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You’re applying for a new job – it’s in an industry where you have a great deal of expertise and the company is growing like wildfire. You’ve put together a great CV with your latest projects, and your first interview has gone really well. Things are looking up, right? Well, not exactly. The HR manager decides to do a quick search for your name on Google.
That’s when things go pear-shaped. Here’s a forum post you wrote 5 years ago talking about that hotel you trashed in Vegas. There’s an old Facebook photo of you guzzling down a beer-bong. In one of the pictures you look stoned, and in a drunken tweet from your best friend’s bachelor party you say something that could be construed as sexist. They don’t call back for a second interview.
Your audio-video production company is on the verge of a big contract with a major player in the local concert scene, and you can almost taste the boost that your business will receive from landing such a good job. Your networking has really paid off, and a mutual friend’s recommendation virtually guarantees you the contract.
However, like almost everyone does these days, the client runs an additional search on your company’s name. On the 4th result disaster strikes. A bitter, slightly unhinged ex-employee has been ranting about your treatment of workers. Everywhere he can. The next 6 results are just as bad. You don’t get the contract.
What is Reputation Management?
The two scenarios above are just examples, but it’s important for you to know that these situations occur every single day. Reputation management (also known as ORM or online reputation management) is the process of assessing the potentially harmful search results that come up with brand name and legal name queries, and then preparing a strategy to take control of those results. This includes managing at least the first page of results as well as any harmful image results.
Reputation management isn’t strictly the same as vanilla SEO, because it focuses on creating a positive aura around a person / brand without necessarily focusing on driving traffic, as most search-engine traffic does not come via direct brand-name queries. Reputation management is also an ongoing process, so it includes having a system in place to monitor up-to-date mentions of your name or brand, ensuring that a pristine results page today doesn’t turn into a nightmare tomorrow.
Why is it important?
SEO Hacker readers are ahead of the curve, so I shouldn’t have to go into too much detail here. If you want to make a living – and not just on online – then reputation management is something that you absolutely need to understand and control. Not having it handled can lose you business, job opportunities and even friends.
Sometimes the results may not even be malicious, but just undesirable. Consider the example of a company that has a consumer-facing platform as well as a corporate website. The brand names are the same, so that when consumers search for the brand they are often led to the corporate site, which doesn’t fulfill their needs, so they move onto a different brand. They’re probably not coming back in this ‘one-and-done’ online culture.
How can I affect it?
When you decided to take control of your online reputation, you can go about it in 2 ways. If you have knowledge of the art of SEO and a grasp of link-building, content generation, etc, then you can use your skills to ensure that you rank for the most important keyword of all – your own name! It’s useful to also have a grasp of social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube and Facebook pages in order to manage customer relations across multiple platforms, or even just to make sure that you ‘own’ your own name on these platforms.
If you are only just beginning to learn about the world of SEO, or don’t feel that you have enough time to go through the necessary steps, then you can always outsource the work to a growing number of reputation management firms that specialize in removing unwanted results. An advantage of outsourcing is that some companies even go so far as to be able to influence things like Google’s Autocomplete feature, ensuring that Google doesn’t serve up unwanted suggestions when people search for your name.
When Should I Start?
This article was just the beginning. Now that you have a grasp of what reputation management is and why it’s so important, it’s up to you to begin implementing strategies to make sure that you don’t end up on the wrong end of scenarios #1 and #2! The first step is to find out what’s out there right now – so don’t be shy – Google yourself:) You should also delve into more advance material such as Rand Fishkin’s ‘Reputation Management Advanced Tactics’ post.
Have you had any experience with negative reputation on the net? What did you do to combat it? Share any horror stories or reputation recovery anecdotes that you’ve heard in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!