Right to be Forgotten

Right to be forgotten reportMany of our PR firm partners and existing clients have been asking us about the controversial “Right to be Forgotten” ruling passed by the European Court of Justice – the highest ranking court in the EU.  We’ve created a special Five Blocks report that is a distillation of hundreds of news articles and blogs on the subject.

Tthe Five Blocks report is now available to the public on our website. We anticipate publishing at least two Five Blocks thought leadership articles on the subject in the coming days. As always, we welcome your feedback and updates on this constantly evolving story.

Click here for the full report
Some results have been removed

The Upshot of In-Depth Articles

Earlier this month, over July 2nd and 3rd, Google injected its in-depth article feature with a little shot of pep, as we saw an uptick in the number of search terms showing in depth articles.

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Most of the terms in these four groups are famous individuals (rather than companies), spanning different industries and interests. Indeed, that is who we expect to see deep journalistic coverage about.

What’s interesting is that despite many of these articles being a “fresh addition” to the search results, they aren’t actually new. Many are a year or two old with some even older than that.

Google’s in-depth article feature on the search page is effectively breathing new life into this content. I’m not sure how many searchers are still interested in reading an article from 2006 about the 2008 US Presidential election. Nonetheless, Google is giving them prominence in first page search results.

As digital reputation consultants, we have been closely following the news and aftermath of the recent European Court of Justice ruling regarding the right to be forgotten. It was just on June 26 that Google began taking down links to certain web content in implementation of that ruling. Although this advancement of the in-depth article feature took place exactly a week later, it’s probably unrelated. Nevertheless, we feel Google’s invigoration of these articles makes clear that it’s not willing to let anyone forget too fast.

Manage Your Identity: Impersonator Accounts on Social Media

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Digital reputation management requires vigilance and initiative, on many fronts. Search engine result pages, social media, SEO, PR, and Wikipedia are all realms of one’s online presence that must be actively managed in order to ensure an accurate and favorable representation. One aspect of social media that can be particularly damaging to high profile individuals or brands is the prevalence of false, and often malicious, impersonators.

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The anonymity of the internet affords people the opportunity to create fake social media accounts using names of high profile individuals and brands. Often, these fake accounts are inactive; these profiles rarely post any new updates, and they may never be seen by users of the particular social media platform in question. However, these accounts can be damaging regarding search engine results. Search engines may mistakenly identify a phony profile with the actual individual, and then display this result to a user who is searching that name.

Some of these fake accounts are barely fleshed out and clearly nonsensical, but even accounts of this sort can be misleading or confusing for both search engines and real users. Other fake accounts can be more pernicious. These profiles may carry unfavorable images, nasty taglines, or other fields that mock or criticize an individual or a brand.

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It is thus imperative for people and companies interested in controlling their online identity to keep an eye on major social media channels for impersonators. Fortunately, the major social media platforms are aware of this problem, and they do offer the opportunity to report false accounts and to request their removal. Note that you may be asked to provide a copy of some form of identity verification, such as a valid driver’s license. By being aware of this digital reputation threat and taking active steps in response to any specific incidents, these fake accounts can often be eliminated.

Here are some helpful URL’s which outline steps you can take in each of the major social media channels in order to file a report of impersonation with a request for profile deletion:

http://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/30200/kw/fake+profile
https://www.facebook.com/help/www/174210519303259
https://support.twitter.com/forms/impersonation
https://support.google.com/plus/troubleshooter/1715140?hl=en
https://help.instagram.com/446663175382270/

The In-Depth Article Experiment Continues

Google’s test kitchens seem to be warming up with fresh experimentation on in-depth articles. With just a handful of examples in the last few days, we have noticed a couple of variations on how Google is serving them up on the search engine results page.

A quick refresher – in-depth articles were introduced less than a year ago, in August 2013, as three articles grouped at the bottom of the search engine results page under the header “In-depth articles,” such as seen below.

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Back in February, we described how Google was playing with moving this box up the page. The box itself remained unchanged, but in some cases, some of the search results appeared below the in-depth articles, making them no longer the bottommost search results. This is still happening sporadically.

In March, the experiment seemed to take a turn with the presence or absence of the In-depth articles themselves, as many search terms lost the articles they’d had.

Now, we have found two new variations. In both versions, the in-depth articles box has been promoted to a noticeably higher result position and given a new appearance that basically makes it a fraternal twin to the News box.

The only difference between the variations is what the box itself is called. In one, it’s called “In-depth articles for [term]” (and don’t think it escaped our notice that the search term – here IBM, in the next example Verizon Communications – has been made all lowercase. Google getting sloppy?)

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In the other, the box takes on even greater resemblance to the News box, in being called simply “Articles.”

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As an aside, what’s interesting about this second variation is that with the Articles box looking so similar to the News box, Google may need to figure out how to differentiate the two.

But isn’t Google always experimenting? What’s the big deal? We think the difference in the box title, subtle as it may be, is a hint at what’s going on. Parking a certain type of search results at the bottom of the search page and calling them “In-depth articles” is clunky. Their placement tells the searcher – who more than likely has limited time and wants quick useful information – that these articles are not top importance and their title hints they’re long and time consuming to read.

Moving them up the page promotes their importance and suggested relevance, while taking away the “In-depth” part of the title may remove a barrier to click.

Whether or not this is the rationale for these experimental possibilities, the fact that they are being experimented with sends a clear message that Google believes these in-depth articles are important and aren’t letting them go. That means they’re still a force to be reckoned with, especially for those who care about their online reputation.

The Sohn Conference in Hong Kong

Yesterday, (Thursday June 12th) Five Blocks was proud to be among the sponsors supporting the first Sohn Investment Conference in Hong Kong.

The conference was to benefit the Karen Leung Foundation. Investment pros presented investment ideas (specific companies they recommend for investment).

Proceeds from the conference will go to raise money to support gynecological and pediatric cancer awareness, prevention and treatment.

We were happy to see existing clients and partners and look forward to following up with various agencies who we met at the conference.

 

Aharon Zeff and Sam Michelson of Five Blocks - Sohn Conference Hong Kong

Sam Michelson and Aharon Zeff attend the Sohn Conference in Hong Kong – June 2014

 

Sohn Conference Hong Kong Investment Panel

A Panel on China Investments – Bulls or Bears – Sohn Conference HK

In-Depth Articles…but Shallow Penetration?

Followers of this blog know that we have been eyeing for months the phenomenon of in-depth articles and their potential impact on reputations of companies and individuals online. First, their appearance last August, then their tentative migration up the results page from their original placement at bottom and now their wild disappearing and reappearing act.

Through the beginning of this year, things were pretty steady with about 10% of the companies in the Fortune 500 showing results that included in-depth articles. Just at the end of February, however, the fluctuations began, with nearly 20 companies losing their in-depth articles one day, and then some bouncing around.

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At the lowest point, nearing mid-March, only 20 companies had in-depth articles, a dropoff of 64% from the 56 that began February!

For now, it looks like Google’s in-depth article experiment is still in progress and it remains unclear where this moving target will land. And while we cannot claim to be in Google’s head to explain what’s going on, we can hazard a guess.

On the theory that Google’s aim is to make search results ever more useful for searchers, we have to wonder how useful these in-depth articles have been. Unlike news results, which can change daily, reflecting changes in the world, or profiles and background pieces (e.g. Wikipedia) useful for reference, we suggest that in-depth articles – lengthy and often with a slant – may not be seeing repeat visits. Moreover, their length makes them time consuming to read, making it difficult for the average searcher to get in, get the gist, and get on to something else.

For all the companies with unfavorable in-depth articles, a shift away from them would be a good turn. Ultimately, though, whether this experimentation means in-depth articles are approaching their sunset – or if something else is on the horizon – is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, we will continue to monitor the course of Google’s current labwork.

SXSW 2014

Sam Michelson was busy meeting with existing and prospective partners in Austn, TX for SXSW 2014. Here’s a video interview that Alan Weinkrantz conducted on the show floor.

 

In-Depth Articles Rising From the Depths

It looks as though Google just couldn’t wait to celebrate the six month anniversary of one of its newest search results feature, In-Depth Articles. In the last few days, there has been a subtle but important change regarding the placement of in-depth articles in the Google search results.

Rather than appearing as the bottommost group of results as they have since their introduction on August 7th last year, In-Depth Articles for a handful of companies – including Dell and Ford, shown below – have been promoted, with some of the organic results now appearing below them.

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ford
That’s the subtle part. But why is that important?

The in-depth article box is Google’s way of highlighting long-form journalism and ensuring articles of this type persist in first page results for the increasing list of companies for which they appear.

While the depth of their content makes them relevant long beyond the always-changing news landscape, by and large they are unfavorable portrayals of the companies they’re about.As digital branding consultants, Five Blocks has been closely following In-Depth Articles for the past six months. For our clients, as well as many of their competitors, In-Depth Articles are a force to be reckoned with, specifically because they (and their mostly unflattering content) stick around even as other search results on the page come and go.

This latest move by Google to start inching in-depth articles up the page, placing them above some of the organic results, suggests even greater popularity for this type of search result. It also underscores the importance of careful strategic planning to ensure a favorable online brand image.Like it or not, Google’s inclusion and promotion of the In-Depth Articles means they are an integral part of a brand’s online story. It’s no longer enough to tell your story on your own sites, be socially active, and make the news. The brand story will need to be told by engaging magazines and other long form publications to utilize the opportunity afforded by In-Depth Articles rather than becoming a victim of them.

PR professionals and corporate communications specialists know that these stories usually take several months to write and photograph, so the path involves planting seeds ahead of time and being willing to own up to missteps as well as successes. For more about the potential impact of In-Depth Articles on PR and Digital Marketing firms, click here.It follows that the long form article will not be 100 percent positive. Companies need to take a strategic approach and realize that if they warrant one long form article, there will likely be more to follow. Brands should look for opportunities to proactively pitch and place these coveted long form articles with the goal of ‘owning’ at least part of the in depth conversation about their brand.

Digital Reputation Management: It’s Not All About Burying Results

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Photo by loop_oh, on Flickr

I posted the following on Business Insider in response to a post that focused on the underbelly of the Digital Reputation Management industry.

Many companies and individuals who have online reputation issues are not trying to bury negative reviews or articles. Instead, they are working to make sure that people searching for them online find what they are looking for. This need often arises when the brand or individual has not made any effort to create an online presence (think either a minimal website or none at all, no participation in social media, no business profiles, no YouTube channel, etc.)

Take for example a financial services firm who mostly arranges M&A’s. An article on a popular business news website portrays a potential upcoming deal for the company in a negative light – probably due to the author’s view of the industry in which the company is involved. The financial services company isn’t active online. They have a one-page website that does not appear prominently in searches online. Most of the prominent mentions of the firm seen in a Google search contain contact information, SEC documents and occasional mentions on investor portals.

The goal of an online or digital reputation management program for this client (and many like it)  is to help the client present their brand appropriately online. There really is no need to subvert any search engine algorithm or bury any results.

The Digital Reputation Management program would consist of elements such as:

  • Building out the current website so that it is technically sound and contains content that will help it rank well in search engines.
  • Creating company and individual profiles on sites like: LinkedIn, CrunchBase, and others.
  • Working with Wikipedia editors to correct any incorrect information appearing in Wikipedia – including providing sources to editors that they can quote.
  • Registering the brand and key individuals on social media websites that may be appropriate to use in the future (Twitter, Google+, etc.).
  • Working with the client’s communications team (or their external PR firm) on opportunities for publishing thought leadership materials in one or more relevant media outlets.

In short, there are many tools at the disposal of digital band management professionals that, rather than being exercises in removing negativity, are proper digital branding and communication efforts. Rather than focusing on fooling the algorithm (in the long term Google will beat you!), serious companies should be considering digital reputation management strategies and tactics that take advantage of Google’s algorithm and its ability to detect relevant, authoritative content from a variety of sources.