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Google And User Endorsements

When it comes to staying on top of the latest Reputation Management trends, it’s vitally important to analyze how policy decisions (especially those implemented by search engines) may affect the future of how one is able to manage his or her reputation online. Such is the case with Google’s recent decision to publish user endorsements in advertisements (see the new Terms of Service here). Since November 11th, 2013, Google has been using your recommendations, photos and other info in targeted advertisements that will be displayed to select individuals and companies contained within your own “circle” of friends, family members and acquaintances.

This concept isn’t new (as a matter of fact, Facebook has done this for some time through its Sponsored Stories program), yet it is sure to come as a shock for some Google users who will soon see the likelihoods of their friends – along with photos of food, children’s toys and more spattered across their screen. There are quite a few angles to discuss regarding the new trend which I’d like to go over in this article. Mainly, we’ll be looking at how Google’s latest decision affects Reputation Management, Privacy, and whether it will be a Cost Effective measure in the long run.

Personal Endorsement Advertisements For Reputation Management

In a nutshell, the new Google program can be a dream come true for those aiming to improve their online reputation. The reason for this is simple: Google is granting users a way to easily get their info published in an SEO friendly environment that can do wonders for bumping down unwanted search results. Since the growing trend of search results is that they’re easier to bump down rather than remove (especially when it concerns criminal data), those seeking out Reputation Management services will be much better served by services that can quickly rank higher than some misdemeanor charge that was grabbed from a public database and plastered on any number of webpages.

Generally speaking, “bumping down” an undesired search result is the science of creating personalized social media accounts and other content that will eventually rank higher than a negative review or minor crime entry – thus allowing the person or company to more easily manage his or her reputation by ensuring that unwanted entries on Google, Yahoo and Bing are harder to find by prying eyes, potential employers and clients.

Through Google’s new system, individuals and corporations will easily be able to control the flow of information and direct it toward some meaningful end. For example, if you’re a person who’s interested in video games, you can begin publishing content on your Google+ account and participating in forums that are specific to that topic. The result will likely be that your screenshots of consoles, video reviews of games and other information will be displayed in advertisements to those within your circles and that the data will eventually rank relatively high in keyword searches. This will likely work for just about any industry, and you could even become recognized as an “authority” by Google; furthering your reach as well as improving the probability that your Google+ entries will be among the first displayed when someone searches your name or company’s name.

This provides a whole new method for “gaming” Google when it comes to Reputation Management; as you can simply use its service (which it is heavily promoting and attempting to get people to not opt-out of) to get a positive search result for the keyword(s) you’re looking to manipulate.

If you’re a Do It Yourself junkie and are looking for a sure-fire way to manipulate keyword search results for your name or company’s name, then signing up to a Google+ account and participating in discussions, groups and publishing photos can be highly effective beginning in mid-November due to Google’s desire to make this program more successful than its Facebook counterpart. Although Facebook has had an enormous head start when it comes to competing in the Social Media realm with Google, the latter has a significant advantage due to its ownership of the most widely used search engine – something that should not be lost on those who are looking to improve their online reputation.

Privacy Issues

There are plenty of privacy issues that revolve around Google’s decision to follow suit with Facebook, and there are sure to be plenty of people who become frustrated with having their information captured and subsequently used for marketing purposes without their written consent. Google’s new program is an “opt-out” feature, which means that you are automatically participating as of November 11th unless you specifically opt-out.

To opt-out of the Shared Endorsements feature, go to your Google+ Settings and click the Edit option under the Shared Endorsements tab (see screenshot below).

Google Plus Settings

From there, you will be taken to a separate webpage where you should uncheck the box that says “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.” I’ve included another screenshot to display this.

Google Plus Uncheck Shared Endorsements

Once you have performed these two steps, you will be opted-out of the Google Shared Endorsements program and will not have your likelihood used in advertisements.

Needless to say that if you’re making use of Google+ for Reputation Management purposes, you’ll likely want to leave this setting alone in order to maximize the full potential of desirable search engine results, but if you’re concerned about the privacy issues surrounding Google’s new policy, then this will effectively omit your account from the latest feature.

Perhaps the most nagging bit about Google’s Shared Endorsements program is that users are not reimbursed for the use of their data and images in advertisements. Let’s say for example that you are a well recognized person within a random industry and another person within your Circles searches for a relevant keyword. Up pops a screenshot you’ve published on your Google+ account (or a recommendation you’ve made), and that person subsequently makes a purchase. Your total commission is zero. If you really want to profoundly analyze it, Google’s form of reimbursing users for their loyalty has always resided in becoming recognized as an “authority” on a handful of topics and exploiting that to improve keyword search rankings. This has a much better chance long term of being successful due to Google’s ownership of its own search engine – as users will be much more inclined to participate.

However, the Shared Endorsements program is not without risks on Google’s end. Facebook reached a $20 million class action lawsuit settlement with its users and was forced to change the Sponsored Stories term to ads (they are advertisements after all). Google could potentially face a similar situation as users become more aware of how their data is being used by private enterprises for financial gain.

Long Term Monetization Of Shared Endorsements

In my opinion, if any company has the potential to generate significant revenue from a program such as Shared Endorsements it is indeed Google. Once again, having the world’s most widely used search engine can provide a multitude of incentives to end users that other online companies simply cannot compete with. This isn’t to say that the program will be a long term success, but it is reasonably probable that more individuals and companies will make use of the feature due to their desire to have their profile rank as highly as possible within Google’s search engine algorithm.

There will indeed be an amount of financial gain to be had for those who are able to parlay a well recognized account name into higher search rankings due to the data that is published within it, and Google may be all too happy to oblige loyal end users with higher search rankings in order to indirectly promote the usage of its programs.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how the Shared Endorsements program is rolled out beginning November 11th, and to gauge subsequent criticism of the feature. Due to the fact that I’m heavily involved in the Reputation Management business, I will be recommending the feature to a large percentage of my clients despite the potential privacy issues. This is because individuals and companies that I have relationships with are usually looking for a way to substitute “desired” online data for “undesired” entries – and Google+ is one of the most effective ways of making this happen.

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David Harold

Reputation Consultant at Reputable.com
David Harold began programming as a kid (in Basic) and never lost his passion for computers and technology. Since the 1990s, he has worked extensively with online directories, search engine optimization and most recently Reputation Management. He enjoys discussing social media strategy and assisting individuals as well as companies with their Reputation Management needs. Feel free to contact him anytime if you are in need of assistance with search engine results or have any questions.

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