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Why Bloggers Should Care About Google Suggest and Online Reputation Management

A Guest Post by Chris Birk from Write Short Live Long and GrowthPartner.com.

Blogging is neither dead nor for losers. Google Suggest would perhaps prefer to play devil’s advocate:

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The search engine’s auto-suggest feature has evolved into a key marketing and online reputation tool, providing users with suggestions shaped by both global and local search patterns.

It also has the potential to produce headaches for bloggers and business owners.

Negative, misleading and even outright defamatory Google Suggest terms have cropped up for an array of companies and individual entrepreneurs. Turns out it doesn’t take much for “scam” or “is a rip off” to get appended to your company name in the Google Suggest box. And those are two of the tamer ones — search “BP is” for a look at how British Petroleum tends to fare these days in the land of Google Suggest.

To be sure, this has remained a concern primarily for larger companies and public personas. But the increasing integration of local search combined with the sweeping reach of social media is starting to bring these troubles a bit closer to home.

Blogging isn’t “so last year,” as Google Suggest might have you believe. But not paying closer attention to ORM certainly is.

Suggest and the Scam

Google Suggest culls its results from several sources. As with most things Google, the explicit recipe is a house secret, but it’s safe to say the major factors probably include page content from other sites, search frequency and a recent stream of content emanating from blogs and news sources.

What’s scary for bloggers is the search tool’s potential to become a negative echo chamber. It’s natural, if not a bit healthy, for a handful of readers to take issue with a post or express dissatisfaction with an info product or business practice. But negative comments and keywords in online reviews and other user-generated content can coalesce, gather stream and finally snowball until it’s picked by Google Suggest. A couple readers griping about your “scam” or “rip-off”— on your site or elsewhere — can spur a feedback loop that ties unsavory characteristics to your blog and brand in the formerly clean slate that is a Google search field.

Having “Blog X scam” as a top-tier Google Suggest result for your site isn’t the most desirable first impression.

Even more maddening is that innocuous comments and the regular flow of content and reader interaction can contribute to similar problems. For example, Copyblogger is one of the best run and most respected sites on the web (full disclosure: I’ve written for them). Yet here’s a look at recent Google Suggest results for the esteemed site:

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Toward the bottom, sandwiched between “seo” and “tagline” is “scam.” Dig a bit deeper and you’ll see that most of the top-tier search results for the phrase link back to legit, contextually appropriate uses and not hot-headed screeds. Then again, perhaps you should hold off — the double-edged sword here is that searching the phrase only reinforces its validity.

In other words, investigating whether Blog X really is a scam might only serve to further popularize the phrase in Google Suggest.

For now, some of this seems simply inevitable. Bloggers aren’t likely to curtail their use of words or crack down on reader commentary for the sake of the search engines. But info products, writing services and the copywriting sphere as a whole is a competitive space, and there’s certainly potential here for others to knowingly exploit Google Suggest for their own ends.

Combating Suggest

For years, online reputation experts advised companies to start a blog as a proactive measure to disseminate good news and counteract complaints and criticism.

But what about when your business is your blog?

To an extent, the old rules still apply. Bloggers who sell info products or provide other commercial services should be quick to respond to consumer problems aired in public. The same goes for incendiary posts or comments, no matter their origin. Setting up Google Alerts for your blog name, your byline and any other business handles is a good first step.

Self-promotion is another important measure. Bloggers should embrace the power of positive press while striking a balance between arrogant and authoritative. Customer testimonials and spotlights can add a significant degree of comfort and credibility. You can even shell out some cash on Google AdWords that highlight those testimonials or your accomplishments.

Bloggers concerned about competitive wrangling can go a step further and defensively purchase domains — think BlogXreviews, BlogXsucks, BlogXcomplaints and the like. Park some, and turn others into separate entities that tout your service or showcase your responsiveness.

You can’t spend all day peppering the search engines with bloated press releases and fluffy blog posts. Nor can you require colleagues, contributors and readers to abstain from using words that might come back to haunt you.

But you sure as heck need to start doing something. Carve out a middle ground that fits and get to it — before someone else does it for you.

Chris Birk works with GrowthPartner.com, a unique firm that provides angel investment and online marketing expertise to emerging companies. A former newspaper and magazine writer, he teaches journalism and media writing at a private Midwestern university. He blogs at Write Short Live Long“>Write Short Live Long.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Joshua Noerr says:

    In the affiliate marketing world, a lot of marketers will target the “scam” suggest specifically to drive more traffic to their sites. What’s funny is when you get there you find that they are promoting a product, and telling you it is not a scam at all.

    This frustrates me to no end. I think it is a less than upstanding way to play on the human tendancy to look for the negative first.

    Thanks for a great post.

  2. Hey Chris,

    Nice Post man. Spot on. I’ve to agree with above comment, i see many people target scam word.. to promote their products. I don’t think it’s a good idea.

    Last month i got a mail from someone to write a review about a product and he was telling me to use scam word. :D. But that time i not got why he want to put scam word.

    Thanks for sharing this great Post chirs. Great work.

    ~Dev

  3. Chris,

    Althought the writer Oscar Wilde once said ‘It is better to be talked about than not talked about at all’ I am going to set up google alerts as you suggested just to see the positive and negative some people say about my work.

    It will be interesting to see what happens.

    You made me think of something I have never thought of. Thank you.

    David

    P.S. Joshua’s comment above is right on the mark since many of the xxx scam suggests by google are by people wanting to sell you a product.

  4. Katey says:

    Great post Chris, I had not really given Google Suggest a second thought. But will now take it on board!

    Thanks

  5. Paul Octpus says:

    I agree it is very important to manage your reputation online, but I think that I you do thing honestly and with passion everything should take care of itself although haters will always exist.

    Thanks for teh post Chris.

  6. Jackie Lee says:

    Affiliate marketers are just perpetuating the “scam” thing. The more people who target scam keywords only to tell people it’s NOT a scam the bigger this problem is going to get.

    Of course copy blogger isn’t a scam ~ but I can imagine there are people out there who search to make sure and there are marketers out there willing to take advantage of that.

    This suggests thing isn’t going to get any better until the industry does.

  7. Hi,

    i never thought about this from thin angel. You are right. We have to keep an eye on what’s being said out there about us. It effects our reputation.

    The steps you layout are looking practicle. So thanks for mentioning them.

    And I did type in BP is and Google Suggest came up with:

    BP is owned by
    BP is screwed by
    BP is lying
    BP issues
    BP is finished
    BP ist
    BP is responsible
    BP is a buy
    BP is criminal
    BP is incompetent

    Kindest,
    Nabeel

  8. Hokya says:

    it’s more easy-to-be-used rather than AdWords’s keywords tool

  9. mac cleanup says:

    In fact it really should be proven that terms like “scam” and “rip-off” are of any value for user. How many people do check those suggestions? How many of these are not able to come up with the idea that content is somehow connected to general flow of user comment, replies etc.

    I believe the problem mentioned is not to threaten blog-based business, since in most cases people interested in your blogs know the worth of Google suggestions.

    And by the way – use Yahoo to look for you terms. It may return same result without helping Google to develop suggestions further.

  10. I agree with this blog. I have recently viewed the video explaining the ways to page rank on Google. I learned ways and understand each category involving the liabilities on page ranking. It is an easy yet complex to define its content but it lets the bloggers know the do’s and don’ts by way of having a qualitative rank.

    Thanks so much for this info!
    Would love to have an update on your future posts.

  11. I have a few business friends who have the word “scam” attached to their name or their business name in google suggest. They both actually don’t mind it at all because it seems to drive traffic and in some cases they even got customers out of it because when people people were doing their research, they looked up info on the so-called scam, ended up calling my friends directly to get the goods and determined for themselves they were upstanding people. Then they decided to buy.

    Sure its not always a positive thing to have the word scam associated with your business, but it doesn’t always mean that it will hurt. In some cases…it helps.

    Great topic. Needs to be discussed more among online business owners.

  12. ya its true when searched for suggestions 40% of them are on the negative based terms, the screenshot itself is evident of that thing!

  13. mac cleanup says:

    One more thing to add about the scam and rip-off. Surfing through Internet I often find advertisements based on rip-off as keyword (this function of rip-off was mentioned earlier), so it is possible that with further spread of the technique the term will be viewed as marketing word mainly (how many people know what was “spam” actually).

  14. Pedro says:

    Good article, but BP are not known as British Petroleum any more they are just BP.

    “The name “BP” derives from the initials of one of the company’s former legal names, British Petroleum”

  15. blog tips says:

    i think Google suggest the best related search terms calculated by Bot, And for me it really helped and time securing thing.

  16. Lisa says:

    I think that is very helpful for me when creating long tail keywords, it’s definitely better that Adwords keywords. Great post.

  17. Jon Spooner says:

    Actually this article reminded me of an interesting iphone app based on guessing the google search suggestions:

    http://www.thatssoquery.com/

    very entertaining.. :)

  18. Well I’m not going to worry about Google Suggest too much. I’m just not big enough to be much of a worry.

    But I like what you said about responding to unhappy customers. Being quick to resolve their issues is a good way to turn their griping into buckets of praise.

    Timely response to their needs is one of the best ways to build and maintain a reputation for excellence.

  19. Wayne says:

    Thanks for the posting. I really like Google suggest. It is almost like they are reading my mind when I am searching.

    However, it is another example of the power of Google and why you must be aware of what they are doing so you can work with them. Because as we all know, you can’t work against them.

  20. Fight fire with fire. Maybe it’s time for bloggers to write their own SCAM post for themselves. Addressing the issues and concerns on their own site may bring their scam to Google Suggest instead of the competitor.

    ..Just like this blog did, drawing out the Copyblogger Scam again. :)

  21. Dave Higgs says:

    Thanks for a great post Chris;

    I agree with Lisa – a great source for keywords.

    I would like to suggest perhaps a different slant – and that is it is a sort of voting system. The negative side is obvious, but as a copyblogger fan I am unhappy about the connotation of scam for them.

    Now if everyone who likes copyblogger were to post a “copyblogger rocks” post – well just imagine :)

    Thanks Chris and Lisa for the great ideas.

    D

  22. I’ve never heard of this before. I’ll make sure to find out more.

  23. Not everything suggested by Google could be the best converting keyword to write about. However, it can give us a good idea about what people are searching, or “are led to search”!

    Then, we can see where it might damage us. So, we get prepared for it.

  24. GWSMedia says:

    Hi, this is a really good article and something which I’ve been toying with the idea of writing about for GWS- well done for such a thorough piece. We’ve linked to it from our blog today, which is basically a how-to guide for those just beginning to market their businesses on the web:
    http://onlinemarketing.gwsmedia.com/2010/08/why-should-i-care-about-my-online.html

  25. nick says:

    Nice Post man. I’ve to agree with above comment, i see many people target scam word.. to promote their products. I don’t think it’s a good idea.Also I agree with this blog. I have recently viewed the video explaining the ways to page rank on Google. I learned ways and understand each category involving the liabilities on page ranking. It is an easy yet complex to define its content but it lets the bloggers know the do’s and don’ts by way of having a qualitative rank. thanks for sharing…

  26. great article. honestly those keyword suggest can bring negative feedback towards your website. There do suggest scam and rip-off that might misunderstand by the users.