If you haven't searched for yourself on Google lately, you might want to take a look. But brace yourself: you might not like what you see.
The Internet is a wild and crazy place, and in addition to the slimy things you'll find on any day-to-day search, you may also find that your Internet reputation has been tarnished. And not by what you posted on Facebook (which is a whole other issue), but by the simple fact that you and a convicted criminal could share the same name. In attempting to overcome this and other reputation dilemmas, many people have turned to companies that specialize in cleansing a person's image on GoogleGOOG
. That's not a bad idea. But in doing so, you could actually make things worse. “There are black hat techniques and white hat techniques,” Patrick Ambron, Co-Founder and CEO ofBrandYourself
, told Benzinga. BrandYourself is a new startup that helps people control their own Google search results. “BrandYourself only uses white hat [techniques]. They are things like creating quality content and effective keyword use. White hat practices are fair and legitimate uses of SEO.” Ambron explained that a black hat technique is something that tricks a search engine into finding your site. “Some examples are keyword stuffing; cloaking, when the link in the search results is entirely different from the site you arrive at; and link buying, which is buying multiple links to drive traffic to your site,” he said. “BrandYourself tries to make everything transparent. If you ever come across a company that is cryptic about their practices or guarantees results, be worried! They are likely using black hat techniques.” Part of the problem, Ambron said, is that the reputation industry hasn't changed much. “Sure, the industry is always evolving, but it costs a lot of money, thousands even, for SEO,” said Ambron. “It was unobtainable for most people. The lack of change in the industry model inspired us to start [BrandYourself].” Ultimately, Ambron said that his goal was to make reputation management “simple and cheap.” “That's why we designed it so that the average person could afford it,” he said. “We also made it dead simple to use so that the average user needs only the most basic SEO tools, which are included in the free version. All you have to do is sign up, tell us which links you'd like to see on the first search page, and we'll tell you how to optimize them using our simple tools. We'll even keep you updated on changes in your search results – all for free.” But with so much being given away for nothing, how does BrandYourself benefit? “BrandYourself is offering a really unique tool,” Ambron explained. “No one else on the market is offering services that the average person can afford, let alone for free. By offering services for free, we are filling a gap in the industry and building brand loyalty. If you have a problem that goes beyond our simple tools, then we offer a premium service starting at $9.99 a month to $79.99 for the year. The premium service allows you to boost an unlimited number of links to the first page of your results (by burying negative ones), offers premium intelligence on those searching you, and offers more frequent alerts.Follow me @LouisBedigian
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