A guide to managing your online reputation before a crisis hits

Don’t wait until a crisis hits to start monitoring your online reputation. Follow these tips to stay a step ahead of trouble.

Online reputation management (ORM) is usually front and center when an executive, professional or brand notices an unflattering item on the first page of a search result.

In reality, you should carefully manage your online reputation before you get to that point, but it’s fairly typical for people not to pay attention until it becomes a necessity.

ORM is a semi-specialized niche within search engine optimization (SEO). The goal is to gain control of the first page of search results.

As you’ll see, this discipline goes well beyond SEO to include aspects of PR and external communication, blogging, copywriting, and social media.

Below is a list of steps to take when you embark on an online reputation management campaign.

1. Take an inventory. Audit all 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 one as positive, negative or neutral. Do the same on Bing and Yahoo.

2. Stay alert. Schedule a Google Alert for your name. You will get an email every time Google finds 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.

3. Optimize existing positive assets. Perform basic SEO on pages and assets you categorized as positive in step one. Revisit the pages you can control. 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 already perform 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 use the publications area of my LinkedIn profile to do the same, and my Google+ page also includes the same set of links.

You can create personal hubs that link to your social media profiles. Google+ is excellent for this, as are the personalized home page or Web resume tools. Two good examples are AboutMe and BrandYourself, but there are many others.

5. Create new positive assets. There are certain tactics you simply must do when it comes to online reputation management. If you haven’t done so, create a complete profile on each of the four big social media locations: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

I also recommend you have a profile on the following networks: Flickr (yes, Flickr), Quora, Slideshare, Vimeo and YouTube.

It isn’t enough to just create the profiles. Use each service, at least periodically. Make sure you loop back to step four and add links to these profiles in your link hubs.

  • Now, create a blog and make sure your name is in the URL. Ideally, you should buy the .com of your name. 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 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. Major search engines offer blended search results—they often include 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.
  • Write guest posts for powerful blogs. They may not push down powerful profiles (such as Twitter and Facebook), but they may outrank some negative posts.

6. Don’t wait to start an ORM campaign. If you wait until you need it, it’s already too late. Practice with your name, then move on to your business or product names. Devote one to two hours per week to work on your program, and get a head start on the negative Nellies in the event something does happen.

7. Check out BrandYourself. I mentioned BrandYourself earlier as a good personal page tool. The site is much more than that. Imagine a Web 2.0 toolset that embodies ORM for dummies. I’ve played with the tool for a few months (they gave me a free paid account for three months to test it) and I was very impressed with the ease of use, recommendations, and quality of service.

Online reputation management is, in most cases, a relatively simple small-scale SEO effort. It can quickly become complicated, and in extreme cases can be a critical business task that can alter the business landscape.

What is your experience with online reputation management? What is the most successful tactic you’ve used to own the first page of results?

Sean McGinnis is founder of 312 Digital, a digital marketing consultancy and training company that helps companies better sell and market their products and services online. Sean also consults, speaks and writes on a variety of topics related to digital marketing and sales. A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks. (Image via)

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