A Guide for Reputation Management

The Importance of Online Reputation

The reputation you have online is very important because that’s that people think about you as they discover information on you online. The internet will almost always be their first choice when they are looking for information on you. It’s where we learn about everything we need to know.  The internet is something we use constantly, and the average person spends about six hours online every day. That is a significant portion of the day, and it means that the internet holds a strong influence over us and what we believe.
It’s easy to see why the internet is able to have such a powerful impact on our lives. Your reputation can affect your personal relationships, your job opportunities and the chances of success in anything you do. With online reputation management, you are able to take control of your life and what people think and learn about you. You can control the kind of content they see, ensuring that your story is portrayed the way you want it to be.  You can do some of this on your own, but other parts of it will take a whole team to pull off. However, you can start taking some steps at this very moment to affect your reputation positively.

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How It Works?

If you want your reputation to be upheld online, then you have to start controlling the kind of information that ranks well when people perform searches for you or your company. If you are going to do that, then you have to build up your online presence and make sure people can find the right information.
This can be a complicated process, which we will get into later, but for now, here are the basics:

Solidify a positive presence
You can only have a reputation if there is information available.
Often, the search results for your name will be small. Your social media presence may make up the bulk of it and beyond that, there may not be much. Online review sites like Yelp can have some of that information too.You can control what appears on these sites in regards to your name, to a certain degree. You want to get out there and start making sure the right information is being posted. You can also look on blog posts, forums, press releases, news articles, social media posts from other people, professional social sites like LinkedIn and more.

Ensure the right information is being found
After you perform a search for yourself, what comes up? For most people, there won’t be many results. You should know that the majority of people aren’t going to look farther than the first page. Only about a tenth of them will bother going beyond the second page. Managing your reputation isn’t just about publishing content; it is also making sure that content gets picked up by search engines. The right content needs to get to the top of the results, where it will be seen by the majority of people.
Search results are affected by a number of different factors, and we don’t have time to get into all of them. The most relevant facts for our purposes include: topical relevance, website backlinks, site authority, traffic to the site, sefulness of the site and how current the site is.

The negative results will be replaced with ones that offer a better representation of who you are.

Determining What Your Online Reputation Is

Before you figure out what you need to do to fix your online reputation, you need to assess it. These steps we’ve listed below will tell you how to determine what your reputation is online and how much trouble you will have changing the search results rankings.

Start by Searching Anonymously

You can begin to determine what your online reputation is by searching for your name. There is a right way and a wrong way to do this, however. By searching on your browser, you are likely to see results that differ from what most people see. Your search results will be directly influenced by the searches you have made in the past.  It’s hard to tell what other people will see, but using a blank slate for your search is a good place to begin. This will tell you what the average person will see. You can do that by opening a browser you hardly every use. That can be Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari or some other one. Whichever one you use the least is the best one to get a blank slate with.
Make sure you are signed out of that browser’s user account. You can look into the upper right corner to see if you are signed in or not, in most cases. You can look for a sign in option there. If you don’t see it, then that probably means that you are signed in and you should start by signing out. You also want to clear out your browser cache and browser history. This gets rid of cookies and tracking data. They can have an impact on your search results, and if you aren’t sure how to do that, you can follow the instructions listed on RefreshYourCache.com. Make sure the browser and cache are cleared before continuing.
Then search for your name in the desired browser on Google. Use the common usage of your name- the one most people call you. Look at those links on the first two pages, but don’t bother to click on them. You definitely want to avoid any links that seem spammy, negative or suspicious. Then make a tally of what you found. Determine how many sites are ones that you control information on (such as your LinkedIn page) and how many you don’t. Also tally what you believe the overall connotation of the sites are-whether they are negative or positive.  For instance, you can write that your Facebook page is positive and that it is something you fully control. Your name listed on a directory may have a neutral connotation and may not be entirely under your control. A news article could be negative toward you and completely out of your control.

Check using alternate spellings and keywords

That first search will tell you some basics and give you a good overall picture of your reputation, but there are other important searches you can perform. With the secondary searches you perform, you should be tallying the results as well.
You can search using Bing and Yahoo Search. These may not be as heavily used as Google, but they can still contain relevant results and affect your overall reputation online. It is possible that more people search for you on one of these engines than they do on Google, so it is worth looking into them and the results they provide. You are essentially looking for any information that is different or new from what you found on Google.
You can start by searching for variations on your name. This includes nicknames, profile names, usernames, online handles and other spellings of your name that people may use by accident. You can also search by adding your name to a search term that you might think is associated with you, such as “John Doe baseball card collecting”.  You can also search by related keywords. If you have already done some searches, look for keywords that come up often. For instance, in your searches, if you came across results that showed you made a business presentation, then search using keywords related to that. Searching for a name and an event together can often give you different results. Make a note of any keywords you find.  You should also look at related sites. For those that run a business, it can be a good idea to search forums frequented by professionals in that industry or review sites that might cover your business. Sites like Yelp are good for places for local business owners to check, and sites like Metacritic are excellent resources for people who are in media publishing or media creation to use to assess their online reputation.

Determine the volume of the searches

You should have two different lists written up by now. These should show the keywords that are associated with your name and the results that come up when you search.  Next, you will need to determine how many people are performing searches for you. That will tell you how hard it’s going to be to change the search results.
You can determine search volume using a keyword research tool. These are often used for online advertising, and Google offers a free one known as AdWords. The tool can be used for this same purpose without running any ads.
You can do that by signing up for an account at adwords.google.com. Use the default information to fill it out and don’t bother to fill in any payment information.
Once you are signed up, you can go the Keyword Planner part of the Tools menu. Select the one that says “get search volume and data trends”.
Then put in the search terms you have compiled and click on the “get search volume” button. You will be given a spreadsheet with your results, and you will want to pay close attention to the monthly searches column. This will give you some idea of how interested people are in searching for you. You also want to determine how coemptive searches for you are. The Competition” column won’t give you that information, as it relates to bids on ads. Your name shouldn’t show up there unless you are a celebrity. The average monthly searches column will give you better information in regards to your competitiveness. If that column shows an answer under 50, then you have a non-competitive name and the results aren’t significant enough for Google to really register. Making changes should be easy enough. If the results are between 50 and 200, then they are moderately competitive. Changes will be possible, but will take a bit more work. If you are a public figure, then over 200 searches is a possibility. It is going to be hard to change the search results at this point. Most people see low search results, and that’s good. That’s going to work to your advantage when you are attempting to alter your online reputation. You still need to follow a set of specific, tested reputation management procedures to make a difference, though.

Understand where you are at

Next, you need to take the information you have gathered and answer some larger questions.

Which of the most searched sites do I have control over?
What varieties of sites come up in my search results?
Are there bunches of people searching for me online?
Do most of the people use third party sites to find out about me or do they use the major search engines?
Are most results positive or negative?
Which areas do I have weaknesses in?
It’s impossible to say that a certain formula for content and volume equals a good reputation. The specifies of your life really determine what kind of reputation you should expect to have. We can detail a few different categories for online reputation, and you will probably fit onto one of them. Look at the examples below and see if you fit the description of any of these.
Limited Presence
Your online presence is very limited. Most of the entries with your name come up with automatically generated or white page results. There isn’t much search volume for you. In this case, your reputation is minimal, and that can be both to your advantage and disadvantage. On the plus side, you won’t be able to find much that can mislead people. At the same time, the results for you have little authority. If bad press occurs, then your current results won’t do much to protect you. You are open to damage to your reputation.

Professional Presence

The majority of your results relate to your work or business. Your search volume is somewhere between low and medium. This allows people to easily see your accomplishments. For most people at this level, their results should all come from similar sources. Search engines tend to look for varied content, so if you don’t have varied positive online results, then negative results can have a larger impact when they appear. These kinds of unwanted results are able to break through and stand out due to the way they differentiate themselves from the mass of current content.

Mixed Results

If there are some misleading or negative results, but you have a low to medium search volume, you can fit into this category. Usually, this occurs when someone with your same name is portrayed negatively. This can make their reputation affect you, since there is very little out there about you. You could also experience this type of online presence, if you had something negative attributed to you in your past. People with a mildly visible online presence can easily be tainted and affected by indiscretions from their past for many years following.

Experiencing an Attack

If you have a lot of negative results on sites that you have little control over, and your search volume is medium to high, then you are considered under attack. This can happen if there is a controversy or media storm around you. Even a cyber-attack could cause something like this. If your reputation is going to recover and public opinion is going to be swayed, then a concerted effort has to be made.

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A Plan for Reputation Management

You should now understand what your online reputation is like. Next, you need to develop a plan for how to deal with it. You should try to keep a few things balanced as you put your plan together:

  • What you are hoping to accomplish
  • What you can do that will make the most impact
  • What works best for you and is easiest to pull off
  • What you are able to do realistically

Ignoring these can cause you problems and leave you with an unsuccessful strategy. Here are a few steps you should follow to end up with a plan that will work.

Pick a specific target

After you did all that research earlier, you should have some idea of what search terms are being used to find you online. You should also understand what terms provide results with a positive connotation or a negative one.
You will want to take these two factors and use them in determining your first target. Let’s use an example here. Consider if you are a contractor with a set of results like this:
Search term used Volume Description of results
John Smith 50 Mostly misleading results
John Smith contractor 200 Mostly positive, a few negative
John H. Smith 5 All Positive
In this example, the problem appears when people use your name in conjunction with your profession. Those results are the ones with the most impact, and the ones that are hardest to change.
Not many people are searching for some of these results, so they don’t matter as much.
What you should do in this instance is focus on the “John Smith contractor” results first. If you can make changes there, then it can have the largest impact on your overall results.

Create a goal for your online reputation

If your search results for “John Smith contractor” provides you with four negative search results, then you should set realistic expectations for these results, such as moving one of the lower-ranking ones in two months. That wouldn’t mean erasing it, but at least getting it off the first two pages.
You don’t necessarily want to start with the top threats, as these will be harder to get rid of, and you will get to them in time with your online reputation management campaign. Before you tackle the biggest problems, you need to establish yourself and create a base. By starting with content creation, you can get more people to click on positive stuff, because they are likely to see them more often than they would the negative ones. When you create new positive content, and people start to click on it, it tells the search engines that those positive results are more relevant, and those results will be shown more often. This creates some small wins for you. You want to start out with some achievable, small goals and work your way up from there.

Use the right methods

The tactics you use should be tailored to your specific situation and designed to help you achieve specific goals. People who have little to no online presence can work with a ton more options than people who have a large online presence with lots of threats. The ones with more threats will have to focus their attention and efforts on specific strategies.
You should begin with some activities that you are good at or that you can continue working with for a long time. You may not be very good at writing, which would make blog creation a poor choice for you. You might do better on Twitter or in video creation on YouTube. The strategy you choose needs to be one you will be able to continue doing. There are a few categories you can pick content from to work on. In some instances, these are categories that could apply to everyone, while others will only work for certain people and situations. Just look through the list and pick out a few that seem relevant to you and your abilities. These can create the bedrock of your online reputation strategy. Website Creation You should begin with a website that has your name followed by “.com”. It may not be available, but you can always get a close approximation, such as one that has your name, followed by your profession, then the “.com”. So, it could look like this: JohnSmithContractor.com. Anyone who has a business should have a page for it, but even so, make sure your About Us page mentions you by name.

Social Networks

You should have profile posted on the biggest social networks: Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn. Your profile should be fully completed on each of these, and if you enjoy using social media, you can post regularly there to build your reputation with relevant content.

Photo and Video Creation

You can use the major video and picture sites- Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram- to showcase your talents or to create content that helps build a positive reputation for you. The more diverse your content is, the more likely search engines are to pick it up. That means it has a better chance of impacting your reputation.

Professional Forums and Sites

If you have an area of expertise, then you can post on forums and industry sites related to your skillset. You can add your knowledge to the community and answer questions people post. You might be able to write guest posts there as well.

Share Documents

There are some sites that will let you upload presentations and other kinds of documents to their servers for the public to use. You can create that content or use previous content you have made to link positive, helpful and relevant content to your identity.

Create a Business Listing

Tons of different sites automatically generate business listings or create listings for businesses in their area. Look up directories for your country, city and industry to find listings that you can edit or to create a new listing. A lot of these will be free to create, while others will require that you provide tons of information to prove you are who you say you are. You should try to establish yourself on as many of these sites as possible.

Press Releases

Search engines won’t place a lot of value on press releases. That’s because most of these are only relevant for a short while and they tend to age poorly. Press releases do have their value, however. If you want to announce something newsworthy, various news outlets may pick it up and turn it to a more lasting online presence, through blogs and news articles. For those who have never issued a press release before, it is more likely that the smaller companies will pick up on your releases. Whatever you do, be sure that the information you are sharing is actually newsworthy.

Content creation

Now that you know what kind of content will work for your situation, you need to start making them. It’s not going to be easy, but there are a few guiding principles that can help you.

Placing the Keywords

Your name and variations on it will make up your primary keywords. The keywords should appear in your posts, but not excessively so. If you overuse your keywords, this is known as keyword stuffing, and the search engines will pick up on it and penalize you for it. The search engines will try to determine how the keywords are used and if they are being stuffed into the content.
To make the most of your keyword use, be sure to put the main keyword near the top of your page. That main keyword should appear a few more times through the page, and it should always look natural. The keyword can appear in the title and subheaders when it fits well. You can use variations as well to help your page become more relevant and get picked up by more searches.
If you are posting on a video or image-heavy site, then you can use your keyword in the URL as well as in your username. You also want to fill all the descriptors that are part of your profile with the keyword or variations of the keyword where it will fit naturally. The keyword can also appear in image tags and file names.

The Length of the Content

Search engines give more authority to pages that can hold people’s interest for more than just a couple of seconds. When people click onto your page and then back out moments later, it tells the search engines that something is wrong there or that people are not finding what they expect to find when they search for the keywords your page uses. This can hurt your search engine rankings.
If you have good content that is somewhat lengthy, then that can send just the right signals. Blog articles can go over 2,000 words, and they should if you can provide quality content for that entire space. If you are uploading a video or a number of images, then be sure that enough content is provided that it will take the user a while to look it all over.

Stay on Topic

No one is going to look at your content for very long if it doesn’t fit the search terms they looked for. If they are looking for information about you, then they want to learn more about you. The information you can include would be things like biographical information, your areas of expertise and some examples of work you have done.

Metadata Is Also Important

With most online publishing resources, you have a number of tools to detail what it is you are posting. You can fill out the author tag, description and the alt tag with keywords that can make the content easier for search engines to locate when people search for your name.

Don’t Copy Yourself (or Anyone Else)

Make sure you aren’t repeating yourself from site to site. The search engines are going to pick up on that and flag some content as redundant and rank it lower because of it. Each piece of content should have a slightly different focus and offer value not only on its own but as part of a larger online conversation and collections of data.

Links Can Be Very Helpful

The majority of the content on the web links to somewhere else at some point. That’s a tool you want to use for yourself, but you have to do it properly to get the most value out of it. Here are the places you should put links:
On social profile, be sure to use the given fields to enter your website URL and other links to your online presence.
You can include links as citations in text. This is perfect for when you are writing on a professional topic, but just be sure that the links seem natural. Relevant links can make your post seem more legitimate.
Be sure to link to existing content and don’t try to create new content to link to. This can help push up sites in the rankings that are already somewhat established. Try to get backlinks as well. There may be groups or individuals that are interested in your content, and you can send them links that may add authority to their sites. Create Milestones and Devise a Schedule
If you want to get your content published, then you need to be organized and have a solid plan. You can create a schedule that is based on the amount of content you can produce and on what you plan to achieve with that content.
Milestones can be used to create a schedule. You should determine what it is you want to see and then determine what is necessary to get to that point. Then figure out if the work required to get there is within reason and update your milestones if it won’t work out:
Here are a few potential milestones you can create:
Have 50 people vising your blog each day
Get one of your videos or photos to appear on the first page of search results
Push one item down the rankings and out of site with new content you created
Get your Twitter feed to appear on the very first page of results
Embed one of your photos or videos in the first page of search results
How much work it takes to achieve any of those will depend on how competitive your search profile is. The baseline for that may not be obvious until you start getting your content published. Just start doing some work and then try to figure out what your milestones should be from there.
You can also create a calendar to help maintain your schedule. This should be a content calendar, where you plan out what will be created and published at certain times. You should have a set of content planned to be created and published each week. Be sure to vary your planned content from time to time.
The calendar lets you determine the amount of effort needed for each material category. You might be putting your efforts into YouTube videos but still want to have a blog published every so often. The calendar can serve as a reminder when certain content is due.
You also want to take screenshots of your initial search results. This should be done for every key search term you use. This will give you a way to determine your progress, and you want to keep taking screenshots to create a definitive record.

Keep an Eye on Your Progress

As you try to restore your reputation and create a more solidified presence online, you will need to track some types of information. These include:

  • Search volumes that are tracked over time
  •  When you achieve your milestones
  • When your materials are published
  • Where key items rank in the search results

Take time each month to review your progress and see where you are at. You can adjust your schedule and calendar as needed once you have made this assessment. You might see that your videos are ranking well but your blogs are not. That means you need to shift your focus to writing a bit more.
Reputation management is not something that will always steadily improve with each effort. Some weeks, you may see progress, while others you may see your reputation take a dive. This happens to everyone, and you need to keep working at it to get long-lasting results. One you have been going at it for about six months, you should start to see some serious movement in your reputation online. If you haven’t noticed any difference, then you need to change tactics, because what you are doing is not working. So, what do you do if your progress starts to slow down or your efforts seem useless? It can help get a new perspective on the data you have. Here are some ideas of what you might want to do:

  • If your impressive first gains go away and don’t come back, you probably are not publishing high quality content. You should put more effort into your content and refine what you have to make it shine. You can also lengthen your work where appropriate and try to add in photos, videos and keywords to enrich it.
  • If you see that new content you aren’t happy with is appearing, then you need to realize that your reputation is suffering from an attack. You have to work harder and produce more positive content to counteract it.
  • If only some of your content is ranking well, then you probably don’t have enough diversity in your publication plan. Try to get more kinds of content out there and get more links going back to your material. Look for sites that will be willing to link to your content.

Review- The Tenants of Online Reputation Management

You should understand by now what it takes to examine the scope of your online reputation. You should also be able to create a plan to improve it. If you are putting effort into it and examining it regularly, you should notice improvement over time.  Let’s close with a few principles that sum up the majority of all the work you will do to boost your online reputation. These should be kept in mind as you try to carry out your plan.  A Long-Lasting Effect- Sites that are of a high quality will rank well. Sites that have been around for a while are going to rank well too. You want to start on your reputation management efforts as soon as possible and keep publishing as often as you can. Try to Prevent Problems- If you can build up a foundation and a strong defence against misleading or negative content, then it will be harder for those types of content to gain a foothold and to stick around.
Diversity and Quality Really Matter- If you want your reputation management plan to be solid, then you need to make sure you are publishing high-quality content on multiple sites. If there are numerous sites telling the same basic story, then people will agree that they are telling the truth.
Content Should be Unique- Don’t copy and paste content across poor-quality sites. This makes you a target for search engines and looks bad on you. Instead opt for original, high-quality content all the way. It takes more effort, but it also lasts longer and has far greater effect. Create Solid Backlinks- If lots of sites are referring to your sites, then it makes your sites rank well. Try to find new sites that will link to you every so often to boost your online rank.

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