On one level, the field of online reputation management is easy to explain. As Cliff Stein, Reputation Changer CEO, likes to say, it’s all about giving companies and individuals some control over how they are portrayed on the Internet. Are you a young professional, desperate to find a job but worried about an embarrassing frat party photo that surfaces when your name is Googled? Are you a business owner, besieged with negative online reviews? In either case, the services of a reputation management firm can help.
Of course, some might say that it’s easier said than done, and true enough: The strategies and techniques used in online reputation management are nothing if not complex, to say nothing of varied. With that said, the basic approach of any online reputation management campaign is simply this: To seek total control of the first page of Google search results for a given keyword (i.e., the name of the individual or brand).
Why just the first page? Study after study confirms that the average search engine user never clicks past the first page of search results. In fact, Stein’s own research has revealed this to be true in over 90% of all online searches. As such, the first-page prioritization is a cornerstone of the online reputation management process.
There are three basic reasons why Googlers seldom click past the first page of results.
1. The first reason is that, believe it or not, this is the way Google wants it. Google’s quest has long been to provide the most engaging and relevant information to search engine users—clustering the very best listings on page one. Google updates its algorithms roughly 600 times per year, and all of these changes and modifications are designed to ensure that a search engine user can find whatever it is he or she needs, as quickly as possible—that is, on the first page of results.
2. A second reason: In the Age of the Internet, we all have shorter attention spans. Just take a look around the online landscape, and you’ll see information dispersed in tweets, in short Facebook updates, and in Tumblr-sized posts. In essence, we all believe we should be able to find the information we want, and digest it, instantaneously—and that factors into our search engine usage. Googlers don’t click past page one because they have neither the time nor the inclination.
3. Finally, most Google searchers never click past page one because, in many cases, they are searching via their smart phones. Statistics reveal that Internet access is growing increasing dominated by mobile devices. When a user is on his or her phone, it’s probably because some quick information is needed—where is the nearest Laundromat? What’s the best-rated Italian joint in the neighborhood? For these kinds of queries, scrolling past the first few results is simply not needed.
For search engine users, the tendency to stop at the first page of results is very real—and very logical. It is little wonder that it has become such a universally recognized principle within online reputation management circles.