Online Reputation Repair in 6 Easy Steps – The Ultimate Guide

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So, what do you do? Where do you work? Oh, that sounds really interesting, I’ve got to get you in touch with my partner. What’s your name again? The company’s name? Do you have a card?

If you’re in the midst of a career change, go to professional conferences, are an entrepreneur or a businessperson, you probably take part in this kind of conversation at least once a month.

Online Reputation RepairOne of the first thing you learn in business is to be able to whip out your ‘elevator pitch’. This is a very short summary (between thirty seconds and two minutes, where the first eight seconds are the most crucial), in which you explain exactly what it is you do, what service you provide, what product you have and what your company does. Anyone who’s tried writing a pitch like that knows that it’s not an easy challenge. Writing for someone who doesn’t know you or your company is a process that gets you thinking, and can inspire fresh insights such as “What do I actually do?”

What’s all this got to do with online reputation management? Assuming that the potential employer / partner / investor / date you just met at the conference wasn’t just being polite when they spoke to you, the next step they’ll take before arranging a meeting or calling you is search for your name on Google. It’ll take them a few seconds to judge whether what they see in the search results really reflects what you said in your elevator speech, and if not, your chances of ever seeing them again greatly diminish. In order to build up a perfect online reputation, follow the steps in this article.

1. Analyze your situation

Type your full name or your company’s name in Google, and make an Excel spreadsheet with all the results that come up on the first three pages. Decide what changes you’d like to make. Mark all the results that you’d like to come up first in green, and the ones you’d rather remove or push down, in red. Positive results are a subjective decision, of course, and what’s good for one person isn’t necessarily good for others. Businessmen don’t want to see an old enterprise, a personal blog, or social network profiles that don’t directly relate to their business come up in the first page of search results. But anyone who’s had lawsuits filed against them, or just doesn’t have relevant content out there, would be happy to have their social profile on page one.

2. Removing harmful content

In most cases, properly building up an online reputation includes distributing relevant original content about the brand or person whose reputation is being managed, and promoting this content to the first page of search results in a way that accurately reflects their reputation and experience in the real world. In some cases, however, the first page contains negative references such as old lawsuits, negative reviews, and even content intentionally written to harm your reputation, such as defamation and libel. In such case, you should first deal with the negative references and only afterwards continue to the following steps.

Removing harmful content (1) – start from the source

Try contacting the owner of the website and ask them to take down the harmful content. On big websites, the chances of this working are slim, but in the case of smaller sites there’s a good chance of being taken seriously, especially when the content is obviously offensive and damaging your reputation. In extreme cases, if the site manager refuses to take down the content, a letter from a lawyer can solve the problem.

Removing harmful content (2) – contacting the search engines themselves

The aim is to remove unwanted results from the search engines themselves, and especially from Google. In the (probable) case that the first step didn’t work, you can turn to the search engines:

Remove content from someone else’s site

You can find three content removal options:

  • Remove content for legal reasons
  • Remove personal information
  • Remove content that’s not live

3. Creating branded online assets

Google prefers strong websites, sites that are considered authorities in their field. Google especially likes profiles on the leading social networking sites, and you can see that when you type someone’s name in Google, there’s a good chance that the first results will be their profile on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other well-known networks. Google indexes these sites much more frequently, and gives them an advantage in the page ranking.

The leading social networks that you should have an updated profile on are:

  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Vimeo
  • Flickr

Setting up a profile on a social network is quick and simple, but is absolutely useless if you don’t use it properly. Look what Seth Godin, a global marketing guru, has to say about it:

  • Update relevant content regularly. Don’t bother opening a YouTube channel if you have nothing to put there.
  • Gathering ‘friends’ whom you don’t know and have nothing to do with your field is a waste of time.
  • Social networks are meant for two-way communication. One-way advertising isn’t effective.

To have Google index your site under the correct brand name, you have to do some basic site optimization: use your full name and not nicknames, place the brand name in the title, and, if possible, create a short URL that contains the brand name too. There are other things you can do to make your site Google-friendly, and take control of the title and description that Google displays in its results, but we’ll cover that in a separate guide.

4. Building a personal website

Having your own website using your brand name come up first on Google’s search results looks great and presents you as serious and web-savvy. Anyone looking to seriously improve their online reputation can and should create a website or a blog containing their resume, media reports, and their own articles. Online resumes are steadily replacing traditional ones. How can you do all this? You have two choices:

  • Setting up a personal blog on a popular blogging platform (The cheapest way).
  • Setting up a personal blog on your own web domain (The recommended way).

5. Promoting positive results and demoting negative results

If you ask Siri (Apple’s virtual assistant app) where to bury a corpse, you’ll get a serious answer (try it yourself, or look it up on Youtube!) If you ask a cynical SEO guy the same question, he’ll probably tell you “on the third page of Google”…

Getting rid of negative results (or results that are simply irrelevant to your reputation) is done by ranking results that we want to emphasis, and thus pushing the negative results down the ranks.

Here are the results of a study, which show why it’s so important for your reputation that you appear on the first page of Google (Chitika 2013):

Chitika 2013You can easily see that, on average, 92% of web traffic comes from sites listed on the first page of Google. 32.5% comes from the first result on the page, 17.6% from the second, and 11.4% from the third. Only 8% of web traffic ever gets to sites not listed on the first page of search results on Google.

Google’s search algorithm takes hundreds of factors into consideration when calculating the position for each search term. The two most important are:

  • Internally optimized sites and pages. Just by optimizing the page in the right way, we can help Google understand what the main keyword that describes the page. In most cases, it’s enough to have the brand name (your name or your company’s) in the title tag and in the Meta description.
  • The number and strength of the links leading to the page you’re trying to promote. For a start, make sure that all your online assets link to each other, and that your blog links to your social networks and vice versa.

If you have a way of getting links from other websites to your site, that’s great, as long as they’re relevant sites and not full of spam. If you want to promote your site using competitive keywords, which are not necessarily your brand name, it’s best to turn to a professional SEO company.

6. Privacy settings on social networks

Anything private should stay private. Make sure that only the information that you wouldn’t mind seeing online is visible to others. Having an embarrassing photo online is no longer only a celebrity’s problem. Everyone can be harmed by incorrect privacy settings. Deleting unflattering photos and taking control of the privacy settings on Facebook and LinkedIn is absolutely necessary. Read the guides on this site for how to do that best.

Conclusion

The whole issue of reputation management by pushing negative results away is legitimate and legal, even according to Google. This is what they write about it:

“If you can’t get the content removed from the original site, you probably won’t be able to completely remove it from Google’s search results, either. Instead, you can try to reduce its visibility in the search results by proactively publishing useful, positive information about yourself or your business.” (Google Support).

Building and maintaining social network profiles on relevant platforms, setting up your own website and promoting existing content, all this will cause unwanted negative content to be buried deep down the results list, and will let you have the first page of Google filled with content you can be proud of, to the point where you can finish your elevator pitch with a confident “Google me!”

Why your Traditional Resume is Irrelevant

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Already sent out hundreds of resumes with no response? If you’re convinced that you’ve done everything you can, and there’s nothing more to do but wait for the next interview, you’d better read this article, because you’re missing something important.

Traditional resumeFinding a senior-level job is frustrating

A fifteen-year high-tech career, ten to twelve hours a day, sometimes more. You built your career up from scratch, quickly being promoted to a management job, and then another, and then one more. A few years later you were given an offer you couldn’t refuse – vice-president of a promising new start-up, maybe, or another management position in a large company with incredible job perks. And you’ve even had a few articles written about you on the right websites, and you’ve been interviewed here and there. Everyone knows you have something to offer, it’s just that right now you don’t really have anyone to offer it to

Start-ups open up and shut down, large companies fire senior workers and replace them with new ones every time they sniff a recession. Even though you survived several rounds of cuts, the time came and you’ve found yourself out of work too. You’ve got plenty of skills and experience, fifteen years is enough to be a professional – so how is it that you’ve been sending hundreds of resumes out for the past six months, and nothing’s happened yet?

The other version of your resume

It might be that you haven’t taken into consideration your other resume, the one written by the virtual community and edited by Google: a collection of online fingerprints that show up on search engines under your name. Regardless of whether you’re looking for a job, business connections, new acquaintances or potential investors, anyone who ever wants to know anything about you will type your name into Google (just like you’ve done a few times yourself too). This phenomenon is known as ‘online reputation research’, and an increasing number of organizations make use of it. According to a Microsoft survey from 2010, your online reputation plays an important role in your personal and professional life, and is a significant factor in recruitment decisions. In fact, good internet presence is more likely to get you a job than a good economic climate.

In the last few years, recruitment and HR managers have been looking at your online background as part of the recruitment process. This is becoming more and more commonplace, and in some companies is even written in their standard operating procedures. You might think that what you do online on social networks in your own spare time is nobody else’s business, but that’s not exactly true. Studies have shown that a manager’s personal reputation is connected and affects the reputation of the whole company.

Some facts

Even without the company’s reputation being connected to yours, many employers would reject you after they search online and find some pictures from last year’s New Year’s Eve party, the kind you wouldn’t proudly show your boss anywhere. So why does a potential employer have access to them? It’s also just as bad to be a senior-level executive manager, who’s done a thing or two in his life, and not have anything online to show for it. His global resume is lacking any kind of professional content.

Here are the top four reasons that recruiters turn away candidates for, based on their online reputation (Microsoft, 2010):

 

Information TypeU.S.U.K.GermanyFrance
Concerns about the candidate’s lifestyle58%45%42%32%
Inappropriate comments and text written by the candidate56%57%78%58%
Unsuitable photos , videos, and information55%51%44%42%
Inappropriate comments or text written by friends and relatives43%35%14%11%

It’s interesting to see that apart from the second reason, all the other types of online reputation (especially the  fourth) don’t directly depend on the candidate, and aren’t always in their control.

Where do recruiters and HR professionals go to look for information on their candidates? Most people think that social networks are the main source of information, but actually search engines are the preferred tool for online reputation research (Microsoft, 2010):

 

Percent of recruiters and HR professionals who use these types of sites when researching applicants
Search engines78%
Social networking sites63%
Photo and video sharing sites59%
Professional and business networking sites57%
Personal Web sites48%
Blogs46%
News sharing sites (e.g. Twitter)41%

Several researchers have studied how online reputation affects careers and personal lives, especially regarding job recruitment and employment. Here are some interesting facts that came up in the Microsoft study, among others:

  • 87% of consumers connect a CEO’s reputation to that of his or her company (Hill & Knowlton).
  • 86% of recruiters and HR professionals say that good online reputation increases the candidate’s chance of being employed
  • 50% of them say that it considerably raises their chances.
  • 75% of US companies have implemented procedures requiring online research as part of the recruitment process.
  • 70% of recruiters and HR professionals have rejected a candidate because of information found online.
  • 7% of job applicants in the US think that online content can harm their chances of being employed.

How can I help Google show my resume the way I want?

Type your name into Google and look at the results that come up on the first page. Are there any negative results there, such as bad coverage or lawsuits from the past? Are the results actually about you, and are they updated and relevant? What about your profile picture on social networking sites? Is that the way you want to be seen by potential employers, colleagues, or investors? Probably not.

The process of creating an online reputation that will accurately reflect your true resume, and focus on what you want to do, is highly dependent on your current online presence:

  • The number of positive and negative references to you that appear in search engine results, their position on the results page, and the sites that they are hosted on.
  • Your profile on the various social networks. Is it updated? Is it relevant to what you’re looking for?

Depending on the current situation, you should set up an action plan consisting of the following steps:

  • Update your social network profiles.
  • Update your privacy settings on social networks.
  • Add new and relevant content (articles, new profiles, personal website).
  • Promote wanted results to the top of the search page.
  • As a result of the above steps, unwanted content will be pushed down and away.

Read the entire guide for creating a perfect reputation to learn more on how to apply the whole plan, step by step. It’s not inconceivable that in the near future our online resume will replace the traditional one. Good online reputation can improve your professional and personal situation: job hunts, collaborations, investor relations, and even in social interactions and dating. It’s important to understand that this process takes time, and it’s worth starting right away, so that next time you meet someone at a conference, you can simply give them a business card with just your name and profession, and casually say “Google me!”

What is Online Reputation Management?

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“Whether true or false, what is said about men often has as much influence on their lives, and particularly on their destinies, as what they do.” (Victor Hugo)

What is online reputation managementYou get to a professional conference, sign up at the entrance and clip on your nametag, peek at your phone and see that you’ve arrived a bit early. Good time to grab a coffee and croissant before the refreshments stall gets too crowded. As you sip, you take a look around, trying to find colleagues for small-talk to fill up the time until the lectures start. They always start late.

After a brief introduction – “Hey! How are you? How you doing? What’s going on?” –  conversation gets a bit stilted, and every now and then you look to the side, until you notice something really weird: on the wall behind you there’s a big poster with your name and a stupid lawsuit that some angry customer took out on you a couple years back. On the other wall, there are a few family photos you’d rather not share with the people at the conference, and just below, an unflattering review of an unsuccessful product your company put out back in 2009.

Does this sound unrealistic? At a conference, maybe, but on the internet this how you appear, and this is how you look to anyone who’s ever taken a business card from you, who would like to get to know you, and who’d like hire you, try out your products or widen their circle of acquaintances. Many research papers show the huge effect that your online reputation has on people’s decision making once they search for you or your company.

It takes three seconds to type your name into Google, and another few seconds to scan the results. Search results on Google’s first page with your updated profile, your certification, awesome reviews from the last few years mentioning your name – all of these can determine your future, and the success of your business.

So what is online reputation management?

Online reputation management is basically a service that allows you to control the way search engines display results involving your brand, whether it’s your personal name or your company’s. This way, the most relevant results, which you’d like to be made visible, are shown to those searching for information. Reputation management comes to bridge the gap between the way your brand really looks (or the way you want it to be seen), and the way it’s portrayed on the internet.

 

“80% of reputation damage is a result of incompatibility between buzz and reality.” (Digimind)

 

Online reputation is a combination of two fields: online public relations, and search engine optimization (SEO). Many SEO companies now offer reputation management services as well. While SEO certainly plays an important part in reputation management campaigns, it’s important to realize that high-quality reputation campaigns need a lot more than just SEO.

How are you affected by your online reputation?

Much, much more than you think. It’s enough just to take a look at the statistics to see how relevant your online reputation is:

  • 92% of consumers trust information found over the internet more than any other source.
  • 70% of consumers check out online ratings and reviews before they buy a product.
  • 87% of consumers connect the personal reputation of the CEO to the reputation of his or her company.
  • 70% of recruitment managers in the USA have rejected candidates for a job, just because of information they found about them on the internet.

Today, consumers are smarter, and before buying any kind of service or product, they look it up on search engines, social networks, and specific websites whose core function is to organize and rank relevant products and services. Customers, business associates, employers, investors, and potential dates – they’re all searching for you online, and the first impression they have of you will be based on what they find when they scan through the search results. The question is: will they like what they see?

Personal Reputation Management

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Personal reputation managementYou’ve probably had people tell you a couple times that “if you respect yourself, others will respect you too.” Well, let’s just say, that’s not exactly true. Even if you have self-respect and great self-esteem, they might help you out in a face-to-face meeting with a potential investor, client or employer, but what really decides if the meeting is even going to happen in the first place are often the results that come up once they type your name into Google. Too few results, negative reviews, unflattering pictures or lawsuits against you can all come back and considerably harm your chances of getting that meeting. And the more important the meeting is, the more intense the online research they’ll probably do.

When it comes to online reputation and personal branding, it doesn’t matter how you relate to yourself, rather, it’s all about what others think about you and how you appear to others. You are judged by search results. It doesn’t matter if they’re true or not, old or new, whoever is looking you up doesn’t know the difference. Whatever they see on page one of Google is who you are. This is your online reputation. If you want to leave a million-dollar impression, and look at least as good as you really are, start branding yourself.

What does online personal reputation actually mean?

There’s a bit of confusion about what “online reputation management” actually means. Most people identify this service with the monitoring of social networks and suppressing negative search results. Actually, it covers a much wider range of services, which can be divided into two main groups.

Proactive online reputation management – Consistently building up your online reputation is done by distributing content on relevant social media profiles, by having a personal blog, and by writing articles. Reputation management for individuals creates personal branding, and protects your reputation in the event that someone posts a negative comment about you. The process of building up your online reputation is made up of three stages:

  • Editing and updating existing content, whether on your website or on your social network profiles.
  • Creating new internet assets to “thicken up” the positive content up on search engines.
  • Constantly monitoring and updating positive and relevant content that portrays you well, emphasizes your achievements and distinguishes you from your competitors. This way, it becomes harder to harm your reputation in the future.

Reactive online reputation management – emergency crisis management when your name is already linked to unwanted negative references: results that are irrelevant to your professional life, negative reviews, pictures you’d really rather not have everyone see, lawsuits, libel and so on. In such a case, the same actions as above have to be taken, but in a much more intensive way, so that the negative results are pushed off the first page as quickly as possible.

 

“87% of consumers connect the CEO’s personal reputation to the reputation of the company” (Hill & Knowlton)

 

What reputation management services are out there?

Here are some of the services that can do the job:

  • Building up profiles and other web domains in order to have a perfect page of results when someone searches for your name.
  • Constant monitoring and adding positive content on regular basis.
  • Bumping down irrelevant results, negative content, unwanted pictures or posts, such as references to lawsuits against you on websites like ripoffreport.com.
  • Differentiating between you and someone with your name who has a negative online image.
  • Removing defamation, malicious content, and lies which can be considered libel and defamation, whose only purpose is to harm your reputation. Permanently removing the content is dealt with by legal professionals.
  • Minimizing damage done by unwanted media coverage, or by PR blunders.
  • Taking control of privacy settings on social network profiles, leading to less irrelevant content being picked up by search engines.

Why do I even need any of this?

So, how can reputation management help me?

  • Personal prestige and professional boost.
  • Create a sense of trustworthiness among your clients, professional colleagues, investors, potential employers and competitors.
  • Achieve market positioning as a brand name, and as an influential and reputable industry player.
  • Emphasis of your achievements throughout your career.
  • People who search for you will want to do more business with you.
  • Improve your chances of finding employment, including your dream job.
  • Makes you stand out compared to colleagues and competitors.

Build yourself a defensive shield that won’t allow negative results to make it to the first page of search results, and will thus protect your reputation in the future.

 

“86% of HR managers agree that good online reputation increases a candidate’s chance of being recruited” (PC Recruiter)

 

Who needs these services?

Personal reputation management and personal branding is suited to the following groups:

  • Celebrities
  • Politicians
  • Professional Athletes
  • CEOs and top managers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Businesspeople
  • Freelancers and employees looking to position themselves as specialists
  • Anyone harmed online by negative campaign