Google's new guidelines are a bit underwhelming
In case you missed it back in March, a few people got their hands on a document that leaked out from Google. This document outlined the Quality Rating Guidelines for Google's army of search query "Quality Raters" and while it didn't yield any ohhhs and ahhhs about search-quality signals we didn't know, one piece in particular caught my eye because it ties in very nicely with the growing Online Reputation Management business.
First of all, let me interpret the Google scale as it's listed in the document:
Vital: the query has a dominant navigational interpretation and the page to evaluate the official home page of the query. In English that means when the searcher is looking for a destination, the official home page of the destination is considered vital to the search result. For example: barnesandnoble.com is vital to a search for "barnes and noble."
Useful: a useful page will have some, if not all, of four characteristics: high quality, authoritative, satisfying and comprehensive. For example: ticketmaster.com/broadway would be useful for the search query "broadway tickets."
Relevant:a relevant page will either satisfy fewer characteristics of a "useful" page or will not
satisfy those characteristics as well as a "useful" page. For example: an article page on pcmag.com about printers is relevant to the query "laser printers."
Not Relevant: to directly quote the document: "A rating of not relevant is assigned to pages that are generally not helpful."
Off-Topic: if a page has no relevance to the query, it is classified as off-topic.
Big deal, you
say? Yeah - big deal - nothing new there, let's move on to the one nugget of information in here that I loved to see in print: "It is not uncommon today for individuals to maintain various types of
personal pages on
the Web. Home pages, social networking pages and blogs have become increasingly popular. Some individuals have more than one blog
and/or more than one home page on a social
networking site (e.g., MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Mixi). When these pages are maintained by the individual (or an authorized representative of the individual), they are all
considered to be vital."
Online Reputation Management (ORM) or Search Engine Reputation Management (SERM) is, at its most basic level, controlling the real estate of the first, and often second, page of the search results for your company's name or your own name. The root tactic of SERM/ORM is to push up good or neutral results to displace negative results. This is done by finding good/neutral content to promote, or by creating content/pages you own to take up some extra slots in the top search results. If we can put stock in a year-old document that was leaked from Google a couple months ago, it would appear that we should stop ignoring all those invites we get to new social networks.
Do you have your Facebook account set up? How about LinkedIn? Maybe Flickr pictures? Or Plaxo Pulse? Connected with your old friends on classmates.com? All these social platforms offer the ability to present a different slice of your life to the public (and Google). If you want to control your reputation online, and you can stomach the total lack of privacy, it is a good idea to spend an hour or so a week and devote that time to updating your existing social profiles as well as finding new networks that are being indexed in Google. Notice that I said updating.
Not sure what networks to be on? Just head to a conference and hand out a bunch of business cards and watch the invites roll in over the next 10 days. A little tongue-in-cheek advice there, but it really is a great way to find what new networks are getting used.
Todd Friesen is vice president of search at Visible Technologies.