One melodrama I see played out time and again is caused by the disconnect between an individual’s desires for data privacy, and the need for good, proactive online reputation management. Many well-educated people think that by not having much about themselves on the internet, they’re protecting themselves and their families. They’re both wrong and right.

Data Privacy vs. Online Reputation

It’s absolutely true that you don’t want to have your data spread across the public internet, willy-nilly. You don’t want people to readily find your home address, your phone number, your birth date, and many other details, such as where you will (or won’t) be at certain times and dates. You don’t want to make it easy to be victimized — limiting data sharing can keep your identity from being stolen, your bank account logins compromised, and your home from being burglarized while you are away.

Unfortunately, people equate good data security practices with not having Twitter accounts, Facebook profiles, or personal websites and other social media accounts. Even the desire to avoid having digital copies of your photograph on the internet may fit into this category of misguided concerns.

This extreme avoidance of having any presence at all on the internet creates a big fat hole in one’s online reputations. Nature abhors a void and seeks to fill it, and the internet is no exception. Read the rest of this entry »

Argent Media CEO, Chris Silver Smith, will be speaking at SMX West’s Local Search Advantage Workshop in March on the topic of Building or Fixing Your Online Reputation.

I am speaking at SMX WestConsumer sentiment about a business is heavily influenced by both the recommendations provided by acquaintances as well as by opinions posted by other consumers online. A Nielsen study in 2013 found that 68% of consumers trusted the opinions of other consumers online. As such, building, maintaining and defending a business’s online reputation is vital to the success of a company.

Chris Silver Smith will provide a session that will educate business marketing professionals on how to elicit positive reviews, increase chances of reviews supplementing one’s profile on sites such as Yelp, Google+ and other online directories — without invoking the automated suppression filters that can cause real reviews to disappear. Smith will also cover how reviews impact Local SEO, which sites provide valuable reviews, services that help businesses obtain positive reviews, and strategies for handling negative reviews.

Also, Smith will provide an overview of how businesses may conduct “Proactive Online Reputation Management” (“Proactive ORM”) in order to insulate themselves from online attacks or other damaging materials.

I discovered last year that a few online reputation agencies are partners-with or owners-of the very reputation-damaging sites that their clients seek their help in addressing. Perhaps the worst of these types of sites are “revenge-porn” sites that encourage individuals with no ethics to supply nude photos of ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends for the purpose of embarrassing them and damaging their reputations.


FTC Shuts Porn Revenge Site,

There are other sites that similarly focus on promoting materials that damage individuals’ reputations in addition to revenge porn — mugshots sites, arrest records sites, and tawdrier business review sites — and, these types of sites frequently are reliant upon thinly-veiled extortion demands. Essentially, the focus on obtaining defaming content and rendering it highly-visible through search engine results, and then they require people to pay them to take it down or modify it to be less-damaging..

A number of us who work in online reputation management (“ORM”) have sought to apply pressure to remove these sites’ ability to make money. These efforts have made a little impact, here and there. Some credit card companies have taken the step of refusing to allow merchant services for these companies, because they recognize that they’re highly distasteful. I suspect that there may have also been higher percentages of charge-backs on transactions as well. But, due to the rising barriers to the reputation attack sites, some have come up with schemes to dupe consumers into thinking they’re paying others to get the negative materials cleaned-up. Read the rest of this entry »

SMX Advanced 2014Argent Media founder, Chris Silver Smith, will be speaking next week at the SMX Advanced Conference in Seattle on the panel, “Keywords on ‘Roids: Advanced Workarounds For Vanishing Keyword Data“, along with industry veterans Christine Churchill (KeyRelevance) and Rae Hoffman (PushFire).

As all search engine marketers are aware, Google has steadily reduced the keyword referral data available to webmasters. This sea-change, purportedly for the sake of improving end users’ privacy, has been a challenge to search engine optimization experts. SEO historically relied heavily upon this data to help in ascertaining whether optimization efforts had been fruitful, as well as in the process for discovering potential new keyword phrases that consumers are using to find content featured on the website. Google has altered the dynamic for Pay-Per-Click keyword analysis as well in 2014 by encrypting the keywords in URLs, rendering web analytic systems that are competitors to Google Analytics and Google AdWords unable to track the search query referral data (albeit the impact for paid search data is less, since you may still obtain referral information from your AdWords account, and from analytic systems that may obtain the data through the AdWords account API). Analytics systems may not display the keyword referral data as “Not Provided” or “Not Set”. Read the rest of this entry »

PageRank diagram

Diagram of PageRank – Google’s method for analyzing links to create ranking scores.

We wrote previously in “Local SEO 101: What Are Local Citations?” that Google’s earliest algorithm was based upon automatically evaluating the links pointing to a webpage in order to calculate a score, upon which rankings could be based. While we further explained in that post how Local Citations are essentially the “Link” where local search rankings are concerned, links themselves actually remain very important.

While Google’s ranking algorithm is different for the purpose of ranking businesses associated with map locations, many of the classic search engine ranking signals continue to apply and are influential in determining who ranks higher than who in the search results.

In fact, there are many instances where you might be able to receive a link where you wouldn’t be as likely to receive a local citation. For instance, if an article on your business website contained information or details that someone wished to mention — they might link to that page from their own article or blog post. People may also link to pages on your site from their Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus accounts. The PageRank value that streams in on all these links can be passed around on your website via the navigation links you may have on every page. Read the rest of this entry »

Chris Silver Smith - local video marketingArgent Media president and founder, Chris Silver Smith, will be featured this Wednesday afternoon at 1:00pm CST on the Video Marketing Madness radio show with Ray Lane and Steve Sleeper.

Chris will likely be discussing the use of videos and video sharing services such as YouTube for the purposes of optimizing businesses for local search rankings. There may also be some discussion around methods for optimizations in video search and other related topics.

The show will be accessible via streamed online, and afterwards as a podcast through Blog Talk Radio.

Listeners may call in live to speak with the host during the show at (818) 369-1423.

Local Business SEOIf you have read up on anything involving Local Search Engine Optimization or Maps SEO, you will have heard marketers talk about “Local Citations”. So, just what are they, and why are they so important in helping you to rank higher in local searches related to your business?

Google’s earliest method or algorithm for ranking of webpages was called “PageRank“, developed in 1996, and it was based upon a system they built to automatically calculate numerical scores for webpages based upon the numbers of links each page had pointing to it, and the scores of those pages linking in. The concept was initially inspired by analysis of academic research papers — those papers that had a greater number of other research papers mentioning them in reference citations could be considered to be more important or more popular. Looking for a similar indicator in the worldwide web, the founders of Google decided that links might be quite similar for evaluating relative popularity of webpages.

Fast forward to the present, and Google’s ranking algorithms are much more sophisticated, even though PageRank link analysis is still a part of it. Google now uses over 200 ranking factors, many of which may have 50+ dimensions, and they also use different types of ranking algorithms for the different specialized “vertical” search engines they operate — such as Image Search, Video Search, News Search, Local/Map Search, and more.

For performing Local Search for businesses, Google’s engineers developed another type of citation that they could incorporate as a ranking signal — a “local citation” — and patented this as part of a local ranking method. Local search optimization experts such as David Mihm were inspired to declare citations to be the “new link” where local business rankings are concerned. (Some refer to these as “local references”, too.) Read the rest of this entry »

For many small businesses owners, there simply doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to work on social media along with all the other important aspects of operating a business. Yet, social media is an increasingly important component of online marketing in terms of community interaction, search engine rankings, and proactive reputation management.

So, what is a business proprietor to do?

Social Media Representation.

Argent Media provides Social Media Representation.

Some business owners throw a young relative or employee into the fray to make the pain go away — either to address pressing current needs, or to simply check the box off on something the owner vaguely understand is recommended or needs doing, but they have no deep understanding of. Social media presence: done! Yet, the fact that a younger person may have a higher degree of familiarity with the medium doesn’t translate into a professional presence nor marketing benefit. In fact, a poorly-managed social media account with unprofessional interactions can harm a business far more than having no social media activity whatsoever.

The majority of many small companies and local businesses do nothing on social media, however. Perhaps they feel they have insufficient time and that only the proprietor can adequately represent their business. Or, they know they can’t master social media on top of their specialized discipline, but aren’t aware of other options. Perhaps they feel they can’t afford professional service — indeed, some of the companies operating social media accounts on behalf of large corporations and celebrities can charge $3,000 per month and upwards.

Here at Argent Media, we can set up and manage your social media accounts in a highly professional manner, and we can broadcast your voice through the top platforms that fit with your type of industry: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram — and more. Best yet, we channel YOU! Read the rest of this entry »

SMX Milan 2013Chris Silver Smith, President of Argent Media, will be speaking and moderating at the upcoming SMX Milan conference in Milan, Italy, at the Milano Congressi from November 7-8, 2013 in the following sessions:

  • How To Build Links & Win Authority Through Public Relations
  • Maps, Metros & Mobile: Surviving And Thriving In Local Search

In the “How To Build Links & Win Authority Through Public Relations” session, Chris will present a number of strategic methods for leveraging images to obtain links and develop social influence. Images are perhaps considered Google’s second-most important asset, since Google puts links to their image search vertical in second place in their top navigation, directly after their main keyword web search. As such, effective use of images can be cultivated to help push a site’s performance up to the next level.

Google Image Search
In The “Maps, Metros & Mobile: Surviving And Thriving In Local Search” session, Chris will provide a number of sound tactics that can help companies obtain top rankings in local search queries and in map searches.

We will hope to see many of our Italian and European colleagues at the first ever SMX Milan!

ORMMost people focus upon the impression that’s made about them when their name is searched-for through search engines. The impression that’s made has a much bigger impact than a mere emotional abstraction — it can directly impact a business or individual’s income. It’s often hard to quantify these effects, but if a change happens to your online reputation — positive or negative — you can sometimes see exactly what the impact is.

We don’t often publicize this, but Argent Media provides Online Reputation Management (“ORM”) services — particularly online reputation repair or clean-up — for a number of individuals and companies. We’re often asked how fast we can “cleanse” the search results of negative content.

The truth is, this depends upon each situation. If someone posted something nasty about you recently, and if there’s relatively few people searching for your name or brandname, and if there’s not a lot of links or clicks to the bad page, it could be fairly easy and quick to push it down and out-of-site and out-of-mind.

But, if there’s a substantial amount of bad content that is relevant for your name, and if it’s pretty well-established, with significant numbers of links pointing to it… it can require more time, more content, and more effort to improve the situation.

One of our reputation repair clients recently shared some of their internal metrics with us, demonstrating precisely how effective this type of work can be. Here’s some of the actual metrics. Read the rest of this entry »

Chris Silver Smith, President of Argent Media, will be speaking at the upcoming SMX East conference in New York from October 1-3, 2013 in the following sessions:
SMX East 2013 Speaker

  • Must Have Local Search Tactics
  • Structured Data Superstars
  • A Photo Is Worth A Thousand Links

In the “Photo” session, Chris will present a number of strategic methods for using photographic images to increase companies’ channel distribution potential and to achieve higher website rankings. Images are perhaps considered Google’s second-most important asset, since Google places links to their image search vertical in second slot, directly after their main keyword web search. As such, effective use of images can be cultivated to help push a site’s performance up into the next level.

Google Image Search

In both the “Local Search” and “Structured Data” sessions, Chris will speak on methods for using semantic markup to improve performance in search engines.

Chris helped to pioneer the use of semantic markup for the purpose of search marketing and was likely the first to specifically recommend it for SEO and Local SEO as an optimization tactic, based upon his knowledge in the development of local search technology from his work at Those recommendations actually predated adoption of microformats by both Yahoo! and Google’s map search engines Read the rest of this entry »

Earlier this year, I heavily promoted a new search optimization option for business websites — Authorship, also known as the “Author Tag”. For a great many local businesses, this is particularly advantageous. By setting up your personal profile page in Google Plus, and then adding the author tag on your website, your personal photo icon may appear adjacent to your listings in Google search results. Here’s mine:

Dallas SEO
Search result with author listing treatment for Argent Media Dallas SEO Company

The steps to setting this up are fairly simple (another method is also available):

  1. Set up a personal profile on Google+ for yourself. This is *not* a page about your business on Google+ — that is separate. Google’s author treatment in listings is based upon using an actual individual as the author. You must include a good headshot as your primary picture on the profile.
  2. In the About section of your profile, add a link to your website in the “Contributor to” section.
  3. Add a link to your Google+ profile onto your homepage (or onto the author info page on your blog), and include ?rel=author at the end of the link.

There are a few reasons why this is fantastic, and why I declared it the Top Search Marketing Tactic in 2013! Read the rest of this entry »

If you attended my presentation at the DFW SEM meeting in January on Semantic Markup for Local SEO, or if you read my articles on “13 Semantic Markup Tips For 2013: A Local SEO Checklist” and “Authorship: The Top Search Marketing Tactic in 2013“, you’ll recall that I recommended sites add in semantic markup wherever possible to gain more attention (and click-throughs) in search results.

As an experiment, I’d added a gluten-free Alfredo recipe I came up with near the end of last year to my Argent Media site. I’m also using Authorship markup on the site, too. After a few days/weeks for Google’s systems to process the additional content, my Alfredo page is now showing up in the search results — with a combination of Recipe rich snippets and Author markup information. Here’s how it looks:

Gluten Free Alfredo Recipe Page in Google Search Results

I honestly wasn’t sure if the recipe snippet would be allowed to appear for my site. Google may not automatically trust all sites for all types of rich snippet treatments, and I would suppose that SEO agency sites would be high on their list of questionable sites for such content. Even sites that are specialized for industries that lend themselves to particular rich snippets can’t always achieve the display of rich snippets.

(Also, it’s very clear to me that Google’s algorithm for invoking rich snippet listing treatments use a few determining factors, perhaps involving how many other rich snippets are displayed on the same page of search results, how popular the page may be for a particular keyword, etc.)

In any case, I think the interesting part of the snippet layout is the combination of Recipe rich snippet and Author rich snippet. I’m surprised that I haven’t seen the Author tagging added at some of the top food and recipe websites yet. My author tag doesn’t lend as much juice as the names of so many of those celebrity chefs would!

I’d bet that other snippet combinations with the author tag are possible — have you seen any in the wild?

Since the earliest days of search engine optimization (“SEO”), the page Title <title></title> text has been one of the most influential on-page elements for keyword rankings in search results. For local business websites, the Title text on the homepage is particularly influential. In fact, it may be the most important factor on the most important website page. So, read on for a few tips on making a good one!

Local SEO Title Tags

Read the rest of this entry »

DFWSEM Local Search Optimization meetingChris Silver Smith is speaking on semantic markup for local search optimization tonight at the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association meeting in Richardson. He’ll be speaking along with Greg Gifford, the Director of Search and Social for AutoRevo.

Chris recently wrote a few articles on semantic markup, such as 13 Semantic Markup Tips for 2013: A Local SEO Checklist, Local SEO 101: Local Breadcrumbs, and SEO: Breadcrumbs Are Bread-and-Butter touches upon the semantic markup for breadcrumbs as well.

Chris also long been a proponent of semantic markups, prior to their adoption as special signals by the major search engines. (See just a few examples: Tips for Local Search Engine Optimization for Your Site, the hCard Microformat & Local Search Optimization, and Optimize Local Events with hCalendar Microformat.) The current primary semantic markup standard accepted by Google and Bing is the protocol, based on micro data.

Semantic markup is a valuable SEO tactic to use in a site’s natural search strategy, because it enables search engines to more effectively interpret and understand a website’s content, and it helps increase the chances that this content might be featured more prominently in search results by way of Rich Snippets. Read the rest of this entry »

In my Web Marketing Today article this week, “SEO: Breadcrumbs Are Bread-and-Butter“, I point out how making a simple coding change to your breadcrumbs can improve the visibility and total clickthroughs to your site in Google and Bing search results.

The same tip applies for local business websites, which are frequently very bare-bones in terms of usability features and often opt to leave off breadcrumbs. For local businesses that have multiple store locations, breadcrumbs can be an even more critical feature for both Local SEO and user-friendliness.

If your site has multiple categories of pages and more than 10 pages, you definitely should include the markup for breadcrumbs.

Here’s an example I made based upon the Argent Media website:

Breadcrumbs for Local SEO example

Once you have your breadcrumb code, you can check it with the Google Structured Data Tool: Argent Media’s breadcrumb. (url: Argent Media Social Media) Read the rest of this entry »

Social Media Management, Argent Media Agency, DallasArgent Media is pleased to announce the launch of a new, flat-fee service to provide monthly development and content updates via major social media platforms on behalf of small-to-medium businesses. This Basic Social Media Management Package will provide optimal, high-quality updates in a business’s Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus pages each month.

As you may be aware, social media signals are counted by Google and Bing search engines. In fact, as Google has looked more and more critically upon the links accrued by sites, and has even penalized sites depending upon how they were obtained. Good quality links will continue to be a linking signal, but one area where businesses can directly bump up their prominence signals is via their social media efforts. Read the rest of this entry »

SearchExchange internet marketing conference 2012

Argent Media’s President, Chris Silver Smith, will be speaking in Charlotte, NC, on the topic of Local SEO at the annual SearchExchange Internet Marketing Conference, on July 24 2012.

Smith will cover some of Google’s “Prominence” ranking factors, and some techniques for how local businesses may optimize for advantage through them. “Prominence” is something of a catch-all term which Google engineers have used to collectively refer to ranking signals which help them to determine the relative popularity of one business versus others in the same area and business type category. Prominence factors in local search engine optimization can be subtle and complex, making it increasingly difficult for marketers to understand what they can do to influence their rankings in Google Place Search and in Google Maps. Smith’s presentation will clearly explain some of the criteria used by the search engines, and will provide some concrete methods for enhancing the ranking power of local business listings in search results.

This week, Smith also published an article which illustrates how Foursquare and check-in services could be a Local Seo ranking factor.

To keep up with future events featuring Chris Silver Smith, watch the Argent Media Appearances page.


The 2012 edition of David Mihm’s annual Local Search Ranking Factors survey has been released this week, and the general summary concludes that most of the influential ranking signals continue to be beneficial. From a glance at the report, relatively few signals shifted significantly from last year’s report.Local SEO Ranking Factors

As the summary states, the main changes to Google’s local search results seem to be in terms of the user-interface. The numbers of local listings occurring, the search phrases which invoke the local listings under Universal Search, and the presentation of those listings within the layout have been shifting.

Argent Media President, Chris Silver Smith, participated in the survey, along with numerous other established voices specialized in local search engine marketing.

Smith provides a few observations and comments upon this year’s survey results: Read the rest of this entry »

Costco internet retailer and SEOChris Silver Smith, president of Argent Media, was recently interviewed by a Seattle Times reporter, and she’d asked him to conjecture on some of the things Costco might choose to do in order to improve their site for search. (See the article at “Costco makes plans for boosting its online sales“)

He pointed out a number of very elemental search ranking elements which had neglected — such as failure to include appropriate keyword phrases in page Titles, URLs and image ALT parameters. While he didn’t perform a deep analysis, and there were some things which were likely performing adequately for search rankings for some of the site’s pages, even at this quick, cursory audit it was apparent that a number of basic changes and improvements would likely improve’s performance significantly.

As yet another example of a basic SEO gaffe, if you go to the short URL for Costco’s site: Read the rest of this entry »

About [Ag] Search Blog

Research, thoughts, commentary about Internet Marketing, SEO, Social Media, Online Reputation Management, and SEO Expert Witness Service. Provided by Argent Media.


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Chris Silver Smith at SMX West