Why Do I Need to Know About SEO?

With Google’s algorithmic changes aimed at putting the user experience first, page optimization has become increasingly focused on content. Manipulative black-hat techniques, such as link generation and keyword stuffing, have fallen into the background, whilst well-written content and traditional marketing techniques have become key.

Yet the latest slogan, “Content is King”, undermines the important role technical SEO still plays in ranking a page. It’s true that well-written, original content is a must for today’s algorithms, yet with everyone on the internet focused on creating quality material, expert page mark-up, crawlability and optimal load-speed, these features are also needed to rank a page high on the SERP. At Reputation Defender, we help brands to build their reputation using all aspects of SEO; from quality content creation to running technical audits that analyze how the page is performing.

A Basic SEO Checklist

SEO isn’t something companies can just ignore. A thorough SEO check-up is a necessary part of building a website, since all the time and money will be wasted if Google can’t index the page and rank it where a potential customer will see it. Even for a small website, an SEO check-list constitutes a comprehensive task. Here is a basic overview of some of the most important areas:

  • On page SEO – This includes basic attributes such as the page title, meta description, headings, keyword usage and keyword density. A sitemap will help Google and other search engines navigate and index the website, while a Robot.txt file tells bots which pages to crawl. Text to code ratio, page requests, CSS and Google analytics tags must also be analyzed.
  • Speed Test – Page load speed is an important ranking factor for Google, so SEO needs to consider HTML page size, (around 33 kb if possible) and use Gzip code compression if necessary. Pages should contain a caching mechanism to load faster; the use of flash items should be avoided if possible since this will slow the page down. A Site Loading Test also needs to perform to verify load time.
  • Server and Security – Check URL and IP canonicalization to ensure that each page has its own unique URL and IP. Analyze security issues such as directory browsing, harmful botnet access and server signatures. The website should be “on the green side” for safe browsing, otherwise it could infect customers with a virus, making them unlikely to return.
  • Mobility – To succeed on today’s internet, websites need to be optimized for mobile devices and include Social API’s for major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc).
Auditing a Site

There are many reasons why a page that seems to be well-optimized may not be ranking. It could be due to content, website traffic, incoming links or other off-page factors, but this will be impossible to prove without first checking technical aspects related to indexing and ranking. Bad URL’s, incorrect internal linking, duplicate content or Schema marking are just a few of the reasons pages could fail to rank on the SERP.

Most SEO’s use software to perform a technical audit. These programs can crawl the webpages in a similar way to Google bots and highlight the issues that could be causing a problem. These are three choices site auditors might want to consider:

  • Screaming Frog – One of the most popular programs that is easy to use and free up to 500 pages.
  • ISS SEO Toolkit – A Microsoft based program that is slightly more in-depth for those possibly with more advanced SEO training.
  • SEMrush Site Audit – A valuable tool for analyzing site changes.

Software choices often depend on personal preference as well as the size and complexity of the site.

Technical Requirements of SEO

Today’s SEO’s need a lot of different skills, so good work usually results from collaboration between different members of a team. Writers and content editors need to develop articles that will draw in clients and encourage them to browse further through the website. Marketers promote products, construct a company image and establish connections. But without technical SEO analysis all these efforts will be ineffective at promoting content and building a positive online profile.

These are just a few of the topics modern SEO needs to be familiar with to analyze a page and improve SERP ranking:

  • DOM (Document Object Model) – A structured representation of a web-page that enables it to be read by scripts and programming languages.
  • Structured Representation of Data – An organized way of representing data that relies on protocols laid out on schema.org.
  • Critical Rendering Path – The method by which a page loads and is constructed or rendered into the browser.
  • Log File Analysis – Using the record of server requests to analyze how the site is being crawled by search engine bots.
  • JavaScript Framework – A popular website program that presents challenges for crawling and SEO.
  • HTTP/2 – A new web protocol that Google has been developing. It is likely to replace HTTP/1.1 which has been in effect since 1999.
Managing SEO Needs

Company founders have a choice to go it alone and become an SEO expert as they develop their website, or to invest in professional help. Time and financial constraints often create a part, as well an entrepreneur’s natural aptitude for this kind of work. However, as the company grows, the workload will almost inevitably become too great for one person and most organizations will need to invest in a professional team with the skill set to handle all aspects of SEO. Whatever the size of the company, no one should ignore SEO. It’s a vital part of building an online reputation and establishing a credible, professional image on the web.

Admit You Need ORM to Be Admitted to College

When applying for College, candidates need to have many things in mind: they need to get great scores on the SAT or ACT, letters of recommendation, personal essays and enough extracurricular activities to prove they are good citizens. What many candidates forget is that Colleges are increasingly adopting the habit of Googling the potential students. This means that Online Reputation Management becomes as important for future students as it is for anyone who is applying for a new job.

Usually, the College admission departments are the ones in charge of this task. Probably they are not going to search for each candidate, but your chances are pretty high of being one of the lucky ones Googled by the College where you applied to. Statistics show that 82% of Colleges use Facebook as a recruiting tool, and the number is likely to increase with every passing year.

Since it is better to be safe than sorry, in this article, Reputation Defender will give you a few hints on the kind of things you want to do in order to do the best you can to manage your Online Reputation. It is known that students don’t have great budgets – or a budget at all- to deal with this kind of things, which is why we’ll try to keep it simple and show you why you need ORM and how to start using it to increase your odds of being accepted to College.

What College Admissions Officers Are Searching for Online?

The information that can be found about you online should be a positive reflection of your whole self. Your Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and any kind of post should reflect that you are a strong candidate for any College.

Against what anyone could think, admission officers actually don’t want to find out about any negative stuff related to their future students. In fact, what they first look for is positive information about a student being as good as its application suggests, maybe even better. Schools just want to get a positive vibe from what may be their future students. Lucky for students, only 35% admission officers report finding negative information about applicants. This means that 65% of applicants pass the online scrutiny test.

The Nuclear Option Is Not an Option

Many candidates believe that the best way to go in order to keep a neat online reputation is by deleting their social media accounts, this is called the Nuclear Option. This not only leads to a life of boredom in the 21st century but also looks suspicious for Colleges. Probably in the admission department, they will start wondering why you don’t have a Facebook account. These thoughts may lead to the idea that you have something to hide.

Most experts believe the Nuclear Option is a bad idea, they insist that students who delete or hide their accounts actually will lose control over their Online Reputation since they won’t be able to control what others post about them.

Cleaning Your Online Reputation

Instead of using the Nuclear Option, what students should do is simply cleaning up their Online Reputations by removing trouble spots that might lead the admission counselor to reject their application. Cleaning an Online Reputation can be a lot of work, but it is worth it simply because your academic future depends on it.

In most cases, what Colleges describe as questionable content is poor word choices or photos that imply irresponsible behavior. Also, comments related to drugs and racism.

Image courtesy of Sarah Ross at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Sarah Ross at Flickr.com

What to do then?

Managing your reputation requires a certain amount of commitment. Below you will find a list of things students can do in order to clean their search engine results.

Erase embarrassing photos.

Delete any kind of vulgar language.

Stay away from alcohol or drug consumption references.

Don’t post anything illegal or ethically questionable.

Keep yourself away from comments related to plagiarism.

Don’t complaint about your school or job.

Do not fake information.

You want to make sure the College where you are applying to can find your real name and e-mail you to mature address. They expect you to use proper grammar on your posts and talk about the things you claimed to do when you submitted your application form, like your interests, extracurricular activities or anything that can work as evidence of you saying the truth. Don’t be shy and use social media to talk about your talents, a personal blog, Linkedin, Instagram or Pinterest are good resources where you can show the world what you’ve done.

Once you think you have successfully cleaned your online reputation, it is recommended that you ask a friend or a family member to Google you and see what can be found about you. A fresh set of eyes may help you find trouble spots you hadn’t thought of and let you know about them.

If by any chance you find negative information about you and you don’t have control over it, be proactive and contact the website. Remember, it is your future what is at stake is your future, be careful with it.

To rear more about the things you can do to manage your online reputation before applying to College, click here.

Everything You Need to Know About ORM for Schools

Recently, many schools have realized how important their Online Reputation is. Nowadays the pretty brochure or the neat website are not enough for parents when it comes to choosing the right school for their children. Keeping a clean reputation has become a fundamental priority for schools that want to rank well in search engines, get more students and keep the ones they already have.

Reputation Defender knows that this whole idea about keeping a positive reputation may sound simple, but in reality, schools often have a hard time with online reviews and social media posts. It is very important to pay attention to this issue since the internet is incredibly slow to forget. It does not matter if a school was involved with a drunk teacher scandal 10 years ago, probably parents are going to find this information anyway in Google.

Parents Googling for the worst

Most consumers are constantly Googling everything. If someone wants to know if a specific product is trustworthy, then it will Google it.

With schools and parents, it is the same thing. Parents act like picky consumers who fear for their children’s proper education and safety. They scrutinize everything about the prospective school– and when we say everything, it is EVERYTHING. They manage themselves to find long-forgotten information about it and base their decisions on this kind of old data.

If your school is not using any kind of SEO service, the chances of search engines showing negative information about it are definitely higher. Parents will easily find something dirty ranking higher than other positive reviews about your school. This happens because there are always a few bad stories that remain just because they were absorbed by years of 24-hour news feeds fed by incessantly curious and gossipy parents.

Misunderstandings, upset parents arguing with the principal and politically incorrect teachers, are on top of the subjects that most parents Google. Needless to say that most of these subjects probably were poorly treated by the press, and what could have been a simple situation between a student and its teacher, was sensationalized, twisted, exaggerated and manipulated in a way the media could get a shocking headline perfect for attracting more clicks from the already concerned parents.

Beware of Negative Reviews

The old bad press is only one of your concerns as a school trying to keep a clean Online Reputation. A matter that schools should as well keep in mind is online reviews.

There are a few websites where parents can find online reviews written by others, such as greatschools.org or schooldigger.com. On these websites, people can leave their reviews on the selected school platform. Positive reviews rank well on search engines and can help your school build a strong reputation. On the other hand, negative reviews will definitely destroy your school’s reputation in minutes if you don’t take care of them.

If a school wants to build a strong reputation, it should use an ORM services like Google Alerts that can help it detect when a bad review is posted. As most of the websites where people can rank schools have forums, schools can engage in an open dialog with upset parents and try to solve every single one of their complaints.

Let’s keep in mind that some forums allow users to leave anonymous comments. These comments also need to be taken care of by using an ORM advisor who can tell the school whether it is or not a good to delete a negative comment.

Image courtesy of jdog90 at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of jdog90 at Flickr.com

Students and Social Media

Another important issue to keep in mind in order for schools to have a positive Online Reputation are student posts in social media. This matter can be quite delicate since high school students can be rebel teenagers wanting to gain some popularity among their peers.

Students can create fake accounts and post mischievous content about your school, leading to gossip and misinformation. Fake twitter or Facebook accounts are a quite common tool for students to make fun of their school’s teachers or kitchen lady.

This is probably the riskiest item for schools’ ORM since they are dealing with teenagers and there is virtually nothing that can be done or said to solve this issue besides also using Social Media to minimize the negative impact of the students’ behavior.

What to do then?

Luckily for schools, there are many ORM vendors willing to study their situation and help them out with their reputation management. Some ideal solutions would be to launch multiple websites with highly positive content about the school, make sure all social media profiles are coherent, and get the school in the spotlight for something everyone can be proud of. In the end, good news can go viral and could be very beneficial for schools with reputation issues.

Millennials Know Reputation Matters

For Millennials, reputations matter. As Millennials are the newest generation to take center stage in the work force, this concern is extending into the work place. In 2012, Gen X finally surpassed Baby Boomers to become the largest talent pool, but just three years later Millennials, defined as those people between eighteen and thirty-four in 2015, moved into the lead. One in three working people belongs to this demographic.

Millennials are the first generation to grow up in the digital age. Gen Xers learned about touch screens as tweens, the even the oldest Millennials were surfing the internet after school. This is their home. They’ve posted their share of embarrassing content, of course, but this only makes the consequences of online reputation more real to them. When you’ve witnessed first-hand the damage that an ill-advised tweet or regrettable photo can do, the need for Online Reputation Management companies like ReputationDefender, is obvious.

The steady march of tech savvy Millennials into the job market has forced companies everywhere to adjust. 

Studies Show all Aspects of Reputation are Important for Millennials

A 2015 Institute for Public Relations study found that heightened focus on reputation is one of the most marked distinctions between the three generations. According to the study, Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers all believe punctuality and performance are the most important factors in maintaining a good job record, but 47% of Millennials say reputation is very important to them, versus 37% of Gen Xers, and only 26% of Baby Boomers. While Millennials understand the importance of their own work ethic, they also know that how others see them will have a lot to do with where they go in life.

Online reputation management is one aspect of this. The idea of ORM seems to come more naturally to millennials than it does to their elders. They already know the effect the internet has on their work reputation. One third of millennials see the internet as the most likely place to make an initial contact, rather than an in-person function, and 20% give their social media reputation equal weight with their overall work performance. The connection between personal, searchable information online, and how a new boss may evaluate their job skills is something they are more likely to understand intuitively.

The internet isn’t the only place where millennials focus on reputation. The IPR study found they are also more likely to socialize with co-workers in person outside of the office. 34% of Millennials believe that this kind of contact fuels their work reputation, more than twice as high as baby boomers and gen Xers. Perhaps because of their early exposure to the internet, millennials tend to be more aware of the close interaction between their personal and professional lives.

Millennials Have Done More to Manage Social Media Profiles

Millennials may be frequently depicted as heavy social media users, but in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, they have a stronger awareness of the need to control what each profile page says about them. A 2009 PEW Internet study, made when the oldest millennials were just reaching thirty, found that 71% percent of young people had heightened privacy settings on their social networks, versus 62% percent among thirty to forty-nine year olds and only 52% among baby boomers over fifty. Higher numbers of millennials had also adjusted their friend list to keep some people from seeing particular content, deleted unwanted comments from their home-page, and removed their names from tagged photos.

This age group also showed the highest level of distrust in relation to Facebook and other similar social media sites. 28% said these sites were not trustworthy, versus only 18% among older generations. Overall, millennials have a more nuanced understanding of how the internet works and what it can do for them.  They know their social media profile says a lot about them. They know the internet is a public place, where any piece of information they post is accessible to someone who really wants to find it, but they also understand that by adjusting their settings they can better control what might appear on a casual search.

More Millennial Workers means Companies have to take ORM more Seriously

It’s unfair to stereotype any generation since individuals within a certain age-group can be quite different, but the innate knowledge millennials exhibit when it comes to ORM is something companies have to take into account. Personal reputation is important to young people, but so is employer reputation. When applying for a job, their first step is likely to be researching the company’s online profile, and this information may factor highly in whether or not they decide to accept an offer. To engage millennials, companies need to manage their own ORM so that it appeals to this age-group, otherwise they will have difficulty attracting and keeping qualified workers. ReputationDefender can help you to establish a solid professional and personal reputation. Call our team to help turn your online reputation into your biggest asset.

Image courtesy of WOC in Tech Chat

Exactly How Helpful Is Right to Be Forgotten EU Legislation?

Your reputation precedes you; particularly your online presence. If searching for you or your business online returns inaccurate or misleading results you’d prefer not to see, there are ways you can stop that information from being seen. In this article ReputationDefender will be looking at the right to be forgotten legislation and examine exactly how effective it has been at protecting the reputations of EU citizens.

What is the right to be forgotten?

In May 2014, the European Court of Justice made a landmark ruling, granting EU citizens the right to be forgotten. This groundbreaking piece of legislation gave citizens of the European Union the right to request that search engines remove links to online content returned via an online search of that person’s name.

Can I have anything I don’t like removed?

No. Appeals will not always be upheld; around 60% of removal requests have been rejected since the launch of the official request process. The EU ruling says that information does not have to be removed where such removal would interfere with the interests of the general public. So whilst the EU grants the right for private individuals to be forgotten, conversely it also grants the public the right to access information and ultimately to find you. The European Court of Justice states that its aim in implementing the legislation is to encourage search engines and government bodies to balance these rights against one another.

The right to be forgotten legislation applies to the EU only. This means that removals will only apply to European search engines; searches that take place in other countries may still turn up the ‘removed’ result.

What brought about this legislation?

The issue came to the fore when a Spanish man objected to Google search results relating to the auction of his property to repay debts he once owed to the state. The incident, which took place in 1998, was still being returned in Google search results over a decade later. The purpose for the auction being announced in the newspaper in the first place was simply to secure bidders, but with results being returned so long after the incident with any search of the man’s name, the Court deemed that his reputation was being damaged long after the reason for the story being made public had vanished.

Google has pledged to abide by the EU ruling, agreeing to remove content from all versions such as the .com site when viewed from the country where removal of the content was approved. Essentially, what this means is that where Google agrees to remove content about a person, the offending search results will no longer appear on any version of Google when searched for from the country of the complainant’s origin. Google’s pledge appears to have come in response to threats from the French data protection authority to impose substantial fines against Google if it failed to abide by the EU right to be forgotten ruling.

How do I apply?

To make a removal request, the European Court of Justice ruled that a person should approach Google or any other search engine.

Where the search engine fails to act upon the complaint and remove the offending material, new powers grant the complainant with the right to approach either a privacy regulator or the Courts in their EU country.

Aside from asking Google to remove negative search results, there are several other ways in which both private individuals and multi-national companies can help protect their online reputations.

What is the best way to prevent problems with my online reputation?

ReputationDefender and its parent company help over a million corporate and private clients worldwide to build and defend their online reputations. From global corporations to private individuals, ReputationDefender helps its customers to own their front page, and in doing so, reduces the potential damage caused by an online attack. Your first line of defense is being proactive and building a strong online presence in order that any criticism can be deflected.

An obvious place to start is building your own website, or for those who don’t have the time or expertise, engaging the services of a professional to do it for you. Taking advantage of specialist search engine optimization expertise will help your site’s content to feature highly in the Google search results, pushing any bad press down the pages where it’s less likely to be seen. Register your website with GooglePlus, Google My Business and Bing Places for Business to help give it more authority in search engine listings and hitch it your content up in the search results, forcing down any negativity or, better still, preventing it from ranking highly in search results in the first place.

ReputationDefender also recommend building up a strong online presence on social media sites. Take the time to build a Facebook page and post quality content consistently – you’ll not only improve the ranking of your approved content – but potentially build up a following for you and/or your business in the process.

There’s no point burying your head in the sand when it comes to negative online publicity. It could happen to you; indeed, you should expect it to. Building a great product or providing an excellent service is all well and good, but what is said on the internet is far beyond our control: someone could simply be having a bad day and decide to take it out on you or your business. Online reputation management is about more than promoting yourself online. Where criticism arises, by dealing with it in a calm, efficient and expedient manner, you can not only uphold your online reputation, but enhance it.

Image courtesy of MPD01605 via Creative Commons