Online reputation management is a niche practice within the larger search engine optimization (SEO
) discipline that focuses on gaining control of the first page of search results for your name or that of your company, brand or product.
Online reputation management goes well beyond SEO to include aspects of PR, external communication, blogging, copywriting and social media. My goal is to tackle what can seem to be a daunting task in some easy-to-understand, easy-to-do steps.
The following six items should be an integral part of any online reputation management campaign. For the purpose of this post we'll assume the goal is to control the search results for your name, but the principles apply to virtually any online reputation management campaign.
1. Take an inventory.
Take an inventory of the online assets available to you. Sign out of Google and run a search for your name. Go three to five pages deep. Grab the URL of every result and classify each as positive, negative or neutral. Then do the same thing on Bing and Yahoo.
2. Stay alert.
Schedule a Google Alert for your name. An email will arrive in your inbox every time Google sniffs out new material with your name in the content. This will help you stay on top of new results, whether or not they hit the first page of search results.
3. Optimize existing positive assets.
Perform basic SEO techniques on pages and assets you categorized as positive in the first step. Revisit the pages you have control over. Make sure your name is in the title tag of each page. Ensure your name appears in the description field of social media profiles.
4. Link to existing positive assets.
Create links back to positive pages that are already performing, but need a slight boost. For example, I created a page on my personal blog where I link to guest posts I wrote on other blogs. I used the "Publications" area of my LinkedIn profile to do the same thing. My Google+ page includes the same set of links.
You can also create personal hubs that link to all your social media profiles. Google+ is excellent for this, as are the various personalized home page or Web resume tools. Two good examples are AboutMe and BrandYourself, but there are many others to choose from.
5. Create new positive assets.
There are certain tactics you simply must do when it comes to online reputation management. If you have not yet done so, create a robust and complete profile on each of the big four social media locations: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. I also recommend you create the following profiles: Flickr (yes, Flickr) Quora, SlideShare, Vimeo and Youtube. A great tool to help you is KnowEm, which can quickly and easily tell you if your name is available to claim on hundreds of different social media sites.
Just creating the profiles is not enough. You must also use each service at least periodically. Make sure you go back to step four and add links to these profiles to your link hubs.
Create a blog on Wordpress.com, Blogger, and/or on your own domain name, but make sure your name is in the URL. Get a domain name and start blogging. Ideally you should buy the .com of your name, but if that's not available, buy the .net, .co, .me or .us version.
The subject of the blog is irrelevant. Until a year ago, SeanMcGinnis.com was on the first page of every search I ever did. Now SeanMcGinnis.me is on page one, and I blog there very infrequently.
Don't forget about images and video when you create assets. The major search engines offer blended search results, often including images and video in the first or second page of search results. Make sure you create images and video that you title, tag and upload with your name.
6. Explore guest post and interview opportunities.
Another important step in the reputation management process is to explore writing guest posts for reputable blogs related to your business. They may not push down powerful profiles like Twitter and Facebook, but they may outrank some negative posts.
Another great tactic for reputation management is to seek out opportunities for interviews on reputable blogs which, in many instances, can be even more powerful than writing guest posts. What about you or your product is interview worthy?
In summary, online reputation management is pretty easy to understand, and more importantly, execute. By optimizing existing assets and building new ones, your objective is to push negative and/or neutral search results off the first page.
And while all of this is important, it's equally important to remember that sometimes there's another way to manage your reputation. Here's a quick list of things you might do first to try to make a negative post go away:
- Ask the publisher (nicely) to remove it.
- Address the underlying issue that prompted the negative content, and be sure the original creator is fully satisfied with the outcome. Perhaps suggest the creator update the post .This could turn a negative post into one that highlights your responsiveness.
- If the post is illegal, abusive or threatening, you can report it to the hosting company.
- Ask search engines to remove the search result from their indexes. This usually only works only if the poster posted private information or information that otherwise violates the law.
Don't wait to start an online reputation management campaign
The most important thing to take away from this post is that everyone needs online reputation management. It should be part of your overall business strategy, and part of your weekly or monthly business maintenance.
Do not wait until you need online reputation management to begin doing it. If you wait until you need it, it's already too late. Practice with your name, then move on to your firm's name. Devote one to two hours a week to working on your program. It will be like money in the bank for a rainy day, and you'll have a head start on the Negative Nellies in the event something does happen.
Online reputation management is, in most cases, a relatively simple small-scale SEO effort. It can, however, quickly become complicated, and in extreme cases can morph into an exceptionally critical business task that can fundamentally alter the business landscape. While I hope that never happens to you, if it does, be sure to work with a professional to help with your reputation management as quickly as possible.
Sean McGinnis is the founder of 312 Digital and speaks, consults and blogs about SEO, internet marketing, social media, and a variety of other topics. A version of this article appeared on 312 Digital.