"Help!" she cried.
This is not the opening line of a horror movie or a detective novel. It is the opening line of a conversation I had a few months back with a lady who couldn't get a job if her life depended on it.
It wasn't that she lacked talent or skills or experience. It wasn't that she was shy or sweated profusely in interviews.
It was that Google had her number.
More to the point, Google had her name.
More specifically; Google had her name linked to a political scandal of which she was just an innocent bystander. But try telling that to Google.
It's not the first time somebody has come to me to help repair a damaged online reputation.
Like the others, this lady came to the party late. When she called me, she already had two years to work on fixing her reputation.
That's right, the scandal was two years old. But only when she needed it fixed ASAP did she take it seriously.
Step One: Monitor
The first lesson from this is that you should always be monitoring your online reputation.
You might get off easy if your name is Mark Smith or Lisa Jones. Nobody searching for your name will find you, anyway. Even I get off easy. Go ahead, try searching for David Leonhardt.
It's easy to keep track of what is being said about you through Google alerts. Here's a great tutorial on Youtube. It's easy peasy.
You obviously want to monitor for your name. If you also have a business name, monitor that. If you are in a very narrow niche, you might want to monitor the niche, as well, so as to know what is going on in your space that could affect your reputation or that of the competition.
Step Two: Fix
Monitoring is just the first step. The second step is to take action on every piece of good news and on every piece of bad news.
Act on the good news; spread it around. Boost it in every way possible. Let bloggers know about it. Post it to ViralContentBuzz and JustRetweet. Get as much social media traction for it as possible. If necessary, pay for social media reach. You want the pages that say good things about you to rank high in Google and Bing. Give them lots of authority and lots of quality link juice.
Act on the bad news; bury it. That's really all you can do with bad news. If an article that links you to a scandal happens to lodge itself at position number three in a Google search for your name, you can:
- Convince the media outlet that you are a nice guy and please unpublish that article. Hah!
- Sue the pants off of the media outlet for slander and libel and belly button lint. Hint: that won't work unless they published a factual lie that is slanderous.
- Create eight pages about you that are more authoritative than the bad news. They have to rank better than the bad news, so as to push the bad news down, out of Google's top 10 results for your name. Not easy.
One of the above is not easy. That's the one to go with. It might not be easy, but at least it is possible. I've done it before.
Pro tip: If you create new content to outrank the bad content, make sure the new content actually looks good on you.
The Help lady actually had two problems. First there was the political scandal. Then there was the "reputation management" company. It had created several...um...interesting articles branding her a yoga master, a mining expert, a sky diving specialist, a wine connoisseur and a dog training whiz.
The "reputation management" company was not able to get all these articles onto the first page of Google, ahead of the bad news. Had it succeeded, employers would have wondered if the lady was claiming to be an expert in way too many things. "What kind of a pathological know-it-all does she think she is?" they might wonder. On closer inspection, they would learn the truth - several of the articles bore the name of the "reputation management" company, along with the words "sponsored by" or "submitted by".
Step Three - Build
You don't have to wait for bad news to wipe it from Google. What if your castle walls were so strong to begin with that the media could not penetrate? What if your social profiles outranked any news about you. It never hurts to make your social profiles strong.
Do you have a website? You should, no matter what you do. At very least, you should have a blog with a bio page. Build up a strong following with a strong backlink profile.
Get featured in other blogs talking about your area of expertise. "An interview with Your Name" is the kind of title that can rank very high for your name if the blog has some authority.
Did I really call this "Step Three"? No, this is Step One. This is what you start doing now, long before reputation repair is something to worry about.
What are you doing still here? Go on, start building your reputation. Shoo.
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