Another Blog Post With Donald Trump In The Title

The purpose of this blog post is not to test the lengths to which a blogger, who works in digital marketing or communications in general, will go to in order to get clicks to his page. Or is it? Whilst getting lost surfing the Internet is all too easy, it has also been noted how many websites have been built up regurgitating news and opinion about this guy, often with no other purpose than to repurpose existing news in the hope that you will read it through their website and they can use your eyeballs to be paid for carrying random advertising.

Something I have never explored, as someone who believes in organic search engine optimisation and the power of blogging for the sake of putting your own message down, and coming from someone who very rarely looks at print adverts never mind clicking on such Google Ads, but what about you?

If you saw such a site (and I found this Donald Trump-related site earlier today, brand new but hoping to reel you in by jumping on what will hopefully not be a 4 year long hot trend) would you even touch it? In an era of fake news and alternative facts, we must continue to search for believable sources of information, something the Internet itself has made it both harder and easier to do at the same time.

Harder by commercialising your attention.

Easier by democratising the very method of finding information.

Ladies and gentlemen, Google and Bing and Yahoo, and the add-on discovery options offered by Facebook, Twitter and their ilk, have skewed everything in their favour, we the consumer merely encouraged to consume.

Perhaps we can simply bypass this, tear it up and start again.

Top Middle East CEOs and their online profiles – chapter 4

When a Google search begins with the search engine giant questionning your spelling you already know there may be some ambiguity around someone’s online profile, intentional or otherwise. Digging down page one as we do, and let’s face it not many people will go beyond that unless they are truly desperate to find something they know is definitely online somewhere if only they could find it, we begin to see a rather solid picture of Mr Khalil Ismail Al Meer forming. Our 4th CEO on the TopCEO list we are using as a starting point for this leadership digital reputational analysis is looking good.

Obligatory screengrab of SERP here:

khalil ismail al meer ceo khaleeji commercial bank ashton and ashton digital reputation analysis google seo

Interestingly Mr Al Meer’s results do not begin with a LinkedIn profile or owned channel, but with 4Traders, a mix of business directory and news portal that manages lots of traffic through clickbait and leadership profiles such as this. I am not sure to this day if this is an approved profile of Mr Al Meer, but, profiel photo and brevity aside, it certainly isn’t doing him any harm.

Next on the list we are served an image selection by Google, showing us how well our subject has been tagged across the Internet in terms of visuals. You can see a full selection of images as the featured image of this post, as usual. It begins well and then descends into a multitude of random people with or without moustaches.

Beyond this we are left with several articles on the Khaleeji Commercial Bank company website, offering slightly more information than 4Traders did earlier, but we are certainly not overwhelmed with details. After some slightly arduous searching on my favourite professional network I did manage to find a clue as to why there was no LinkedIn profile surfacing on Google for our 4th most successful CEO of the Middle East in 2016:

Khalil Ismail Al Meer CEO Khaleeji Commercial Bank Ashton and Ashton Digital Reputation Analysis LinkedIn profile

Need I repeat myself on the importance of a polished and professional profile? Mine is hardly a work of art but has some merits, I hope you’ll agree. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Ashton and Ashton should you need any help or advice on boosting your online reputation, sir!

CEOs and online profiles in the Middle East – Chapter 3

Our exploratory journey through the top 100 CEOs in the Middle East, as defined by Trends Magazine and Insead in their Top CEO awards of 2016, continues apace as we step into the digital estate of 3rd place Mr Nasser Abdulrahman Rafi, CEO of Emaar Malls Group. Mr Nasser, welcome, we’ve been expecting you.

Without further ado let’s step into page one of a Google search for his name, and here it is:

Ashton and Ashton Mr Nasser Abdulrahman Rafi Emaar Malls Group CEO blog and online profile

I find particularly striking that the most popular/ relevant piece of content as deemed by Google (get in touch if you need more of an idea of how their algorithm works, as this whole exercise of reputation building and blogging is based upon Google’s selection) is a video from 2015, by Trends Magazine themselves no less. We are told repeatedly by the experts that video content is much more important than mere text, something I do agree with if done well. Where a content strategy anchored around video tends to fall down is due to investment (of time and budget), and the ability of a company to identify useful and insightful content that can be turned around in a timeframe that means the video is still relevant. In other words: is it evergreen?

There will be many factors at play as to why this ranks top out of everything Google can find on Mr Rafi, including:

  1. Content type – it is video and every channel, such sa Facebook, pushes video content to the top of feeds because people stay with it longer which means they can charge more in terms of advertising around it; Google also likes to include a content mix in search results wherever possible, such as images, videos, news, blog posts, social media chunks – bear this in mind when planning your content to dominate page one of Google and control your own brand.
  2. Author – the video was posted by Trends Magazine, an authority as a media outlet and an authority in the business world due to its annual CEO awards and relationship with Insead.
  3. Keywords and tags – clearly labelled with Mr Rafi’s name and title, making it easy to find and share.

Although it doesn’t have rthat many views, all the above elements add up to something Google has deemed useful to us as we search for “Nasser Abdulrahman Rafi”. And, to be fair, although it isn’t a recent video it is of interest in my humble opinion. It shows he is a human being and can talk to the camera without any issues.

Beyond the first result, we have a collection of images and media interviews. Unfortunately, as for our CEO in Chapter 2, we also have a LinkedIn result which links to the wrong man. A little more detective work into LinkedIn, by far my personal favourite after blogging for boosting your online reputation, and we find a basic profile but a profile nonetheless. I am not surprised Google didn’t pick up on it as it did not include the middle search term “Abdulrahman”. It lists an impressive series of leadership roles but is lacking a photograph which to me means literally it is a faceless profile. One reason for my undertaking this survey is to discover how many leading CEOs are in fact showing their real face in public.

There are many other great profile pieces in the media on the rest of page one of Google, even some social media links to the top-listed video, but we are lacking a couple of paragraphs from the CEO himself, an insight into what challenges make him get out of bed every day. A small ask and for something that many communicators would deem too trivial for a leading regional CEO. But an ask nonetheless.

 

CEOs and online profiles in the Middle East – chapter 2

Coming in at second place in the Winners List compiled by Trends Magazine and Insead, we find Mr Ali Mohammed Ali Al-Obaidli from Ezdan Holding Group. As is my wont I like to do a basic Google search to see how his reputation is shaped by the world’s online filing cabinet. Let’s take a look:

Ashton and Ashton Mr Ali Mohammed Ali Al Obaildi Ezdan Holding Group CEO blog and online profile

And what does Google reveal? That the best piece of content associated with him is from 2014, an arms-length profile piece positioning Mr Ali Al Obaidli and Ezdan Holding Group comfortably as leaders in construction and real estate in Qatar, with a growing focus on high net worth individuals of late. The second link Google offers up is a CEO letter as he wraps up 2015 and outlines the successes and future growth plans for Ezdan holding Group. Well-written, but possibly by his impressive team or external PR agency – definitely no shame in producing these kinds of communications but it leaves me craving for something more personable from the public face of the company.

Most of the rest of the URLs in the screengrab are to similar pieces of corporate content, so let’s now turn our attention to other channels Mr Ali may be present on.

LinkedIn offers company leadership the opportunity to display their business pedigree, personal and professional successes and also, during the last few years, provides a platform for longer form content to reach your focused network in the form of a blog post. It is unfortaunte in the first instance that Google adds in a link to the wrong Ali Mohammed Ali Al-Obaidli LinkedIn profile, but do not fear, we will go direct to the horse’s mouth, or social network if you prefer,  and discover that after a laborious search effort Mr Ali does not have a personal profile. I would only claim this was a missed opportunity should he be interested in raising his own profile alongside Ezdan Holding Group and have the interest to maintain his profile. One element of digital estate management I always preach, apart from blogging builds reputations, is to avoid over-exposure if you cannot uphold it. There is nothing worse than a derelict social media profile. Having said that, LinkedIn is slightly different and can be used for SEO (Google loves it as it identifies skilled and authoritative individuals) and does not necessarily need frequent updates.

And so, I will leave Chapter 2 with this advice: please create a LinkedIn profile as a minimal requirement. It will let you tell your story and also link directly to the Ezdan Holding Group company page. All good for corporate reputation and discovery.

 

Bassel Gamal Qatar Investment Bank Top CEO Middle East

CEOs and online profiles in the Middle East – chapter 1

I hinted at starting the search for prolific CEO bloggers in the Middle East and how this might affect their company and also their individual standing in the business community. I also noted previously that there was a dearth of obviously accessible Best-Of lists on this topic so I would start with the Top CEO awards as selected by Trends Magazine and Insead, the 2016 winners list available for your pleasure here. With this in mind, I wanted to assess the full list of individual CEOs via their digital footprint and present my findings in this blog.

Chapter 1 opens with the winner, Mr Bassel Gamal, CEO of Qatar Islamic Bank.

I always like to begin a reputational audit by Googling the person or company in question: search engines effectively decide which specific pages from the whole of the Internet we see and therefore represents an important indicator on the digital estate in questions. Let’s have a look:

Ashton and Ashton Bassel Gamal Qatar Islamic Bank CEO Google Search Results

What we can see here is a clean collection of images and articles, both from the media and the QIB website, outlining the profile of Mr Gamal. There are no interviews or insights on page one of Google except for the Oxford Business Group piece of content which is straightforward text Q&A which may or may not have been handled at arms length by a PR agency. A glance over Mr Gamal’s profile on LinkedIn gives no clues as to his deep business expertise or interests outside successfully management of one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East. This, by the way, is not necessarily a criticism, but merely an objective observation.

My purpose here is to try and dig a little and see if the Edelman Trust Barometer findings, that people look even more towards CEOs for brand authenticity, actually holds true but specifically if it holds true here in the Middle East.

On very first glance it appears that a CEO does not necessarily have to blog to be known as the best in his field, in fact he just has to do his job very well. Should we conclude that leaders for lesser-known companies that are not as successful might be the ones in need of blogging and more direct lines of communication?

Ashton and Ashton LinkedIn SEO Profile Refresh Advice From Forbes

Recycling Excellent LinkedIn Advice From Forbes For Your Personal SEO

This blog post appeared on my personal LinkedIn profile just moments ago. I hope you arent reading it twice in quick succession by accident.

I am in the midst of a huge research project, attempting to compile a Best Practice list of CEO bloggers right here in the Middle East. During recent training presentation research I was inundated with international CEOs who blog, mainly from the US and Europe, but left bereft of any from the UAE or wider GCC region. Hence why I feel I need to try and fill the gap with my own findings.

During said research I was also completing a digital communications strategy for a client, and find myself recommending more activity from the whole company on LinkedIn – apparently it boosts your SEO and inbound lead hits from potential buyers, even in the slightly unglamorous realm of IIoT and smart city infrastructure. And I stumbled upon this article on Forbes: 50 Ways To Get More LinkedIn Page Followers. Which turns out to be a really useful compendium, so I thought I would share.

Thanks, Forbes, much appreciated.

In the meantime, I am cranking the gears of the Ashton and Ashton blog once more in an effort to discover and be sent links to stunning, shining examples of stellar CEO bloggers in the Middle East. Not Instagrammers, not Youtubers, but bloggers. Less fashionable in this day and age, I grant you, but infinitely more useful for positioning yourself as a thought leader in the niche of your choice. Firing out two paragraphs on sustainability in the desert is definitely more liked by Google than posting a square picture of a solar farm with a dozen hashtags.

Picture courtesy of the ever-awesome Stocksnap.io, as ever. Thank you for making my blog posts look slightly more interesting!

What exactly is driving Google?

After a somewhat rambling precursor to a subjective analysis of various cloud offerings, we arrive at the first real section, focused purely on Google Drive and the omnipotent internet company’s cloud services. Possibly best optimised through their own Chrome web browser, Google offers a suite of tools accessible through any window on the web and an array of excellent free mobile applications too.

One of the beautiful aspects of Google Drive that has kept me with the service so long is, surprise surprise, the ability to organise your files and retrieve them pretty quickly (dependent on your internet connection). This makes sharing files a breeze too, especially as most people have Google accounts, and allowing you easily to save email attachments to Drive from Gmail and other email apps (my personal favourite being Outlook) for later consumption from anywhere.

A standard free account gives you 15 GB of Drive storage to play with which is ample to get you hooked on the service, especially if you take advantage of Google Docs and Google Photos which take up no extra space. More on Photos later. Cross-app functionality is great too, with  Smartsheets, another favourite of mine, even giving workshops this very week on how to work smarter with Google Doc integration. Working exclusively on Google Docs is a real possibility, and the cloud-based Sheets, although many would argue is not an Excel replacement, is increasingly feature-rich with new iterations and functionality appearing with some regularity. Docs and Slides are ample lite versions of the corresponding Office Word and Powerpoint, but not really built for power users – although the convenience of sharing and collaborating via Google Drive is highly alluring, especially when all edits can be clearly seen. Great for transparency and project management.

The Google Drive iOS app (I cannot speak for other mobile platforms as am an Apple Chap) is a winner, and offers great flexibility as to how much you want to have access to offline and also for sharing. The desktop OS X app is also handy although I have noticed overall performance issues with it running in the background. As with OneDrive and Dropbox you can choose which folders are synced on your laptop too, so that your entire cloud-life doesn’t clog up your machine on earth.

Since Google launched Photos as a spin-off from Plus, I adore it. You can search for sunset and the app knows, without your tagging, what to serve up. It groups pictures of the same person together through facial recognition. You can upload full quality or, if you aren’t too precious about file size and want to preserve your Drive storage, you can upload a reduced file size of photo or video without a digital footprint. Albums can be shared privately, posted on social media or left open for collaboration. And from time to time Google will surprise you with what they used to call Auto Awesome, i.e. a video they created from a day trip, an automatic slideshow with music, but generally it is a pleasant surprise. And saves you the hassle of getting all creative.

Last year Google slashed Drive monthly subscriptions which prompted me to opt for 1 TB. I use it a lot and have around 200 GB “up in the air” right now. So what has prompted me to look around at other options when I am so happy? Keep your eyes on the blog to find out in the next chapter….

Image courtesy of Martha Dominguez via Stocksnap.io