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Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the standards (or lack thereof) of privacy on leading search engines. Google, in particular, has come under fire for some of the changes it has made to its privacy policy. What all of this fuss about online privacy boils down to, though, is this: that while we use search engines to find information, those search engines are also finding out information about us.

And Google, Bing, and Yahoo are putting that information to good use, too. Personalized search results are quickly emerging as the next frontier in search engine optimization, and therefore in Internet reputation management, as well. Between Google (and now Bing) local searches, Search Plus Your Word, instant search results, and so forth, personalized search results are here, and growing more prominent all the time. The question is, what does this mean for Internet reputation management professionals?

What it Means for Internet Reputation Management

What the advent of personalized search results means, in short, is that the days of throwing together Web content with a few targeted keywords are over. Now, content needs to be likeable. It needs to be something people will share socially—or else, you’re simply not getting much use out of it.

For Internet reputation management professionals seeking to make the most of their Web content, then, there are a few lessons to learn here:

First, you’ve got to be relevant. Nobody is going to like, share, or even bother to read your content if it is basically just spam. You can’t just throw together some graphics and a couple of sentences, or shamelessly hawk your set of keywords. Being effective on Google and other leading search engines means thinking beyond keywords, and creating information that is helpful and useful—in a word, compelling.

You’ve also got to be fresh. This is very much in keeping with recent Google crawling trends; these days, search engines want to ensure that you are actually giving them content that’s fresh and newsworthy. You can’t keep repackaging the same old sales copy under different headlines; the search engines will have no trouble figuring out that this content isn’t newsworthy, and your rankings will suffer as a result.

Finally, you’ve got to be social. This is really a summary of the first two points. You’ve got to produce online content that people will find to be informative. If they like it, they will share it, and search engines will pick up on it. It’s also a great idea to enable Like/Share buttons on everything you do. Producing content but not enabling these social functions is like going to be a big networking event, then sitting in the corner and not talking to anyone.

The Bottom Line for Internet Reputation Management Professionals

It has long been said that content is king on the Internet, but, for Internet reputation management pros, that’s more true than ever before. Keeping your content informative, helpful, and interesting—in short, the kind of content people will want to share with their friends—is the best way to get the results you’re looking for on search engines.