…. or your business name, would you be happy with what she found? What about if it was one of your kids doing the searching?
Your Personal Online Reputation
Even if you don’t conduct business online, you might be surprised what the search engines return when people enter your name into a search box.
And even if the results returned were actually about the real YOU, and not a porn star or bankrupt with the same name as yours, you might prefer that there was no mention of you at all online. However, in these days of publishing meeting minutes, golf results and academic honor rolls online, unless you are a hermit, it is almost impossible NOT to leave an online footprint.
Regardless of your offline reputation, your ‘online reputation’ matters, and the need for online reputation management is a growing one. This is hardly surprising as more people, just like you, ‘Google’ their own names and find forum comments they wish they’d never made, their very happy faces after having one champers too many, or a series of customers complaining about their products.
So, if YOU have Googled your name, what do you think the chances are of a potential partner, in-law, employer, college administrator, client or associate doing the same?
Businesses too, need to be aware of how they are perceived online.
Why Businesses Need To Monitor Their Online Footprint
Businesses are increasingly using different online strategies to generate sales, to create product or company awareness, to build contact lists and to build and maintain client relationships. Blogs, social networking sites and discussion forums are being used to leverage website content.
The problem is that these sites (web 2.0) allow others to make posts and comments as well, and while positive posts about you and your business can be priceless, negative ones can be devastating.
It is becoming second nature for people to search for businesses online, especially prior to committing to a purchase. Results with negative comments can influence sales and staff morale along with client, banking and associated business relationships.
Because the Internet has made it so easy for anyone to freely share their thoughts about people, businesses, products and services, with little accountability for the reputations tarnished as a result, businesses and individuals need to be vigilant with their online reputation management.
How An Online Reputation Evolves
Content published in articles, news items, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other Web 2.0 platforms is picked up by the search engines. They pick up titles, photos and key phrases (such as people’s and product names), index them, and display them with the corresponding links in search results. Where they appear in those search results will depend on many factors.
Without effective online reputation management strategy in place, negative feedback about you or your company can create the wrong impression and inflict serious damage to your name.
Sources of Negative Content
The goodwill attached to company or business names is an acknowledged asset in business. Considered an intangible asset, goodwill depends on reputation, which is, as noted above, vulnerable to attacks from various sources online. Negative Internet content can come from:
- ex partners
- former friends and colleague
- disgruntled former employees
- dissatisfied clients or buyers
- news items
- government listings
- past court cases
- confusingly similar names
Businesses and companies are not the only ones who should be concerned about online reputation management, every one of us should be. Individuals such as consultants, professionals, social figures and celebrities of course need to be particularly vigilant as others may try to hijack their names for nefarious purposes or financial gain.
Elements That Impact Your Online Reputation
Words used to identify you, your products, services or your business form the cornerstone of reputation management strategy. Search engines don’t distinguish between proper names and ordinary words when their robots index keywords for use in search results.
Social media sites rank well in search engine results pages (SERPs). Accounts with these sites require names which are used to identify user-generated content that often appears on the top three search results. Web profiles in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr tend to rank highly with Google and are considered a focus in online reputation management.
Search Engine Optimization
Internet users ordinarily view only the top search results and ignore anything beyond the first results page. An effective SEO strategy is crucial for online reputation management because it has the power to bring positive content to the top of search results, while at the same time bumping unwanted results down to pages beyond where all but the most tenacious searchers venture.
Search engines like Google love fresh content which is why blogs and other Web 2.0 sites rank well even without their account owners knowing SEO techniques. Creating and regularly distributing articles, videos and press releases will attract the search engines to your pages. Incorporating your name/s as h1 headings, page and category names, and keywords will all help to influence the search results in your favor.
Knowing what’s being said about you and where those comments can be found online is an important aspect of managing your online reputation. While you can’t always succeed when asking the authors to delete their comments, you can take counteractive measures such as leaving persuasive comment replies, taking part in forum discussions and addressing specific issues head-on in your own web pages or profiles.
A number of tools are available on the Internet which can help you find links to pages mentioning your name. Freely available services like Google Alerts set up to send automatic notifications whenever your name, your company name, product name or keyword/phrase is indexed by Google.
Ways To Manage A Negative Online Footprint
- If necessary enlist the help of a specialist reputation management service to remove your personal information from the internet
- Increase the amount of positive content by writing, or having written for you, articles, press releases, blog posts (I can help with this !).
- Create profiles (or have them created for you) at Web 2.0 sites, starting with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Claim your name and establish your corporate identity on these networks before someone else does, to avoid confusing and potentially damaging content being attributed to you (ask me how!).
- Engage a done-for-you reputation management service.
Could the time perhaps come where parents register their child’s-name-dot-com at the same time as they register their birth? Perhaps not, but I know of many internet savvy parents who have done just that, because they acknowledge the online reputation management.
It is important also to understand that search engines retain indexed data for a long time – even when a post is deleted or a link is disabled. Cached content may still be viewed by Internet users who may be your boss, future employer, potential buyers or clients, and friends. Online reputation management, just like SEO, is ongoing, and takes time to yield positive results, making it necessary to manage online reputation even before unwanted comments surface in search results.
I would be happy to assemble an appropriate SEO content program to help boost your, or your company’s name in the search engine results. Contact me!