Common Online Reputation Management Mistakes
Suppose someone has published misleading or defamatory information online that’s hurting your Internet reputation, your business, your family or your career. Faced with this cyberscenario, many individuals try to attack the negative article by publishing their own content. Unfortunately, done incorrectly this can make the problem worse. Before you engage in emergency online reputation management (ORM), learn to avoid the pitfalls, by recognizing these common online reputation management mistakes.
Avoid the urge to lash out against abusive online authors.
The first, of many common online reputation management mistakes, is to lash out against users who leave negative feedback. Sending angry emails to the author or posting abusive rants are likely to do more harm than good for your online reputation. Here’s why:
- First, the author of the content will now have additional ammunition for his or her online smear campaign. The author may twist your anger into a false validation of the point he or she is making, which will further hurt your Internet reputation management.
- Second, search engines like Google rank websites based on factors such as how often they’re visited, how many links are directed to them and how often new content appears. By visiting and commenting on the website or by giving the author more information about you to post, you’ll be helping others find the misleading information.
Stay away from black hat search engine optimization (SEO) techniques.
Many people try to hide negative online content by creating their own websites. This technique works, but it’s very laborious. And trying to take black hat SEO shortcuts will almost certainly hurt your online reputation further, making it the second of many common online reputation management mistakes.
Black hat SEO refers to the process of trying to artificially inflate the search ranking of a Web page. Google and other search engines have grown wise to these tricks and will penalize you if you try them. Here are the most common black hat SEO approaches:
- Keyword stuffing and invisible text: Writing your name or some other important term over and over again on a website, without providing a textual context, is keyword stuffing. An even bigger mistake is writing the important term repeatedly in a text color that can’t be seen, or in really small print. Both approaches will lead to penalization by search engines.
- Creating doorway or redirect pages: Some individuals create dozens of keyword-stuffed websites that redirect to a more normal, reader-friendly site. The idea is that the doorway pages will help the main website rank higher. This technique will result in a worse ranking for all sites involved.
- Link farming: Getting others to link to your website is a good way to increase its perceived importance. However, the quality of the links matters more than anything else. If you join a shady Internet link farm or spam directory whose sole purpose is to try to artificially inflate the importance of other sites, you’ll be penalized or even banned from Google search results.
- Cloning content: Don’t cut and paste text from one site onto many others. If content appears verbatim in too many sources, it will be marked as spam by search engines.
- Website cloaking: This is the process of having the website show one thing to search engines and something else to people. Cloaking will quickly get you banned from search results, no matter how important your website. Even BMW’s website was banned from Google in 2006 for cloaking.
Don’t forget that humans, not search engines, are your primary audience.
Even if you manage to attain short-term results using black hat SEO, they won’t last, and they will hurt your online reputation in the long term. Simply stated, if you make websites that look like spam, people will assume something fishy is going on.
The only way to fix your online reputation is to create real, original content that’s valuable to readers. The way you do that is by writing material that’s related to your life and your interests, building a personal brand.
That said, certain topics will hurt your personal branding efforts. Google has marked these topics as likely to be connected to spam or illegal activity, or as unsuitable for general audiences:
- Alcohol, tobacco and drugs
- Weapons and firearms
- Designer knock-offs
- Illegal hacking
Focus your personal branding on a few key areas of your life or work. Throwing in unrelated keywords just because they’re popular will dilute your website and hurt your page rankings. To learn more about building a personal brand, see this article.
Steer clear of companies promising quick-fix solutions.
Some companies will offer to submit your website to thousands of search engines for a fee. Before you go for these quick-fix solutions, ask yourself if they make sense. How many search engines do you use? Probably one, maybe two or three.
Whatever these thousands of sites are, they’re unlikely to affect your search results in the top five search engines used by 96 percent of the people on the planet. Black hat SEO and link farming just don’t work, though lots of people will take your money and tell you they do.
Online reputation management consists of creating quality content and using SEO best practices to help people find it. Your goal should be to improve the quality of the Internet experience, not to buy into the several common online reputation management mistakes.
Think about it: Malicious or defamatory content that hurts your online reputation also decreases the usefulness of the Internet. So does posting spam to try to hide it. Only if you provide legitimate content are you likely to improve search quality.