Swine Insemination & Reputation

September 18th, 2007 by Will Scott

What on earth does Swine Insemination have to do with SEO?

Pigs from WikiMedia - Click for AttributionThis is a funny story and turned out to be a pretty good example of what reputation management, as I understand it, is all about.
Now, keep in mind there are people who focus on reputation management. We dabble.

I would define reputation management (online) as assuring that the most positive message about you or your company is the one with top ranking for any given relevant phrase. Relevant phrases might include your name, your brands, your corporate officers or any phrase for which you would naturally have a vested interest.Often, given the high degree of vitriolic speech on the web a company can find itself maligned by a blogger or commentator, who by virtue of their online reputation (authority), winds up ranking for the business name or the name of one of the principals of the company.

For example — I’m not arrogant enough to think we had an impact on a successful venture backed company like Yodle (formerly natpal) — but, a blog post I wrote about what I thought were very dangerous SEO practices a while back managed to rank well for the word “Natpal”. As it turns out, Natpal shortly thereafter ended this dangerous practice and I gave kudos to their CEO Court Cunningham.

The episode demonstrates the concern though. What if some blogger or yelper decides to speak negatively about you and then obtains ranking? The squawking can, if you’re not careful drown out your message.

“OK, cool” you say but what does this have to do with Swine Insemination? I’ll get to that.

For example, we were recently approached by a New Orleans financial startup who on searching for their name (a brand new domain) found that one of their competitors was on page one and they were nowhere.

Thankfully their business name wasn’t something like Free Coupons, but was instead a much less searched for phrase.

The good news was that they did have some presence. They’d been running some ads on local job boards and they’d gotten included in some local press so they were at lease known, if not yet visible to the big G.

What we did was pretty simple. Something I like to call authority borrowing (people less nice than me call it “Parasite SEO”). My mother tells me no one who’s not in the business of website promotion will know what I mean by authority so in brief: Authority is your reputation with the search engines. There are lots of factors but sum it up to say it’s an indication of how much the search engines trust you.

So basically, if you have a brand new site and you don’t own a 100% search phrase matched non-hyphenated .com domain, you’re hosed.

As I said, the good news is that the search phrase wasn’t super-competitive. So our job in knocking brand-X off page 1 was that much easier. Other good news was that we happen to have control over a locally relevant directory :)

So to the details:

  1. We put a listing for our client company in our own New Orleans business directory www.buylocalbuynola.org.
  2. We built them a Craig’s List “Local Business Ad” (free and very effective but transient – in other words they’re not good for long). The secondary benefit of this is that Craig’s list has a TON of authority and so the link back has a lot of weight.
  3. We submitted their site, our Buy Local Buy NOLA listing, the Craig’s list ad and some of their other press to a number of social media sites and directories.

Blammo! That was all it took. Within 48 hours, brand-X was off the home page and we controlled 9 of 10 remaining listings.

To this day, relevant sites still control 7 of 10 – brand-X is buying adwords against a phrase they used to rank for and we only just lost the #1 spot because their exact match domain seems to have changed hands and the new owners switched it to an SEO savvy host.

I guess our guys should have signed up for a longer term engagement ;>

Finally, Swine Insemination.

OK, OK here’s where the swine insemination part comes in. I was talking about all this with a friend of mine who does web design for plastic surgeons and others. She on a lark decided to put our business name “Search Influence LLC” into Google to see what came… well, there in the #5 position was some site talking about Swine Insemination.

So I decided if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. OK, not really. My piggish behavior tapered off toward the end of my twenties.

Really though I thought it was a great example of the point I’d just been making (and which I’ve spent the last few minutes writing up.

The last thing you want when someone goes searching for you is negativity. You want sweetness and light above the fold. And, great news, you can control it.

Your name is likely not a heavily searched phrase – you should own it (unless of course you’re named Will Scott, then you’re probably out of luck).

And honestly, I’d rather see Swine Insemination or a competitor’s name than mine smeared.

And I think you would too.

P.S. If you want to know the name of the company for whom we did that, call or email.

References

Some of the better known authorities with some great information on reputation management in general are:

Media References: