Ultimate Guide to Online Reputation Management
Online reputation management is vital for high-profile individuals and companies. A CEO’s reputation, can impact the decisions of potential customers. If you’re a politician, negative search results may shape the views of your constituents. At ReputationManagement.com, we’ll help restore and protect the reputation you’ve worked hard to build.
Whether you need crisis management services now or reputation protection, investing in professional online reputation management services can help you maintain control over your online image. We tailor our approach based on your specific goals.
Contact us now to learn more.
I. Why Your Online Reputation Matters
Your reputation is as crucial as ever in today’s digital world, where a single negative search result can dramatically alter public perception of you or your brand. As a result, reputational risks costs companies billions of dollars.
When Your Online Reputation Counts
Though it’s true there are specific times when your online reputation really matters, maintaining a positive online reputation should be a constant effort. A need for a good reputation could pop up at any time. Consider these moments when a good reputation is crucial:
- Closing a business deal
- Developing a business partnership
- Running for public office
- Customers searching for reviews of your business
- Attracting new clients
- Comparison shopping
- Applying for college
- Starting a business
- Searching for a job
- Asking for a promotion/raise
- Connecting with coworkers
- Talking to reporters
Online reputation problems can be especially damaging for job seekers. We know that 92% of U.S. companies recruit and screen candidates online. And 34% of hiring managers have dismissed candidates based on online reputation problems. Facebook is a favored recruiting tool for 82% of colleges, and colleges are increasingly researching potential students online. Many of these are big life moments you’ll see coming, but some of them may pop up as a surprise. Others, like networking or attracting new clients, occur on a near-constant basis. That’s why it’s essential that no matter where you are in life, you should make sure that your online reputation remains positive.
Your Online Record is Permanent (That Means Forever)
Again, it doesn’t matter if you have no immediate need for a great online reputation. Perhaps you’re a budding actor with some questionable social media posts. It’s cheaper to clean things up now than pay for celebrity reputation management as an A-lister. As long as you need it someday — and you will — it’s important that you pay attention to what’s out there, and what you continue to leave for others to find. Though the Internet moves at a fast pace, it’s also incredibly slow to forget. News stories or an unfavorable photo from 10 years ago may still show up on your first page of Google results if the search engine thinks they’re important.
There are also tools that make content on the Internet virtually permanent. With caching and the Wayback Machine, content that has ever been posted online is recorded and saved, and can be retrieved swiftly if someone knows to look for it.
Your social media content may also be searchable, which means it’s important to know how to remove images from Google that could harm your reputation. This can help in the process of developing a strong internet reputation with prevention, response, and proactive, positive online reputation building.
II. 5 Things You Don’t Know About Online Reputation Management
There is more to search engine reputation management than the first ten Google results. There are countless ways a brand or individual may have their online image tarnished. Digital reputation management can help you promote your brand’s corporate social responsibility efforts to build protections against future issues. Personal information published online about you or your family isn’t just a security risk, but it can also be untrue. Therefore, online reputation management for individuals is also critical for keeping your image clean and your family safe.
Even content on private accounts can be shared:
If you’ve confidently locked down your social media profiles so that you can feel free to speak your mind, be careful. Though you do have a reasonable expectation of privacy, remember that anyone who can view your private profile can also save photos, take screenshots, copy text, and share anything they’ve seen.
Your online reputation may soon impact your ability to get credit:
Companies are increasingly turning to social media when making lender decisions. They are primarily used to confirm identities, but in some cases, they are also assessing your creditworthiness and financial reputation. Social media activity may soon be incorporated into FICO scoring.
Review websites are stronger than you:
Businesses must constantly monitor and respond to all reviews. It’s also important to remove the bad ones and report the fake ones whenever possible. Review websites have thousands of pages of content and tend to rank very highly in Google. What’s more, positive reviews are essential to reputation marketing strategies. That means you’ve got to know what’s out there, and how to handle them. Check out our series on removing bad reviews below:
- How to remove Google reviews
- Ripoff Report removal
- how to remove reviews from Facebook
- How to remove Yelp Reviews
The law — and Google — may be on your side:
Think you’re stuck with terrible search engine results? Not so fast. For serious offenses including false information, you may be able to stop online defamation with legal action. Google may also offer some assistance in removing sensitive personal information from search results, but this is relegated to a few very specific circumstances. Additionally, mugshot removal may be easier now because of new laws and Google algorithm changes. Certain members of the population, such as California citizens 18 and under, may be able to utilize Internet eraser laws as well.
Bad reputations happen to good people:
You can have a poor online reputation through no fault of your own. A criminal may have the same name as you, or perhaps you were pulled into a political debate or you were falsely accused of something. Even a doctor’s reputation can be ruined over a misunderstanding with a patient. A business may have thousands of positive reviews or satisfied customers, but one or two negative reviews placed on a certain site can badly damage its reputation. It’s difficult to control factors like these, but they can influence your digital reputation anyway.
III. Is Your Online Reputation Good or Bad?
Though every person or brand’s online reputation is unique and individual, there are key factors that can indicate if your online reputation is helping or hurting you.
Signs of a Good Online Reputation
Accurate search results:
You want most of the search results that pop up for your name to actually apply to you. Not someone with a similar name, or entirely devoted to a famous person (or worse, a criminal) that shares your name. When people Google you, they want to find you.
If you’ve sent your resume to a potential employer, or connected with a new contact on LinkedIn, you can bet they will probably check you out on Google. Does what you’ve told them about yourself line up with your internet reputation? It should, or your online reputation may reflect poorly, and negatively influence their opinion of you.
Active online participation:
Do you have online accounts — and use them? Anyone who Googles you should be able to see that you’re active online, whether it’s on your own blog, Twitter, or LinkedIn. And that online activity should show that you’re knowledgeable, or at least interested in learning, about your area of expertise.
Positive articles and reviews:
Let’s be honest, when we take to Google to look up a person or company’s reputation, often what we are really looking for is dirt. What reviews about your brand appear? What news articles about you have been written in the past?
Signs of a Bad Online Reputation
A complete lack of information, or inaccurate results:
For people who want to learn more about your company, finding nothing may be just as bad as finding something negative. It’s frustrating to discover that there is nothing to learn about a company online, as it may make the business appear to lack credibility That’s why corporate reputation management is so important. For individuals with a lack of information about themselves online, this means the door is wide open for unfavorable material to be readily available should something unfortunate happen.
Negative news stories or bad reviews:
Having someone talk badly about you online is one of the worst blows to your digital reputation. It shows that you not only may have made a mistake, but someone thought it was bad enough to share with the world. A news story about being arrested, irate clients or customers, or even a crazy ex writing about your divorce can ruin your good name online in the blink of an eye.
Hateful or controversial opinions, inappropriate language:
The Internet is a great place for discussion, allowing you to connect not just with friends, family, and acquaintances, but with literally the entire world and its opinions. Forums, Facebook, and other outlets for discussion are a popular place to share your opinion and learn from others, but they also have the potential to wreck your online reputation. Search engine results that associate a hateful opinion with your name, or controversial discussions that are divisive may turn others off.
Inappropriate and embarrassing photos:
Any kind of compromising photo reflects poorly on your online reputation. Teachers and nonprofit employees have been fired for just a single questionable photo on Facebook.
Your single night in jail or decade-old bankruptcy may feel like ancient history to you, but the Internet remembers. It’s a major problem if a search for your name pops up records that show you’ve had run-ins with the law or major financial trouble.
IV. How Much Do You Know About Your Online Reputation?
When it comes to online reputation management, knowledge is power. Even if your online reputation is not where you’d like it to be, it’s always better to know what you’re up against rather than wonder or ignore the facts. Constant Google algorithm changes mean that search engine results are in constant flux, and articles that were once buried might now be on top. Further, new content pops up all the time, so there may be new articles, photos, and social media entries you weren’t aware of before. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of online reputation monitoring. Doing so can help you identify and address any reputation problems or shortcomings before they spin out of control.
Steps to Assess Your Online Reputation
This is the first thing anyone will do when researching your reputation online, so it should be your first step, too. Search for “your name.” Remember to use the name others are most likely to search with. What name are you using on your resume? If necessary, add your city, and be sure to click through Google’s tabs to see images, videos, and other links that may be associated with your name. Remember that if you’re signed in to Google services, your results may be customized, so try signing out and searching as well. Don’t stick to Google alone, either. Be sure to check Yahoo! and Bing as well. Concentrate most carefully on the first page of search engine results, as most searchers don’t bother to look beyond the top entries.
Take a look at your social media accounts:
Check out your Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and other public accounts. Do you have any embarrassing photos floating around, irate rants, or overly negative posts? They could reflect poorly on your online reputation. Not sure which accounts are still around? Use KnowEm to check for your username on more than 500 social networks and domain names.
Consider how many results actually apply to you:
Having few or no results that belong to you may be just as bad as having negative ones. People who search for you may wonder what you’re hiding, or worse, think that there’s simply nothing remarkable about you to find. This is a sure sign that you need to work on building your reputation, as it not only leaves you in the dark, it also leaves you vulnerable, allowing a negative search result to creep to the top if you ever have a problem.
Assess whether your results are positive, negative, or neutral:
How did you do? Remember to save or bookmark any search results that may need your attention; you can work on them later.
Ask a trusted friend, family member, or colleague to take a look, too:
This is your life, after all, and your view may be a bit skewed. You may not consider certain photos or blog posts to be troublesome, while others do. Ask for some outside help to determine whether you should be concerned about what you’ve found.
V. How To Repair Your Online Reputation
Online reputation repair is not an overnight solution for internet woes. We achieve success by incrementally fortifying the search landscape with preferred content to create sustainable results. This frees you from worry and distraction and allows you to focus on building your personal brand or business. In the meantime, there are steps you may be able to take to improve your own reputation.
Attempt to remove the content:
For photos or other content you’ve posted on your own blog or social media, the solution is easy: simply untag or completely remove what’s causing you trouble. And if it’s on a friend’s profile, politely ask them to remove it. Information you’ve found on websites can be trickier to remove, but it is possible. Google recommends contacting the webmaster of the page to ask them to delete what’s bothering you. If they refuse or are unresponsive, you may be stuck. But for certain sensitive information, including photos, contact information, and inaccurate information, we can help you remove search results from Google.
Change your screen name:
If you have embarrassing comments, social media accounts, or blog posts written under a screen name that’s associated with your name, try logging into the service you used and changing your screen name to a different, more anonymous one.
Learn how to avoid making the same mistake next time:
If you take action to build a positive reputation online, it is possible to push negative search results down to the second page or lower. But that only works if you can stop making the same mistakes that caused trouble in the first place. If you keep posting embarrassing photos, for example, they’ll never really go away. Identify what’s troubling your online reputation, and consider what you need to do to stop feeding Google results that reflect poorly on you.
Move on and make your reputation positive:
You may never be able to remove every negative online entry, but you can beat them. From now on, focus on what you can do to build your reputation in a positive way, and bury the results you’d rather not see. (Read on to learn how you can proactively build a positive online reputation.)
VI. Preventing Online Reputation Mistakes
A negative online reputation is possible to repair. But it’s easier to avoid building a bad reputation in the first place. How can you avoid making big reputation mistakes online?
Keep what’s private, private:
Questionable content that is private or may be misconstrued by others should be kept private. Opinions that may anger a segment of people should also be kept private.
Monitor your online reputation:
Find out quickly when anything new associated with your name pops up. This will give you a better opportunity to respond proactively, and possibly prevent further damage. Services like Google Alerts can tell you via email whenever there are new results for any specific query.
Don’t get angry online:
There’s always someone available online to push your buttons, but remember that it’s just not worth it to engage negatively on the Internet.
Use strong passwords and secure your devices:
Even if you’ve done your best to keep profiles clean, a hacker can quickly waste all of your hard work and compromise your online reputation. Even a friend who jokingly steals your phone and posts to Facebook pretending to be you can cause trouble. Make sure that your passwords are chosen carefully, and that your laptop, mobile phone, and other Internet-enabled devices (especially ones with stored logins) are not accessible to others.
Think before you post:
Consider the potential consequences of your comments prior to posting.
VII. How To Develop A Positive Online Reputation
Working on building a positive online reputation is a great way to show your true colors online and offer a more flattering angle on your online persona. It’s also the best defense against any negative online reputation issues you may have, as the good properties you work to create may outrank bad ones. The more positive properties you have to support your name, the better. Even before your online reputation becomes a problem, you can take proactive steps to positively influence your online reputation.
Don’t wait — do it now:
It’s always easier to lay a strong foundation than it is to fix major structural problems. Take your time and do it slowly if you must, but don’t put this task off entirely. You’ll get a head start on any negative reputation problems that may come your way.
Invest in professional photos or logos:
Support your positive online brand with photos that show your professional side. You can use these professional photos for online profiles, your website, blogging, even news articles. Use them enough online, and they’ll start to outrank any embarrassing photos (past and present) that may pop up.
Claim all of your online properties:
Even if you never plan to have a Tumblr, Foursquare, or Pinterest, it’s still a good idea claim accounts before others can get to them. Using your real name is ideal, as this is what most people will search for. Registering accounts may also allow for your brand to provide accurate information for visitors. KnowEm is a useful tool for identifying social media, domains, and trademarks you may want to claim. Once you’ve registered important accounts, be sure to apply the appropriate privacy settings to protect any content you don’t want shared.
A Google+ account is important to ranking well online, both now and in the future. Photos, links, and posts that you share on the search engine’s social media service may rank well in the search results. Leveraging Google My Business for companies is also an effective tool in online reputation management, as Google’s uses several elements of this platform to populate visible areas of the Google search results. This may include logos, photos, contact information, business hours and reviews.
Register your online domain:
It’s a good idea to snap up domains, including yourname.com/.net/.org and others like yournamesucks.com, just in case. Do your best to register your name exactly. If you have to, registering yourname.net is better than having to make changes to your name. Exact searches will always rank better, so do whatever you can to register your name verbatim, even if it means buying the domain from its current owner. You should also register the domain for as long as possible, as this makes it more credible to search engines, and also protects you from others who may want to buy it if it comes up for renewal.
Actually use your accounts:
The big five social media websites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube) all tend to rank highly in search results, so if you have one of these accounts, you can bet that it will show up in a search for your name. Fill out your profile with photos and information about yourself that you want to be found. Make sure that what you’ve shared on the accounts supports your positive reputation. Use each service to share your expertise, connect with others, and support your personal brand.
Start developing your own online content:
Make your own personal website where you can share everything important online. Build a portfolio that highlights your strengths and accomplishments. Create a blog, Tumblr, or Twitter to share what interests you. Ideally, you’d buy the .com of your full name, and use that to host content. Even if what you’re sharing is not that interesting, owning content that’s associated with your name can help you influence the search engine results that matter for your reputation. Just remember to use your real name, and make sure that what you’re sharing is positive and reflects well on your reputation.
Link to your most positive online results:
If there’s a great news article written about you, or you have writing samples, photos, or a portfolio you’re particularly proud of, highlight it with a link. Share it on social media to encourage natural engagement, which may also help in indirect ranking improvement.
Share your knowledge with others:
Everyone is an expert in something. What is your area of expertise? Consider writing guest posts for blogs that could use your input, or seek out interview opportunities that feature you as an expert. It’s always a good idea to follow Help a Reporter Out alerts to find out where your input might be needed. Most interview or guest post opportunities, especially those on high profile websites, offer a good chance of winning a reputation-supporting link in search results.
Have conversations online:
Comment on news articles that interest you. Follow popular industry blogs, forums, and groups. Stay on top of online discussions for your hobbies and special interests. You should leave insightful comments, ask questions, and help out others online, not only to develop a strong reputation, but to build your network as well. It’s best to use your real name if possible.
Become an authority:
As an authority in your community, you’re more likely to command respect, have positive online search results, and find opportunities for reputation-boosting interactions with the media. You can position yourself as an authority online by starting an online group, participating in Q&A sites like Quora, and sharing your knowledge through online content like videos, podcasts, ebooks, blog posts, and interviews. You can also highlight your expertise by speaking at conferences and industry events (and of course, posting about doing so online).
Share photos online:
Bump down any potentially inappropriate photos in Google Image results by sharing plenty of photos of yourself online, and in a number of different places. They should be head shots, other professional photos, or at least images that will positively reflect your personality. Post them to your accounts on Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, WordPress, Facebook, and more. Be sure to use your real name in the caption and tags so they’ll show up in search results.
VIII. Ultimate Online Reputation Tools
Developing your online reputation isn’t always easy, but with great tools, half of the work is done for you. Use these online reputation management tools to develop a positive online presence.
Sign up for KnowEm’s username search to find more than 500 social networks, domain names, and trademarks. You can discover which ones you’ve claimed, which ones are available, and which ones you need to snap up before someone else does.
Set up Google Alerts for your name, username, and common variations to monitor the web for any new content that may pop up.
Another useful tool for monitoring, Social Mention offers real-time social media search and analysis, allowing you to stay on top of what’s being said about you online.
Manage your entire social media presence conveniently and professionally with HootSuite. Schedule posts, get analytics, and more.
Help a Reporter Out:
Helping reporters can help you, too. Respond to queries on this service to be interviewed and cited as an expert source, both online and off.
IX. Online Reputation Management Rules
With so much to consider and do, online reputation management can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Keep it simple with these basic rules of internet reputation management.
Know what you’re up against:
Research your online reputation to find out what others are seeing when they search your name.
Keep your profiles clean:
Remember that anything you say or post, even privately, can be shared online.
Claim important online accounts:
Gain control of them before someone else does.
Remember that the Internet never forgets:
What you post today can be found online for years to come.
Avoid trouble, online and off:
Getting arrested means your mug shot might end up online. Joining internet tiffs looks bad, too. Don’t give anyone a good reason to write something bad about you.
Use your real name:
Anyone checking out your online reputation will search for your real name, so be sure they can actually find you.
Be active online:
Show signs of life online, but remember to keep it professional, or at least flattering.
Create positive content:
Write content that you’d be proud for others to find. Eventually, it may outrank other results that are less flattering.
Stick to proper grammar:
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the language you use online should be a professional reflection of your persona.
Develop a portfolio:
Give others something to find; better yet, show them your very best work online.
Link to important, positive content:
Tell search engines what you really want to share by linking to it from your profiles, domains, and other online properties you control.
Reputation Management for Car Dealerships
Today, car sales start online. In fact, Google reports 95% of vehicle shoppers start digitally. And shoppers aren’t just finding cars online: they’re finding your reputation, too, with 62% of vehicle shoppers checking professional review sites before making a purchase.
Is your online presence helping or hurting dealership sales? Bad reviews, customer complaints, and negative news stories can all reflect poorly on your dealership, and send customers directly to your competitors. Find out what you can do to put your dealership’s best foot forward online:
Assess your online reputation:
Do a quick Google of your dealership to see what customers are finding when they look for you. Most dealerships will see review websites, social media profiles, and dealership webpage results, possibly even news stories. Consider how they reflect on your dealership: do you have positive ratings from happy customers, active social media, and a useful website?
Read negative reviews:
Don’t worry if you’ve found some harsh feedback: it happens even to the best. But what you do about it is what can set you and your online reputation apart. Consider what your unhappy customers are saying: is there something you really could have done better? Take their opinions to heart and use online feedback to inform customer service and other areas of dealership business. It’s also important to directly (and respectfully) address customers who have left a negative review. Offer a genuine apology, find out what you can do to make it right, and ask them to give you another chance in the future (and maybe even a more positive review to go along with it).
Sniff out fake reviews:
Some dealerships report fake Google reviews, often placed by competing dealerships. This action is clearly a problem for dealerships building a legitimate online reputation. You can fight back by questioning the accuracy of reviews, reporting any suspected false entries to their respective websites — most are eager to review and remove fake feedback.
Encourage positive reviews:
Follow up with customers and ask them to leave reviews. Identify the websites where reviews matter most (the ones that you see first on Google), and direct customers there with a polite request to share their experience. Building a record of positive reviews can give car shoppers confidence and encourage them to shop with you — instead of competitors that may be lacking in positive feedback.
Promote your positives:
If you’ve found positive reviews and feedback for your dealership on a website, blog, or forum, make sure to link to them from your website, social media, or both. Encourage potential shoppers to find great feedback by letting them know it’s out there. And keep in mind that by linking to it, you’re also telling Google that it’s important, helping to push positive content to the top of results.
Develop your online presence:
Many customers today visit third-party shopping and review sites long before they consider which dealership to visit. Make sure you have an online presence and great reviews by registering your dealership on sites like Google+, Cars.com, and Edmunds.