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Site Redo / Refresh – Illinois Main Street Alliance – Part 2

This the second part of  my suggestions for a site redo/site refresh. Part one is at

The Illinois Main Street Alliance (IMSA), is one of the organizations I am working with. This is a small business association with chapters across the country representing actual main street or real small businesses. The US Chamber of Commerce being more focused on large corporations (based on who is on the board, and amount of donations and how it lobbies). So as a small organization, it has a limited budget and resources. Most are volunteered with limited technical expertise.

Recently, I was asked for some input as to what would I do to improve its website. 

Not knowing the answers to the core questions asked in part 1 makes concrete and prioritized recommendations a challenge. But, to start the ball rolling, here are some recommendations:

  • A Twitter re-tweet button, and all social media sharing buttons. This allows members to easily share group ideas into different circles with accuracy and ease.
  • Google analytics to allow us to track to see who and what  people are looking and as well as how much traffic we are getting.
  • Update the Graphical masthead that shows a variety of different businesses rather than a Macomb, Illinois sense of Main Street alliance. We need to show that various types of main streets across Illinois that IMSA represents. We have many members from across the state and need to let others understand not just in words but also visually:
    • City – Chicago is the obvious business here.
    • Suburbs.
    • Small town.
    • Farm
    • Soloprenuer/home business
    • manufacturer
    • Service business
  • Use more illustrations and images through out the site. The term a picture is worth a thousand words is just as applicable here as elsewhere on the web.
  • Easy call to action.
    • How to reach out to Senators Durban and Kirk
    • how to reach out to Congressman.
    • How to reach out to Illinois state capital Springfield.
    • How to reach out to us – IMSA.
  • Upcoming events
    • This should be where we are linking people to our site from our Facebook postings, as well as tweets, as well as our LinkedIn and e-mails.
    • Ideally past and present meeting agendas would be posted here as well.
  • RSS feeds. these would list and include key articles from the news about the different campaigns that we are most interested in, such as:
    • HCAN
    • PPACA
    • ACA
    • Citizen action
    • insurance exchange
    • dream act.
    • Smart enforcement.
    • rate authority bill.
    • Budget fight in DC.
    • SB 1729.
    • 1577.
    • These could be either separate pages, each of themselves for each feed or one ongoing stream. The more pages the better the website (typically) from an ease of use and ability to be ranked well by the search engines. Generally speaking from the standpoint of making it easier for people to find what they’re looking for, as well. As for the search engines to make it easy for us to rank higher and therefore getting more traffic. It also helps in allowing other websites to link directly to us in more appropriate lead directly to the specific area that they want reference.
  • Links to other blogs related to our main street business’ costs such as:
  • Photos
    • This area could have two different purposes. One would be just to build community.
    • The second would be to create a resource tool for the press to see images that we have available that they may desire to utilize with stories and articles and letters to the editor that we may be submitting or writing about. This section would need to have probably watermarked or properly controlled images that the press could utilize for reproduction in their newspapers. Once they get approval from us. We can send them full resolution versions of them.
  • Standalone domain name. Having a standalone domain and therefore standalone site is important in creating the credibility appropriate for an organization with the clout of IMSA. Multiple domain names may be appropriate, especially for segmenting into different parts of the website. This is a good way to help improve search engine results/Google ranking.

Many of these suggestions should be relatively easy to implement continuing to use WordPress as a underlying CMS or content management system. Some of these start to walk to the edge of WordPress’s abilities and a more sophisticated CMS such as Joomla! or Drupal may be appropriate. Again this goes back to the original goals and objectives and the amount of resources that would be available to help maintain and develop a website.

Again, without context, it’s really hard to focus on the right parts of your very broad question. there are a variety of tools in evaluating effectiveness of a website that are free that I could go through and highlight but it feels like those aren’t even the appropriate sense of direction to be looking at at this point. However, I may be wrong in understanding what we’re trying to accomplish your at this time. May I suggest that a conference call may be more appropriate and getting with key decision-makers of who’s working on this process. Let me know who and when and how will try and plug into that. Also understanding where we are in the lifecycle of this is also key. In other words if the website is 80% done, then most of  this is too late. Then I can move my focus elsewhere, on the other hand, if this is all too early, I can put this in a more exploratory framework.

In our next post I will explore some suggested pages to add to the site.

October 25, 2011 Posted by | Chicago, How To, Internal Organization, Social Media | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Do I Get Bad Stories About Me Off Google? Part 3

Continuing on with our list of ways to improve your search results from Part 2 of How Do I Get Bad Stories About Me Off Google:

  • Consider posting on When you write a post and sign your name to it, you increase the number of positive results associated with you. You can also add a link to your website or blog, which also increases the number of positive returns and gives you a better ranking.
  • Consider posting on
  • Consider posting on Directories
    • Yellow pages – There are many of them
    • – you can post your Regis or HQ addresses as additional locations for your business if you have temporary office space.
  • Consider posting on:
  • Try to get your alumni or other .EDU to link to your site and to post your biography.
  • Post videos of yourself
  • Create books and self-publish on
  • Post reviews with your name on
  • Post your information on and set to public
  • Post your information on and set to public
  • Post your information on and set to public
  • Put different content on each location – do NOT just copy and paste- customize to some extent. Google will penalize you and your sites for cloning information.
  • Don’t just repost content
  • Link to different spots, not all the same.  Links can be to different pages on your blog(s), good articles or other positive content.
  • Link to what is linking to other good content.  In other words, if Sue’s blog has links to the positive articles about you, then link to Sue’s blog, especially her article that has links to the articles about you.
  • Ask others for links to you and your good sites.
    • Create a template email. Ideally you would give a phone call before hand to explain the situation.
    • Ask others to visit the good links, especially from Google searches
    • Ask that they add content (comments) and links to your site.
  • Set up a Twitter account to allow for more posting
  • Set your home page to Google with the search of keyword phrase set. Then open tabs of the ‘good’ links on a regular basis.
  • Create SlideDecks of information with links and reference to yourself.
  • Create PodCasts with information about yourself
  • Create a resources page on your website – link to other articles
    • Safe ‘free’ resources
    • How to choose a firm in your industry
    • When to use your profession
  • Post Articles on others sites with your name and links back to your site –
  • Consider outsourcing parts of this to virtual assistant or e-lance. You may also want to consider a virtual business manager to most effectively manage a project like this.
  • There are tools for monitoring your reputation.  These range from free to high-cost.  The more they can do automatically, the less they will be able to foresee the place that you did not expect to have an issue.
  • Google alerts is a great place to start – set up alerts to let you know when ever your search keyword phrases show up in Google’s search engine.  You can also set up customized news pages that provide all the occurrences of your keyword phrases as well. These are easy to do, but look to find someone who knows how to look at the situation with fairly objective views, to get all the different variations of the keyword phrases that may be in use.

You can also use Google news as a feed for your website to keep your content fresh. But of course be aware, this may post good and bad.

So there you have it, lots of different ways to get bad Google stories about you off the top of the list in search returns.  No one stop shop for free, but a list of specific steps to get results.

Have you ever had a search engine reputation issue? What did you do about it?

September 22, 2009 Posted by | SERM, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

How Do I Get Bad Stories About Me Off Google? Part 2

Continuing on with our discussion from Part 1 of How Do I Get Bad Stories About Me Off Google…

Google will also change it results based on what it learns about the web. That is changing second by second as its ‘bots (computer programs running day and night reading and analyzing website pages) return each second with new information. Those ‘bots are busy looking at:

  • What sites are out there,
  • what sites do they link to,
  • what sites are most popular
  • how the pages are optimized?

Search Engine Reputation Management

So what to do?  Here is a starter list of steps for improving your search engine reputation:

  • Get your story out there – create a website and promote it on the search engines. Like any website, you need to follow the basics –
    • Buy the domain name for at least 2 years – get your full name as the domain name or whatever keyword phrase is causing you the most grief. The reason for buying your name as a domain name is that if someone is writing a negative story about Ebenezer Pumpkin, (which is your name), then when someone else puts in a Google search for Ebenezer Pumpkin, they are directed first to your website, not the negative press story. The reasoning for buying a domain name for keyword phrases is the same. Consider getting a few domains based on your top keyword phrases. Ideally, you want to have the websites active, and not just by the domain name and lock it up. The more active a website is, the better it is for search returns. When you buy and lock up the names for the websites, you do actually have to do something with them, not just let them sit there unused.
    • Fill out your meta tags especially the ‘description’ – make sure your name and top keyword phrase is in the description. If you can not edit the code directly (such as if you are using a site template that generates your site, look for a place to create a description.
    • Put effort into the 1st 70 characters of the ‘Title’ tag – again include your name and primary keyword phrase.
    • Use header tags in your content (H1, H2, H3) to alert Google what is really important about your content.
  • Put your photos and images on the site with ALT tags.  The reason this is important is that Google searches for things in different ways. Google searches by video and picture in a different program, so its important to cover that base as well. The more you can get your name out there referenced in a positive way, the better off you are. These ALT tags need to have your name in them.  Google has a separate search engine just for images. This is your opportunity to directly ‘feed’ it what it is looking for.  These should also have your name in them as part of the file name.  In other words not picture1.jpg but barackobamastanding.jpg or johnmccainmad.jpg If your site creation or your abilities allow, create captions that match the images and the ALT tags.

This lets you more easily dominate one whole search engine aspect (images) which is often one of the key links on ‘normal’ text links.  But it also lets you ‘prove’ your content on another part of Google’s search.

  • Visit your content from the search terms in Google.  Google looks at what you (and everyone else) visits when you put searches into the search. If you visit your results, then it feels that those results were relevant to the search terms you entered. If your friends do the same, all the better. Do an intentional search on your website to see what it pulls up. Google does keep track of the number of times you do this, so you can’t use it forever to drive up your search engine results.
  • Create a WordPress blog about something you are passionate about.  Plan on creating at least 10 entries – they don’t have to be long treatises; plan on 400-800 words each.  Make sure you put your name, and post some more photos. Make sure it is good content. Don’t just put up garbage, or things you’re not interested in, just to have content up on a blog.
  • Make a list of all the search keyword phrases that you are trying to shift your image. This list may be as short as 5-10, but probably should be as long as 50-100.  Do a search on the terms You can use Google keyword phrase generator and many other tools as discussed in other posts. This is where you can keep an eye out for the hidden spots that you are gaining a reputation that you do not desire.
  • You can also considering having free cartoon versions of your image made for free at – the key is to create different images of you that are well indexed by Google.  Rather than just having one photo of yourself on your site copied across all the pages, have different photos of yourself, with ALT tags on them, so that Google will pick up your name more often, and in a good sense. You can repurpose a photo and have it made into a cartoon version of you, rather than just having different regular photos of yourself. Google will think its a different photo of you, even if  you see it as the same photo of you, just in cartoon form.  Also post these on your other sites –
  • Create accounts on the social networking sites – you may want to be conservative in how much others are allowed to post content related to you, but you can use this to put your version of the story.  If you limit the responses that others can make, you can control to some degree your image.  Most of these are not create and forget types of efforts. You will need to keep adding content to the accounts to show they are active.  Again you can use your images here as well links to positive stories.
    • Facebook
    • Linkedin
    • Myspace
    • Zoominfo
    • Plaxo
  • Post content on a regular basis on sites with links to your site.
  • Post content on Craigslist with your keyword terms. Even though Craigslist is primarily a classified  ad market, you can also post a message about yourself, your services and jobs. This is shorter term, and will probably need to be reposted every couple of weeks as Craigslist takes down the ads after a couple of weeks.
    • You can use tools to make reposting easier such as Craigslist Bot Pro – I have not personally used this yet, but have read many good things about it.
  • Ask your network to social bookmark your preferred sites and stories. This includes sites like, Mixx, delicious, reddit, metafilter. This lets others see your ‘good’ content over the ‘bad’ content, as well as letting Google know your ‘good’ content is better then the ‘bad’ content.
  • Write press releases and submit to PRNEWSWIRE and other newswire services. These are great sites as far as reputation with Google and other search engines.  Of course these need to be properly written to include your keyword phrases and related phrases frequently throughout the release. Include links back to yourself at least 2 times.
  • Review your content for your keyword phrases and related terms.  If you are not being explicit in your descriptions, don’t expect Google to know what you are thinking and where you want to be ranked as well.
  • Consider tools for managing your efforts – WebPosition is one that I have used over 12 years. Many of its best strengths are no longer relevant but, it can still be helpful for a variety of tasks.
  • Optimize your website including creating a page specific for the keyword phrase.
  • Link to good articles ranked rather than bad articles. You want to make sure that when you do a Google search, the number of good articles and references about you comes up higher in the results list than the number of bad items.
  • Create a personal link for your Facebook page
  • Create a Wikipedia page – Be careful with this. Be ready to manage this page. It is open to anyone to edit, and there are people who put many hours towards making sure all discussions are complete, as well as balanced.  You may need manage the updates on an ongoing basis.  Ignoring this option of course does not prevent someone else creating a negative page about you.  So at least start thinking what you would want on your Wikipedia page. In the meantime look to see if you are listed anywhere on the site as well.  Also look how other biography pages are formatted and what is listed.
  • Create a (at least one) blog. You can create multiple blogs on each site about different topics.
    • Create on
    • Use tags on your different postings
    • Use categories in your postings
    • Link to individual pages from posts or comments on other sites. These links improve the reputation of your content, by linking to your site.
    • Link to other pages that you like from posts on other sites.
    • Link to ‘good’ articles that are ranking well on Google about your reputation.
    • Link to other social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace especially your personalized URL.
    • Keep updating your content. Google assumes newer content is ‘better’ and more relevant then older content. Sites that are updated regularly are more relevant to ‘stale’ sites. This becomes key when going against news sites that continue to update on other pages, even though your ‘bad’ pages may never change.
    • Consider using RSS feeds to auto update your blog or website.

To be continued in Part 3 of How Do I Get Bad Stories About Me Off Google…

September 8, 2009 Posted by | SEO tools, SERM, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How Do I Get Bad Stories About Me Off Of Google, Part 1 of 3

Search Engine Reputation Management or SERM

A client who had some smear stories written about him, recently asked – how do I get bad stories about me off of Google? Or more accurately, when someone else has written a story about you online which presents you in a negative light, how do you get that story pushed further down in the return results of a Google search? You want to preserve your good online reputation. You want your reputation online to be as positive as possible. When someone does a Google search on you, you want favorable stories and results which put you in a good light. And when someone writes and posts a story about you, right or wrong, accurate information or made up, inaccurate fabrications, those stories come up in a Google search. You can’t control what others write about you. So when they write about you and it is negative, what do you do, and how do you get your good reputation back?

Rather than fight the story at the source, and demand a retraction, it is easier and better just to optimize your site for searches. By going to the original source which wrote the negative story and asking them to remove or retract their story – you risk waking the ‘ sleeping giant’. That could backfire on you and create even worse press for you. The other possibility is there is more than one negative story about you, so you would end up chasing way too many people to get them to take their stories off, which they may not. It would be far more effective for you to ignore  the source, and manage the search return results a different way.

As it turned out, my client was a lightning rod of feelings – Good and Bad.  And while the saying all press is good press, in his case, it was not working to his benefit. It was costing him jobs and he seemed to have this other issue – the truth and wanting others to see the truth over the lies.

With that in mind, I figured I would outline how to improve your online reputation.

  • This area of Internet presence management is labeled Search Engine Reputation Management or SERM. It is a subset of SEO, and contains many skills – including an understanding of crisis management.  Many of the solutions will not be quick, like much of SEO – but results will vary, like your mileage and situation.
  • Understand that Google results change – 1st of all not everyone gets the same results at the same minute.  Two different people can do a Google search at the same time, using the same search words, and one person will have the same entry ranked higher than the other search return will give the other person. One person can have ‘peas’ returned as the third listing, while another person can have ‘peas’ returned as item number 5, using the very same search words. Google is trying to improve the results for everyone.  So it will create different results based on what you have searched before and what is in your other Google account including:
    • Gmail – Google will try to customize your search results based on what is in your GMail emails,
    • Customized news on Google News – If you follow Cricket over Candian Football, your search results will lean that way as well. Follow McCain over Clinton – your results are different.
    • Google Docs – What you store helps Google understand what you are focused on.
    • Google alerts
    • YouTube – Also owned by Google, so watch Oberman clips more then Beck or Cute Kitties – your results also reflect the shift.
    • Previous Google searches

This assumes of course, that you have a Google account, which not everyone does. Using  a Google account can be to your benefit, because Google keeps track of what you have searched for, what you have looked at in the returned results, how long you were there, and what you did from there. It keeps track of this, so that when you do another search, it in effect thinks, well, they were interested in x before, so based on that, I will return things more likely to be like x, since that is what they seem to be interested in.

You can choose to have it optimize its results for you on your Google account.

Follow the discussion on Part 2 of How Do I Get Bad Stories About Me Off Google…

August 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Google Image Searches

Another way to rank your site and push it up is to have photo and image content on your site and pages. Using ALT tags on your photos can get your name (or the name you want to push up) noticed more.  The more you have text, captions, ALT tags and file names that match your name, the better chance Google will interpret your images as being about you.

Its helpful to do a Google image search and see what kind of images come up. Some of them may be rather unexpected and not related to you at all. Or maybe remotely related to you. I did an image search recently, and someone else’s photo came up under a search of my name. Different gender and all. So its a good idea to check and see what will come up for you when you search. You may need to address it or not, but at least you will know what is being pulled up and associated with you and your site.

Of course if your photo is used in more places that have your name, the more likely the image will have your name in it.

August 31, 2009 Posted by | SERM, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment