Guest

Online Reputation Management: A How-to Guide

By: Guest | August 23, 2012 | 
68

Today’s guest post is written by Sean McGinnis.

Online reputation management (ORM) is most usually brought front and center when an executive, professional, or brand notices an unflattering item on the first page of a search result.

In reality, it should be carefully managed before you get to that point, but it’s fairly typical people don’t pay attention to it until it becomes a necessity.

ORM is a semi-specialized niche within search engine optimization; the goal of which is to gain control of the first page of search results.

As you’ll see, this discipline goes well beyond SEO to include aspects of PR and external communication, blogging, copywriting, and social media.

I’ve summarized below a list of steps to take when embarking on an online reputation management campaign.

  1. Take an inventory. Audit all the online assets available to you. Sign OUT of Google and run a search for your name. Go three to five pages deep. Grab the URL of every result listed and classify each as positive, negative, or neutral. Now do the same thing on Bing and Yahoo.
  2. Stay alert. Schedule a Google alert for your name to arrive in your email box every time Google finds new material with your name in the content. This will help you stay on top of new results whether or not they hit the first page of search results.
  3. Optimize existing positive assets. Perform basic SEO on pages and assets you categorized as “positive” in step one above. Revisit the pages you can control. Make sure your name is in the title tag of each page. Ensure your name appears in the description field of social media profiles.
  4. Link to existing positive assets. Create links back to “positive” pages that are already performing but need a slight boost. For example, I’ve created a page on my personal blog where I link to guest posts I have written on other blogs. I also use the “publications” area of my LinkedIn profile to do the same thing. And my Google+ page includes the same set of links. You can create personal hubs that link to your social media profiles. Google+ is excellent for this, as are the “personalized home page” or “web resume” type tools. Two good examples are AboutMe and BrandYourself, but there are many others.
  5. Create new positive assets. There are certain tactics you simply MUST do when it comes to ORM. If you have not yet done so, create a complete profile on each of the big four social media locations: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. I also recommend the following profiles: Flickr (Yes – FLICKR!) Quora, Slideshare, Vimeo, and YouTube. Just creating the profiles is not enough. Use each service – at least periodically. Make sure you loop back to step four above and add links to these profiles from your link hubs.
    • Now, create a blog and make sure your name is in the URL. Ideally, you should buy the .com of your name. If that’s not available, buy the .net, .co, .me, or .us version. The subject of the blog is irrelevant. Until a year ago, SeanMcGinnis.com was on the first page of every search I ever did. Now SeanMcGinnis.me is on page one, and I blog there VERY infrequently.
    • Don’t forget about images and video when “creating assets.” Both major search engines offer blended search results, often including images and video in the first or second page of search results. Make sure you are creating images and video titled, tagged, and uploaded with your name.
    • Write guest posts for powerful blogs (ahem). They may not push down powerful profiles (such as Twitter and Facebook), but they may outrank some negative posts.
  6. Don’t wait until you need ORM to start a campaign. If you wait until you need it, it’s already too late. Practice with your name. Then move onto your business or product names. Devote one to two hours per week working on your program and get a head start on the Negative Nellies in the event something does happen.
  7. Check out BrandYourself. I mentioned them above as a good personal page tool. The site is MUCH more than that. Imagine a web 2.0 toolset that embodied ORM for dummies. I’ve been playing with the tool for a few months (they gave me a free paid account for three months to test it) and I was VERY impressed with the ease of use, the recommendations, and the quality of service.

Online reputation management is, in most cases, a relatively simple small-scale SEO effort. It can become complicated quickly, and in extreme cases can become an exceptionally critical business task that can alter the business landscape.

What has been your experience with Online Reputation Management? What is the most successful tactic you’ve used to own the first page of results?

Sean McGinnis is founder of 312 Digital, a digital marketing consultancy and training company that helps companies better sell and market their products and services online. Sean consults, speaks, and writes on a variety of topics related to digital marketing and sales and has led four different internet businesses and digital marketing teams since 1997, including one of the largest organic SEO teams in the U.S.

  • I like the point about logging out of Google. Same thing with other social properties. If you don’t log out, you have an entirely different experience, and you’ll get skewed results.

    •  @KenMueller It’s an absolute must to be logged out. Otherwise you won’t get the view that a “dispassionate observer” might see when they Google you. Your results will be personalized and will include things you visit frequently.
       
      Personalized search can be SO great, but it really clogs up the effort to replicate what “the general public” might see when they conduct searches.

      •  @Sean McGinnis  @KenMueller If I’m not mistaken, you get the same “logged-out” benefit by using an Incognito window in the Chrome browser. But maybe I’ll have to experiment with that. 

        •  @barrettrossie  @KenMueller I think that’s right. You could also like use some sort of a proxy server or VPN to achieve the same result, I suppose, but you’d still have to be signed out of Google with those two tactics (I believe).

      •  @Sean McGinnis  @KenMueller fyi, from the information page on the Google Incognito page:  
        “Browsing in incognito mode only keeps Google Chrome from storing information about the websites you’ve visited. The websites you visit may still have records of your visit. Any files saved to your computer or mobile devices will still remain.
        “For example, if you sign into your Google Account on http://www.google.com while in incognito mode, your subsequent web searches are recorded in your Google Web History. In this case, to prevent your searches from being stored in your Google Account, you’ll need to pause your Google Web History tracking.”
         
        But… when I’ logged into my Google account, then open an Incognito window, it doesn’t automatically log me in. (At least when I tried it a couple of times.)  Which is all pretty handy for researching your SERP rank.

  • seanmcginnis

    @AnneReuss That’s the nicest things anyones tweeted to me in the last 3 hours! 😉

    • AnneReuss

      @seanmcginnis what is wrong with people then?! But hey if that makes me look good….:)

  • seanmcginnis

    @360connext *blushing* Thank you friend! Hope to see you again soon. BTW, GREAT guess you sent over via email. Probably right.

  • Sean, you continue to offer great advice and guidance.  Really appreciate your perspective!

    •  @westfallonline Thanks Chris. I appreciate the kind words my friend. Still hoping to meet you in person one of these days. You in Chicago any time soon?

  • What about existing negative assets? Is it enough to overcome them with positive assets?

  • seanmcginnis

    @lisagerber hahah! One and only. THAT’s funny. Thanks for editing it down! Appreciate that. #IGetLongWindedSometimes

    • lisagerber

      @seanmcginnis #verylongwinded. No problem. I had great material to work with. 🙂

  • seanmcginnis

    @tbartlett21 Thanks for sharing the ORM post Todd! Really appreciate it.

  • What about existing negative assets? Is it enough to overcome them with positive assets?

  • What about existing negative assets? Is it enough to overcome them with positive assets?

    •  @pshapiro Great question. We edited out a section tat was originally devoted to that topic for brevity. Here it is in it’s entirety.
       
      **********
      Minimize negative result
      By optimizing existing assets and building new ones, your objective is to push negative and/or neutral search results off the first page. Sometimes there’s another way. Here’s a quick list of ways you can try to make a negative post go away.
       
      Ask the publisher to remove it. Nicely.
       
      Address the underlying issue that prompted the negative content – and be sure the original creator is fully satisfied with the outcome. Perhaps suggest they “update” the post – thus turning a “negative” post into one that highlights your responsiveness.
       
      If the post is illegal, abusive or threatening you can report it to the hosting company.
       
      Ask the search engines to remove the search result from their index. This usually only works only if the poster has posted private information or info that otherwise violates the law.
      *********
       
      9 times out of 10 the best (and only) way to deal with negative results is to outperform them with positive results. BUT it sure can be cheaper and faster to work with the owner of that negative result if you can get them to remove it or turn them around in some way.

      •  @Sean McGinnis Wow. Thanks for the prompt response. That completely addresses my question!

  • We are helping a client with this right now. We’re recommending a blog as a great long-term strategy but it will take time for it to build authority and push out negative items in the search results, so the guest blogging and by-lined articles on authoritative sites is a great way to try to get faster results. 
     
    It’s too early to report results, but I’ll let you know!!

  • gayanemar

    Brand yourself as you would a product RT @ginidietrich Seven tips for managing your online reputation by @seanmcginnis http://t.co/frtImIc4

  • airport_girl

    @ginidietrich @seanmcginnis fantastic post – thank you for sharing!

  • Whew! Just glad we got into the double digits on the commenting system for this post. Otherwise, I NEVER wold have lived it down… THANKS everyone! 😉 cc ginidietrich 

  • margieclayman

    Oh Sean…you must have a heckuva time with this with all of the terrible things I post about you everywhere 😀
     
    Great post. True story – I googled someone’s name once and the first Google result was “F-u name of person.” Turns out the person I knew shared a name with a rather unpopular judge. D’oh. 

    •  @margieclayman Hahaha. So true. You NEVER know what’s out there until you check it out. I have a GREAT true story that is not  fit for the public relative to me own name too. Remind me when we’re in the same room and I’ll tell ya all about it.

      •  @Sean McGinnis  @margieclayman Oh! oh! Did you know Lisa Gerber was in the Wonder Years? Yep. uh huh. 

        •  @Lisa Gerber  @margieclayman Hahahaha! That’s awesome. Are you sure it wasn’t you?
           
          As you know I gave a seminar on this last week and one of the guys in the audience was named Jeffrey Gordon. Kind of hard to “compete” with one of the greatest race car drivers of all time….

  • Sean, this is fantastic, I’ve been looking for this exact article. Two things:
     
    1-  Any specific suggestions for monitoring social media in the broadest sense — blogs, discussion forums, etc.?  
    2- A not-so-quick story: There’s an evil lyin’ cheatin’ home mortgage company from California, full of lyin’  cheatin, bastards who advertise misleading information on the radio. There must be hundreds of blog posts about them.  The State of Washington Department of Financial Institutions eventually found them guilty of being lyin’ cheatin’ bastards and fined them (not nearly enough, for all the pain they inflicted on people). The top search results for their name for several months included “Mortgage Company Found Guilty” and many similar variants. I featured them in a post about false advertising. 
     
    Well, less than a year later, you have to really look for any mention of their crime — or do a specific long-tail search. I know they used your tactic 5 to accomplish this as the search results for their name are dominated by PR fluff. The average Joe would never know about their shady past. 
     
    Just for fun: Paramount Equity Morgage 
    http://www.dfi.wa.gov/CS%20Orders/C-07-405-09-CO01.pdf

  • Sean, this is fantastic, I’ve been looking for this exact article. Two things:
     
    1-  Any specific suggestions for monitoring social media in the broadest sense — blogs, discussion forums, etc.?  
     
    2- A not-so-quick story: There’s an evil lyin’ cheatin’ home mortgage company from California, full of lyin’  cheatin, bastards who advertise misleading information on the radio. There must be hundreds of blog posts about them.  The State of Washington Department of Financial Institutions eventually found them guilty of being lyin’ cheatin’ bastards and fined them (not nearly enough, for all the pain they inflicted on people). The top search results for their name for several months included “Mortgage Company Found Guilty” and many similar variants. I featured them in a post about false advertising. 
     
    Well, less than a year later, you have to really look for any mention of their crime — or do a specific long-tail search. I know they used your tactic 5 to accomplish this as the search results for their name are dominated by PR fluff. The average Joe would never know about their shady past. 

    •  @barrettrossie There are certainly other listening platforms beyond Google Alerts that can do this for you. If you already have a subscription to one of them, then by all means go ahead an use that. Vocus comes to mind as one potential for this.
       
      That said, Google Alerts does an awfully good job and is free, so I would start with that, It’s not real time and not completely comprehensive, but it is good enough for most needs that aren’t mission critical.
       
      I’ll definitely check out the searches related to the story you told.
       
      One of the things that I’ve noticed is that freshness is an important aspect to things ranking in situations like the one you described above. Once that story loses heat, it’s inevitable that it will fade away over time in both memory and in rankings. There are things you can do to keep it up there in Google, but it takes a bit of a commitment.

  • I absolutely love, love this post, Sean. And, it gives me another reason to say hi when you’ve been absent, and I mean totally absent, from the stream. You’re ignoring us all for FB and G+? 
     
    I’ve been on BrandYourself about a month now, and have to say it is a no brainer for anyone wanting tips on how to improve SEO…it guides  you on how and what to do; easy. Great to have you recommend it here, though. 
     
    This counsel is so thorough; gonna bookmark and reference. So many people just do social without keen knowledge about the back end and how it all aligns in hubs and spokes. So happy to say I’m farther along in all this than I was a year ago, but really didn’t know the context of it all. Many thanks.

    •  @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing Hi Jayme! I’ve been so crazy busy there just hasn’t been much time for the stream. I’ve been somewhat active on Twitter lately, but getting MUCH more engagement on Facebook. Hands down. And I’ve been noodling on why that is exactly, but haven’t come to any real conclusions.
       
      I’m in love with http://BrandYourself.com. The team there has absolutely NAILED it in terms of ORM for people with zero seo experience. It’d truly brilliant in every aspect. The usability. The way they walk you through the process with actionable recommendations. Even the terminology they use “boost your links” – brought down to an understandable level. Really nicely done all the way around.
       
      Another tool worth knowing is http://knowem.com – its a tool that gives you a super fast overview of over 600+ social platforms – tell you whether your name is available to create a profile on. Really cool.

  • seanmcginnis

    @jocmbarnett Thanks for sharing my @SpinSucks post John. Nice to meet you. #Followed

    • jocmbarnett

      @seanmcginnis The pleasure is all mine Sean. Enjoyed the post!

  • cksyme

    Great stuff here–I get asked this all the time and it’s good to be able to recommend a resource with some solid step-by-step advice that isn’t written in nerd lingo or is so vague it offers no help. Thanks.

    •  @cksyme Glad you found it useful. Happy to help. 🙂

  • ginidietrich

    @Soulati I miss you

  • Frank_Strong

    @oms3biz Thanks for the RT on the Google pitch story.

  • RepAdvice

    Fantastic breakdown on the basic of ORM. Another little tip that can really help some situations is to see if the person/business in question qualifies for a Wikipedia page. If so, this listing is almost a guaranteed page one web property.

    •  @RepAdvice  ABSOLUTELY! Great point. A sure win if you have a brand or name that would qualify for Wikipedia.

  • seanmcginnis

    @DobiesGroup thank you very much!

  • JimmyLalani

    Great Posting, was very informative to me.

  • 2morrowknight

    Online Reputation Management: A How-to Guide http://t.co/8c2mLYwd RT @SpinSucks @brasonja @sheconsulting

  • seanmcginnis

    @Croaghie Thank you so much for sharing my guest post on Reputation Management!

    • Fernandonve5jj

      @seanmcginnis http://t.co/Q1RESKvK

    • Croaghie

      @seanmcginnis my pleasure Sean it was a good article. Hope yr w/e is going well!

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  • stanleymathis98

    Hello i am new to this term and i must say you have explained it in a very simplest way . Liked you style of writing . Thanks !
     
    http://pictoguard.com/

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  • wallestate

    Reputation management does work. Although negative comments are pushed off the first page and still may be found on the second or third page. When I have a new client, before I charge them anything I will review the situation. I once had someone inquire about my services and the negative link they wanted to remove was from a major newspapers website. I told them it was most likely not going to be realistic to remove it from the first page and would not take the clients money. 
    A lot of times the negative reviews come from sites that allow people to give negative reviews to businesses with no merit. I’m not going to mention them by name, but there are tons of them. When I review a individuals or companies situation if I know it can be pushed off the first page we will proceed. 
    There is a trust factor when hiring a reputation management company. For example, when I’m hired I will need to create at least one or more email accounts for the client and create some new accounts on the net for the purpose of creating positive links in the place of the negative one. Any company that doesn’t ask for this, I would be suspect of. You have to create new accounts for the client to remove bad links.
    Another strategy that has to be discussed before any work is done, is what kind of links would be acceptable to use to replace the bad links. In short, reputation management does work and is extremely valuable because potential customers will run if they see negative reviews, regardless if they are truthful or not.

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  • abdulrahmanazalomran

    I am planning to start my own business in ORM how I can go about doing that

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  • ronzwiki

    To help improve your online reputation contact an established Wikipedia Editor working for Wikipedia since 2005 with over 80,000 edits and a strong reputation with Wikipedia Admins. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Ronz
    Services provided:
    Online Reputation Monitoring
    Creation and managing your personal page on worlds largest free encyclopedia (Wikipedia)
    Making sure your image is maintained online through my support and network of editors
    Corporate Wikipedia accounts
    Personal biographies
    Competition monitoring and disabling strategy to create issues on your competitions wiki-page
    ronzwiki@gmail.com for more info on affordable package details.

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