Google’s “Me on the Web” Isn’t Reputation Management

Google meI don’t understand how the press on Google’s recently launched “Me on the Web” tool classifies this feature as a reputation management tool. “Me on the Web” is basically an FAQ, a repackaging of pre-existing information and tools that Google hosts in it’s Account Help section and links to from users’ account dashboard. Regardless, this repackaging is an affirmation that searchers are increasingly interested in and concerned about the information associated with their names and email addresses. Searchers care about what others see connected to their names in search results, and they want to know how to manage it.

Here’s Google’s official stance:

We run into a lot of people who think that Google runs the web and controls all the sites on it, but that’s really not the case. The sites in Google’s search results are controlled by those sites’ webmasters.

Essentially Google is saying, “We don’t own this stuff, we just distribute it. Don’t blame us.” But searchers do. Hence the need for “Me on the Web.”

So what can the average human being do to manage their online reputation viewed through Google’s search results? Not much really, unless the content in question is confidential personal information. Google recommends:

  1. Set up a Google profile: The best way to be sure Google sees the good side of you is to feed it the information directly.
  2. Set up Google search alerts for your data

    Be knowledgeable: Google yourself and/or set up alerts. Googling yourself is hardly new, and Google Alerts have been around for years. But Google does add a nice twist to the equation here by offering a link to “Set up search alerts for your data” that pops up a prepopulated box with your name and email address to get you started.

  3. Remove unwanted content from the site: Searchers who find skeletons in their search results are encouraged to remove the content themselves if it’s on a site or profile they own, or to contact the owner to request that they remove the content. If it’s a news source, you’re out of luck. If the content is from someone who is intentionally trying to smear you, you’re out of luck. If the site owner doesn’t want to or doesn’t exist anymore, you’re out of luck.
  4. Request removal from search results:  If you own the content, you can request that Google remove it from their search results. This option only works for site owners and under urgent circumstances. Google’s definition of urgent, by the way, doesn’t include your embarrassment at being photographed with a lampshade on your head at that party last weekend.
  5. Post positive content: Push negative content lower in the search results by blogging, creating positive profiles on social sites like Twitter and Facebook, getting positive press, etc.

Violations of  privacy involving personal confidential information like social security numbers, financial account numbers, images of your signature and instances of names fraudulently associated with pornography do receive special treatment, however.

If you find a page in Google search results that lists personal information such as your social security or credit card number, let us know using the links below. Google will contact the site’s hosting company to request that the page be taken down from the web. We’ll also take steps to remove the information from our search results.

It seems to me that Google’s “Me on the Web” is primarily a CYA tactic to stir up a little good press and deflect searcher frustration, not an actual concern about reputation management. It does little for the common concerns of everyday searchers, and leaves them with few options to combat minor but embarrassing reputation issues.

I can’t say I really blame Google for the stance its taking, though. There’s no sane way to mediate the world’s online tantrums to identify what is embarrassing “truth” worth returning in search results and what is just harmful maliciousness that doesn’t deserve to be seen.

You like potato and I like potahto,
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto,
Let’s call the whole thing off


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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Custom gTLDs: ICANN but Should I?

Internet governing body ICANN approved custom gTLDs yesterday, making it possible for sites with too much cash looking to be too cutting edge to blow $185,000 per gTLD + $25,000 annually on vanity TLDs and domains like bmw.car, nike.shoes or pepsi.cola.

With such a steep price tag only the very rich will be able to afford these custom gTLDs, AKA generic top level domains, which will hopefully minimize their release into the wild. I have three major concerns:

  1. Usability: Internet users are entrenched in their .com ways, or their .ca or .co.uk ways. Whatever the primary TLD is for a country, the majority of internet users will try to append it to whatever URL offered them. Trying to get users to your supercool new hot.wings domain? They’re probably going to stick .com on the end of that and end up somewhere else.
  2. Brand: For big brands, the only ones who could reasonably afford this vanity service, why oh why would you risk confusing customers and prospects with the scenario above? Most brands are still trying to master marketing and transactions on their primary .com web site. Adding a vanity TLD to the mix sounds like an expensive recipe for #fail.
  3. Trademark Violations: If any word can be applied for as a gTLD, brands will have a harder time protecting against trademark violations. For example, with Nike’s brand strength it should pretty easy to prevent anyone but Nike from registering .nike as a gTLD. But would it be permissible for me to apply for the .shoes gTLD and then put domains on it for nike.shoes, adidas.shoes, etc. Afterall, shoes.com has the right to create a nike.shoes.com subdomain on their own shoes.com domain. Should the laws be different if the domain is nike and the TLD is .shoes instead of .com? ICANN’s site makes reference to this thorny area:

ICANN does not accept reservations or pre-registrations based on trademarks. But registries will be required to operate sunrise or intellectual property claims services for the protection of trademarks.
gTLD FAQ

The registry operator must implement, at a minimum, a Sunrise period and a Trademark Claims service during the start-up phases for registration in the TLD, as provided in the registry agreement. These mechanisms will be supported by the established Trademark Clearinghouse as indicated by ICANN. The Sunrise period allows eligible rightsholders an early opportunity to register names in the TLD. The Trademark Claims service provides notice to potential registrants of existing trademark rights, as well as notice to rightsholders of relevant names registered. Registry operators may continue offering the Trademark Claims service after the relevant start-up phases have concluded.
gTLD Applicant Guidebook (PDF)

Let’s get back to the branding and usability questions, though, because that’s where the “SHOULD a company do this?” question comes into play. Let’s say for example that Pizza Hut registers hot.wings because they really REALLY want to underscore that they have wings in addition to pizza, and they are the default name in hot wings just as they are a leader in the American pizza world. This, as indicated by a super-amazing-awesome-cutting-edge microsite dedicated to the explosive awesomeness of their hot wings and their ownership of a spicy new custom generic TLD. They’ll have to train their audience not to add the .com, but it won’t work, customers will .com anyway. Which means these customers primed for an explosive microsite reward would instead see:
So Pizza Hut would also have to purchase wings.com, create a “hot” subdomain, and 301 redirect it over to hot.wings. If they don’t, their customers will get lord-knows-what kind of experience on someone else’s domain, especially when the owner of wings.com realizes what’s happening and decides to take advantage of the free traffic to promote something else. Or just this …

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Mobile Search Trend on Google Mirrors Early Desktop Trend

I love this chart from yesterday’s Google event to announce Instant Pages, a new feature that preloads the first result in order to serve it instantly. My interest was immediately draw from the announcement itself to the promise of Google’s mobile search trends.

Mobile search is still young, but it’s growing at a rate consistent with desktop searches in the olden days. At least on Google.

The red line is mobile, and it’s ramping much more quickly than desktop search did. It’s unclear what volume of searches we’re talking about here. I suppose we’re meant to assume that the X axis is consistently labeled so that we’re seeing similar volumes, not just a similar trend line shape.

Once upon a time when desktop search was young, Google wasn’t the ubiquitous brand name it is now, and frankly there just wasn’t as much demand for instant knowledge powered by web search. Remember when you had a phone book and used it for something more than … well … filling your recycling bin? Today we all know Google, and we all want answers instantly. Search is the fastest way to fill that insatiable need to know. Mobile search is the always-available, in-your-pocket-or-purse, have-an-itch-and-scratch-it tool.

As more people trade in their feature phones for smartphones, mobile search will explode much faster than desktop search did. More people have phones, more people have their phones on and on them, and mobile feeds the instant impulse. Not only will the numbers of people who can access mobile search ramp more quickly than the number of people who had access to desktop computers, the mobile platform is more prone to an elevated number of searches per person.

It’s a fantastically exciting time for online marketers staring at the evolution of search from desktop to desktop and mobile. I wrote an article yesterday for Practical Ecommerce entitled: “Google Says Smartphone Sites Aren’t Mobile.” It’s highly unlikely that the smartphone version of a site will rank well in a search from a smartphone. Google prefers the desktop version with its juicy links and older age, etc. From an SEO standpoint, serving mobile searchers really boils down to the strength of your desktop site and the tactics you use to direct smartphone searchers to smartphone content. As silly as I personally think this is, and as inconsistent with Google’s stated goal of serving the right content to the right users, it’s reality. I’ll be very interested to see if and how Google adapts to serve the right version of mobile-oriented content to mobile searchers as the numbers of mobile searchers increases.


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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Google Says Smartphone Sites Aren’t Mobile

My latest article at Practical Ecommerce, read it in full here.

 

Perhaps you’ve noticed the lack of mobile sites in your mobile search results. Most likely you’re using a smartphone. The two are closely related, and bode poorly for ecommerce companies focusing search-engine-optimization resources on their smartphone sites. In a recent question-and-answer session, Google’s John Mueller, webmaster trends analyst, highlighted the core challenge: Smartphone content is not “mobile” content by Google’s definition.

According to Mueller, as quoted in Search Engine Roundtable, “You need to differentiate between smartphone and traditional mobile (WAP/WML/iMode) pages (and this is something that confuses quite a lot of people). Traditional mobile pages need to be in a special format for those devices, and they will be crawled and indexed separately (with Googlebot mobile).”

Read more »


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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Ask Sponsored Listings –> Now Sendori

 

First IAC’s Ask.com acquired Sendori in 2009, and now Ask Sponsored Listings has been merged with Sendori. This comes from the Ask account rep team:

Ask Sponsored Listings is now Sendori!
Ask Sponsored Listings has merged with Sendori, Inc., an operating
business of IAC.
Sendori is an innovator in web navigation with a rapidly growing global audience. Sendori delivers web sites faster and eliminates security threats associated with mistyped domains. The largest ISPs on the internet have partnered with Sendori to provide better web navigation services for their subscribers. As the only operator of a Direct Navigation Search Exchange, Sendori provides advertisers with access to 12 million monthly US visitors and 14 million monthly global visitors. Advertisers also benefit from the Sendori VirtualBar technology to deliver offers directly to in-market consumers. To learn more about Sendori, visit www.sendori.com.
We believe the combined entity will create exciting future opportunities for our clients.
As we launch our new brand and product offering, rest assured our current Sponsored Listings service offering remains the same:

  • Access 30 billion monthly queries from the Sponsored Listings network. Real-time performance optimization with our proprietary PureLeads technology.
  • Your current account will remain intact. All your existing sponsored listings, bids, ad copy and budget will remain active. There are no changes required on your end. Your existing account login credentials will continue to work.
  • Our Ad Center functionality will not change. The only difference you will notice is our new logo and branding treatment.

We are very excited about this launch and will continue to deliver updates as we move through this launch period.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What’s changing at Ask/IAC?
Ask Sponsored Listings is merging with Sendori, Inc. and is now a wholly owned subsidiary of IAC. Ask.com will continue to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of IAC.

2. Why are you separating from Ask.com?
Our Sendori Direct Navigation Exchange represents an entirely new product offering, centered around Direct Navigation. This unique exchange is not a search results product, displayed on a traditional SERP.

3. What’s happening to the existing sponsored listings network?
The sponsored listings network will remain in place. Your account (ads, keywords, CPCs, etc.) will remain active. Our extensive network will continue to operate, providing distribution throughout select IAC-owned search sites and our publisher network. The only change to our network, other than its new name Sendori Sponsored Listings network is the sunsetting of Ask.com traffic. The amount of Ask.com search traffic in our network has been declining following the re-launch of Q&A services last year.

4. Are you getting out of the sponsored listings business?
No, our sponsored listings product continues to be an important asset to the Sendori product line. We will continue to invest in our sponsored listings technology.

5. What will happen to my existing Ask Sponsored Listings campaigns?
Your existing account and campaign setup will not change. Your currently active insertion order will remain in place. There is no need to sign a new insertion order.

6. What will happen to the Ask Sponsored Listings AdCenter?
The ASL AdCenter will be rebranded with our new Sendori brand treatment, but all functionality will remain the same. Your existing account login credentials will continue to work. All ad serving and reporting functionality will remain the same.


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Originally posted on Web PieRat.