September 28, 2006
One interesting way of looking out for interesting projects or ideas on the net is to simply take a peek at your log files every once in a while. Today, while poking through the very large list of "unknown" user agents that AWStats spat at me, I ran across something from http://relevantnoise.com/.
relevantNoise is in the old-fashioned field of reputation management. Specifically, they’re dedicated to mining blogs for business intelligence. They’ll monitor what’s being said about your company (and about your competitors) throughout the blogosphere; allowing you to quickly see what you’ve done lately which made your customers love you – or hate you.
Reputation management is a very important part of marketing. When anybody with a grudge or a passion can very quickly create a website and publish their thoughts to the world, one satisfied customer can do wonders for your PR – and one badly handled customer can be extremely damaging.
In some ways, reputation management goes hand in hand with viral marketing. But rather than creating a buzz; you’re monitoring and managing the buzz created by others. When you’ve got bad publicity, you can jump on it immediately, deal with the problem, and possibly turn it into a success story.
From what I can tell, relevantNoise is a business intelligence company with a very good idea of the importance of blogs. You can read their own blog and get a pretty good sense for the character of the team and their ideas. It’s not a cold blooded corporate blog; the most recent post is focused on the positive buzz around Studio 60.
Reputation management is something that an individual can pretty easily do for themselves – subscribe to a few relevant blogs, run some Google Alerts on your name, etc. But at a higher level, having professional help is pretty crucial.
They could use a little site optimization help, though – unique page titles would probably be helpful towards building their site’s web presence.
September 1, 2006
Every time I see a lawsuit like Brava Corp vs. Google, I have to wonder exactly what the thoughts behind the suit really are. Is it an honest (though mis-guided) attempt at retribution for perceived slights? A search for publicity? Hope for financial gain?
Or is it just bad decision making?
In this particular case, Ms. Bradley of Brava Corp. claims that her business relationship with Google (as a brief participant in the AdSense program) caused her
irreparable harm by damaging her reputation. Now, it’s rather unclear exactly who caused her reputation harm. Did Google publicize the fact that Ms. Bradley had violated their terms of service? No, she did that herself by filing this suit. Her lawsuit is definitely a little short on merit.
It seems unlikely that any lawyer would advise Ms. Bradley to pursue a suit like this after considering her statement and reading the Google terms of service. Fifteen minutes should be all it would take to determine that the suit is not likely to be successful. So, one is inclined to conclude that the suit has other goals.
Let’s consider publicity. From a search perspective, this lawsuit has significantly increased the appearances of her corporation name in web press. It’s also created a decent number of additional links in to her site. But what’s the context of these links? Are they relevant to her business? Are they positive recommendations of her company or services? Not exactly. Nonetheless, when a site with an Alexa 3-month average putting them at traffic rank 2,317,997 has a traffic rank today at 3,808 – there’s an obvious impact.
What good is this likely to do. It’s a lot of publicity. It’s a lot of people visiting her site – will most of them think her suit is frivolous? Sure. Will some of them think Google is an evil empire which must be destroyed? Yep. Ultimately, an increase in visibility of this level can do good.
But…it’s probably not worth it. A pure spike in traffic is only going to accomplish so much. And since the site isn’t monetized in any way to benefit from the brief traffic spike, Brava Corp. will be dependent on gaining additional customers from this experience.
So, what does Brava Corp. offer? Management consulting, business tech consulting, corporate psychology services, and a variety of other vaguely-defined corporate services. It’s not clear to me that there are a lot of corporations who would hire a company which has recently demonstrated such a poor sense for public relations.
So what’s my point here? Consider carefully before pursuing a lawsuit. In addition to the standard expenses of the legal system, you may want to consider the publicity you’ll receive after filing. From a publicity perspective, it may not matter specifically whether you actually win your suit – however, it probably matters more that you be able to demonstrate a real understanding of the issues you’re arguing. A suit which is transparently frivolous will have minimal benefits to your public image, where a suit which has merit can provide publicity benefits without also damaging your reputation.
June 7, 2006
One of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen this year was the lawsuit by Kinderstart against Google. This lawsuit was brought against Google over "downgrading its search-result ranking without reason or warning." Essentially, Kinderstart claims that Google committed a breach of covenant with Kinderstart by reducing their search-result rankings, resulting in a severe reduction in revenues.
The claim is, in my opinion, ludicrous. The idea that a search engine has a specific obligation to maintain a website’s position in its results is simply nonsense. The fundamental claims, including that Google infringed upon their freedom of speech and that they behaved in a monopolistic manner have little merit.
However, this post is not about that lawsuit. This is about a second lawsuit against Google on rankings. The fact that there has now been more than one lawsuit on this subject makes me eager to have a meaningful precedent laid down in court. Mark Roberts, the filer of the latest suit, voluntarily dismissed his own
complaint when threatened with an anti-SLAPP motion.
- A strategic lawsuit against public participation is a form of litigation filed by a large corporation or in some cases, an individual plaintiff to intimidate and silence a less powerful critic by so severely burdening them with the cost of a legal defense that they abandon their criticism. The acronym was coined in the 1980s by University of Colorado professors Penelope Canan and George W. Pring.
- A motion in defense of the right to freedom of speech
The Kinderstart case is continuing, however, and I can only hope that the judgement rendered is NOT in the favor of Kinderstart. If search engines become liable to the companies listed in their indexes to provide constant search results the entire system of internet search would break down. What search engine would attempt to index the entire internet if this simply meant they were liable to a lawsuit every time somebody’s rankings dropped?