In part one of our Reputation Management series, we examine how search engines work and the subsequent effects on your online reputation.
A common question we hear is, “why does it take so much time to completely remove my negative search result?” To deliver the best answer and results to our clients, we explain the basics of Google Search Results, and how it affects Online Reputation Management.
Your Guide to Google Search Results
Search engines like Google bring order to the Web. They help us find information on just about any subject imaginable – including your online reputation. Google works by identifying web pages that are relevant to our search terms. With untold millions of individual web pages on the Internet, it’s a monumental task. Without Google, the Web would be an incomprehensible wilderness.
To users, it is fast, efficient, and all but invisible. How does Google identify all those websites? And is it possible to influence search results?
Crawling and Indexing
“There’s three things that you really want to do well, if you want to be the world’s best search engine,” said Matt Cutts, a software engineer with Google for seventeen years. “You want to crawl the web, comprehensively and deeply. You want to index those pages. And then you want to rank, or serve, those pages, and return the most relevant ones first.”
Those are the three essentials to a search engine query: crawling, indexing, and ranking. And they take place in that order.
Crawling is absolutely essential to web searches, since before a search engine can index and rank a website, it has to find it. Crawlers are automated programs that visit websites and “crawl” around their content, including any links it has.
Once the site has been crawled, the results go onto Google’s index. This is the foundation of any web search: when you use a search engine, you’re not actually searching the web; you are searching an index of what’s on the web.
After Google has identified the websites that match what you’re looking for, it presents them in a list ranked by relevance. How does it know?
The order that search results are presented to us is called ranking. The higher a page ranks, the better off you are; research shows that most users do not go beyond the first page of search results.
While the official process is known only to Google, we know that the company scores pages based on several factors, including the number of links a page has, the value of the links and the keywords themselves. A high PageRank yields better placement on search engines.
Google co-founder Larry Page once said that the ideal search engine considers the words you type into the search field, and “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.”
In other words, the results should be relevant to what you are looking for.
Google algorithms make search results relevant by sorting out semantic information in its indexed pages. If, for example, your search terms are “the president,” Google interprets that to mean you are probably looking for information about the President of the United States – not the president of, say, General Motors. (We tested it; the top result was Donald Trump).
Knowing the process of search engine placement, we return to our original question: is it possible to influence search results?
Internet searches directly effect Online Reputation Management (ORM), the practice of influencing and controlling the information about you or your business available online. ORM is a sub-field of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. Influencing search engine results with SEO can take months, but is highly effective.
Broadly speaking, Online Reputation Management works in two ways. If you are trying to raise your Internet profile – if you want Internet users to be able to find you – you shoot for the top Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Sometimes, though, there is negative information about you on the Internet that you don’t want people to find. In that case, you want to avoid the first SERP, and either remove or suppress the negative information. Removal means deleting it at its source. Google, remember, indexes the data already on the Internet; you cannot remove content from Google per se. Suppression means burying the negative content with new, positive content.
Each of these goals – making yourself more visible to Google, or less visible – can be achieved through ORM strategies that influence search engine results.