Updated July 17th, 2021.
Whether you’re a highly successful CEO making mega-deals for breakfast, or an up and coming bright-eyed executive, every employable prospect has an online reputation to consider. Take a minute to google yourself and/or business. Nearly half of adults in the United States find negative results about themselves online, which can impact all aspects of your professional and personal life — from dating, to applying for a personal loan, your online reputation is something that you can’t afford to ignore in 2020.
Consider this, nearly 70% of today’s population now has at least one social media profile. Most of the population is now interacting online while using the resources available to learn more about job candidates, partners, and their peers.
More often than not, people are forming their opinions about you online before they’ve even met you.
The first page of Google is much more than the digital version of your personal cover letter. It’s authored from many different sources and uses the information available about you online to make a composite sketch of who you are. It’s up to you to take control of this information.
The sooner you begin cultivating your online reputation, the sooner you’ll start seeing positive results. The following ten tips will help understand online reputation management and serve as a beginner’s guide to cultivating your online presence.
1. Audit Your Name and Business
Before beginning the real legwork, take stock of what’s out there about you. Google your full name and peruse the first five pages of search results. Take in all relevant information about you. In order to cultivate a positive online reputation it is crucial to understand what you are up against and to know what exists about you online.
If you own a business, or have ever gone by another name, do the same for the name of your business or any past names. People are unforgiving when seeking information online– if you can find it, others can too.
Update: while it’s best to look at the first few pages of Google results to get a sense of what’s out there about you or your business, don’t panic if some of the later pages show less-than-ideal results. Some reports show that 75% of people don’t go past page 1 of search results, but more recent research indicates that that number may be closer to 95%.
While it’s still important to be aware of what’s about you out there– especially knowing that those negative results could climb to page 1 over time – the farther back unsavory results are, the less likely they are to have a substantial impact on your online reputation.
Identify in this process which links are positive, neutral, or negative. Which results could be improved and what could be elevated. Imagine you are a prospective employer, colleague, or anyone who wants to do a quick search about you online. If you aren’t satisfied with the results, not to worry, most people aren’t. The beginning of your reputation management journey begins with understanding the landscape.
2. Claim Your Space
Claiming your space online is the equivalent to protecting your home with sandbags against a potential flood. Each profile and domain name you own in your name and business can buffer against negative results, eventually bumping them off the first page, which is where most people’s searches stop.
Start by making an account with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr and other social media networks on your radar. If you’re a business owner, do the same for your business. Don’t forget to branch into web properties on professional networking websites like Yelp and the Better Business Bureau.
Even if you do not plan to use these profiles immediately, you will want to have control over them. There’s good reason for this. Once you decide to start becoming more active on social media there is nothing more frustrating than attempting to sign up with your name, or the name of your business, and finding out that the username is already taken. Registering your profiles early can prevent this and any confusion over who owns the domain. You’d be surprised at how many requests we receive when another person with the same name as a client has posted inflammatory and embarrassing content on social media, only to be confused with another person. Claiming your profiles prevents this altogether.
Another great reason for claiming your social profiles is that it will prevent someone who wishes to do further harm to your reputation from registering under your name or business and posting slander. This happens! We can’t emphasize enough how easy and important it is to claim your social profiles.
In addition to social media properties, you should also buy domain names associated with your name and business and anything directly related to you. Don’t go crazy with dot com purchases, but think ahead and secure anything that you don’t want someone else to have control over. These domains can be used for blogs, CV websites, portfolios and more. Even if you do not plan to use them immediately, having them in your possession can serve to benefit you in the future.
3. Establish Your Personal Brand
Whether you own a business or not, a personal brand will serve your online presence well. Consider who you are professionally, and how you want others to see you.
Write in a way online that exemplifies your brand, choose profile pictures and themes that best represent you. Build this brand into a template for your professional persona.
Anything that doesn’t fit your personal brand – a Facebook account that your college friends post on, for example – should be secured with strict privacy settings. No one but close, personal friends should have access to find or view any personal information that could be held over your head online.
While you’re establishing your personal brand, consider your areas of expertise and how you could establish yourself as an expert on them. For example, you might seek training in public speaking and begin offering lectures about your field. Research other leaders who specialize in similar areas and take note of their methods. Successfully establishing yourself as a leader in your area of expertise can generate much more positive content and be a huge boost for your online reputation.
Update: establishing your brand can help guide your social media strategy and improve your search results. Linking social media profiles and including your keyword – in this case, like your name or the name of your business – in all usernames, descriptions, and regularly in posts can help Google and other search engines identify which social media is yours, increasing the likelihood that these properties will rank well in results.
Even further, as social media users increase, with over 4.2 billion online in 2021, so does the expectation from those users that they can find you on those platforms, so making sure your online brand is defined and recognizable is not only key to getting them to rank in your results, but to help your audience find you online.
4. Tell Your Story and Be Present Online
Now that you’re on several social media platforms, have hopefully secured at least one domain name for your personal brand, and have defined what your image will be — it’s time to establish a presence.
Make a regular posting schedule that’ll keep you active on all your social media networks and create positive content on a blog. Regular blog links make great focal points for each of your posts on different profiles, simplifying the process of staying active. As you post content, tell your story, present your brand and research how to create captivating posts.
Combine your efforts to establish yourself as a leader and an expert with your content creation. Post thoughtful information relating to your field, tell your story, explain what you’ve learned from your journey, and look for inspiration for new content on blogs of industry leaders. This will help you create useful posts that generate responses from your audience, helping your content rank higher on search engines.
Use visual content to establish authority and improve your online reputation in your market. Top areas of focus include:
- How-To Videos
- Entertaining Visual Media
What works for larger companies also works for individuals. The chances are, you have valuable information about your field that others would be interested in hearing. What’s the first thing that you do when you have a question about a product or service? If you’re like the rest of us, you probably open the laptop and fire up a Google search. If you are selling a product, it would be very helpful to write about frequently asked questions concerning the product and its use.
What is it about the product or service that people should know first and foremost. What sets it apart from competitors and how should it be used effectively.
These are all great topics to cover in a single blog post or YouTube. The posts should be informative and helpful first and foremost. Don’t worry about spending a ton of money on a production team for videos or expensive plugins for blogs. Some of the most popular content is simply providing readers or viewers with the most helpful information. The best articles and videos on a topic generally rise to the top. The higher quality the content, the more people are going to be clicking on it, and it will be shared more across online platforms. Search engine algorithms like Google see this sort of trend and in their efforts to show you the most relevant content to any given subject, this content will rank higher in Google search results. It all begins with high-quality content.
While generating entertaining content can be an effective means to engage audiences, this comes secondary to providing the information that people most want to know about a product or service. If you aren’t comfortable or are in a field where content should be more austere, simply be informative and stick to the facts.
For instance, if you are learning how to play guitar and want to find a video on how to play the Jimi Hendrix guitar solo in Purple Haze, you probably aren’t going to care if the person showing showing you how to play the solo has a lot of jokes or funny things to say, if there is a humorous anecdote that serves the point of the video, great– but not necessary. What you care about is clear instruction on how to play the solo.
It’s the same whether you are giving people advice on tax forms or the best way to train your cat to sit. People want to know the crucial information first. If you can make it entertaining along the way, that’s great but not necessary.
If you run out of ideas a good place to begin would be the first page of Google for your industry or head over to YouTube and see what other people are doing. Chances are, the best content will be right on your first page of your search. Spend some time looking through the most successful content in your field. Take notes. What are these people doing right and how can you incorporate their strategies into your own.
Update: quality content is about writing for the reader, not the search engine. While it may be tempting to default to simpler SEO tactics, like keyword stuffing or fluffy pieces to hit a certain word count, Google has worked over time to penalize this kind of content in search results.
As stated earlier, the best content – and the content that will rank – is content that is informative, unique, thorough, and relevant to a particular query. To learn more about our thoughts about what goes into quality content, and where you can start, read our content article here.
5. Reach Your Audience
As you grow your presence online, you’ll establish an audience. If you’re a business owner, you’ll increase your existing audience and reach more potential customers. Either way, you’ll have the opportunity to respond to comments and otherwise connect with your audience on a personal level.
Connecting with your readers, followers, customers, reviewers, peers and professional acquaintances will help push your positive, updated content higher in Google search results and create loyalty from your audience.
Business owners should also consider their target audience and, if needed, revamp their marketing strategies during this time. This will help you define who you want to reach so you can better understand the best strategy to do so.
As audiences demand more visual content, videos and photos will continue to be an essential part of reputation management in 2020.
As has been true in previous years, responding to both positive and negative reviews promptly is encouraged. Working to resolve issues that led to negative reviews can turn them into positive marks on your company’s reputation.
Interacting with customers can be an incredibly slippery slope. Most of the time, in front of the safety of a computer, people feel comfortable saying things they never would imagine in the real world. Don’t fall into this trap. If someone is picking a fight with you online be professional and understanding. Don’t feel obligated to respond to every little thing but interacting with your customers with both positive and negative opinions of you or your brand will help you better understand the landscape of your customers but also show that you care about the experience people are having with you or your product.
If your company is on social media, you will encounter trolls. There is a thin line between legitimate complaints, which should always be addressed positively and productively, and trolling. Trolls are intentionally aiming to damage your reputation with baiting comments. Don’t feed them.
In 2020, the importance of maintaining an online presence is more important than ever. Having no online presence isn’t much better than having a negative one, because you’re unprotected should a crisis strike. The only way to safeguard against negative reputation issues is to maintain a positive online reputation. We continue to see the adverse effects of a bad reputation and the positive impact of a strategic brand presence.
6. Avoid Emotional Responses
Connecting with your audience is one thing, but you should avoid emotional behavior. The internet provides anonymity, giving people the confidence to be bolder and often much more negative. Replying to false or negative comments online, displaying negative emotional behavior through your regular content creation and otherwise allowing your feelings to break your brand isn’t going to help improve your online reputation, it will only help to damage it.
Remember: One emotional, anger-fueled reply to a comment or tweet – even if deleted ten minutes later – can be immortalized in a screenshot. It’s not worth it. Remember: the internet never forgets.
Never reply to anything in the heat of the moment. Take a few deep breaths, go for a walk, shut the computer down and come back to the comments when you are more level-headed to explain your perspective while always maintaining a cool, calm, and respectful online persona.
Today’s consumer base has become resourceful and intelligent, and they gravitate toward companies that consider their needs. As you continue your online reputation journey through 2020, you’re likely to see flashy new marketing styles and exciting advances in technology. These are great, and often useful, but don’t lose sight of the fact that your online reputation and the value you place on the consumer matters most. Listen to your customer. No matter how insignificant or false you believe someone’s claims are, the fact that they took time out of their day to give you insight of their experience is extremely valuable currency. Do not take this for granted.
Update: while you don’t ever want to respond emotionally to a negative comment or article online, consider responding when you’ve had more time to think about it. Responding to reviews isn’t just recommended, but expected – 20% of consumers expect to receive a response within one day of posting their review, and 96% of consumers reported reading business’ responses to other reviews, with 40% reporting reading those responses every time they were researching a business.
Responding to reviews can not only help you meet your customer’s expectations, but can help you reframe a negative response into a positive impression by addressing your customers’ concerns and responding with action and compassion. Google has even confirmed that responding to reviews can improve your business’ search results.
Every item online associated with your business is a part of your reputation. Do not add harmful content to it by arguing online, even if you’re right. Your responses to unfavorable situations must reflect your branding.
What you may feel is an unfair critique can serve as your best ally in understanding your own business.
Look for Positive Branding Opportunities
As you develop your 2020 strategy, look for unique opportunities to jump on the positive branding trend. The most prevalent your focus on the consumer, the better you will appear to the online audience as a whole.
7. Be Transparent
While controlling your emotions and avoiding anger online is critical, so is being transparent. Don’t lie about who you are, who your business is, what you’ve done or what your business has accomplished. Don’t falsify information or otherwise be misleading and if you’ve made mistakes in the past, own up to them.
In 2020, the trend of transparency is more prominent than ever. For example, 73% of today’s consumers will pay more to buy from a brand that practices total transparency. Likewise, people are more likely to dig up negative or dated content when they cannot find transparency on the first search results they review. People want to trust you. In a recent survey, 56% of people said they’re more likely to be loyal for life when provided with complete transparent information.
8. Set Up Alerts
Set up monitoring accounts like Google Alerts to keep abreast of the conversation surrounding your. This will help you become aware of anything about you online the moment it hits the search results. When negative content is posted, a prompt response can make you look better in the eyes of those searching and it can even allow you to have the negative content removed. Without alerts, you’ll be unaware when something less-than-positive surfaces about you online.
As machine learning progresses it’s becoming easier to receive information on certain topics or keywords in nearly real time as they appear in news cycles, blogs, videos, or anywhere else on the internet. In the past this was an expensive service handled by PR firms, but new technology offers this extremely valuable tool for free. Take advantage of the free tools that already exist that will work to your advantage.
While staying aware of your online presence can feel overwhelming, it’s the only way to know how you look to others. This is the equivalent of looking in the mirror before you leave your house to ensure there’s nothing in your teeth or on your face.
9. Hire a Team
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities associated with maintaining your online reputation, you’re not alone. Many modern students, professionals and business owners are turning to ORM teams to help manage their online persona.
Reputation Management is a full-time job and specialists who can provide the amount of attention and expertise necessary are a great solution for people who want to take their reputation seriously but may not have the time needed to devote towards ORM.
Find a qualified team that you trust with your reputation and delegate the tasks. Trained professionals will have an easier time with the more technical aspects of removing negative content, and can alleviate the time-drain of the constant attention that ORM typically demands.
If you think improving your online reputation could require professional insight and help, Status Labs is here to help. Reach out to schedule a consultation with us.
10. Create a Long-Term Plan
Even a team of highly-trained professionals cannot fix your reputation overnight. ORM is a long-term process that requires months of hard work. Google updates its pages every few weeks and runs complex algorithms to decide what content will appear first. Ask a specialist what a realistic long-term timeframe is for your ORM and stick to it.
It’s easy to become upset if your ORM doesn’t work right away, and it’s important to remember that any effort you put in now will help boost your reputation for the long haul.
Your long-term plan can include career goals, social media goals and more, but its main job is to keep you thinking realistically about fixing your reputation. You’ll need patience and the ability to stay level headed about what you post online consistently.
With the advancement of online search technology comes a demand for a comprehensive approach to online reputation management. Your plan will need to be long-term, robust, and multifaceted if you want to see results. If you don’t know where to begin, start small with a blog and an email list. Focus on information that your readers care about the most and build out from there.
This is one of the biggest trends as we move forward in 2020—you need to build a solid online reputation management plan and a reliable team to execute it.
Google is constantly advancing its efforts to ensure that people are getting the most accurate and best content available for their search queries. Where in the past spamming backlinks would be an effective means to boost content rankings, the name of the game is you guessed it. Quality content.
Some of the most important signals that Google is looking at when deciding what goes on page one are things like bounce rate (did the person leave the page without interacting with the page at all), and time spent on page.
Also, be sure that you are optimizing your keywords and be sure that whatever you are naming your blog or video that it matches up well with both the content and what users will most likely be searching for. The closer you can match your titles with a search the more likely your content will appear high in the search results for that query.
Short term solutions to reputation management issues are like sticking a piece of gum over a leak on a boat, it might work temporarily but by no means is it a long-term solution. You need to be sending the right signals to search engines and this will include active social profiles with real engagement, blogs, an SEO friendly website, and email blasts. All these platforms work together to send positive signals to Google that you are creating quality content and your search rankings will ultimately reflect this.
No one can opt out of having an online reputation, but you can choose not to have your back against the wall when it comes to online reputation management. Don’t let someone else ruin your reputation – use all available means to protect it. Over 90% of adults online use search engines to find information they’re interested in, and 93% never look past the first page. Even more staggering is that 65% of these adults find online search results to be more trustworthy than information from anywhere else.
Even if you don’t own a business, know that 70% of employers report using social media to screen candidates in today’s age – in 2006, just 11% reported using the same tactic.
Status Labs is the premier digital reputation management firm, with offices in Austin, New York, Los Angeles, London, and São Paulo. For more information visit StatusLabs.com or sign up for a Free Consultation.