Sean McGinnis

Online Reputation Management: How to Dominate Search Results

By: Sean McGinnis | March 31, 2014 | 

Online Reputation ManagementBy Sean McGinnis

Let’s talk online reputation management.

I have a doozy of a story for you.

Iin 2001, I served an important role in the adult film industry.

At least, I did if you believed what Google had to say about me.

In 2001, an independent art film called The Fluffer was released.

If you don’t know what a fluffer is or does, I’m not going to describe it for you here. (Editor’s Note: Does it involve pillows?)

But, if you are just DYING to know, you can check out this (NSFW) definition over on Urban Dictionary.

So, back to my story. Someone released an art’y porn flick. Big deal, right?

Except the main character, the title character, THE FLUFFER was named… wait for it… Sean McGinnis.

Online Reputation Management

(My abs look EXACTLY like that, but that’s not my face.)

Online Reputation Management and Adult Films

So, there I was, minding my own business, managing a team of sales professionals selling websites to lawyers up and down the east coast.

Then I decided to Google myself to see what might pop up – something I did every now and again.

I. Was. Mortified.

A slightly different set of search results than what I was used to.

Nearly all 10 results were links to reviews of this little movie. They all mentioned the fictional character that just happened to have my name.

After having a fun time laughing about it (I do have a sense of humor after all), I went to work on reclaiming what I thought was mine.

I wanted to ensure I controlled that first page of search results when you searched for “Sean McGinnis.”

Google Search and First Page Results

During the last several years of working to control the first page of results (currently seven of the top 10 Google results are mine), I’ve thought long and hard about the shock and dismay I felt when I first saw those search results.

There are many specific recommendations I’ve shared previously about how to dominate search results for your name or business.

In fact, I’ve recommended specific tactics for managing your online reputation management before.

But there is undoubtedly one lesson I learned that day that far surpasses all the other lessons I’ve learned since.

The first, and most important lesson I can teach you about managing your online reputation is this:

Start Managing Your Online Reputation Before You Need To

If you wait until you NEED to manage your online reputation, it’s already too late.

If you’re reacting to a negative result you have found, then it may have already cost you personally or professionally.

Here are two hypothetical examples to get you thinking about aggressively managing your online reputation.

  1. Imagine a doctor’s office affected by a disgruntled customer who takes to the web after a less than perfect surgical outcome. The doctor performs a specific surgery that is elective in nature. Several prospective patients have called just prior to their scheduled surgery to cancel the procedure. Those negative search results could be costing that doctor tens of thousands of dollars per month.
  2. Imagine a professional with great credentials. This professional finds a job that is a terrific fit for their skills. They apply for the job. The hiring manager is intrigued by their background and runs a search to find out more about the would-be candidate. The hiring manager finds a number of unprofessional and unflattering pictures scattered across Google images and social media accounts. The candidate never hears from the company, as the hiring manager moves on to other candidates.

Both of these potential scenarios are very real and may be costing your business – or your career – right now, without you even knowing it.

So I ask you… What are you going to do about it? As for me? I’m off to fluff…my pillows!! I’m fluffing my pillows!

About Sean McGinnis

Sean McGinnis is founder of 312 Digital, a digital marketing consultancy 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.

  • What a terrific story and an important point. 

    Mine’s nowhere near as “interesting,” as I have once or twice been confused with Clay Morgan, an author up in Idaho. I even got a fan email intended for him once.

    But it definitely illustrates the challenge of protecting one’s personal reputation in this day and age.

  • ClayMorgan Agree with Clay — fabulous example (and hey thx for those ab pix) and yes I did go google my name before coming over here to comment. 🙂

  • Oh my god, I haven’t had this much fun with a post in a looooooong time. But Clay is right. It’s SUCH a valuable story! Sean, you were very brave in sharing this. Standing ovation!

  • Wow Sean! I would have freaked out if that happened to me. At least you were able to get control of the search results and manage your reputation. I’m still dying over the cover you guys posted!

  • I would never have known what a fluffer was if it hadn’t been for Boogie Nights (which also includes an amazing performance by the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman).
    I recently had someone contact me and attempt to buy a domain name from me – it’s my name. I own it, even though I don’t do anything with it. They started by offering $100. I countered with something like $50,000 (I’m not selling my name for anything less than a down payment on a house), and they did come back at $1,000, but it still wasn’t worth it to me. And the exact reason I though was “what if it’s a porn star!”

  • @jason_  Don’t believe Sean and his spin. That’s actually him back when he had hair.

  • But your sex life improved dramatically after that fateful day….and yes, I do notice the physical resemblance.

    At least you knew how to minimize your 15 minutes of fame; hopefully the ‘Sean’ didn’t turn into a Rambo sequel or something. And, it is a good thing you have a sense of humor. That’s why I renewed my domain name, I was afraid someone would turn it into a gay porno site. I have nothing whatsoever against gays or that lifestyle; however, I might have some ‘splaining to do if that happened…:).

  • KateNolan

    Classic defense “It wasn’t me!” Sure… That said, I very much appreciate that the sock pictures you post are of your feet. I actually couldn’t tell you the last time I googled myself, but it is pretty much what I expected: a combo of some of my social media accounts with other “strangers” mixed in. I do get some tweets for a Kate Nolan that is an author, but that’s about it. Nothing as “exciting” as porn!

  • OMG! This is hilarious Sean!

    Great, over-the-top, example of the importance of Personal Branding. I started working on my online brand during my last year at University, and have never stopped. It’s really important, especially nowadays when clients, hiring managers, and prospects head to the mighty Google to look you up further!

    Great story, great warning. Great post 🙂

  • danielghebert  Thanks Daniel! Now imagine you own a business, but never bothered to think, plan or work on proactively managing your online reputation. 

    The consequences could be devastating. I’m still shocked that there are businesses out there who do not care about what others say about them online.

  • KateNolan  I’m really, REALLY hoping that despite this being public knowledge you still call me Skittles. 😉

  • bdorman264  Let’s just say that when I take my shirt off, I TOTALLY look like that guy in the picture. 


  • Eleanor Pierce  OMG! Boogie nights is in my top 20 movies of all time. PSH (and the rest fo the cast) was amazing in that movie. 

    I love the domain name story. Smart move (IMHO). 

    I’m curious…. at what price would you have said “yes?”

  • belllindsay @jason_  Totally me when i had hair. My body still looks just like that Jason.

  • ClayMorgan  Thanks Clay! I had a lot of fun writing it too.

  • I was speaking at a conference and they had given me a nametag with “Matt Hale” right around the time white supremacist Matt Hale was arrested for trying to hire a hitman to kill a judge. Luckily I only got a single day of funny looks!

    As for my actual name, I battle it out regularly with a car dealership, sheriff and a musician.

  • KateNolan

    Sean McGinnis Skittles is forever! You’re stuck with that.

  • MikeHale  Nice! 

    My current nemesis is a visual artist who works in large big 3d string installations as his medium. 

    And some dude who’s Flickr account I just can’t seem to beat out for some reason. Ugh.

    Here’s an example of the string artist’s work.

  • KateNolan

    Sean McGinnis MikeHale  Mike, I kind of what the sheriff to be a musician who owns a car dealership…

  • Sean McGinnis Such a good movie! 
    And, I’m not sure where my line was. The down payment on a house line was pretty accurate though — five figures minimum. What would your price be? This would actually be a fun party game with PR/digital communicator types …

  • Yes, whoever photoshopped that guy onto your movie poster was excellent.

  • Sean McGinnis bdorman264  I want proof. On here. Today.

  • I have no words.

  • jeanniecw  Sure you do. You’re just choosing not to use them… 😉

  • AmyMccTobin  Right? Fantastic photoshop skills. Made that guy look exactly like me. Crazy…

  • Keena Lykins

    LOL! How did you manage it with current and potential clients? Lawyers, I’ve noticed, can have a wicked sense of humor.

    I manage two online personas (one for my novels and the other for my profession) and so far bleed through has been limited. Of course, I tend to be very honest about my second life because I assume eventually the two worlds will collide, although I expected it about three years ago.

  • What … just happened here!? All I know is I saw Sean McGinnis , “fluffer,” and then my eyes were pulled faster and faster down the page through “NSFW,” past a piping hot plate of abs, and then Sean was saying “I’m off to fluff!” And then I passed out.
    Eventually I came to and finished reading and it all makes a bit more sense now.
    I only began to manage my online reputation via obsessive Googling a little over a year and a half ago, as I knew my time at school was drawing to a close, and I knew employers would be researching me online very soon. I also knew that since I have a very unique name, there would be no question that any results were about me.
    You never know what you might find. Would you believe I uncovered some creepy bullying from 2007 that I had never found before? I was able to take control of that situation and have it taken down. But even if I hadn’t, the proactive work I have done online paints a picture of me as far more than a victim. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” as Gini says. Create and participate — that’s how you tell your own story!

  • StorewarsNews

    article! Here is something equally interesting: Unilever Is Breaking Out &
    Could Go Higher, full story here:

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  • Fluffy was best movie ever. We have the DVD. My kids love how Fluffy the Puppy saves the school from being bulldozed to build a shopping mall…..wait….not the right movie?

    It’s funny I never wanted to be in the Google. My career change choice changed that. I used to be a World Series of poker runner up. Now I am all over the Google. But I have always been a big user of the tool to check people out especially with so many shysters in marketing/advertising/..ahem PR. 

    But there is one side you left off. If you have a presence it should be a good one. Two years ago my ex-partner met a public speaking coach. He told her all this stuff and he was going to exchange training for a new website. When I checked him out I thought I knew more than him about his trade. In January my longest client went in another direction with a slick talking guy who had been on TV and had a modestly successful website aimed at the 15-23 year olds who need male grooming tips. I checked him out and was like…did you not google this guy?

    So the good is just as much important as the bad that might show up!

  • Having a weird name like mine made growing up tough. The mocking, the confusion, the misspelling and mispronunciations.
    But it wasn’t until the digital age that I realized what an advantage it is. Anyone who looks can find me (though I suppose that has its downsides), and there’s nobody else with my name—online, at least.
    (There is a Robert Biesenbach who’s been buried in a Texas cemetery since around 1850, but he’s not hard to outrank on the Google.)
    The lesson? If you have a common surname, give your kid the weirdest, most outlandish name there is. He or she will hate you for a couple of decades but will ultimately see the advantages.

  • seanmcginnis

    howiegoldfarb Hahahahahaha. Best. Hashtag. Ever.

  • RobBiesenbach  I can second this advice!

  • I laughed SO hard at that story. Good thing I work at home. Your story reminds me of Molly Wood – formerly an editor at CNET – who has always had to battle with Molly Wood the porn star. Mind you, Molly Wood the journalist has a pretty good platform for staying on top and also letting people know about that other Molly Wood. 

    With a name like mine, and given that there’s a Karen Wilson purse company, I may never have the top result, but I’m really happy that I have over half the results on the first page. If I wasn’t active on social channels and have decently optimized sites (we have some work to do there), it would probably a lot harder for people to find me.

  • My sides ache from laughing.

  • BAHAHAHAHAHA! I’m crying from laughing…and I spit coffee across the room! I especially love the Chicago Tribune review “Sly and hilarious!” – that sounds about right! 🙂

  • I’d comment on how hilarious and scary this post is but I am still over on the urban dictionary educating myself on the nuances of porn. One thing for sure, I will never eat another fulffernutter sandwich.

  • Karen_C_Wilson  Yup, I went to grade school with a Karen Wilson! At least one.

  • RobBiesenbach And I was Karen Chapman before I got married, so it’s pretty much been that way my entire life! The best was when a nurse at the doctor’s office pulled my file once, looked at it, looked at me, then said, “You weren’t born in 1952.” Nope, I sure wasn’t.

  • This made my entire day yesterday…and yesterday was a REALLY BIG day! How did I not know this before now!? So many great jokes to be made!

  • What a great post, Sean! I actually cover this subject a lot for my job, and this is just a great example. I think I may actually reference this story for a future post I’ll write for them.
    Thanks for sharing! It’s not every day you read a post from a former port star trying to pretend they never “fluffed” themselves for porn videos. (Haha, just playing!) 😛
    All good points here!

  • Sean, you told this story totally differently on our SpinSucks.xx site! But regardless this is maybe one of the best case studies I’ve ever read! 

    This also gives ginidietrich like endless material, so that was a generous launch day gift of you!

  • Hy-Sterical.  Kudos for managing to beat the SEO machine that is porn.  Hopefully, the movie doesn’t spin off into an incredibly successful franchise.  🙂

    Though, now, my husband can’t call me crazy for spending a year “owning” my married (and far more generic) name online before legally making the change.  Too many Heather Tweedy’s have been publicly arrested ………..

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  • MeghanMBiro

    bostonfields ginidietrich a ha ha…clearly 😉

  • bostonfields

    MeghanMBiro ginidietrich 😉

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  • photo chris

    Karen_C_Wilson RobBiesenbach  how nice of them to notice!

  • photo chris

    danielghebert  all hail google?

  • photo chris

    Eleanor Pierce  Early in my career as a wedding photojournalist I teased a male photog and friend about what a great “fluffer” he was (he was laying out the train of the dress for a picture, or “fluffing it”). The joke, however, was on me after he filled me in on the ah, other, more colorful definitions of the word, and I laughed so hard (and turned beet red) that I nearly peed my pants. 

    Sean- it’s good to have something to fall back on these days. Maybe you leave it at the bottom of the page one search. You know, just in case.

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  • I just got around to reading this. My only thought is that you just strengthed the link between the movie title and your name. At least it tells the true story.

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