Reputation Management Basics
Regardless of how aggressively you might be trying to launch yourself or your company into the realm of social media, and even if you are more comfortable hiding in the anonymous shadows of the Internet, everyone should give some attention to managing their online reputation.
What does this actually mean? Well, think about first impressions. Sometimes, before you’ve even had an opportunity to define yourself to a new acquaintance, someone is talking about you beforehand (are your ears burning?). It’s important to understand that we all have a mutual acquaintance who is constantly blathering on about us to anyone who will listen. It’s our good friend Google.
Do a vanity search in Google on your own name. You might want to put it in quotes, or add the city you live/work in to help Google weed out all the other people with your (or your company’s) name who aren’t you. How do the page one results look? Is Google telling an accurate story about you? Are the web pages that Google lists presenting you in the best possible light?
If you have never done this sort of search before, you may be in for a shock. Google is going to do an awfully good job of finding every scrap of content associated to the phrase you searched. Are you finding “the real you” showing up at the top of the results? Perhaps you’re seeing some links to comments you placed on a message board five years ago. Or maybe you are seeing a slightly inaccurate version of you, or perhaps someone who isn’t you at all but leaves that distinction a bit hard to discern. Whatever you find, this is the first impression you are leaving when anyone (a prospective employer, client, business partner, etc..) does a little digging on you.
Let’s assume that the results you see leave some room for improvement on Google’s first page of results. What can you do? And what if there is something that you really wish would go away? How can you get rid of it?
Well, you aren’t going to have much luck removing a webpage result from Google’s algorithm unless you can reach out to the party responsible for that page and get them to take it down. More likely, your best bet will be to create as many opportunities for Google to see the real you, so the not so “real” stuff sinks from view.
Here’s what you can do. Begin by creating accurate profiles about you and/or your company on social sites that Google trusts. Once you have created these, Google will likely start presenting them as its top results for searches about you.
Here is a short list of places where you should absolutely tell your story, and Google loves each of them:
Facebook – Seriously. Regardless of your opinion on the Facebook fad, if you don’t have an account there you may as well create one if for no other reason than to give Google something accurate to place as the number one result for a you-specific search. Google’s algorithm likes Facebook profiles that much. And you don’t have to start “friending” anyone. Just create your profile and make sure your settings allow the search engines to find your page. You’ll easily figure this out in your account settings.
You might also want to create a Facebook Fan Page – Google loves these too, and while you might typically think they are intended for businesses, plenty of people have fan pages. They rank very well. You can make one for yourself and it will show up right along with your own profile.
Got a blog? Get it listed in Facebook’s NetworkedBlogs directory. That Facebook page can rank too.
LinkedIn – Don’t have a Facebook account? Chances are then that your LinkedIn profile is showing up as Google’s top result. Don’t have a LinkedIn profile? Stop reading this and go get that taken care of right away. This goes for your company as well. Make sure you have built a company profile in LinkedIn and that every employee of the company (all should be in LinkedIn too) is correctly connected to that profile.
Your Website – If you have a site and can make use of its “About Us” section make sure you have an accurate and robust page about you. Google might not hold your webpage in as high esteem as it does Facebook and LinkedIn (which is why you need to leverage those platforms), but your website is a logical place to feature correct information about yourself.
Google Profile – Google allows you to create a profile connected to your Google account. This is handy on a number of levels, not the least of which is that your Google profile will tend to always be placed as the bottommost entry on the first page of search results in those you-specific searches.
There are lots of sites online where you can publish profile content about yourself. To varying degrees these profile pages will also tend to rank well for you in Google. Do a little digging and you’re sure to find enough outposts for your personal/professional content that Google will soon be delivering the version of your story that you’d like it to tell. You never know who’s out there asking the search engines what they know about you.
Photo by Fraser Johnson