What's the first thing you do when you want to find information quickly about a person, company, or subject? Considering the medium in which you're reading this, you're likely among those who immediately search for that kind of information online. (You may even be one of the people that a certain company wishes would stop using "google" as a verb.) After scanning the first page or two of results that a typical search might produce, you're at least able to get some sort of impression about your search subject -- which means those top results can severely impact a company's reputation.
Billions of online searches take place every month — more than 8.6 billion searches in April 2009 alone, according to Visible Technologies, a software provider that helps companies manage their brand images online. Thanks to the continued expansion of social media, user-generated content is now making its way into those results, often landing higher than a corporation's own content does. As people gain more power, and businesses scramble to reshape their search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, Visible recently unveiled TruReputation, a suite of what the vendor calls "online reputation management services," to monitor search results for any content a client might deem harmful to its brand or image.
Jeff Zabin, an Aberdeen Group analyst specializing in social media monitoring tools, says that the expansion of the social Web increasingly blurs the line between social media monitoring and SEO. He contends that Visible Technologies, although best known for its success in helping enterprises listen to and act upon conversations in social media, is poised to also succeed in the search space. "Success is in…combining search engine optimization strategy with social media monitoring," he says. "Visible Technologies is fairly strong on both fronts so this will probably do very well."
Blake Cahill, Visible's senior vice president of marketing, says that he's seen growing interest in SEO among users of his firm's social media monitoring products -- and with good reason. "We work with [companies] to help them rank, rate, and sort the [search results'] content and align it with how they want their brand reflected," he says. First, TruReputation flags potentially harmful material surfacing high up in search engine results. Then, the software enables the user to enlist new keywords that can help elevate positive material in future search results. Visible's software doesn't allow users to remove negative material, but they can try to push those offending items "below the fold" -- that is, below the first two pages of results.
In conjunction with the TruReputation launch, Visible Technologies announced a free index called TruReputation Score. The scoring system aggregates the reputation of a person or company across all major search engines. The index uses sentiment analysis to determine whether the search results are primarily positive or negative. Additionally, the scoring reveals relevance and timeliness. A high TruReputation score means that search results are accurate and closely reflect the brand.
Visible Technologies, founded in 2003, ranked as a Strong Performer in Forrester Research's 2009 Wave report on listening platforms. Zabin says the company seems to have established good brand equity, and is continually innovating -- its search optimization launch proving to be no exception. The analyst notes that Visible is strong in delivering sentiment analysts, an area that many competitors have struggled with.
Cahill says that Visible's goal is not to just present a business with "what's being said about you." What Visible delivers, he says, is a "needle-in-the-haystack" approach -- identifying within the stream of information the conversations that are most important to a given company, and helping that company pay attention to and responding to them.
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