Top 10 Lists: A Proven Publicity Tool That Is Simple To Create, Yet Powerful

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You don’t have to be a trained journalist or even a particularly capable writer to create content for your blog, website or social networking accounts that will generate visibility and buzz for you and your business.

If you can create a shopping or a To-Do list, you already have the basic skill set required to produce one of the easiest publicity magnets in a sophisticated PR person’s bag of tricks.

Top 10 lists are as old as the Bible itself. The Almighty, in His infinite wisdom, knew way back at the dawn of civilization that if you want to deliver a powerful message in a manner that people will remember, generate a list (which for Him was a snap, after creating the earth, the heavens, and the rest of the universe.)

The Bible is a narrative full of rich characters and compelling stories. Many people believe it is also great literature. Yet millennia before the dawn of the Internet, the Ten Commandments synthesized the essence of the entire Old Testament into easy-to-comprehend rules that could readily have been Tweeted out to the flock, if only smartphones had been around back then.

“You shall have no other gods before me.” Simple enough. “You shall not murder.” Got it. “You shall not steal.” A perfect slogan for a meme.

In the 2,000 or so years since God delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses, the magic of such lists hasn’t lost is luster or drawing power. In fact, Top 10 lists are more popular today – fueled by the viral nature of social networks – than at anytime since the ten plagues that moved Pharaoh to set the Hebrew slaves free.

In the modern era, David Letterman picked up the Top 10 mantle 30 years ago, and his nightly Top 10 generated billions of views and – once the Internet came along – reposts.

When Letterman announced his upcoming retirement last August, Business Insider forecast that the entertainer’s “greatest legacy” would be his nightly top 10 pronouncements. Business Insider ranked some of its favorite Letterman tabulations, including:

  • Ricky Gervaise shares the Top Ten Stupid Things Americans Say to Brits
  • Top Ten Reasons I’m Glad to be Named Justin Bieber
  • Top 10 George Bush Moments

God and The Economist

While Letterman is a talented professional, backed by a well-paid team of writers, his best Top 10 lists really aren’t that brilliant – are they? But they work, nonetheless, and they have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in ad revenues for CBS and the Letterman show.

In recent years, entire Internet sites have cropped up dedicated to Top 10 lists, including Listverse.com, TopTenz.net, and UltimateTop10s.com, to list only a few.

Time magazine, at the end of 2014, published its Top 10 Everything of the year. BuzzFeed is a list addict; and even sober news organizations such as The Wall Street Journal (The 10 Wealthiest People Under 40) and The Economist (Top 10 best MBA universities in UK) can’t but help themselves.

If it’s good enough for God and The Economist, who are you to argue?

Okay, then, how do you create your own viral-enabled Top 10 lists? Here’s the first secret: 10 is not a magic number. If you want to show some originality try an odd number, such as 7 or 11. They work just as well.

For topic ideas, look at what you know and what you do on a daily basis. If possible sprinkle in some of these eye-catching words into your list titles: Best, Dumbest, Sexiest, Amazing, Unbelievable, Naked, Fantasy, Profitable, or Inspiring.

For example:

  • 7 Best Ways to Avoid an IRS Audit (For an accountant, lawyer, bookkeeper, wealth manager or personal finance writer.)
  • 11 Dumbest Things Homeowners Do To Drain Their Bank Accounts (For home repair people of all stripes, wealth managers, or real estate agents)
  • 10 Sexiest Hair Cuts for Middle-Age Women (For beauticians, fashion retailers, cosmetic salespeople, or fitness coaches)
  • 10 Unbelievable Uses for Baking Soda (For grocery or supermarket blogs, do-it-yourself websites, or repair people)
  • 9 Celebrities Who Would Look Great Naked (For fitness centers, tanning salons, tattoo parlors or gossip websites.)

Naked Celebrities and Aluminum Siding

Believe me, if you post “9 Celebrities Who Would Look Great Naked” on your website and promote it, the number of clicks your site will receive in the following week on that article will more than double what you garnered in total the previous week – if not the previous month.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a Robert Frost or Hemingway to generate great lists. “You shall not steal,” is no Shakespearean sonnet.

What you need most is a mindset that asks, “What headline and list can I compile that will be irresistible to the audience I’m trying to reach?”

No topic is too dry or obscure if you truly understand your existing and prospective customers.

  • 10 Ways That Aluminum Siding Salespeople Can Turbocharge Their Profits
  • 5 Ways My Life Insurance Salesperson Inspired Me To Rethink Retirement
  • 15 Fantasies That Your Children’s Teachers Have But Will Never Confess

There is no fixed formula for Top 10 lists. They can be serious, humorous, useful, impractical, and just plain odd. The more original, the better.

Whatever you do, don’t stop at one list. You’ll be well advised to generate multiple lists at regular intervals and monitor which ones generate traction and which ones fall flat. There is no better way to discover what your existing customers and prospects will respond to than trial-and-error.

Finally, note that Top 10 lists are equally effective when the goal is to promote your individual reputation. In such a case, consider lists of authors you admire, destinations you favor, community leaders you respect, and the best advice you’ve ever received.

Based on experience, I can assure you that lists, executed well, are one of the best reputation tools you can deploy. I can think of at least 101 reasons why that’s the case, but I’ll restrain my temptation to list them all here.

 

If you would like help generating your own Top Ten lists to generate visibility for your business or your personal brand, I encourage you to contact Pan Prestige to discover how we can dramatically bolster your online visibilty.

Be sure to read our exclusive four-part series on putting Wikipedia to work for you.

4 Reasons You Must Harness the Titanic Branding Power of Wikipedia

Can We Quote You? – Wikipedia Loves Citations

Enlisting Complete Strangers To Help Secure Your Wikipedia Profile

Want To Be Featured On Wikipedia? Planning Is A Prerequisite

Want To Be Featured On Wikipedia? Planning Is A Prerequisite

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If it were easy to have your own Wikipedia profile, everyone in the business world would have one, not only for themselves individually, but for their businesses and for their products or services as well.

But just because it isn’t easy, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort. It is.

Wikipedia is, arguably, the most exclusive club in the reputation universe. It’s hard to get accepted. But once you become a member, it is like a lifetime marketing annuity that pays impressive online visibility dividends.

For all but the most select Wikipedia profile candidates – those whose high visibility makes them a shoo-in for inclusion – planning your petition to include your biography is a process akin to applying to a prestigious graduate school program. There are competencies that the Wikipedia admissions committee* will expect you to meet before they’ll open the gates to you.

The graduate school analogy is appropriate. If you want to attend an Ivy League school or other esteemed university, you must begin positioning yourself well ahead of the actual application. There are tests to take, courses to complete, real-world experiences to accrue, and recommendations to obtain.

So it is with Wikipedia, which – as an encyclopedia – wants proof that you are sufficiently notable to be of permanent interest to the public at large.

Proving You’re Noteworthy

If you are a business owner or entrepreneur with little or no current public visibility – a complete blank slate – the Wikipedia enrollment process is one that could take up to two years to prepare, sometimes even longer. Many people don’t have the patience to apply themselves for 24 months to achieve a business goal, so they don’t bother.

Often, Wikipedia profile candidates already meet some, but not all, of the qualifications that Wikipedia requires to approve a biographical profile. In such cases, the approval process could take as few as four to six weeks.

But whether you need several weeks or several years to clear the Wikipedia entrance hurdle, here’s the good news: you’ll see tangible – profitable – results from your efforts to qualify for a Wikipedia profile long before you’re actually ready to make your case to the Wikipedia admissions committee*.

Once you resolve to land your own personal real estate on Wikipedia, persistence and patience will pay. The site already contains hundreds of thousands of articles about living individuals, the majority of who are not widely known. If these people can plant their Wikipedia flag, so can you.

The formal criteria that Wikipedia sets for including biographies of living persons – which it dubs “BLPs” – is that the individuals must be noteworthy. The rub comes in deciphering how Wikipedia defines who is and who isn’t noteworthy.

According to Wikipedia’s definition, the barometer of notability is whether credible people independent of you find you notable enough that they have written or broadcast non-trivial works of their own that focus on you.

A single flurry of publicity is probably not enough to win you a permanent place on Wikipedia. But a sustained presence in the public spotlight usually will lead to Wikipedia admittance.

You Profit By Trying

Making yourself more visible elsewhere, first, is a price well worth paying. It boils down to good, old-fashioned reputation management. Done well, you’ll reap plenty of financial rewards for your efforts long before Wikipedia bestows its official seal of approval upon your accomplishments.

In future installments of this column, we’ll discuss various techniques you can use to bolster your online reputation and general visibility. Doing so will also greatly increase the likelihood of meriting a permanent profile on Wikipedia.

These reputation enhancement steps include:

  • Generate publicity about yourself in mainstream newspapers, magazines, documentaries, and broadcasts.
  • Be featured in academic journals, books, and e-books written by third-party authors.
  • Speak or moderate panels at respected industry and professional conferences.
  • Win recognition for your achievements from professional trade groups, nonprofit community organizations, government agencies, universities, and other recognized institutions.
  • Build a following for yourself and your ideas on third-party websites, such as The Huffington Post, About.com, Examiner.com, and HubPages.com.
  • Use social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and others to fortify your reputation as a thought-leader and notable individual.

Obtaining your own Wikipedia profile is somewhat akin to attaining a degree with honors from a prestigious graduate school. You don’t need one to succeed in business and earning one is no guarantee of success.

But appearing on Wikipedia does tell the world that you are among an elite group of men and women who have sufficiently applied themselves, attained success, and dedicated the necessary energy and commitment to count yourself in the business world summa cum laude – an individual with highest praise.

[*Note: If you have not read my three previous posts in this PanPrestige Wikipedia series, you should know that there is no actual “application” that you must submit to be approved by Wikipedia and no “committee” that sits in judgment. When you understand what Wikipedia will and will not publish, and you’ve taken the necessary steps to merit inclusion, your profile submission will be reviewed by a single Wikipedia editor who has the authority to grant you admission. Your profile, as noted in my column titled, Enlisting Complete Strangers To Help Secure Your Wikipedia Profile, stands a much better shot at being accepted if you don’t submit it on your own behalf.]

Read our previous Wikipedia columns:

4 Reasons You Must Harness the Titanic Branding Power of Wikipedia

Can We Quote You? – Wikipedia Loves Citations

Enlisting Complete Strangers To Help Secure Your Wikipedia Profile

If you would like a strong Wikipedia presence to strengthen your personal or business brand, I encourage you to contact Pan Prestige to discover how we can make getting your own Wikipedia listings and citations pain-free. If you already have one or more Wikipedia pages, contact us for a free evaluation of how effectively you’re harnessing the titanic power of the service.

Enlisting Complete Strangers To Help Secure Your Wikipedia Profile

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Secure Your Wikipedia Profile

Well just meet her. Maybe she’ll be somebody you’d LIKE to kill.”

Owen (Danny DeVito) to Larry (Billy Crystal) referring to Owen’s mother. – Throw Momma from the Train (1987)

 

Wikipedia doesn’t like self-promoters and goes to great lengths to discourage contributors from posting autobiographical or self-interested entries.

“If your life and achievements are verifiable and genuinely notable, someone else will probably create an article about you sooner or later,” Wikipedia writes in its voluminous “dos and don’ts” set of instructions.

I added the italics above – probably – because Wikipedia’s rules beg the question, what do you do if you or your company do merit an article on Wikipedia and no one has gotten around to writing one?

That is what I’ll discuss in this column, the third in PanPrestige’s Wikipedia series.

Wikipedia is so intent on preventing people from “gaming” the system that it throws up all sorts of obstacles and warnings. These speed bumps can prevent legitimate articles from ever seeing the light of day on the site.

I know from firsthand experience. Facing an ever-expanding Wikipedia rulebook and thousands of random volunteer Wikipedia editors – each of whom makes judgment calls that at times can seem illogical – even veteran journalists such as me find posting to Wikipedia a hit-and-miss adventure.

When you’re justified, and Wikipedia is just slow to acknowledge it, persistence pays.

Because Wikipedia values the “consensus of the community through discussion,” it helps to know and network with other contributors to Wikipedia who can offer you valuable feedback – and when necessary, act directly on your behalf.

Danny DeVito

Danny DeVito

Several years ago, in teaching a class on how to use Wikipedia both properly and effectively, I created a sub-community within the broader Wikipedia universe that I call “Criss-Cross Communicators” or CCC for short.

The CCC concept was inspired by the 1987 comedy, Throw Momma from the Train, starring Danny DeVito and Billy Crystal. That film, likewise, drew inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 thriller, Strangers on a Train.

SWAPPING PROFILES

The plot of both films is simple. Two men, virtually complete strangers, each want to kill someone. To avoid detection, they agree to “swap” murders. DeVito has no motive to murder Crystal’s ex-wife, and Crystal has no reason to do away with DeVito’s mother. Criss-Cross.

Recognizing Wikipedia’s aversion to self-promotion, my loosely organized CCC group also set as its mission to bring together strangers to help one another and avoid suspicion. Only crime is not our motive. Addressing Wikipedia’s “probably… sooner or later” reasoning for why individuals should not promote themselves, is our intent.

When “later” is much, much, much later – meaning you’ve waited patiently and nothing about you has surfaced on Wikipedia – CCC provides a system whereby members can make the case to fellow strangers that they merit a biographical Wikipedia article (or an entry about a business, product, or service that they have created).

A MODERN WHO’S WHO

With the pre-condition that every CCC “stranger” must objectively qualify for a Wikipedia posting, our private group makes it possible for an entrepreneur in Waukesha, WI, to write a biographical profile of a prominent liability attorney in Augusta, ME, who contributes a post about an inventor in San Luis Obispo, CA, who generates an accurate article about the original Waukesha entrepreneur. Criss-Cross.

CCC is very much a microcosm of the giant, global Wikipedia ecosystem. Only we are a tiny alliance of like-minded men and women who don’t want to leave it to pure chance that our achievements will someday draw the attention of qualified Wikipedians.

Wikipedia warns – and it bears repeating – that those seeking to have their biographies appear on the global community encyclopedia should be mindful of what they desire.

Every biographical profile on Wikipedia is subject to edits by anyone and everyone. That means friend and foe alike.

It can take an extraordinarily long time for Wikipedia to detect and delete content added maliciously by other site users, known in Wikipedia parlance as “vandalism”. Moreover, if your critics chose to post negative – but accurate – information about you, those details may stick with your profile for the remainder of your life, and even beyond.

All the risks and hurdles aside, to my way of thinking, Wikipedia is the 21st century equivalent of Marquis Who’s Who, the noted American reference biographer that has been the definitive arbiter of global leaders and achievers since 1899.

If you are an individual of influence whose lifetime of accomplishment belongs in the public record for posterity, you owe it to yourself and to the general public to ensure that you receive your earned recognition on Wikipedia.

That is simply not a distinction that you should trust to serendipity.

 

 

Want To Join Our Criss-Cross Communicators Group?

CCC welcomes applicants to join our group of “strangers.” To be admitted you must:

  1. Already have a biography on Wikipedia or be eligible for one based on Wikipedia’s published criteria for Biographies of living persons.
  2. Be willing to evaluate, write and post to Wikipedia a biography of a complete stranger who also meets the Wikipedia criteria. (Don’t worry, you can submit your draft to our group for evaluation and help prior to submitting it “live” to Wikipedia.)
  3. Agree to respect the privacy of other members of CCC.
  4. Provide us your actual name, affiliation, title, email, and phone number.

CCC is comprised solely of volunteer members. There is no fee to join our group. To apply for membership or to contact us with questions and suggestions, visit: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/buzz-snatchers.

Read our previous Wikipedia columns:

4 Reasons You Must Harness the Titanic Branding Power of Wikipedia

Can We Quote You? – Wikipedia Loves Citations

If you would like a strong Wikipedia presence to strengthen your personal or business brand, I encourage you to contact Pan Prestige to discover how we can make getting your own Wikipedia listings and citations pain-free. If you already have one or more Wikipedia pages, contact us for a free evaluation of how effectively you’re harnessing the titanic power of the service.

Can We Quote You? – Wikipedia Loves Citations

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Wikipedia Loves Citations

There are many portals into the powerful Wikipedia ecosystem, and you’d be selling yourself short not to explore them all.

Wikipedia has the power to boost your online reputation like no other website in the world. For sheer audience size, credibility, and SEO firepower, Wikipedia is unparalleled.

[Read my last column, 4 Reasons You Must Harness the Titanic Branding Power of Wikipedia]

Many business people, if they use Wikipedia as a reputation booster at all, confine themselves to an entry for themselves, their company, their product or their cause. Gaining approval for such entries can be tricky, so most executives don’t bother.

But whether you already have a Wikipedia entry, or you think – rightly or wrongly – that you can’t qualify for a Wikipedia article – that’s no reason not to be highly visible on the site.

The Wikipedia modus operandi relies on verifiable third-party references. Because it’s a communal encyclopedia, Wikipedia does not publish original research. Even if you are a brain surgeon writing on brain surgery, Wikipedia wants you to publish your expertise elsewhere, and then cite that source material on a Wikipedia entry.

Do you hear opportunity knocking? You should.

When you contribute an article to a professional trade magazine or reliable website, for example, that instantly qualifies you to be a source cited by Wikipedia.

Let’s assume, for the sake of illustration, that you are an oral health provider who specializes in dental implants. There is a lengthy Wikipedia entry under the heading, “Dental Implant” that is a definitive monograph on the topic. Both dentists and consumers with questions about dental implants will likely find what they’re looking for here.

Indeed, when you search for “dental implants” on Google, it’s the Wikipedia article that comes up #1 in the organic search results.

What You Can Learn From Dental Implants

As of this writing, there are 53 references cited in the Wikipedia dental implants article, the majority of which come from dental journals and academic papers. But my eye is drawn to reference #33 – “Focus on implant home care before, during, and after restoration.” This article was published in 2012 in RDH, a dental trade magazine, and was written by Susan Wingrove, who describes herself as a “national and international speaker and practicing dental hygienist.”

What a great visibility booster for Ms. Wingrove, who herself does not have a Wikipedia listing.

I don’t know Ms. Wingrove nor had I ever heard of her prior to this writing. I discovered her on Wikipedia just like thousands of others interested in dental implants might first find her.

It’s obvious that Ms. Wingrove didn’t write an article for RDH magazine and then cite herself on the Wikipedia entry for dental implants. But she could have.

Ms. Wingrove’s bio notes that not only is she an established public speaker, but she is also a published author, has written for respected dental journals, and is an entrepreneur. That begs the question why doesn’t she have her own Wikipedia entry? She’s certainly is eligible.

The key point here is that on Wikipedia, it’s easy to cite yourself on other people’s listings – and thus significantly bolster your online visibility. The lesson applies not only to articles that you’ve authored, but also to news organizations that quote you or blogs that mention you.

Answer These 4 Questions

Ready to try it out? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I authored a published article for a trade magazine, newspaper, or academic journal?
  • Have I been interviewed in print or on television by a local, regional or national news organization?
  • Have influential bloggers, review sites, or other respected websites mentioned my name?
  • Do I own or have access to a respected website where I can post a story under my name?

If the answer to any of these is yes, then you should seek out existing Wikipedia entries where the topics are relevant. Once you locate them, it’s a snap to add content and a citation to your previously published online appearances. [Remember the entries you’ll use have already been “approved.” You’re simply updating them.]

Where might you mine for such articles? In Ms. Wingrove’s example, here are only a few possible Wikipedia pages where I think she could contribute content and citations:

The opportunities for visibility on Wikipedia are numerous and limited only by your willingness to search them out. Happy hunting!

Read my last column, 4 Reasons You Must Harness the Titanic Branding Power of Wikipedia

[In my next column, I will explain why the best Wikipedia strategy requires an alliance with like-minded individuals. I’ll also provide you an opportunity to connect with others seeking to use Wikipedia to maximize their online visibility.]

If you would like a strong Wikipedia presence to strengthen your personal or business brand, I encourage you to contact Pan Prestige to discover how we can make getting your own Wikipedia listings and citations pain-free. If you already have one or more Wikipedia pages, contact us for a free evaluation of how effectively you’re harnessing the titanic power of the service.

4 Reasons You Must Harness the Titanic Branding Power of Wikipedia

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Harness the Titanic Branding Power of Wikipedia

Many otherwise very savvy people mistakenly believe they are not eligible for their own Wikipedia profile, or worse – they underestimate the importance of using Wikipedia to turbocharge their personal and business brand online.

Avoiding Wikipedia makes as much sense from a business productivity and competitive marketing standpoint as eschewing a dedicated website, LinkedIn profile, or Twitter account. Which is to say it makes no sense whatsoever in our globally connected digital world.

Here’s what Wikipedia offers you that you’ll be hard-pressed to match anywhere else on the Internet.

  1. Wikipedia’s Audience is Vast
    More than half a billion global visitors seek out Wikipedia each month. In that regard, no news organization in the world can come close to matching its reach and influence.
  2. Google and Other Major Search Engines Prioritize Wikipedia
    While search engine optimization experts and other online branding gurus are constantly adjust their strategies to cope with frequently changing algorithms, Wikipedia remains a consistent and surefire organic search engine results darling. Your entry on Wikipedia will be shielded from the changing patterns of search engine algorithms. Internet users seeking you specifically or information on your expertise, business, product or services, are almost certain to encounter your Wikipedia profile on the first page of their organic search engine results.
  3. Wikipedia Carries With It Third-Party Credibility
    Sure, you can invest a huge amount of money promoting yourself on your own website or through news releases and PR campaigns. Done well, these branding solutions can deliver visitors who’ll read your content. But Internet users know the difference between content you create and publish, and content that carries with it the third-party credibility of an encyclopedia. Remember how as a kid or adolescent, Encyclopedia Britannica and others like it were the ultimate source on any topic or historical event? Today, it is Wikipedia that enjoys that mantle.
  4. Anyone Can Contribute to Wikipedia and Use Its Content for Free
    What many people don’t understand is that “Anyone” includes you! You’re free not only to contribute and edit entries about you and your business, you’re also free to contribute and edit articles about your industry, your customers, your vendors, and – yes – even your competitors.

So if Wikipedia is such a great brand builder, why do millions of otherwise eligible individuals, businesses, services and products have no Wikipedia listing? Because, frankly, they don’t understand Wikipedia and they don’t want to invest the time and energy to learn enough to effectively utilize it.

Wikipedia plays by a unique and somewhat complex rulebook. Moreover, a vast and loyal Wikipedia community of volunteers works tirelessly to enforce those rules. Among their top priorities is to keep self-promoters, advertisers, campaigners, scammers, kooks, and others with narrow self-interest from abusing the site.

But don’t be misled. Wikipedia wants to feature legitimate, verifiable content. If you are a person of interest to the general public or you own a business that peaks the public interest, there is a welcome mat awaiting you on Wikipedia.

My goal here has been to awaken you to the power and potential of Wikipedia to help establish or bolster your online reputation. More importantly, I want you to accept that regardless of what you’ve heard, or your own prior Wikipedia rejections, you can flourish on Wikipedia.

Among the topics we’ll explore in future edition of this series:

  • What You Absolutely Must Do Before You Ever Submit Your First Wikipedia Entry
  • Land Mines To Avoid If You Don’t Want To Get Booted From Wikipedia
  • Why Wikipedia is Best Played as a ‘Team Sport’
  • How to Use Wikipedia to Bolster Your Brand and Reputation, Even If You Don’t Have Articles on the Site that are Specifically About You or Your Business

If you would like a Wikipedia page to strengthen your personal or business brand, I encourage you to contact Pan Prestige to discover how we can make getting your own Wikipedia listings pain free. If you already have one or more Wikipedia pages, contact us for a free evaluation of how effectively you’re harnessing the titanic power of the service.

9 reasons why the “right to be forgotten” won’t work

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“What happens in Vegas stays on the internet” is a phrase that reputation managers love to use in their presentations, and it’s true. (Did anyone say Prince Harry..?) There’s always going to be someone with enough motivation to publicize information, and someone for whom the information is important enough to go out and find.

right to be forgotten

As long as three billion people around the globe are interconnected by physical infrastructure, there’s always going to be a way for one person to transfer information to another, legally or otherwise, using Google or any other tool.

A few days ago Google implemented the “right to be forgotten” EU ruling and launched a service to allow Europeans to ask for personal data to be removed from online search results.

According to Google, this first step aims to quickly implement the court’s decision, and to allow “each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know…” This is an initial form and the final service will be launched in the coming months.

In this article, I will review why I think that court’s decision does not substantially alter the balance between the privacy rights of the individual and public’s right to know.

There’s an internet outside Google

The debate over the recent ruling of the European Union Court of Justice over the ‘right to be forgotten’ law is going to accompany us for a long time. The last article discussed the right to privacy against the freedom of speech. This is obviously not the first time that the need to balance between the two rights has come up, and it hasn’t only been in the context of digital media. The issue is that when it comes to the internet, there is no one institution to force regulation on, making it a complex challenge, maybe an impossible one.

According to the ranking site Alexa, Google is the number one website in the world in terms of average daily user traffic and views. It’s not surprising, therefore, that it is one of the services most closely identified with the internet itself. I know a few people for whom Internet = Google. (It’s true that they’re not particularly young, but still.)

how popular google

Even so, it’s worth recalling an important fact: Google currently knows of less than 40% of publicly available websites, and less than 10% of the total pages that exist on the internet.

Why the “right to be forgotten” ruling won’t change a thing

  1. It applies only to the European Union.
  2. Each of the 28 regulators in the EU member countries can interpret the ruling differently, and it is probable that the law in each country will be different.
  3. The court ruling applies only to private individuals, not to companies.
  4. It’s unclear in which cases Google will need to remove its references.
  5. Only the links from search results will be deleted, not the original content itself.
  6. In many cases, people search for information and for reviews on popular sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Ripoffreport, ZocDoc and so on, rather than searching on Google.
  7. Apart from Google, there are other sites that keep ‘copies’ of the internet (such as archive.org), so that even if the original content is deleted, the information remains on the internet. Content is eternal.
  8. The ruling doesn’t mention the two biggest search engines after Google: Bing and Yahoo.
  9. Internet users will find other ways to post and find relevant information (personal details, in this case). As long as there’s a need, a solution will be found.

Conclusion

Google is a major player in the huge medium known as the internet, but any ruling that applies only to it will not solve the problem. It’s probable that the ‘right to be forgotten’ law will give Google a bit of a bureaucratic headache, but isn’t the kind of thing that will shock such a huge institution. Will it become any harder to find personal details on the internet? Probably not.
Anyone in the field of data protection or physical security knows that there are no 100% effective solutions. In the next article, I’ll propose a model for a solution that should be able to significantly reduce the amount of negative and irrelevant content out there.

You do have the right to be forgotten, it just costs a lot.

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If you were born in the eighties or nineties, you definitely know Rocky. The first movie in the series came out in 1975. It cost only a million dollars, and was filmed within 28 days. Five further films followed, with the last of them released in 2006. The entire series was written by Sylvester Stallone, who also starred in the leading role: an underdog boxer who always manages to win, against all odds (in the fine American tradition).

the right to be forgotten

Rocky doesn’t need a budget to win

In the fourth movie in the series, Rocky, played, of course, by the Italian Stallion Sylvester Stallone, is invited to a world championship match against Ivan Drago, a huge, muscular Soviet fighter. This part of the movie switches between scenes of Rocky’s training and Drago’s. While Drago trains using high-tech equipment, professional trainers and advanced monitoring systems, Rocky went for the low-budget workout.

His training consists mainly of flinging tree trunks, pulling sledges loaded with snow, running in the snow, climbing snowy mountains, and other difficult stuff that one does in the snow. Rocky wins, of course.

Cinderella stories usually stay in Hollywood

In life in general, and particularly on the internet, Cinderella stories sometimes happen, but they’re pretty rare. In order to succeed, you need to have a good product, give good service, work hard, be skilled and have money, sometimes a lot of money. People without means receive lower standards of legal representation, worse health care – and it’s the same in the field of PR and online reputation management too.

The reputation management industry is no different. Every day, private individuals and companies purchase services from expensive reputation managers in order to determine how they are going to be seen on the internet by those searching for them. The many online reputation services out there stand as proof of this. Even though the reputation management services merely push unwanted results away, and don’t actually delete them; since the vast majority of us (92%) don’t ever look beyond the first page on Google, the result is practically the same.

Online social justice

A few days ago, on the 13th of May, the European Court of Justice passed a revolutionary ruling against Google. The court ruled that Google has to remove from its search engine information concerning people requesting to be removed – or have, as the court called it, “the right to be forgotten”.

Personal reputation management services are fairly expensive, and the demand for them comes mainly from celebrities, doctors, businesspeople, lawyers and politicians (often designated as ‘high profile individuals’). But what about all those people whose online reputation was smeared 15 years ago by a bitter partner? Or a customer who felt cheated? Without going into questions of justice or morals, if you don’t have a couple thousand dollars to spend on a basic campaign to clean up the first page of Google results, you’ll probably stay with the problematic online profile for a long time, which comes at a price.

The Court of Justice ruling is trying to create some sort of social justice. They’re trying to balance between the right to privacy and the freedom of speech, and to force Google to freely provide an expensive service with high demand.

On the one hand, the court ruling makes a lot of sense: there are references out there that are no longer relevant. Speaking as someone working in this field, and providing online reputation management services, I think that in certain cases there really should be a simple mechanism of deleting certain results. The question is what mechanism, what kind of results, and who gets to decide. These are questions that the court left unanswered, and effectively passed the ball to the 28 regulators in the various European countries, who will each have to interpret the ruling in their own way.

On the other hand, the internet as a whole and Google in particular are two bodies perhaps most strongly identified with freedom of speech: the internet, of course, is not supervised by anyone. Anyone can post anything they want on the internet, with no limitations and no censorship. On Google, too, the leeway to assert one’s freedom of speech is huge. Google removes references from search results only if they are identified as spam, or if they are ordered to by a court in the United States. Other cases are relatively rare.

Try typing the word ‘Jew’ into Google, and you might see a paid ad come up. Click on it to read how Google interprets freedom of speech.

OffensiveSearchResults

So, what can be done?

Individual predicaments have always existed, and will probably always continue to serve as a business opportunity for others. Many of these cases are legitimate, and some are not. The internet makes it very simple to violate the privacy of others, and the harm done can be particularly quick and painful, especially since the negative result will remain online under your name for a long time, maybe even forever. That’s why I believe that certain cases call for a quick and simple solution that can respond to certain cases of reputation harm.

Online reputation management companies are overflowing with work, even without dealing with the removal of a negative reference to the financial difficulties of Mario Costeja Gonzalez from 16 years ago.

In the next few articles, I’ll outline why, in my opinion, the present ruling will not change the current situation, and I’ll also suggest a possible model to deal with the problem.

Creating a personal website

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Creating a personal website is a great way to start promoting your online reputation. Since Google likes brands, this may help your website rank quickly under your personal name, as well as present you as serious and web-savvy.

creating a personal website

So you’ve reached the obvious conclusion that you need to start building up a positive professional online presence for yourself. But where do you begin? The answer, in this case, is unequivocal. For personal reputation management, the first step to take is build a personal website bearing your name.

What is it good for?

  1. Perfect online profile. When someone googles you, the results that come up on the first page are your online profile. You want the top results on that page to be the most relevant and the most flattering to you. A personal website should feature first on the list when searching for your name (or at least in the first three).
  2. Dynamic mobility. It doesn’t matter if you use the site for presenting your resume, work portfolio, client reviews, or presenting new ventures to potential investors. A website allows you to match content to relevant audiences.
  3. Stand out. Most people still don’t have their own personal websites. When someone searches for you on Google and finds that you have your own site, it positions you as a professional, and shows innovation and a good grasp of technology.
  4. Improves your chance of standing out. Your site will come up in search engine results when your name is being searched for, but that’s not all. There’s a good chance that your site will feature in the results for other keywords that feature in the content that you’ve put up.
  5. New skills. This has less to do with online presence, but going through this process once will show you how simple and easy it is to build a website. This is an important skill to have.
  6. It’s fun to say “Google me!”, and it’s very effective too.

Setting up a personal blog – The cheap way

You can let blogger.com, wordpress.com or tumblr.com do the work for you. This kind of blog doesn’t require a domain name or a server to host your site. Signing up and starting the blog is really simple. The disadvantage is that the blog doesn’t sit on your domain, instead, it’s on the blogging platform’s domain. This kind of blog is less effective in terms of promoting your site, looks less professional, and also, if you ever decide to move over to a different platform or buy your own domain name, the blog’s address will change. This is obviously better than nothing, but it’s advisable to invest your time (and a bit of money) in building your own web domain.

Setting up a personal blog – The right way

Setting up a personal blog on your own web domain is a fairly simple and inexpensive process:

Step 1 – Buy a domain name:

To begin with, buy at least one domain name containing your full name, preferably ending in .com (.net is also OK), if the site is for the international community. If the site is meant to addressing specific country, for the Israeli market for example, you can stick with a second-level ‘.co.il’ domain. Obviously, if you’re looking to attract an international market and your name is Ben Cohen, you’re not going to find a top-level domain name available:

Setting up a personal blog – the right way

Setting up a personal blog on your own web domain is a fairly simple and inexpensive process.

Step 1 – Buy a domain name:

To begin with, buy at least one domain name containing your full name, preferably ending in .com (.net is also ok), if the site is for the international community. If the site is meant to be language-specific, for the Hebrew-speaking market for example, you can stick with a second-level ‘.co.il’ domain. Obviously, if you’re looking to attract an international market and your name is Ben Cohen, you’re not going to find a top-level domain name available:

BenCohen

In this case, you can purchase a domain name that begins with your name, with the addition of another word connected to your main profession. For example, if Bill Johnson is an aspiring author, billjohnsonwriting.com is a great solution.

I buy most of my domains through namecheap.com. It’s easy, fast, and they have great customer service in case you need some help.

Domain name cost: $11/year

Step 2 – Your site needs a place

A website is made up of a large number of files that need to be stored on some server connected to the internet. There are a number of different types of hosting service, but the one that suits almost all sites in the beginning is a shared hosting service. This means that your site will sit on a server that also hosts many other websites as well.

My recommended hosting service is bluehost.com.

Most of the hosting companies give more-or-less the same services, but from my experience, this company has an advantage in that they have good customer service, which is an important factor in choosing a hosting service.

Hosting cost: Starting from $4/month in the first year and rising to $12/month from the second year on.

Step 3 – Link your domain to your hosting

When users type your website address in their browser, they are meant to be redirected to the relevant server in order to upload the site they were looking for. This redirection is done using settings listed in the Name Servers (NS), in the management system of your domain. This is a simple process that takes less than a minute. You can figure out how its done fairly easily, or make use of the customer service of the domain provider.

Step 4 – Install the best content management system – for free

In the past, in order to build a static website, you had to be familiar with HTML, and in order to build a dynamic site that could be managed and regularly updated with fresh content, you would have to develop your own management system or purchase one.

These days it’s much easier. WordPress has a free content management system, and most hosting services allow you to install it for free straight from the control panel of the site. The system allows you to create pages, posts, menus, categories and much more. Everything can be edited simply and with no technical knowledge whatsoever.

Check out how to do this, or ask the hosting company’s customer service to help you out.

Step 5 – Content

It’s important to invest time and thought in the content that you want to present on your site. You shouldn’t build a website in order to have your resume up on the home page. If you’re not so good at writing, try and get help from professional content writers, or companies specializing in this.

The content on your site has to be original. Google really doesn’t like repeated content. Don’t copy text that already exists elsewhere on the internet onto your site (for example, your public Linkedin profile), and don’t copy text from your site elsewhere on the internet.

Conclusion

If you want to create an impressive online presence, a personal website is the right way to get started. If you’re not a technophobe and have some spare time, and want to learn something new, go for it. If not, for a small sum you can easily find one of thousands of companies and individual designers specializing in WordPress, who would be happy to set your site up for you.

This article doesn’t go too deep into the technical side of things. There are many sites and videos available online that delve into the details of how to do each of the stages outlined above. If you still get stuck with a question and need help with the process, we’d be happy to help you out, or to guide you to a relevant source.

Good luck!

Helpful Resources

If you are looking for help, Elance is the place to find someone who can help you:

www.elance.com

Recommended domain provider:

www.namecheap.com

Recommended hosting provider:

www.bluehost.com

How to build a wordpress website on less than 4 minutes. Great video by Pat Flynn (one of the best bloggers I know) from smartpassiveincome.com:

Rate your doctor: It will probably increase his salary.

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“At least you’ve got your health” is a cliché, and like most clichés, it’s probably true. It’s not surprising, therefore, that in searches for businesses online, doctors and reviews of doctors come second place and rising.

Rate your doctor

First have fun, then find a doctor

And what’s in first place? Searches for restaurants and restaurant reviews lead by a huge margin. Meaning, we spend more time and energy on choosing our restaurant than on choosing our doctor… strange, but that’s a good subject for a psychological study.

More and more people see the internet as their first, and often only, source of information when coming to make important decisions. There’s no doubt that choosing a doctor is an important decision, perhaps the most important of all. This fact might explain the number of searches done when checking out the reputation of a medical practitioner.

A study published in 2013 shows that of all the online searches for various businesses, 35% searched for doctors, while 32% searched for patients’ opinions of their doctors.

rate your doctor 1(brightlocal.com, 2013)

A lovely doctor

I’m a huge fan of practical applications of crowd wisdom. I scan the web and read in depth about different gadgets before buying them, compare prices, read Wikipedia, and use Waze. In my experience, this method is almost always successful – but is it the right way to go about choosing medical services?

At the time of writing their reviews, the result of the doctor’s treatment is usually still unknown. Also, the vast majority of patients don’t have sufficient knowledge or data to really evaluate the doctor’s work. Despite a famous study conducted a few years ago, which found positive correlation between doctors’ online reviews and the quality of their treatment, the correlation is admittedly very weak.

So how do patients rate their doctors? All medical review sites do is simply measure whether the clients like the practitioner treating them, whether they feel listened to, and how well he or she communicates. The bottom line is that they measure the subjective experience of the patient.

How much is half a star worth?

Six months ago, the American Economic Association published an interesting study shows how reputation affects doctors. The data was gathered from a site called ZocDoc.com.

rate your doctor 2ZocDoc.com was launched in 2007, and provides a free service for finding doctors in a variety of categories, such as medical specialization, gender, geographical location, practitioner insurance, language, etc. In addition to information on the doctors themselves, users can see a timetable of availability and book an appointment without picking up the phone. After the appointment, the user receives an email asking them to rate the service through the site.

Analysis of the data concerning reviews and appointments, gathered by ZocDoc.com, led to a number a conclusions. Here are the two most important:

 

Using 1-5 star rating, an increase of half a star in a doctor’s rating raises the number of appointments booked through the site by an average of 10%.

 

Doctors with the most reviews have the highest chance of filling their timetable.

 

These two conclusions point to the fact that, like in other fields, doctors also have to deal with the gap between their online reputation and the reputation they’ve managed to build up in the non-virtual world. Being a great doctor isn’t enough. One of the major parameters determining a doctor’s income is ultimately their online reputation.

Does your online reputation reflect who you really are?

If you liked this article, please share it with your favorite doctor :)

Why you have an Online Presence Problem

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A few weeks ago, my iPad screen was cracked (actually, smashed) by one of my kids. I’ve got to say that despite its fragile appearance, it’s a pretty tough device. I managed to ignore the first crack, but after it was sat on twice more and fell five feet to the floor, I had no choice: the device worked, but I needed a new screen.

Online presenceFirst thing I do is search on Yelp. The second thing is to Google the first three names (according to Yelp), and check out what people are saying about them in the search results.

This is what I got on Google:

  • The first result had an ancient website, a mention in Yellow Pages, with no reviews, a lifeless Facebook page, and a reference to a lawsuit, mentioning customers who sued the service.
  • The second result had a name so generic that I basically couldn’t find anything online that could give me more information about them.
  • The third brand had a new website, recently updated, a Youtube channel with videos showing how to fix common problems, and lots of references on relevant technology sites.

Now, it might be that they all give great service, still, assuming they charge similar prices, which company would you go to?

Online promotion, SEO on Google, paid advertising and Facebook statuses can help in the short term. But if you want to build up and establish a private or commercial brand, you need online presence and high visibility on search engines. It can make the difference between being a huge success, and having a sluggish company or career.

Online presence and reputation management

Some people think that online reputation management is all about promoting good results on search engines, and getting rid of bad ones. It’s true that sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed, but reputation management also includes other services, such as journalistic content writing, SEO techniques and legal services. In general, it employs different services depending on the current situation:

  • Monitoring – checking out the current situation. Monitoring is done at the beginning of the job, and repeated throughout.
  • Reactive reputation management – Negative reviews, court cases, defamation, and embarrassing photos are enough to seriously damage your reputation. Promoting positive content and creating new web domains can push these results off the first page on Google.
  • Proactive reputation management – Updating current web domains with fresh content, and increasing search engine results by adding new domains. This way, it’ll be harder to harm your reputation in the future.

All of these services are useful for both business and private clients (personal branding).

How do you know when you’re in trouble?

If any of the following is true, you’re probably not maximizing your online presence potential:

  • You don’t have enough relevant information out there. You’re lacking web domains and search engine results, and you’re probably not active enough online in your industry.
  • There’s relevant information, but most or all of it doesn’t show up on the first page of results, and is therefore basically irrelevant in terms of reputation.
  • You have negative content out there. This is probably the worst situation to be in. Google doesn’t distinguish between true and false information, or between accurate and mistaken, positive or sarcastic, etc.

When you search your name, or your company’s name, in Google, the search engine shows you the sites and pages which are meant to be the most relevant to the search terms you typed in. Why “meant”? Because the results and ranking are absolutely automatic, performed by algorithms that take hundreds of different factors into account. This is why you’ll sometimes see results that would probably be ranked much, much lower if a human was arranging the results.

For example, if you type the word ‘Jew’ into Google, you can see on the top of the search results a weird ad, put up by Google itself:

Jew

If you follow the link, you’ll get to an explanation about how Google isn’t always satisfied with their own search results, and even apologizes for them. The reason for them putting the explanation out for this particular term is that the first page of results was showing several anti-Semitic sites for the word ‘Jew’.

The power to make or break a reputation in a few minutes, for free

We live in a world where technology is hurtling forward at a rapid pace. Social networks, blogs and review sites have become an inseparable part of our life, and are reflected in almost everything we do. This technology is a powerful tool, and a way of reaching out to an audience of 2.4 billion potential internet users. Julie Anne, an elementary school teacher from Tennessee, wanted to give her pupils an important educational message by using a photo and a short text:

Julie AnneThe photo was posted about two weeks ago, and until now, has been shared 30,000 times and got millions of likes. Five minutes of preparation and zero budget got Julie Anne’s message across to the world, and built up her personal reputation.

Another example is Dave Carroll, who wrote a song about terrible customer service at a small aviation company called United Airlines, and uploaded it to Youtube. The result: United’s share price plummeted 10% and lost the shareholders 180 million dollars in just four days. Dave’s reputation actually improved, and he actually built up a career around it. Around two months ago, he gave a TED talk about his experience:

What other media platform can build or break a reputation so fast?