This article outlines how to build a strong executive brand online to support personal as well as corporate online reputation. It includes an overview of the issue, challenges, and a basic checklist of what to do.
Every executive is the face of their company. A strong brand for every executive supports the mission of the organizational brand as a whole. Here is a summary of the issue and challenges before we get into the nuts and bolts of improving executive image online. If you just want to see the checklist click here.
The gatekeeper decides if executives are worthy
There was a time when it was both harder and easier to engineer fame. The media and the consumer were a binary pair. Today search engines like Google have placed themselves between the media and the consumer to a large extent.
At least 280 million people use Google News, which aggregates news from many sources. A person can browse stories, click on them, and be taken to the news site. If a news publisher isn't in Google News their traffic tends to drop. When Spain tried to tax Google News, Google shut it down. The same thing happened in Australia when Facebook shut news down in that country for a few days. News publisher traffic in Spain dropped by as much as 14%. When traffic drops ad revenue drops. Publishers now rely on Google News.
The same is true of Google itself. People "Google" something more than 1.2 trillion times per year. That's how we find things now. If you're not in Google, maybe you don't exist.
Information clutter makes executive branding harder
According to founder Larry Page, Google's mission statement is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." That's a tall order because there are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day. There are more than 4.4 million blog posts created every day. That's a lot of information to sort through and organize.
There are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day
Creating an executive reputation online that stands out requires either luck, talent, or both. This article should cover the basics of talent.
The clutter problem is made worse when an executive shares a common name. Imagine trying to stand out from the crowd when your name is "Michael Smith". But if your last name is "Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff" (a real last name), it's easier to stand out.
When people have a more common name the internet search changes to a "long tail" search query, so instead of "Michael Smith" it becomes "Michael Smith Miami" or "Michael Smith orangutan trainer". People are forced to be more specific to get the result they're looking for. That takes work. Owning executive search results defines a person online.
Engineering notoriety means satisfying Google
In the past, the gatekeepers to fame were newspaper publishers, radio, and TV. There weren't many publishers. But today, anyone can post almost anything online. There are literally billions of publishers. The new reality creates both problems and opportunities.
One problem is noise. The sheer volume of voices makes it hard to stand out. Even celebrities find it challenging at times. In the past, you could pitch a story to a TV executive and if it gets picked up you were on your way. That is still the case, but the new boss is Google. Today engineered fame means not only getting publishers to bless content but search engines as well.
Giving the boss what it wants
Google is the new boss. Bing, Facebook, and other online platforms play a part too. They all have something in common. They stand between the media and the consumer. So making Google happy is one of the keys to executive notoriety online.
If a person has a unique name, building a few online profiles should do the trick. Google will most likely show those profiles because there isn't a lot of competition. For most executives, this isn't the case. Let's start with the basics first.
Most articles about personal or executive reputation management focus on things like "build a website", "create a LinkedIn profile", etc. This article assumes you already know the basics to some degree, but just to make sure we will list those most basic of tactics:
- Build a website with the executives' name in the domain, with no dashes if possible. Try for a .com. If the .com is not available, a .net will do. The website should have a headshot if possible and a biography of at least 500 words that has never been used anywhere else on the internet.
- Executives should have a Crunchbase.com profile.
- A Twitter account is good to have. It isn't necessary to tweet like a madman (or madwoman). A tweet once a week or once a month work just fine. Tweets can also be scheduled in advance. This is nice because dozens of tweets can be pre-written and loaded to go out on certain days.
- A biography page on your firm's website with a headshot. The biography page should have schema on the page called "Person" schema. It can be created easily here and placed in the HTML of the home page. No one will be able to see it, but search engines read it. Of special importance is the "SameAs" function. Add the executives' top five social media and related sites as SameAs to show search engines which are the official websites about the person.
- There is a lot more that can be done that includes slideshare, podcasts, white papers, case studies, infographics, and a lot more. But executives are busy, so we're going to stick with the most powerful things you can do.
The Wikipedia advantage
Ownership of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for a branded personal search involves a few steps. The most effective way to improve the executive brand is to earn a Wikipedia page. An executive with a Wikipedia page gets a huge upvote from Google. The search engine uses Wikipedia biography pages to fuel certain parts of search results.
Wikipedia shows up in about half of all searches, but that's not the only reason a Wikipedia page helps. Google also uses it to fuel its Knowledge Panel.
The Knowledge Panel is the block of information that sometimes shows up in the upper right, or top, of a search results page. Do a search for "Steve Jobs" and you'll see it. Look closely and you will see that some of the results for the Knowledge Panel are pulled from Wikipedia (see image above).
Another reason Wikipedia is helpful is that the creation of a Wikipedia page automatically creates a WikiData page too. WikiData is a repository of machine-readable facts and is used by search engines to organize information. A person with a Wikipedia page almost always has a highly visible Knowledge Panel.
But getting a Wikipedia page is tough. While it can be created by anyone it can also be deleted easily and will be for anyone without a certain degree of fame. A Wikipedia page requires pre-existing notability.
Most executives don't have a Wikipedia page, though.
How do you get a Wikipedia page?
A person can earn a Wikipedia page when five to ten publications have written about them. Not just mentioned them but written about the executive. This is a rule of thumb, though. There is no guarantee. One thing that helps is that the publications that write about the person have themselves a Wikipedia page.
It's easier for executives who are book authors
- Write a book.
- Get it published.
- Google will smile upon you.
Writing a book and publishing it helps set executives apart in many ways. Publishing a book and selling it on Amazon will earn an author page. Amazon is a "strong" site that ranks well in search. The book is a stepping stone to that author page as well as others like GoodReads.com and in some cases Google Books. Being an author lends credibility and authority to an executive biography. Authors can sometimes earn Wikipedia pages, too although it is far from automatic.
Many executives Reputation X works with use ghostwriters to get their works off the ground. We leverage the book to enhance notoriety.
Write an entire book? Are you kidding?
If you're going to write a book, it should generally be longer than "Goodnight Moon". That's where ghostwriters come in. While a book will give an executive more online visibility, expert articles are helpful as well. And they're shorter (but still should be longer than Goodnight Moon).
Executives are experts. If they weren't, they wouldn't be executives. Experts always have something important to write about. This expertise can be leveraged by contributing a long-form article to industry publications. It probably won't get a Wikipedia page, but it can help to craft search results. Here's how.
What authoring articles does
When an expert writes about something, and the piece is published online, it gives the executive a jumping-off point for online profile expansion.
- Write and publish the article on an industry site
- Have someone interview the executive about the article
- Create shorter-form articles about the article and publish on LinkedIn etc.
- Tweet about the article multiple times
- Link from an existing Wikipedia page to the article if it makes sense
These steps cause a few things to happen. The article is associated with the executive's name. Search engines notice who has authority in a space. Authorship builds search engine authority for a person.
The interview about the person or article usually contains the name of the executive in the headline. Search engines tend to rank search results with the search term in the headline highly. The interview should rank well. Some sites to do so are mentioned below.
Shorter form articles supporting the main article that are published in places like LinkedIn drive traffic to the main article. Search engines notice this and reward authority. These shorter pieces also support the authority of the writer.
Tweeting about the article more than once is important. People don't stare at Twitter the entire day (OK, some very strange people do) but most people just check their feed once in a while. By tweeting a different tweet once per day, and using different hashtags, you will reach a wider audience and have a better chance of catching someone's attention. This can drive traffic, which search engines notice.
If the article fills a knowledge gap that would compliment an existing Wikipedia page it should be added as a reference. Just adding an article as a reference isn't enough, Wikipedia editors will delete non-relevant reference articles. But if its good, you'll not only get the article mentioned, but the author's name as well. This further builds expertise.
Busy executives need a ghost writer
Content creation for executives is a never-ending cycle. It's easy to get bogged down. At Reputation X we recommend hiring a ghostwriter to write articles, blog posts, and social media. The key is creating a content plan for them to follow, and to create outlines for articles or blog posts for them to follow. It's time-consuming up front but will pay off down the road in the form of fewer brain cycles devoted to personal branding.
Public speaking builds authority
Executives who are public speakers tend to have higher visibility in search results. One reason for this is that speakers tend to be listed on sites like eSpeakers.com, speakerhub.com ,and bigspeak.com. They're also listed on the event websites for which they speak.
Savvy speakers make sure those sites place links in or near their biographies that link to various sites, not just their main one. For example, one biography might link to the speakers' main site, another to their LinkedIn profile, and another to their Crunchbase profile, etc. Links are used by search engines to measure content notability. So why just link to one site? Instead, spread the Google love to a handful of sites you want to see a rise in search results. Links are votes. The more sites an executive controls on the first page of their branded search result page the better.
What to do to improve executive reputation - checklist
- Build a website with the executive's name in the domain name. Use WordPress because it's easy. Places like Godaddy make it simple.
- Place a 500+ word fresh biography on the site.
- Write a long-form expert article and place it on the site. This will be used in a later step too.
- Create a Crunchbase profile for the executive.
- Setup Twitter and schedule some tweets. Or tweet live if there's time.
- Add "person" schema markup to the home page of the website with SameAs links in it to Crunchbase, Twitter, and any other important pages about the executive.
- Pitch a long-form expert article to each of the top ten sites in the executives' industry. Include a link to the long-form article above as proof of ability. Keep at it until you get one to five accepted.
- When accepted, write a new long-form article and get it published. Make sure the author by-line has a link to the executives' website in the first one. Link to LinkedIn or Crunchbase in the second, and so on. The more articles published in different places the better. If you publish all of them on the same site they won't rank as well for branded executive reputation searches.
- Go back to the website and create a link from the site to the new article.
- Find a relevant Wikipedia page and, if it makes sense, add a link to the article as reference.
- Get an interview page on a site like IdeaMensch or Inspirery. These tend to have higher visibility in search results for lower to mid-tier executives. You'll need a headshot.
- Once the articles, interview sites, main website, and social profiles are ready, build some links to them. You've already started with the by-lines, but five to ten links from different websites to the articles, author pages, and other web properties would increase search results. How to get links? Here is an article about SEO outreach that should help.
- Ideally, write a book. As mentioned above, that will trigger many other good things like an Amazon Author page, Goodreads, Knowledge Panel, and possibly even a Wikipedia page.
That's it. Just do the above and you'll be well on your way to a sterling executive brand online.