“Google is not a search engine. It’s a reputation management system”

The relationship between copywriting and search marketing has never been closer; I now find myself covering the same stories as eminent SEM pros Lee Odden and Andy Beal. All three of us have recently covered issues highlighted in a Wired article about ‘The See-Through CEO’, a story about how being transparent can enhance your image, and how Google is now your mirror.

The article discusses how a CEO openly talked about his business and reached out to his marketplace. By exposing some of the myths and taking out al the ‘sales baloney’, he was able to build relationships with customers like never before. He also appeared to upset the rest of his industry in the process, but I digress.

In our new connected age it is impossible for businesses to rely on smoke and mirrors to disguise their problems. People can now spread their opinions and experiences faster than a Paris Hilton home video. Companies such as Sony, Walmart, Dell and South West Airlines have all felt the wrath of disgruntled customers, haemorrhaging their reputation with relish.

The powers of a company to control their message are dissipating. People can now block out their overt PR and sales spiel. Transparency now appears to be the language to adopt, spoken with the vocabulary of relevance and value.

The key area of my shared interest with Lee and Andy in the article is the impact of comments and opinions on search results. Google loves regularly updated websites with plenty of back-links. It’s these that are highlighted as the most relevant and pushed onto people’s screens.

When the uproar over Dell’s customer service exploded the first two search results were posts attacking Dell’s reputation. The lesson is that if you don’t talk about yourself than somebody else will, and you might not like what they have to say.

With hindsight, Dell should have simply released an apology and a promise to do better. Customers get angry when they think they aren’t being listened to, but can be forgiving if they feel their problems have at least been acknowledged.

Google is no longer just an online directory, but a reflection of your reputation. Its search results show what is being said and what information has the most influence. Internet marketing is no longer just about getting your website to the top, but also about getting to know the search results around you.

Previously brands would hire a PR agency to push positive stories onto the news channels to influence what people were saying. Now people are creating news channels of their own, free to say whatever they like and with an audience that listens intently.

As the Wired article comments:

“Being transparent, opening up, posting interesting material frequently and often is the only way to amass positive links to yourself and thus to directly influence your Googleable reputation. Putting out more evasion or PR puffery won’t work, because people will either ignore it and not link to it – or worse, pick the spin apart and enshrine thosecriticisms high on your Google list of life.”

The same topic was covered by a panel at the Bloggin4Business conference, currently in full swing in London. The panel of experts were discussing the impact of social media on advertising and marketing.

“Marketing needs to completely reinvent itself because the media world has completely changed,” commented Anthony Mayfield from Spannerworks, “Success means earning attention by being useful.”

The notion that online marketing is purely about SEO is dated. It’s now about becoming a relevant and active cornerstone of your marketplace’s community. You need to become an ‘authentic brand ambassador’ and an integrated part of your online ecosystem.

A brand’s internet marketing strategy should be about being as transparent as possible and generous with their news and information. Not burying their heads in the sand and hoping people in the internet bubble will run out of air.

9 thoughts on ““Google is not a search engine. It’s a reputation management system”

  1. Hi Matt!
    Transparency goes in line with great customer service…wonderful follow-up story.
    I see you’re writing more often…so, who’s your “generous sponsor with deep pockets”…please, do tell 🙂

  2. No generous sponsor yet I’m afraid. I just couldn’t let the online PR report pass me by without saying something. I really don’t know how some bloggers manage to bang out so many posts every week. They take me all morning to put together. Must write quicker!

  3. For the high-quality of your writing abilities and the depth of your research within each post, I wouldn’t change a single thing with your posts!

    You have a loyal following, and I believe we both agree that our blogs are a branding-technique, and marketing tool, and not our “business”. Undoubtedly, you offer incredible copywriting services to your clients!

    I made a special post just about your blog here: http://empowerwomennow.com/news-women-entrepreneurs/index.php/what-everyone-ought-to-know-about-online-public-relations/

  4. Thanks very much for the compliments and the mention on your blog Ponn. The link wasn’t working but I’ve fixed it now.

    I totally agree, the Crucible isn’t a money making venture but an opportunity to learn, write and share with the online community.
    Since blogging/news feeds and engaging with your marketplace is a strategy I want to promote to clients what better way than to show it in action and the positive results it can bring.

  5. “Reputation management system?”

    And here I thought Google’s primary purpose was to provide me with a daily ego check… 😎

    Matt, this is a great blog, and I certainly understand the difficulties involved with posting often enough. I’m writing three blogs, which turns out to be about .5 too many…

  6. Thanks Tom. I appreciate your support.

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