What is search jacking and how can it hurt your brand?

search jacking

Boy was I in for a surprise when I typed “content shock” into the search engine.

I was looking at the images that people used when they blogged about my recent post and something didn’t seem quite right. There were pornographic images, links to spam sites and other things that elicit a gag reflex.

Welcome to the world of search jacking.

When a topic gets hot, the Internet Bad People quickly catch on and capitalize by finding ways to catch the wave with their own spammy offerings. It could have been worse — there were so many posts about the subject that it is pretty saturated with legitimate content but you can see how not protecting yourself as your business grows can provide vulnerabilities to your brand.

Lee Odden is my go-to guy on this stuff. He is the wunderkid of all things optimization and offered advice for creating a hedge of protection for a brand. Using my new book Social Media Explained as an example, he taught me how to try to prevent spammers from hijacking this brand. His basic strategy is to swarm the web with relevant content while placing brand stakes down on key platforms. His advice:

  • It comes down to publicity and getting as many reputable sources mentioning, linking and sharing the book title. It’s work.
  • The objective would simply be to make it easy for people to find the book after they’ve heard of it and for your content to get front and center attention. Own every version of the product name you can think of.
  • I would set up a WP blog and just answer one question relevant to your product each week. Maybe tap other social media types to answer a question from time to time. That would become quite a magnet.
  • Continue to set up a reasonable number of outposts like you have with the book name (FB, Twitter, etc). Upload the book cover, artwork, diagrams, to image hosting sites, etc so people looking for visual resources about the book can find them.
  • The main thing would be to get a quantity of quality reviews from respected sites that link back to the focus page on your site.

Lee mentioned that another resource to help with this would be Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation by Andy Beal.

But the problem is …

Lee is absolutely correct. Every smart brand should do this. No question. But my problem is, how is a small business supposed to keep something like this going? Here are key titles/phrases/concepts that are proprietary to me:

To execute this well, I would have to maintain at least eight sites, blogs, Facebook/Twitter accounts, etc. and populate them all with some form of non-spammy, consistent content. I would have to work for reviews, links and images on other reputable sites.

One of the things I struggle with is that small business owners like me are really at a disadvantage when it comes to this stuff. Building a digital fortress around my brand is non-revenue producing and I don’t have a staff available to be the virtual junkyard dogs keeping the Internet Bad People away.

I don’t know of any easy way to hack around this do you? As Lee says, this is work. And frankly, I don’t want to do that work : )

Any thoughts?

Illustration: Fortress Qaitbay, Alexandria, Egypt, courtesy Flickr CC and Ahmad Ali

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mark schaefer

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