By Mike Zammuto
One of the most common misconceptions about the field of online reputation management is that it only applies to a certain, select few types of clients. This really could not be further from the truth. While it is certainly true that many online reputation management agencies grew out of the direct marketing industry, in reality, those needing reputation management varies; everyone from Fortune 500 brands, small business start-ups, doctors, lawyers, politicians, and private citizens can benefit from learning about protecting what others know about you online. Simply put, online reputation matters for everyone.
Consider this: The Internet makes it possible, even easy for consumers to do their due diligence, checking up on any products and services before committing money to them. What it means is that your products and services will come under Google scrutiny-and what search engine users discover could potentially have huge ramifications for your online success.
Say, for example, that a consumer searches your name and finds allegations of disrepute, or that a consumer searches for your products, services, or company name, and finds negative reviews or complaints. This could have huge consequences, including lost sales, a diminished customer base, and an increase in refund requests-to say nothing of simple embarrassment. It’s true not just for companies but even for job-seekers themselves; the next time you find yourself submitting job applications and resumes, the last thing in the world you want is to have an unclean Google record!
Google’s Top Ten
This is where online reputation management comes into play. What an online reputation management company does is effectively brand a client. Whether working for an individual or a company, a reputation management company will seek to establish the client as a positive and reputable online presence, specifically seeking to control the first ten Google search listings.
Why the top ten? The top ten search result listings, for any given query, make up the first page of Google results. Study after study has shown that the average search engine user never clicks past this first page of results — in fact, 90% or more never go beyond Google’s page 1. It is impossible to totally control everything that people say about you or your brand, but if you can control Google page 1, you are effectively in control of your entire online image.
Controlling Google’s top ten listings is both proactive and defensive. It is proactive for the obvious reason that it provides positive content for search engine users to find. If a consumer searches for your name or your brand, and the first page of search result listings only include assets that you control, or at the very least approve of — a personal website, a blog, a LinkedIn account, and so on — then you can rest assured that you are putting your best foot forward, and that your online reputation is solid.
There is also defensive merit here. The sad reality of today’s online world is that negative search engine listings can appear at any time. Companies can be beset with bad reviews, and professionals can find themselves subjected to defamation, or from something like an embarrassing frat party photo, surfacing online some 15 or 20 years after the fact. Unwanted online listings can happen to any person or any company-and there is no way to keep them from making their way onto the Web.
What you can do is prevent them from making their way onto Google page 1. Remember, that first page is what matters. Beyond that, negative listings are not nearly as damaging. If you have control of the top ten online listings, then you effectively have a strong, defensive wall-one that will, hopefully, repel undesirable listings, keeping them from breaching Google page 1.
DIY Reputation Management
There is an entire industry devoted to these reputation management endeavors, of course, but there are also some basic steps that anyone can take to protect themselves, right here and now. The goal, once more, is simply to control the first ten Google search listings. A good first step is simply to Google yourself now and see how many of those listings you currently possess.
From there, consider some ways in which you can add to your own online assets. One suggestion is to purchase the domain listings that correspond to your name-for example, YourName.com and .net. These exact-match domains will rank well within a Google search; even if all you do is post a resume or a brief professional bio to the page, that may be all it takes to turn that domain into a solid, positive online asset.
Also sign up for social media sites-paying special attention to LinkedIn, the best social network for obtaining Google rankings. By simply adding these assets to your online search profile, you’re building your online reputation-and protecting yourself from potential disparagement.
About the author
A veteran of the software industry, having worked at ChaCha, Ontario Systems, and Microsoft, Mike Zammuto helps individuals and corporations with reputation control online. Mike is the COO of www.reputationchanger.com.