The Search Light Newsletter
The Search Light Newsletter
  Guiding your site to the top of the search engines... 31 March 2007 - Vol 7, Issue #3  

In this issue...

Feature Article:

Social Media - The Instant Brand Killer

FAQ1: How do I ensure a page is NOT indexed by search engines?

FAQ2: Is it ok to use an alt tag for every image for accessibility purposes?

FAQ3: Why can't I see my favicon?

EARN CASH from your web site!

Feature Article:

Social Media - The Instant Brand Killer

By Kalena Jordan
With the increasing uptake of social media sites such as Digg, Technorati, Slashdot, YouTube and MySpace, together with community bookmarking sites like, Reddit and Ma.gnolia, companies the world over can reach their target markets via a whole new channel.
Social networking is like viral marketing on steroids. Companies can release a new product in the morning and have it talked about by millions of users on thousands of sites by the afternoon.
The good news is that social media is user driven. The bad news is that social media is user driven. Yes, there's the rub. Users are fickle creatures - they can love a product one minute and then drop it like a lead balloon the next, depending on their experience with the product, a rumor, or whether they have had their morning coffee yet. And if their experience is bad, the noise is generally louder. To protect their reputations it's not just journalists that companies have to impress these days. It's anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. Love it or hate it, the user community now has enormous power over the online reputation of a company or brand.
Not surprisingly, businesses and individuals alike clamor for the attention and mostly enjoy the limelight that social media can bring. Others hate the intense scrutiny that often accompanies the popularity. An example is usability blogger Kim Krause Berg's unpleasant first experience of Digg - I Don't Digg Being Dugg.
Online communities can even bring a site to its knees. Marketers are calling it the "Digg Effect" or the "Slashdot Effect". Buzz for a site can cause more than good or bad publicity. As Kim found out, the effect can cause traffic overload sometimes resulting in site downtime and lost business.
Social media can also kill the reputation of a brand instantly. Take the Microsoft Windows Vista Laptop Scandal for instance. No stranger to the benefits of social media, Microsoft had allegedly tried to exploit the power of the blogosphere at the end of last year, by sending a number of A-list bloggers a free Acer Ferrari laptop loaded with the yet-to-be-released Windows Vista and Office 2007.
The pitch was a request for the bloggers to "review" the new Windows software in their influential blogs. Many bloggers did write a review, but some did not disclose their free gift. When this fact was discovered later, the bloggers were hammered by large portions of the blogosphere for what they saw as a clear conflict of interest. Microsoft were tagged both literally and figuratively as bribers and Windows Vista was widely panned with parody tag lines such as "Vista: So Bad We Had to Give it Away". Not a great start to an online product release.

Another example of the damage that social networking can do to a company's online reputation is the National Pork Board of America's recent battle with breastfeeding advocate and well-known blogger Jennifer Laycock. Jennifer was sent a harshly worded letter from the Pork Board's representing counsel, threatening her with legal action for allegedly stealing their pro-pork slogan "Pork: The Other White Meat" in a pro-breastfeeding t-shirt she had designed that read "The Other White Milk".
The letter suggested that their case for trademark infringement was probably solid. Unfortunately for the Pork Board, the poorly-worded letter also suggested that they were insensitive to breastfeeding mothers and the plight of starving infants. The Pork Board didn't count on Jennifer's influence in the blogosphere and the power of social networking to carry her defiant response to the world. The Pork Board ended up receiving bags of hate mail and thousands of flame emails via their online contact form, forcing them to issue a public apology to Jennifer from the Board's CEO and a generous donation to the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio in order to save face.
To their credit, the Pork Board did the right thing. They also made sure that all persons who complained about their approach to Jennifer received a polite, measured email response from the CEO. As a former PR consultant myself, I tip my hat at them. Having the apology come from the very top is smart. It demonstrates how seriously they took the complaints. The wording of the complainant response is polite and restrained. Addressing each and every complainer personally is impressive. It would've been tempting to ignore all the flames and issue some stock standard release.
Their choice of legal team may have been questionable, but the Pork Board's public relations team mobilized quickly, upgraded to full damage control mode and did a great job of mopping up the PR mess before it spread too far. Social media might have damaged them, but the Pork Board's reputation was ultimately salvaged by quick thinking and a swift online response.
Such situations underscore the growing importance of online reputation management (ORM) in our Web 2.0, social media-driven world. Companies should be tracking their online reputation on a daily basis to check for negative commentary via social media in order to avert potential PR disasters. Major search marketing players such as Andy Beal recognized the potential growth in ORM a long time ago. But I wonder how many PR/Search Marketing agencies currently offer this service?
With brand reputation increasingly at risk, you can be sure the smart agencies will be adding ORM to their service offerings faster than you can say "Can you Digg it?"

About the Author
Article by Kalena Jordan, one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australia, who is well known and respected in the industry, particularly in the U.S.
As well as running a daily Search Engine Advice Column, Kalena manages Search Engine College - an online training institution offering instructor-led short courses and downloadable self-study courses in Search Engine Optimization and other Search Engine Marketing subjects.

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   Hello Readers!

Do you dig being Dugg? If you don't know what I'm talking about, you obviously haven't been caught up in the Social Media revolution yet. I'm referring to community-driven social sites such as Digg, YouTube and MySpace. Are you an active user of these services? Or have you had a negative experience with them?
This month's article is about the power that social media sites give the user community over the online reputation of a brand or company. Social media was a hot topic being discussed at the Search Summit Conference I spoke at in Sydney earlier this month. Almost every speaker seemed to have an opinion on the phenomenon.
The conference was a nice distraction from my usual routine and holding it at the Luna Park harbourside venue was a masterstroke. Barry Smyth and his team did a great job of pulling the conference together in a short space of time and I expect Search Summit will become an annual event. It was a total trip to meet Andy Beal in person after knowing him virtually for so many years. And it was great to catch up with Chris Sherman and share a laugh with Detlev Johnson and Mike Motherwell.
Thanks to those of you who approached me after my speaker session to say hi. It was comforting to know that my blog and newsletter resonate with so many people. See you at the next one!

Enjoy this issue and remember to visit my blog to check out my daily answers to frequently asked search engine questions or submit one of your own.
Till next time - wishing you clicks and conversions...

  • FAQ1: How do I ensure a page is NOT indexed by search engines?
  •    Dear Kalena...
    I want to publish a private page on the web, that only I and a few other people will use. How can I ensure that this page is NOT picked up by search engines?
    It will be a wiki style page, so there may be lots of content which could be indexed by the Search Engines. This is what I want to avoid.
    Many thanks for your help,

    Dear Fintan
    There are a few ways to achieve this:
    1) Use a Robots META tag in the page HTML and include "no index" in the tag.
    2) Disallow the page in your robots.txt file.
    3) Create the page in a sub-folder and password protect the folder so only persons with a login can view it. If your host uses CPanel, you can set this up yourself using WebProtect.

  • FAQ2: Is it ok to use an alt tag for every image for accessibility purposes?
  •    Dear Kalena...
    Your newsletter reply to one visitor included: "I would also avoid using more than 2 or 3 alt tags on a single page if you can help it." I designed and manage a site for a visually impaired friend who writes children's books:
    Especially for her site, I notice how her text reader (JAWS) handles the page. It was my impression that I should have an alt tag for every image so a text reader could let visually impaired visitors know what was there. I wasn't really thinking about what the search engines want. What should I do about this?
    You also mentioned using only 3 or 4 words in the tag. On my site, the picture is often a book cover. For example, I have put in the tag: "Click cover to order The Buggy That Boogied Away." Should that be changed to "Click cover to order" or to an abbreviated form of the title? (Some titles are longer than this one.) Again, I'm thinking about text readers such as JAWS rather than search engines.

    Dear Betsy
    Don't worry about a thing. When you say "I wasn't really thinking about what the search engines want", you're right on the money. You were thinking primarily about the user and they are THE most important consideration when it comes to designing a web site.
    It's perfectly fine to add an alt img tag to every image if you are doing it primarily for accessibility purposes. My prior post was really aimed at persons wanting to add alt tags primarily for search engines. As long as the alt tags are not excessively stuffed with keywords, it shouldn't be a problem to include longer ones, especially where it makes sense to do so, such as the use of full book titles.
    Do whatever makes the most sense for the user and you should be fine.

  • FAQ3: Why can't I see my favicon?
  •    Dear Kalena...
    I have my own domain and I created a favicon. I did all I was supposed to do but still can't see the ico. In Mozilla we can see it on our office computer, but on the two other computers we can't see it on Explorer. I hope after 1.5 days of brain-wrecking trying..... you have the ground breaking answer for me.
    Thanks from Canada

    Hi Shirley
    Don't panic - I see it just fine in both Firefox and IE from here. What version of IE are you testing it on? I'm using IE 7. Have you bookmarked the site and refreshed the page? Try doing that on the computers where you can't see it and also try dumping your browser cache, your temporary Internet files and your visited page history and then relaunch your browser. I'm betting this will solve the problem.
    Meanwhile, you have a more pressing problem with the site. What on earth are you thinking keyword- stuffing the top and bottom of your home page with tiny text? You can't tell me that text is there for humans to read. Aren't you aware that such retro spam can earn you ranking suppression penalties on the search engines? And then you add insult to injury by stuffing (nearly) hidden links leading to some type of link farm all along the bottom of the page.
    Are you not aware that these techniques go against Google's published Webmaster Guidelines? It doesn't look as though Google has caught it yet, but be ready for your rankings to plummet if they do. Tsk Tsk!

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