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Thursday, August 17, 2006

SES Conference Part Deux

A few other things that caught my attention while attending the SES conference in San Jose last week were re-emphasizing cleaning up your code to make your sites more crawl-friendly and the growing importance of online reputation management. Obviously it isn't much of a new idea to say that the code of any website should be clean, well organized and designed with search engine spiders in mind. One thing I think a lot of people (myself included) may get caught up in is continually adding new, fancy features to their websites that over the course of a year or two can really clutter up their code. We're all out to one-up our competition, to make websites that have cooler functions and incorporate the newest of programming languages and their various bells and whistles. While I'm not encouraging people to abandon trying to improve their sites, I think it is definitely important to take a day every few months to reasses the layout of your code and make sure that it is clean, organized, and necessary. All it took was one reminder from a speaker at SES that search engines love a 100 line site much more than they do a 1,000 line site to convince me to plan to make that reassessment as often as I can.

Online reputation management (ORM) also struck a cord with me and led to some serious brainstorming sessions. The term basically means exactly what it appears to mean, but the cool thing about managing an online reputation is that it in fact is closely tied to SEO. Online reputations generally stem from the top 10 or so search results - whether you search "pepsi" or "dmx", the top 10 organic search results and their contents will have a far-reaching effect on potential customers, employees, voters, etc. In a world that is growing more and more intent / content with taking every new idea or new name they hear and plugging it into a search engine to find more information, one's online reputation is becoming just as important as their public reputation. I personally think there is a huge potential for those with solid SEO skills to apply them to this idea, to help people or companies effectively acknowledge and manage their online reputation. Certain "flame" sites (those sites that slander or speak negatively about a particular person or company) can cause some severe damage to business, but combining the proper software tools to monitor the SERPs (or doing it manually) with a strong network of optimized websites and link deals can help push those down in the rankings. It is almost inevitable that a given business will have someone speak negatively about them online, and whether the negative information is borne out of truth or not it is still quite important to acknowledge this fact and develop a plan to manage your online rep accordingly. At this point in time, there actually isn't that much out there in the form of companies or firms to help people not versed in SEO to make these plans, but based on what I see ORM will be a booming industry in not too long. The good news is that people who have, like I said, a solid knowledge base in SEO can likely do a sufficient job of it themselves. For more information on the ins and outs of what ORM is, check out Jennifer Laycock's
Search Engine Guide.

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