Let me first reveal that Gerris digital LLC, my employer and my company, is an online reputation management company — online reputation protection, promotion, defensive SEO, domain name strategy, and crisis management. That said, I could not be happier because online reputation management is apparently the new black, at least according to Techdirt, Forget Publicists, All The Cool Kids Have Online Reputation Managers:
It’s been well-documented that Google has become something of the mythical permanent record teachers warned you about as kids. There are plenty of stories about people losing jobs or discovering dubious information about dates using Google. A few years back, services popped up claiming that they could scrub your online record clean — though, how successful such services could be was certainly called into question. However, it appears that those services have morphed into a new, somewhat scary, category called online reputation management. While it’s to be expected that corporations might have people monitoring online reputations, it’s quite another thing to have individuals hire firms to do the same thing.
(Tip of the hat for the article to Scott Burns)
I have tried to explain defensive SEO to clients on pitches and here are a couple examples and analogies I have used in the past. I promise to come up with better analogies, but this is what I have at the moment!
Rockets on Israeli Settlements
Most of the time, defensive SEO is sort of like cleaning up a crime scene. There is a lot of manual labor involved in that cleaning. It requires pressurized water hoses, clorox, mops, panes of glass, lots of spackle, and some paint. The goal after a crime has been committed, is to return the scene to normalcy — as if nothing happened here.
Unfortunately, during a crisis situation, the crime is ongoing. I compare it to the daily rocket fire from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip falling randomly on Jewish settlements. Bombing of this sort is random and destructive and done not as a targeted attack but is known as “firing for effect,” which is to say as terrorism and a way of unsettling the settlers.
When it is the security and confidence of a community that is at stake and when there is no way to be sure that the attacks are ever over, returning these settlements in a state of destruction is unacceptable. There are Israeli task forces that have the single-minded job of responding to any and all rocket attacks immediately after the emergency responders leave. The trucks are mobile housing contractors. They have the ability to actively and quickly clean up any and all signs of a destructive attack within hours of the event.
All shrapnel pock marks are spackled, all burn marks are painted over, and all broken glass is replaced. While this may just be a futile act, it is essential for this kind of defensive strategy to continue and continue. Why? Well, this is a game of hearts and minds. This is a game of keeping up appearances to make sure that all the settlers feel safe in their every day life, day after day. This perceived safety is better than none at all. The reality of the day-to-day is enough; however, living in a home with broken windows and the pock marks of shrapnel is too close, especially for neighbors and new settlers.
Cleaning up these attacks daily and footing the bill and resources is the cost of doing business. It is a budgeted line-item, equally important to actually finding ways, both diplomatic and military, to stop the attacks some day.
If one were to wait for the attacks to be over, strategically, ignoring the tactical, then those same hearts and minds might very well decide that living in the settlements, living in Israel, or even moving to Israel is an unacceptable decision.
One must never underestimate perception of safety and its power over both settlers, government, citizens, visitors, tourists, and immigrants; same may be said with a company’s or person’s reputation: investors, employees, relationships, opportunities, and families may become insecure enough to abandon ship.
El Al Jumbo Jets Chaffing and Flaring the Skies
Unfortunately, one cannot hide El Al’s new Boeing 777, the world’s largest twinjet, when it takes off and lands. Not yet anyway. The 777 is a sitting target. One cannot do much about it. What can one do? Well, there are several things: you can have sensors that check to see if there are any service-to-air missiles either locked on or inbound — that’s a start. You can also make sure that your pilots have been trained in evasive maneuvers, which, unfortunately, are limited in jumbo jets. At the end of the day, however, you need to just make sure that the jet isn’t accessible to any SAMs.
El Al commercial aircraft are outfitted not with cloaks of invisibility but with “softkill” countermeasures. A countermeasure is a system (usually for a military application) designed to prevent sensor-based weapons from acquiring and/or destroying a target. Softkill measures generally interfere with the signature of the target to be protected. One or more of the following actions may be taken to provide softkill: reduction of the 777′s signature, augmentation of the 777′s signature, and the cloning or imitation of the 777′s signature. These techniques are used to generally prevent lock-on of a threat sensor to the commercial aircraft.
It is based on altering the signature of the target by either concealing the platform signature or enhancing the signature of the background, thus minimizing the contrast between the two. Some of these techniques include IR-decoy flares, serving to counter infrared-guided missiles (SAM), and radar decoys, in the form of chaff.
The Internet is very similar. Search engines are doubly so. It is impossible to stop flying. It is impossible to disappear the aircraft. And, it is impossible to delete, kill, or remove all threats in advance. Even if it is possible in the Internet to have an attack site brought down, it is simple enough to duplicate content, is simple for the attackers to create rally points, regroup, and then attack again. In fact, bringing a site down oftentimes results in redoubled enemy efforts.
Some of the only effective tools one can use to use “softkill countermeasures” — make sure there is enough chaff and there are enough enough flares in the search results so that when someone tries to attack your brand, their attack ends up getting lost on page 5+ of the returns while still allowing friendlies, “passengers,” and clients to easily and safely find their way to you.
How about them apples?