Warren Buffett, the stock market investor that’s currently the world’s richest man according to Forbes, couldn’t have said it better: "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it." If we think about it, our entire life depends on our reputation, the image through which we are visible to the world. And this applies to the online world as well. In fact, it’s much more important and here’s why.
Recently, I had the good fortune to talk with the HR assistant of a significant company. She assured me that indeed, one’s online reputation must be protected and improved. The simplest scenario is that a potential candidate applies for a job, sending in his or her résumé. The assistant told me that they do a "quick Google" search on the name of each candidate. And sometimes the results are shocking (and not positively).
On the other hand, you may say that this kind of practice shouldn’t influence your ability to fulfill that job’s requirements, and that obviously there are possibilities that lots of people share the same name. Of course, if you have no "online" presence at all, then so be it; they will find nothing. But if you have a ruined reputation, then it may cost you the job. And no, they won’t confuse you with somebody else, you can totally be positive of that.
Here’s some good news: according to statistics compiled by GEO Ltd., only 23% of users go to the second page of SERPs (Search Engine Results Page), and less than 10% go as far as the third page. This is the result they found from lots of crunched SEO logs. In the real world, we can say that almost nobody goes beyond the first page if he or she finds worthwhile content on that page and especially within the first hits.
Knowing this, protecting your online reputation ("reputation management" is the technical term) means nothing but adding lots of positive content regarding your identity and doing your best so that the negative results get knocked off the first page. You need to understand that deleting negative hits isn’t possible. You cannot make them disappear. But you can move them down to pages where nobody will look. That’s much better.
That is what this article is all about. Read on and learn how to protect your online reputation!
First, let’s see how the process of "reputation fixing" works. If you are a little bit experienced in the world of SEO and search engines then you know that these engines do take time to crawl through the pages indexing them, so it takes a while until "new" content appears within the SERPs. Thus, it is very important to start early. You may fix your reputation in as little as 2-3 days but it may take as long as six months!
Patience is the key. Starting early is the best advice. Additionally, you should not wait until somebody attempts to defame your personal image or the brand of your product or company. If you currently do not have an online presence, that’s amazing, because you are going to be responsible for the content you craft about yourself. You will have the ultimate control over your online presence.
In order to achieve the best results, it is helpful if you get at least a little familiar with search engine optimization, copy writing, promotion, marketing, public relations, and maybe even a bit of psychology – knowing how to "influence" your audience (i.e. prospects) by emphasizing some areas of your crafted content. None of these is necessary, though.
First of all, the easiest and probably the most effective advice is registering your own name or company name as a domain (yourname.com or yourcompany.com) and set up a simplistic website. One main page is enough. It should contain your name, your company, some biography information (you don’t want to be confused with someone else; this is important especially if your name is way too common). You may add photo(s) too.
It is a well-known fact that a basic web site on a registered domain gets picked up quite fast by search engines and you will end up within the top ten listings. Oh, and I am sure you have heard about "blogging," right? These online journals rank pretty damn well and search engines love them. Set up a new blog; create links back and forth your basic web site and your blog. Post a few entries about yourself and that’s all.
Create lots of sub-domains around your name and claim ownership of the most popular websites such as Blogspot, WordPress, MySpace, Livejournal, Hi5, Orkut, etc. Yes, that’s right. Sign up for as many social networking websites as you can think of but don’t worry about their content, let alone updating them on a frequent basis. All you want is an "online presence." Complete each with valid information and data that you want to be "known" about you and don’t forget to link to your own website!
And now comes one of the best- LinkedIn. In this case you do need to spend a bit of time in order to take advantage of this unique social networking site. It is way different from the rest and due to the benefits you can gain from it from personal networking, connections, and your reputation it is something that you should definitely get right.
Check out the following articles written by Terri Wells on the topic: "Raising Your Visibility with LinkedIn" and "Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile" all published on the SEO Chat website. Try to apply Terri’s tips in order to optimize and raise your visibility!
Create a Google Page using the Google Page Creator. Fill your page with valid and accurate information once again. Don’t forget to link everything back to your main web site too. The beauty of Google Pages is that they do get crawled and indexed within a few hours right after publication by Google. This is really quick and a sure-fire solution.
Finally, you may even hook yourself up with Flickr and Picasa. Upload images that are related to you or your company, for example: company logo, some brands, pictures of local headquarters, some office shoots, and even from some presentations, conferences, events, sponsorships, and so forth. Post a few images, and be done with it.
In a nutshell, these should be more than enough to consolidate the first page of search engine results with positive and accurate listings regarding your reputation — and it’s all done with content that you have crafted yourself. Like I said, it helps a lot to link from each profile back to your main web site. As well as doing this, you may create a page on your website that links to each and every place where you own a profile. By this I mean you create a simple "links" page.
On the previous page I presented the basics of reputation management, what it’s all about, and how you can do it yourself. Most people can solve their reputation crises themselves with just a little effort (researching and working on it) and a little bit of patience. As always, starting early can prevent defamation risks.
Unfortunately, sometimes the situation can become so heavy and deep if neglected that you cannot solve the problem yourself. Your company may lose profit, who knows, even millions due to a tarnished reputation because of some frustrated infamous blogger. It’s not ethical business-wise, but competition may also become dangerous.
If your online reputation condition is so tough that you aren’t able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s actually a worthwhile investment to hire a professional company specializing on online reputation management. Often their portfolios contain total miracles.
These companies employ professionals in all of the necessary areas: SEO, SEM, PR, marketing, copy writing, promoting, and so forth. Usually they are experts and they know the ins and outs of search engines; conjuring a strategy to reclaim your identity and save your image is their specialty. You need to look around and check out few of these companies. There a few options and each of them have numerous price tags.
First, I’d like to mention ReputationDefender. Their MyEdge package has three plans for $99, $299, and $499. The higher the price, the more service they are offering. They not only dig out the derogatory things that have been said or posted about you all over the web (they do this for as low as $9.99 per month), but for an extra $29.99 per item they promise to "annihilate" each piece of slanderous content that you’d prefer not to see in the SERPs.
They organize your correct and accurate biographical data elegantly and "feed" the search engines with the content that they are looking for; thereafter, they work on boosting the crafted positive content about you as quickly as possible. Before their actions you are required to review the data that’s going to be published about you. If you agree, then they will push that content upwards in the SERPs.
There is something to watch out for, and don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. Most of the time these companies claim particular "in-house" techniques regarding search engine optimization and marketing. You need to be careful with those. Before you rush into hiring a somewhat "unknown" company that promises much, you should really look into their past work, history, activities, and testimonials. It isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that they do indeed provide fantastic results due to black-hat SEO, and this is really dangerous.
Another company that we need to mention in this article is Internet Reputation Management. I’d definitely recommend trying out the services of this company if you are struggling on your own with your defamed reputation. You can contact them here. Describe your problem, leave your contact information, and tick in the free reputation repair analysis checkbox. They will get right back to you with their feedback.
We cannot neglect Plus1 Media. They provide online marketing expertise in the form of investments (resources) in exchange for equity of profit sharing. They reject 90% of the companies that are interested, so if you really think that you could spark up a partnership with Plus1 Media then try to make your reasons clear. Their marketing campaigns strive for huge successful booms with millions of visitors right away.
On the other hand, there are dozens of other companies. Be sure to check out more than a few before you decide which one fits your wallet. Nonetheless when your tarnished reputation hurts not only your ego but your finances, then investing in cleaning up your act in the virtual online word is unquestionably worthwhile.
And finally, I would like to invite you to join our forums at SEO Chat. Our bulletin board has dozens of experienced professionals and experts in the mighty fields of search engines and online marketing. Whatever dilemmas you may be facing, ask for their expertise and opinion.
Ask what they think of XYZ Company, should you hire them, really trust them, what else you need to do if you are "fixing" your reputation on your own, and the like. You can bet that our resident members have heard about the latest scams or non-ethical pros as well, and can warn you away from them.
"It is easier to cope with a bad conscience than with a bad reputation."