Online Reputation Management Strategies to Protect Your Online Presence
An online reputation isn’t just for businesses. As individuals, we all have an online presence and reputation as well. And if you’ve ever searched for your name or your business’s name to see what comes up, you’ve seen the results that make up an online reputation. But do you know what to do if something negative about you or your business shows up online? Online reputation management is the art and science of negating those negative stories.
See 5 Ways to Manage Your Reputation with Darren Dunner for a complete transcript of the Easy Prey podcast episode.
Darren Dunner has been in the digital marketing space for over two decades. He works with a little bit of everything – search engine optimization, paid ads, social media, and especially online reputation management, or ORM. He is the VP of Reputation Management at NetReputation, where he helps people and companies to protect and correct their online reputations.
Darren didn’t start out intending to work on online reputation management. In fact, his interest was first piqued by radio ads. In Orange County, California, in 2012 and 2013, there were a lot of radio ads for a reputation management firm. Darren thought it must be a niche market that was doing pretty well, since those radio ads were expensive. He started researching the firm and what they did. He also started trying to reverse-engineer their process. Once he determined what this firm was doing, his digital marketing knowledge told there was a much better way to do it. His original goal was to see if he could copy some of their methods, not do it better. But once he saw how it worked, he had to do it differently.
Online Reputation and the Risks of Social Media
The internet extends to so many areas of our lives now that the definition of “online reputation” is broad. It could include lots of different things, depending on the circumstances. For a company, it could be their reviews, content they’ve published, content others have published about them, and even information published by people trying to hurt the business. For an individual, it’s more likely to be information in general, like your name or a news article that mentions you. With social media, it could also include something you posted that went viral.
With the open media right now, you can literally post anything you want. If you’re not thinking about consequences … [it] could really be used against you.Darren Dunner
Social media is especially risky, because many of us post without thinking about the consequences. Who is going to see your post? How far will it go? Will friends and family see it? We don’t think about it, and often we can’t predict how it will spread. People post photos, videos, and you name it that are inappropriate or could be used against them all the time. Most of them think they’re just being funny online or letting off a little steam and it won’t hurt. But it can easily blow up into something much bigger.
The answer isn’t to stop posting online, but to be wise about what you put online. Darren himself only posts positive things. Even before he worked in online reputation management, he gave his children the same advice. Don’t publicize your antics, just put positive stuff out there. You don’t have to pretend your life is always awesome all the time. But going on a rant is not always going to get the response you want.
Why Companies Fire People Because of Social Media
Darren can’t count how many hundreds of people are out of a job because of something they posted online. Often it’s something they did or posted, but occasionally it’s something that someone else did to them. Regardless, it was published online, and the company had to let them go. These people often have a difficult time finding a job afterwards because future companies Googled them. Without online reputation management, these sorts of things can hurt you for a long time.
You can say, “That’s my personal life. That’s my private life.” [But] at the end of the day, if you’re making it public, you just made it their business.Darren Dunner
It may seem unreasonable for a company to fire someone because of something they posted on their private social media on their own time. But the companies do this because they are protecting themselves. It’s not that the behavior outside of work is impacting behavior at work. It’s the fact that if this person acting this way is affiliated with that company, it could draw negative sentiments towards that company. They don’t want the potential online reputation management crisis of being associated with you if one of your inappropriate or harmful posts spreads.
One Company’s Online Reputation Disaster
For a business, an issue necessitating online reputation management could be as simple as a bad review on Yelp. But it could also be much worse. One example is a company that Darren won’t name. They did a lot of email marketing and phone notifications through their app. One of the occasions they used these emails and notifications was for national days, like National Hot Dog Day and National Donut Day. They had a holiday calendar and set up a bot to grab information from the calendar, combine it with a deal they wanted to promote, and send out the notification. The whole process happened automatically.
But one of the events on that holiday calendar wasn’t a celebration. It was actually a remembrance for something awful from history. The bot pulled the event from the holiday calendar like normal and sent out the notifications. It looked like that company was celebrating the awful past event. There was a huge uproar, and it went viral instantly. This company had already done a lot of proactive online reputation management work. But because the backlash was so immediate and massive, it damaged their online reputation for a while. All of this could have been avoided if they had a person reviewing the automatic promotions before they went live. If they could have caught it ahead of time and not published something damaging, they could have avoided an online reputation management disaster.
News doesn’t last forever on search results, but it does hold for quite a while, especially if it’s really negative.Darren Dunner
What to Do When You Need Online Reputation Management
You’ve posted something online that was misinterpreted, or you posted something that was just stupid and it’s started to spread. Now people are starting to post new stories about it. What do you do?
This is the scenario most people are in when they come to Darren and NetReputation. They didn’t do any online reputation management beforehand, and now they need a fix after the fact. Online reputation management after something damaging is difficult, especially if you haven’t done any work beforehand. If something happens and gets published online, you can pretty much guarantee that anywhere between five and fifty different sources will republish it. The savvier sources will make sure their articles show up in the search results. And because so many sources are talking about it, each assumes it’s true because there’s so many others. It becomes a self-verifying claim.
They’re solidifying that this information is true because all these other sources are saying that it’s true. Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter.Darren Dunner
At this point, the goal is to reverse what just happened. People online with a negative story put out new content and got it optimized for Google so Google showed it in the search results. For online reputation management, the goal is to produce a lot of new content and optimize it for Google to outweigh the negative sources. It’s difficult work, because Google loves to display those negative stories. Negative headlines will get people to click, and Google wants people to click. It’s a bit like how normal publicity works. If someone says something nice about you, nobody cares. But if someone says something bad about you, everyone wants to hear about it.
Online Reputation Management is Not a Quick Fix
If you’re doing digital marketing and want a website to rank well on Google, you only have to optimize one website. If you’re doing online reputation management and want to overwhelm a negative story, you have to optimize twenty to fifty websites. It’s twenty to fifty times more difficult than optimizing just one site. It’s not a quick fix, it’s a long game.
Darren wishes it was a quick fix. He’s always trying to find some ways to make things happen faster. It’s possible to get some things into the search results quickly, even within a month. But to change the overall results can take twelve months or more. The general rule for building authority on Google is that it will take about a year. But if you’re competing with negative stories about yourself or your business, it can take fifteen months or more. And once you get everything optimized, if you stop the work, it disappears. Google wants to show results that are actively used, not dead or abandoned. Once you get it under control, you can slow down, but you can’t stop.
Online reputation management is a lot of work. NetReputation creates and shares tens of thousands of posts and engages with other online users tens of thousands of times each month. If Darren gave you a road map to do your own online reputation management, you would say there’s no way you could do it, you don’t have the time. Online reputation management is a full-time job. That’s why companies like NetReputation exist – online reputation management is their full-time job.
How to Check Your Current Online Reputation
An important first step towards online reputation management is knowing what it is currently. Once you’re aware of what’s already online, you’ll know if there’s anything you need to be managing and how best to take a proactive approach.
Check Your Online Reputation as an Individual
The first step to checking your online reputation as an individual is to see how unique your name is. Darren Dunner is pretty unique. If your name is John Smith, there are significantly more people out there with the same name. Knowing this is important because when you search for yourself on Google, you’re doing it from your location. The results you get in California are not the same that you’ll get in New York because everything is geo-targeted. We all have cell phones and connect to Google Maps, so Google knows where we are and gives us search results based on that.
If Darren discovered there’s more than one Darren Dunner in his results, that means he hasn’t put up enough information in that area. Google hasn’t figured out that he’s the Darren in his particular area. Most likely he hadn’t created enough web assets (like blog posts or social media profiles or posts) to make that obvious to Google. Google doesn’t want there to be only a few results, so if there’s not enough assets about the correct Darren, Google will fill up the results with other Darrens.
Check Your Business’s Online Reputation
To check your business’s online reputation, Google the business name. The first twenty results or so to be related to your company. If there’s another company showing up in those first twenty results, it means there probably isn’t enough information out there about your company for Google to show. If you have information out there and it’s not showing up, it means it probably wasn’t properly optimized. If it’s not properly optimized, Google won’t understand it and won’t show it in the results.
In addition to Google, you should also check review sites. Check both general review sites like Yelp and industry-specific sites like RateYourDoctor.com, SuperLawyers.com, Rate My Professor, or OpenTable. If you haven’t already done it, claim your profiles on those review sites. Make sure they are optimized and they have the correct information. Outdated information can also hurt your business’s reputation.
Proactive Online Reputation Management
If you’re just getting started with online reputation management, there are some proactive steps you can take. Some are obvious, like making sure your website is optimized for Google. But also consider other online assets. Create Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts. Claim your name, link to your website, and fill in the profile completely. If you’re not sure how to do it properly, go on YouTube and find a tutorial. That way you’ll have an established web presence that can help with online reputation management down the road.
If there’s a field they offer, fill it out. That’s always been my go-to. Don’t leave something blank.Darren Dunner
If you have a business and don’t create a Google listing or a Yelp page, Google and Yelp will create one for you. You want to have control of these spaces. Create your own listings, or claim the existing ones, and fill them out. You can also create QR codes with links to those profiles and put them on your brochures or menus. That makes it easy for customers to leave reviews.
Finally, always use two-factor authentication. Someone taking over one of your accounts can be a nightmare. They could say awful things and damage your reputation. Two-factor authentication makes it more difficult for malicious people to get into your accounts and make online reputation management even harder.
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