Online reputation management (or ORM) is a niche practice within the larger SEO discipline that focuses on gaining control of the first page of search results for your name, your business’s name or a product name. Online Reputation Management goes well beyond SEO to include aspects of PR and external communication, blogging, copywriting and social media. And my goal here is to tackle what can sometimes seem a daunting task in some easy-to-understand, easy-to-do steps.
The following six action items should be an integral part of any online reputation management campaign. For purposes of this post, we’ll assume the goal is to control the search results for your name, but the principles apply to virtually any ORM campaign.
Step 1: Take an Inventory
Take an inventory of the online assets that are 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 listed and classify each as positive, negative or neutral. Now go do the same thing on Bing/Yahoo.
Step 2: Stay Alert
Schedule a Google Alert for your name to arrive in your email box 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.
Step 3: Optimize Existing Positive Assets
Perform basic on-page SEO techniques on pages and assets that you categorized as “positive” in step 1 above. 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.
Step 4: Link to Existing Positive Assets
Create links back to “positive” pages that are already performing but need a slight boost. Here are some examples – I’ve created a page on my personal blog where I link to guest posts I have written on other blogs. I also use the “Publications” area of my LinkedIn profile to do the same thing. And my Google+ page includes the same set of links.
You can also create personal hubs that link off to all your social media profiles. Google+ is excellent for this, as are the “personalized home page” or “web resume” type tools. Two good examples are AboutMe and BrandYourself, but there are many others to choose from.
Step 5: Create New Positive Assets
There are certain tactics that 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 on your way is KnowEm, which can quickly and easily tell you if you name is available to be claimed on hundreds of different social sites. Just creating the profiles is not enough. You must also use each service – at least periodically. Make sure you loop back to step 4 above and add links to these profiles from your link hubs.
Now, create a blog on wordpress.com, on 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. 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 “creating assets.” Both major search engines offer blended search results, often including images and video in the first or second page of search results. Make sure you are creating images and video titled, tagged and uploaded with your name.
Step 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 ORM is seeking out opportunities for interviews on reputable blogs which, in many instances, can be even more powerful than writing guest posts. What about it—are you interview-worthy?
In summary, online reputation management is really 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. Here’s a quick list of things you might do first in order to try and make a negative post go away:
- Ask the publisher to remove it. Nicely.
- Address the underlying issue that prompted the negative content – and be sure the original creator is fully satisfied with the outcome. Perhaps suggest they “update” the post – thus turning 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 the search engines to remove the search result from their index. This usually only works only if the poster has posted private information or info that otherwise violates the law.
Don’t Wait Until You Need Online Reputation Management to Start an ORM Campaign
The most important thing I hope you take away from this post is that everyone needs Online Reputation Management. It should be a part of your overall business strategy and part of your weekly or monthly “business maintenance.” Do not wait until you need ORM to begin doing it! If you wait until you need it, it’s already too late. Get started today. Practice with your name. Then move onto your firm’s name. Devote 1-2 hours a week working on your program. That way, it’ll 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.
One last piece of advice…Check out BrandYourself. I mentioned it above as a good personal page tool. The site is MUCH more than that. Imagine a web 2.0 toolset built around the concept of ORM for dummies. That’s BrandYourself. I’ve been playing with the tool for a few months (they gave me a free paid account for 3 months to test it) and I was VERY impressed with the ease of use, the recommendations and the quality of service.
Online reputation management is, in most cases, a relatively simple small scale SEO effort. It can, however, become complicated quickly and in extreme cases can morph into an exceptionally critical business task that can fundamentally alter the business landscape. And while I hope that never happens to you, if it does, be sure and work with a professional to help with ORM as quickly as possible.
Image courtesy of Dok1 via Flickr creative commons license.
This post first appeared on the 312 Digital blog.
Sean McGinnis is a long time friend and a super smart guy. I love the way he thinks and figured you would, too, which is why he’s here. Sean is the founder of 312 Digital and speaks, consults and blogs about SEO, internet marketing, social media and a variety of other topics. He’s based in Chicago and shares my love of cold beer and great food, so we hang out often.