Online Reputations: Making Them Work For You

It’s considered common knowledge in today’s digital world that a poor online reputation can be the greatest enemy of any organization or individual, but what many people fail to realize, is that with a few simple steps and a bit of ongoing vigilance, it can quickly become your greatest asset.

Organizations and Individuals

Whether you’re a business owner looking for the next great addition to your workforce, trying to increase your revenue, or an average Joe trying to get a job in this tough economy, this topic can be of vital importance to you.

As individuals, our online footprint has replaced anything we can do in an interview or put on a resume as the most important impression we can make with a potential employer while applying for a job, or with our current employer while be considered for a promotion. Employers are smart people, they know that you’re going to put on your best face to impress them during an interview, and they want to know what you’re like outside of that situation, so the first thing they’re going to do is punch your name into Google, Yahoo or another search engine of their preference and go fishing.

Things like ‘the truth’ and ‘the whole story’ are not available to someone who stumbles across that picture of you on your Facebook page with underwear on your head and profanity scrawled across your face in Sharpie, they’re going to take one look at that and file your resume directly in the trash.

For organizations the online reputation game is twofold. Not only can a failure to properly understand the subtleties end up with you hiring that guy with the underwear on his head, your own poor reputation can lead to serious lost sales and devastating damage to your company unless you realize what is happening and take the necessary steps to correct it.

Step one: The best offence starts with a strong defense

As cliché as it sounds, this is one of the simplest steps any person or organization can take in order to begin securing your online reputation is to block others from being able to easily place harmful information where it will be easily seen by others. To do this successfully requires a very basic understanding of how search engines work and a little bit of forethought.

The easiest place to start is to register social media accounts with your name on every possible platform. Even if you have no intention of using them, it will stop others from using them against you. While you’re at it, make sure you set the privacy setting on these accounts so they are visible; an account that can’t be crawled by search engines is no help at all. Next, if you can afford it, purchase every domain name that is directly applicable to you or your business. For example, if you’re a dentist in Michigan named John Smith, buy johnsmithdenistry, johnsmithdentist, each of those followed by mi and so on.

Step two: Be on alert

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork of our defensive plan, the next key to any good online reputation management plan is to be able to negate any threats to your reputation as soon as they appear. This step is surprisingly simple, both Google and Yahoo allow you to set up customized alerts that will notify you whenever you or your company is mentioned online.  There are also services such as Social Mention that will deliver the same type of alerts for any mentions on social media sites. Take advantage of these tools, you can’t defend against an attack if you don’t know it’s out there.

Step 3: Suppression

Once an attack does occur, there is really nothing you can do to erase it or force someone to remove it short of an expensive law suit that will most likely fail anyway. Your only real option to defend your reputation is through suppression and if you’ve followed steps on e and two, you’re already equipped with the tools you need to get the job done.

The key to suppressing negative or false information is to push it down the search results rankings. The highest ranking result on Google gets over a third of the clicks and 75% of users don’t look past the first page of search engine results. With these facts in mind and considering the default ‘results per page’ generally being 10, you can see how much pushing a negative piece of information just a few places can help. By flooding the internet with unique, positive and properly SEO’d information, you can effectively eliminate the risk of any serious damage being done.