comments under your page and NOT your profile, otherwise this will all be for naught.) These likes and shares will continue to filter in either from people/fans visiting their favorite pages and liking them or friends of the people that liked them investigating what it was that their friend was liking and, sometimes, they end up liking them too. So while I only did 5 Facebook posts for the purpose of this blog post, you can see that if you do, say 5 a day, how those likes can start to add up exponentially. Plus, the beauty is: None of this goes on your actual professional page. So you can post pictures of cute owls on other people’s pages and no one will see anything on your page except your Green widgets. They will see how many Likes you have but not where they come from, so to your prospective customers you just look really popular. Perfect aye?

Because I love you and appreciate the fact that you just sat through all of these facebook ramblings, I’m giving you my list of 56 Facebook pages, that I scraped myself, where you can post your funny pics and get that Like gravy train rolling.  All of these pages have both the ability for non admins to post, and anywhere from 20k to 1 million Likes (So you know they get visited frequently).  Now here’s where one can say: If you find this link helpfully, feel free to Like this page! 😉 Popular Funny Facebook Pages List