Download the PDF here.

Online Reputation Management origins: 2010-2014

Back in 2010, Online Reputation Management (“ORM”) activities focused on basic Search Engine Optimisation (“SEO”) techniques and copywriting to help gain position within the Search Engine Result Pages ("SERPs") rankings. The Internet was completely different back at that time:

1. Facebook was full of photo albums and daily statuses such as "reading X book" or "binge-watching the 4th Season of Lost on Blu-Ray".

2. Twitter was competing with "Google Buzz", and Neither TikTok nor even Instagram existed.

3. An iPhone maximum storage was 32 GB, and Blackberry and Nokia were still in the competition.

During that time, Google's Algorithm, among many things, used references from other websites to determine the position in the ranking of a webpage. If a website posted a piece of misleading news, it was very damaging. Almost anyone could boost its rankings on Google only by creating links pointing to that article.  The only way to push that misleading article off of the first page was to create backlinks to positive websites. The SEO focus for ORM activities fundamentally relied on winning the race on who created the most backlinks.

Due to the ease of manipulation of the algorithm, Google introduced the Panda update in 2011 –one of the most significant changes in its algorithm by far. Panda changed the whole SEO industry since it gave relevancy to the sites with original content, in-depth reports, and analytic articles. It made it inconceivable to copy content from others to boost rankings because plagiarism was being penalised. The next year, Google launched Penguin, an algorithm update that penalised more plagiarism and low-quality backlinks. Penguin stopped the battle amongst those who created the most backlinks. This lead to the combat moving to a different field: who made better content and got the best references. However, a new element was added: social media.

In 2012, social networks were widely adopted all over the world. There were approximately one billion active users a month on Facebook, whilst the social network industry looked for the Facebook Killer. Google's ideas were on its own social network, Google+. They copied Facebook's idea of the like button and created the +1 button, used in the algorithm update to boost the SERPs. Which lead to the necessity of SEO efforts to prioritise website technical aspects, quality content, backlinks and Google Plus relevancy.

Google Plus reached 540 million monthly active users however, its engagement rate was insufficient compared to other social networks. So any interaction of Google Plus users with the SERPs wouldn't be significant enough to influence the rankings. To continue improving user experience and despite the competition, Google created the social signals. A new Key Performance Indicator (“KPI”) that indicates how many interactions a webpage has had. A social signal can be conceived as a Facebook's like or share, Twitter’s tweet or retweet, Reddit's share, or Pinterest's pin.

In 2014, Google launched the search intention feature in an attempt to give users information based on the algorithm guess on how they would use the search result. For example, if a mid-age average American user makes a query using the keyword "Bank of America" in the US would have a different intention to a teenage Egyptian user. We might assume that the American user intends to enter the online banking of their account. On the other hand, the Egyptian teenager might be interested in knowing the banks history for a school essay. To improve the search results and cope with the machine learning revolution, Google acquired a London-based Artificial Intelligence company DeepMind.

Online Reputation Management during the Smartphone era: 2015-now

Another critical change that occurred in 2015 was when Google put more relevancy on mobile-friendly websites. Back in those days, 35% of the global internet traffic came from mobile devices. In 2017 the smartphone revolution rose the mobile internet traffic to 50%, and in 2018 Google revealed Mobile-first indexing. This update changed how Google bots read the website and indexed it in the SERPs, and ever since that, Google will first check the mobile version of a page to determine its relevancy –desktop pages became secondary. In 2021, the mobile-first bot reached 70% of global users, and it is expected to be completed in 2022.

All these changes in the algorithm have enormously impacted all ORM techniques. It seems like centuries ago when ORM activities were focused on only placing backlinks. SEO specialists now have to consider numerous factors such as mobile-first indexing and mobile-friendliness, social signals, content quality, and diversity backlinking.

Online Reputation Management Optimisation in Search Voice Results

Since the technology is in constant evolution, the perspective for the next decade includes Online Reputation Management Optimisation in Search Voice Results and the Metaverse. The voice search results have been growing since the launching of Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Microsoft's Cortana and Google Assistant in the last decade. Nowadays, one-third of Americans use voice searches for obtaining information, though it is expected that smart speakers will outnumber tablets soon, and 55% of American households will use them in 2022. It is just a matter of time when voice searches will be as relevant as text searches.

Metaverse Reputation Management

The Metaverse in short, is a shared virtual universe that allows you to experience virtual-enhanced physical experiences where users will be able to play, commercialise, create and explore.

The Metaverse has not found its final form yet, but we currently can see blog posts and GitHub Repos showing how to generate fake images based on Generative Adversarial Network (“GANs,” a class of machine learning framework) that could be used by criminals to perpetrate offences to damage the reputation of a person or avatar. Deepfake is digital media with altered elements, which means that a person’s likeness has been modified or replaced by someone else, often using advanced AI technology.

According to the technology author Nina Schick, in the next 5 to 7 years the 90% of video content online would be synthetically created using the same technology as the deepfake technology. Identity fraud and theft could be two major challenges for the Reputation Management departments in the near future. Fraud detection and blockchain technology verification will probably become in one of the primary Metaverse Reputation Management strategies to prevent identity fraud turn into a threat in this upcoming new world.

Nowadays there are initiatives such as the Content Authenticity Initiative. It promotes the adoption of metadata standards to address digital authenticity and provenance. The Living Avatar NFT is another project promoted for several companies that encourages the use of unique verifiable avatars that can be interoperable within the multiple virtual realities available within the Metaverse. Data Protection, Copyright and AI laws are evolving all over the world and will serve as a platform to protect our clients in the Metaverse. Nowadays, jurisdictions such as California and Virginia, USA, passed laws criminalising (in specific situations for each state) non-consensual deepfakes designed to coerce, harass, or intimidate other users. However, these laws are still relative new, and it will take time to see how they impact in the future of Metaverse Reputation Management.

Our experience

Watch our recorded webinar: How to address inaccurate information about you in the media before it affects your KYC profile for more information. This article is for information purposes only. It does not constitute professional advice or an opinion. Please contact us at info@lecocqassociate.com for any questions.

Moisés Lárez Barrios
Moisés Lárez Barrios
Reputation Management Associate