Updated February 1st, 2020
Online reputation management refers to how you manage, guide and create your image on the internet while protecting yourself against current or future problems.
Your online reputation is defined by every piece of information about you that can be found on the web, and it all impacts how people perceive you. Whether you’re talking about a personal reputation (the reputation your name has online) or a business reputation (the reputation your company has online), the sooner you implement reputation management, the better.
We live in a modern age where the information found in a simple search on Google quickly overrides what people have been told in person. In fact, nearly 85% of people say that online information is just as trustworthy, if not more so than in-person recommendations.
This information and your online reputation as a whole can influence every aspect of your life. For example, 85% of recruiters and human resource professionals say that an employee’s online reputation influences hiring decisions? Nearly 50% of those surveyed reported that a strong online reputation dramatically influences their decisions, and college admissions officers report a similar use of online reputation research.
If you’ve googled your name recently and didn’t like what you found, you’re not alone, and you certainly have options. For example, nearly 95% of people never click past the first page of Google, which means that focusing on the front page of your reputation can yield excellent results.
Around 50% of people who look for their name or that of their company aren’t happy with what they find, and teams like ours specialize in finding solutions for this modern issue.
The nine tips below are some of the most effective if you’d like to handle your own online reputation management to take control of the conversation about you or your brand across the web:
1. Assess Your Reputation and Schedule Check-Ins
Before you can manage your reputation, you need to know what you’re working with. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who might want to learn about you and dig deep into the search results about your name. Keep in mind that this person most likely may have not even met you, and what they discover about you online is likely to be the first impression of you they have. This is the reality of the world we live in. Whether it’s a decision on where to eat, which brand of wireless speaker to purchase, who to date, who to hire, or who to not, more and more people are informing their daily decisions on the information available to them online.
Browse the images associated with you, each relevant webpage, all comments and any other data you can find. Make note of every web address that you appear on – from mugshot websites to old social media accounts – and keep these in a bookmarked folder for reference later. Screenshot the results so you can monitor how links move around on the front page to track your progress. Again, if you aren’t satisfied with the results you’re not alone, more than 50% of people who do an online search of themselves aren’t happy with the results.
If there is no information about you online then this is something that you will also want to work to improve. This shouldn’t be seen as a positive, considering how much weight prospective customers, employers, etc., attribute to positive reviews. Having no information about you online when you’re stacked up against someone or something with a first page of positive content, is not a winning formula. The decision will always go to who has the most positive content.
Look for easy fixes and low hanging fruits. If you have, for example, less than impressive posts or images on social media accounts that you control, be sure to address these first by either deleting or making your accounts private. Easy. Address the things that you can control first and foremost. If you have an old arrest photo on a mugshot site, the law has tightened in this shady corner of the internet and these sites are no longer able to extort people for money only to have their mugshot pop up again on a sister site. You should be able to locate an opt-out form and request removal if something like this exists.
If something appears on a third party review site which simply isn’t true, for example, someone had an awful experience at your hotel, try and understand where the customer is coming from. On the bright side, a bad review is a chance for you to win back a customer and show potential customers in a public sphere that you truly care about your business and how others experience it. Good or bad. A thoughtful response on sites like Yelp can go a very long way for your business.
In other cases where perhaps there is negative info on a third party site, you could try your luck at contacting the webmaster directly.
Schedule a time to check in with your reputation every month and for an in-depth update every six to twelve months. Each thirty-day check-in should include screenshots of the front page for comparison.
2. Consider Your Branding
If you haven’t revisited your branding lately, now’s the time to do it. Both individual parties and businesses function best in online reputation management with clear branding in place. Look up a personal/business branding guide, if necessary, and spend some time developing your image.
Make a branding snapshot – or a small list of the values that define your brand – to keep somewhere like your desk, car or refrigerator. This will help you screen everything you post against your brand.
Here’s also an easy one. Make sure all the photos that you control on places like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or any business pages, appear well-groomed and professional. These sites will usually rank very high on an image search and you want to look your best.
Having trouble coming up with ideas about what good branding looks like? Check out what the most successful people in your field are doing online. Most likely you will see guest contributions to press articles, thoughtful blog posts on their own platform, videos, and an active social media presence. Take notes about what the person or business is doing well and see where you can apply it to your own brand strategy.
Every six to twelve months, revisit your branding and update it as needed. Branding updates can coincide with your reputation management check-in dates to make both more effective and efficient.
Check out more tips on how to build a personal brand here.
3. Create A Far-Reaching Presence That Uses All Relevant Web Properties
You probably already have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ account, but if you don’t there are good places to begin creating your web presence. Develop all relevant online properties to display your professional brand in a positive light. Even if you don’t plan to use the profiles immediately, you want to control as much online real estate concerning you, or your business as possible. Avoid the frustration of attempting to sign up for a profile and having to go through the “This name has already been taken” rigmarole. In addition to posting from accounts which best incorporate your name and business, you wouldn’t want an imposter to be posting disparaging remarks about your brand from what looks like your account. You wouldn’t believe how often this actually happens.
Each property you claim should be kept active and up-to-date, so it can rank higher on search engine results, which can help push unfavorable or outdated content to the later pages and out of sight. Also, when filling out the information to your sites, link them where possible. This doesn’t mean sharing the same posts across each platforms (do that where it makes sense) but for instance, on Twitter include a link to your website in your bio as well as instagram. These united signals will give your social platforms more search engine authority.
Purchase the domain name(s) that use your name or that of your business, develop the page into a functional website and/or blog. Sign up for social media and professional networking sites like LinkedIn, Yelp!, YouTube and any relevant niche websites, and start producing quality content to post through each one.
4. Delete Any Negative Content that You Control
You might control some of the content that’s damaging your name. As mentioned before, this is some of the easiest negative content to remove. If you’re haunted by outdated pictures of yourself or comments/content you posted that no longer represent you well, you might be able to brush up your reputation quickly.
Revisit your bookmarked sites to identify content you might control. Old dating profiles, social media accounts that reveal too much personal information, photos of yourself that do not coincide with your current branding, comments posted by you and anything else you created can be deleted.
This might involve contacting site moderators or going through a lengthy account recovery process, but it’s more than worth it. If certain media accounts are filled with problematic content, set the privacy settings to max or delete the profile for an easier fix.
5. Listen to the Conversation Online
Is there an existing conversation about you or your brand online? If so, explore it. Don’t allow yourself to respond to anything yet, just understand what’s being said, by whom and why. The more you understand the conversation online, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with it. While some companies charge thousands of dollars for in depth analysis surrounding your brand conversation, the most important tool of knowing what people are saying and when is free. Set up a Google Alerts account for your personal name and brand. Anytime your keywords appear in a blog, website, or even videos. Google will let you know.
Even if some of the conversation is unjust, based on falsehoods or spurred by something far in the past, it needs to be addressed. If there’s no conversation, but there are bad items, imagine the conversations that might occur because of them to get more insights into how the content might be impacting your life.
6. Consider Your Communication Carefully
Before you respond to anything that’s being said online, or post much to any new profiles you created as part of your reputation process, educate yourself on communication.
Clear, concise communication aligned with your personal branding can turn negatives into positives. In contrast, poorly-written, emotional communication can make your reputation worse and add fuel to the fire.
Study how to read, write, listen and speak clearly. Several quality books exist on the subject, and they’ll help you handle online communications. Use what you learn, paired with your short personal branding list mentioned earlier to screen every comment or post you create, before you publish it.
In the case of responding to negativity online, it’s wise to implement a one-day rule. This means typing your response and having it ready, waiting one day, and then reviewing it again before you hit post. This provides a limbic stop for emotional posts and will give you a clearer perspective on your communication.
7. Establish Yourself as a Reputable Leader
Establishing yourself as a leader in your field can do wonders for your online reputation. It will improve your professional credentials, create new links showing you in a positive light and give people a reason to read the content you produce. The best part is that it isn’t as difficult as you might think.
If you work in finance, for example, you might begin by completing a local course for the financial sector as part of your continuing education. Then, you could plan a series of blog posts based on what you learn (giving full credit to the course) to help your readers apply the same principles. This can open the door to doing a short interview with a local media source, which would then create a positive, current link about you that was created organically.
Whatever your specialization, establishing yourself as a leader is an ongoing effort. You can’t do something for a year and stop. Instead, you need to act how you want to be viewed for the rest of your career. Keep this in mind when plotting your path to becoming a leader in your industry.
8. Create Quality Content
Along the same lines as establishing yourself as a leader, you’ll need to create quality content that helps you improve your name online. Blog content can be linked to across all of your social media platforms, giving you fresh ideas for what to post to keep your accounts active. Each post has the potential to go viral and dramatically improve your reputation, too.
Brush up on your grammar skills, pick up a book on content creation and start blogging with your domain name. Edit each post you create at least twice before publishing, and always respond to any comments you get from your readers.
Don’t forget to study search engine optimization or SEO, before creating your content. Learn about Google’s current algorithms and what it takes to hit the front page. Keyword optimize your content so it packs the biggest punch, and sign up to an SEO newsletter to learn about the latest developments in this complex industry.
If you don’t feel comfortable writing, outsourcing for a writer might be the best option. Most reputation management companies use in-house writers who specialize in writing SEO content.
9. Invest in Your Reputation
Reputation management is time-consuming, no matter who you are. You need to educate yourself about several topics, stay on top of regular posting across every account you own, screen everything for brand accuracy and more. It can take more than twenty hours a week to properly manage just one reputation, even for professionals.
An online reputation management team is one of the best options for people who don’t have the time for comprehensive reputation management. You can make a modest investment in your reputation to have a team of trained professionals fixing your name on a regular schedule.
Steer clear of discount companies, keeping in mind that no trained and respected professional works for pennies, and proper management does require dozens of hours per month. These companies often use quick exploits that Google later roots out, undoing all the apparent progress made.
Instead, opt for a company with reasonable prices for the hours of work required, and work with the team to guide your reputation in the direction you’d like to see it going.
10. Protect Your Online Image
Now that you know how to start managing your reputation, it’s time to take control of what’s being said about you online. In a world where 85% of hiring decisions are influenced by social media, and everyone from your boss to your date can google you, you can’t afford to manage your reputation.
It’s important to approach the process with patience, however, as reputation management isn’t an overnight process. Search engines only update their indexing every few weeks, and it can take months to polish the first page of Google.
Remember that claims of fixing your reputation overnight sound too good to be true because they are.
Modern society will only move deeper into the age of technology and online information. The need to shape your image on the web is not going to disappear. The sooner you begin managing your online reputation, the better. It’ll be an ongoing process that you or your team would ideally continue into your retirement to protect you for life.
In time, however, you will join the 50% of people who google their name or business and are happy with what they find, and we’re here to help you get there.