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I recently read an article published by Forbes titled “The Death of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR and Real Content.” Of course, being a “social media guy”—one who is also very interested in SEO—I was curious to read author Ken Krogue’s hypothesis. The headline is provocative, to be sure, but Krogue wasn’t trying to say that SEO—or, more accurately, rankings on search engine results pages—are any less important than we already know them to be. Rather, he was saying that external SEO strategies as we know them (backlinking, etc.) are becoming less and less relevant as Google places more value on social media, online relationships, and quality content.
You might be wondering how all this relates to online reputation management, which is after all the theme of this month’s newsletter. The answer is simple, and it has everything to do with integration. Search engines are integrating social media, review sites, and location-based services; social media companies are integrating search engine-like services, location-based functionality, and online review features; and reputation sites are continuously adding social media, location-based, and review features.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of reputation management? My guess is online review sites and the reviews they host. No doubt, they are the bread and butter of online reputation. But do you consider Facebook when you’re looking at online reputation? What about Twitter? Foursquare?
Consider these facts:
• The search engine Bing! is integrating tips left on foursquare into its online maps. If you’re unfamiliar with foursquare, it is a location-based application with some game mechanics in which people “check-in” at locations. They are also able to leave “tips” for other foursquare users who go on to check-in at the same locations. These tips can be anything from “Try the meatloaf. It’s great!” to “This dealership is horrible!” Sounds like a review to me. Do you know what ‘tips’ people have left for your dealership on foursquare? You better find out, because they’re being integrated by a search engine.
• Apple has ditched Google’s maps in favor of an Apple-developed map product powered by the well-known GPS company, TomTom. In doing so, Apple has teamed with Yelp and will be integrating Yelp reviews and check-ins into its maps. Of course, both Apple and Yelp already have deep social media integration in their own rights.
• Google Now (which will be part of the Android 4.1 Jellybean OS) is so spooky in the features it brags about that people are calling it “creepy” – and these are tech guys. Based on your search behavior, Google Now will try to figure out your schedule and interests and use it feed you information it deems relevant or useful, from the scores of your favorite sports teams to the estimated time it will take you to reach your driving destination—all based on its own inferences. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if you pulled up to a car dealership and your phone informed you of the star rating for the dealer as well as provided a couple of recent reviews.
• Every major upcoming mobile OS release – Android 4.1, iOS6, Windows 8 Mobile, etc—are all focusing heavily on social media and location-based service integration.
I’m sure you’re getting the point. Up until recently, we’ve been looking at three different industries handling three different services that encompassed different sites and functionalities—search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management, and social media. Now of course, the lines between these industries have blurred. The integration isn’t just as superficial as making features available to its users. We’re talking deep integration into the operating systems themselves, which makes these features available for use by any program or app that supports them.
As all the key sites and companies increase the integration of services across the board, it’s time to change our perspective. At the same time, the pursuit of SEO, social media, and online reputation management must be viewed as interrelated pieces of a synthetic whole; you can’t touch one piece without affecting the others.
Online reputation management isn’t just about what’s being said about you on review sites. It’s what’s being said about you EVERYWHERE, and as the integration between disciplines and platforms deepens, it won’t matter if the review was left on your Google Places site, as a tip on your foursquare place, as a tweet about your business, or as a post on Facebook.
My prediction is that soon, no matter where consumers go to access information about your dealership (via the computer or via their mobile phones), everything written about your business will be aggregated together, coexisting for the consumer’s reading convenience.
Which begs the question: are you ready for everything being said about you online—everywhere—to be consolidated?