In 2021, your digital reputation is likely to precede you – and if you don’t like what you see, this can present substantial obstacles for you or your business to overcome. The results that rank on page 1 of Google often make up your first impression to potential employers, prospective hires, or customers determining whether or not they want to work with your business – 51% of searchers report that Google results often impact the decisions they make.

And as first impressions are wont to be, these opinions are formed exceptionally quickly. No one is perfect – perfect results can actually deter users – but if your most prominent results are negative in nature, those are the results that will define your online reputation.  Just one negative article or a low average rating on a review website can give users a bad impression of you or your business. 

While online reputation management is most effective when done proactively, sometimes online reputation repair is necessary. When it comes to addressing negative influences on your reputation, the best strategy is to establish a strong online presence and take control of your narrative.While you may not be able to change the negative feedback or perspectives that are already out there, reducing the prominence of negative results is only half the battle. Rebuilding and repairing your online reputation also comes down to how you respond to negative attention – whether directly or indirectly. 

Impact of Negative Results on Your Online Reputation

When it comes to the effect of negative results on your online reputation, prominence and visibility play a major role – the higher a property ranks, the larger its impact on your reputation.

But this is true mainly for the first page of Google. According to Moz, page 1 results account for 71% of search traffic clicks. The number of page 1 clicks has been more recently reported to be as high as 92%. A far second, page 2 only accounts for 6% of search traffic clicks.

In fact, in a survey conducted by Search Engine Land, 90% of survey respondents reported that they were likely to click on the first set of results when searching for something specific on Google. 

Thus, if you have negative results ranking on page 1 of Google, they will have an undeniable and severe impact. Another Moz report cited that one negative article on page 1 of search results will cause 22% of searchers to not do business with your company – nearly one fourth of prospective clients. As negative links increase, so does the loss – four or more negative results on page one can lead to 70% of potential customers rejecting your company.

With losses as significant as these, the importance of online reputation repair is indisputable. While different elements impact different reputations, there are certain factors to consider when working towards repairing your own.

What Online Reputation Repair Looks Like – How to Address the Problem

Although the impacts of negative results can be immediate and severe, the best response takes careful consideration and time. The most effective way to repair your online reputation is to build a strong foundation for your online presence, establish yourself deliberately and actively, and identify opportunities for growth. 

Here are 9 things to consider when repairing your online reputation:

1. Understand the Problem

When you set out to repair your online reputation, the first step should be assessing the problem. Negative results, particularly prominent ones, can rank for a wide variety of reasons, so understanding what you are working against can help you determine the severity and overall impact on your reputation, and formulate your own strategy to address the problem. 

Questions to consider:

  • The prominence of the negative result(s): where is the negative ranking? What is the visibility? Does it have comments, or has it been shared on social media? 
  • Nature of the negative(s): is a negative article, a bad review, or a low average review rating? Are the reviews from customers or employees? Is it an opinion of your business, or a response to something your business has done? 
  • Timeline: when was the negative result posted? Is it a recent article, or over two years old? Could it still be relevant? Is the information in the piece dated?
  • Audience: who is reading this? Although a result ranking on page 1 has a wide reach, identifying the audience of a negative result can reveal the audience you should be addressing. Is it a regional publication, a social media post, a review, or a larger publication? Were you simply mentioned, or is the entire piece about you? 
  • Accuracy: is what is being said true? As hard a pill as it may be to swallow, determining the legitimacy of negative claims online will inform how you respond.

Once you have learned more about the negative results impacting your online reputation, you will be better positioned to act.

Note: Unless the negative results contain copyrighted, false, nonexistent, or personal information – all of which may violate Google guidelines – it is unlikely the result can be removed, and you should be skeptical of firms that say they can remove negative information from results.

2. Identify What You Have

Building a strong online reputation starts with a strong foundation, and online reputation repair is just the same. Once you have taken stock of the negative influences to your online reputation, it’s time to look at your online assets. Removing any of your own contributions to negative perceptions, optimizing your owned properties – your website, social media, etc. – and developing a strong online presence is the best way to rework the narrative. 

Identifying the properties you have, and where your online presence may have contributed to your less-than-ideal reputation, will give you a starting point in restoring your online reputation.

3. And Identify What You Don’t

Despite the undeniable importance of businesses being established online – 93% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in 2020 – many companies’ online presences consist of a website and the occasional social profile. This can work against your efforts – the prominence of a negative result can increase substantially due to a sparse online presence alone. Without a built-out online presence, what others have to say about you or your business is all – or a majority of – what people will see.

Thus, once you have identified what tools you have, you must identify which you don’t. Websites, blogs, social media profiles, forums, content publishing sites (like YouTube and Medium), and industry-specific websites are all valuable assets when building out your online presence. The more assets you operate, the more opportunity you have to influence your own reputation.

4. Optimizing Your Assets

Once you have made the profiles and web assets you were missing, and taken stock of the ones you already had, it is vital to optimize them and keep them optimized. Although there are some steadfast rules of SEO, it is important to keep your web assets updated and to stay informed on best practices. Make sure you are regularly checking in with your website and other properties. Are your social profiles linked to each other? Do the usernames contain your desired and relevant keywords? Are you regularly posting on your blog and social channels? Does the content you post target your desired keywords and topics? Is your website optimized for mobile users (over 50% of web traffic comes from mobile devices)?

In addition to making sure you’re getting the most out of your owned properties, make sure you are regularly checking for issues and errors. SEO issues are small problems that, if unaddressed, can build into larger concerns.

5. The Positives that You Can’t Control

While you may not be able to control what others put out there about you, that isn’t always a bad thing. Featuring positive press, reviews, and other feedback on your website and social media can help increase the prominence of those properties in search results by increasing engagement and backlinks to those properties. 

What’s more, sharing other perspectives on your brand can increase trust with current and prospective customers.

Note: setting up Google Alerts for your target keywords will help ensure you don’t miss a mention – good or bad.

6. Becoming an Authority

One of the best ways to repair your online reputation is to establish yourself as an authority in your industry. By creating quality content that answers users’ questions and highlights your expertise, you can establish yourself as a resource – this not only gives users another perspective on your business, but can have a valuable impact on your SEO efforts.

When posting content, ensure that what you  post is high quality, informative, and unique. Content that is repetitive, out-of-date, recycled, or provides a superficial take, will not be helpful to your audience, nor will it have a chance of ranking well. Find themes or “pain points” – areas where users are looking to gain more information, perspective, or answers – and take time to develop your content. Additionally, offering your perspective on industry-related forums or answering questions on websites like Reddit or Quora can increase your visibility and credibility as an expert in your field.

Note: Share your content on all social media channels to expand your pieces’ reach.

7. Address Some Problems Head-On

While some negative influences on your online reputation are best left alone, some problems are better to address head on. Review and social media platforms can be particularly worthwhile when it comes to addressing a negative perspective, as you can engage with the negative comment directly. These platforms can offer you the opportunity to right the wrong, whether it is correcting inaccurate information or issuing an apology.

While it may be difficult to admit when you have messed up, doing so can go a long way with users. 96% of online users read businesses’ responses to online reviews, and many of these users expect a timely response to their own reviews. The importance of review responses also indicates that a lack of response may further harm your reputation.

8. True Reputation Repair Takes Time

When working on repairing your online reputation, patience is key. Not only does it take time for Google results to reflect new properties – indexing can take anywhere from days to months – but true, reliable improvement to your online presence requires consistent, long-term change.

Although you may want to see that negative news jump to page 2 as quickly as it seemed to appear, reworking your online presence requires many steps and strategies that take time to implement. Building out social media profiles, populating your blog with strong content, and optimizing your website should not be approached as quick fixes, but done so with care to guarantee success long term. 

9. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Some things you can fix yourself, and some things require a professional to not risk making the situation worse. For online reputation repair to be effective, strategy must be executed correctly, and more severe cases can require professional intervention. Whether you are experiencing a reputation crisis, a compounding or evolving negative news story, a high volume of negative reviews, or simply feel unprepared to address the problem, turning to an Online Reputation Management (ORM) company may be the best option for you.

At Status Labs, we will hear your concerns, audit your results, and work with you to develop a customized and comprehensive plan to address your online reputation concerns and goals. Solution-oriented, we are dedicated to helping you put your best foot forward online.

If you need help to repair your online reputation, reach out to set up a free consultation today and get on top of your online reputation.