This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.
Today, businesses and individuals alike need to worry about their online reputations. All it takes is one negative post going viral to make someone the scourge of the Internet, causing individuals to lose friends and job opportunities, and depriving companies of customers and revenue. Luckily, you have many options when it comes to securing your online reputation.
If your situation is complex, or you don’t have the time needed to personally address your reputation issues, then you can hire an online reputation management firm. However, if you want to oversee your image yourself, there are a number of free tools you can use.
How does online reputation management work?
Before you can decide which tool will best help you gain control of your online reputation, you need to know something about how reputation management works. Most Internet reputation management tools are built on the foundation of search engine optimization, or SEO.
SEO combines observations of how search engines work with careful content building and timing to get the maximum results from new content, ensuring that it’s widely read and shared, and pushing content you control up the list of your search results. However, there’s a lot more to fixing your online reputation than just pushing some results up and the rest downward.
Maintaining a positive online reputation involves three steps: assessment, repair, and monitoring. Here’s a quick overview of how each process works:
Assessing your reputation
If you want to know your reputation online, start by running your name through a search engine. For many people, what they find in your search results is what they’ll believe about you.
However, you have to ask a few questions to get a full sense of what the results are telling you. What links are at the top of your search results? Are they links you control, such as your blog, your social media presence, or your business’s website? Are they links that have factually accurate statements about you? Are the links you find actually about you, or are they about somebody else?
For example, if you’ve got a business that has a good website tied to your name, and the first handful of results are news articles about your business, that’s not bad, but it’s still not great. More than one-third of all searchers click on the first link, ignoring the rest, so you want that link to be your business’ official site.
Repairing your reputation
The next step is to repair your results so that they properly reflect you as a person. The exact steps to take vary depending on your situation. However, reputation repair almost always involves publishing new materials.
The key thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need to create content that is better than what’s out there already. You want to give search engines a reason to rank your new materials above the existing ones.
This isn’t entirely about the words on the page, but also about good search engine optimization, having links from reputable third-party sources, and seeing that people are actually clicking on your content and interacting with it.
For some preliminary advice on creating an online reputation management plan, check out our Definitive Guide to Online Reputation Management.
Monitoring your reputation
Finally, there’s the most important step in the process: monitoring your reputation. Once you put the time and effort into repairing your reputation, you need to keep a constant eye on it. Good reputation management tools will automate this process for you, assessing links and making reviews and other content simple to observe on an easy-to-use dashboard.
Free online reputation management tools
Now that you understand something about what reputation management involves, you can decide what tool to use to solve your specific reputation problem. The following are some of the most popular free ways to fix your own online reputation:
The search engine of your choice
It might feel egocentric to spend your time Googling (or Binging) yourself, but it’s actually good business. Just remember that for best results, you’ll have to sign out of everything you’re usually signed into: Google, Gmail, and so on. Otherwise, especially in Google, you’ll only see results tailored to your interests and profile information.
One of the simplest ways to set up automated alerts for any subject—including your own name or that of your company—Google Alerts allows you to set up regular emails that will keep you apprised of what’s being said about various topics on the Internet. You can ask for alerts to be sent to your inbox as information becomes available, or on a daily or weekly basis. For step-by-step instructions, see this article.
Drop your name or your company’s name into this robust web tool, and you’ll get a dashboard with mentions of your search term. The free version of Mention.com lets you export mentions of your search term, email them to others, and label them as positive, negative, or neutral. You can also connect your social accounts and share mentions with your followers.
Hootsuite is a dashboard through which you can manage and maintain your entire social media presence. What makes it a good reputation tool is that it offers in-depth analytics that reveal how others perceive your content. This way, you can adjust your messaging to keep your branding in sync with the attitudes of your followers.
Hootsuite also offers social media monitoring services. To find out what the public is saying about them, users can search for and filter social media conversations in several languages by hashtag, keyword, and location. With the product’s upgraded version, users can capture more conversations with an array of monitoring apps that enable them to perform even more reputation monitoring activities, from evaluating site ratings to identifying the tone of voice people use when discussing your brand.
Complaint Search Box
Go Fish Digital created the Complaint Search Box to let people search through more than 40 online complaint sites. Using this tool, individuals can quickly and easily perform searches to ensure others aren’t unhappy with them or their company’s brand. If they do find that people are posting negative reviews, then they can rapidly address them and thus preserve their reputation.
Rankur offers a range of plans to help people monitor their social media presence and track where people are using their name. Some of Rankur’s best features include the users’ ability to monitor when their name appears in social media, press releases, and blog postings. Users can also receive alerts when someone posts an online review about them.
ImageRaider scans the web, searching for your images. If it finds any, then it indexes them and lets you know if they are inaccurately sourced or used incorrectly. This is a very handy tool, particularly if your business is dependent on images.
What if you need more than free tools can offer?
If you decide that fixing your online reputation issue by yourself isn’t working or is too time consuming, you can always hire a reputation management firm to do it for you. There are numerous companies out there that offer a variety of services, but make sure you go with someone reputable.
Start by reading our guide on how to choose an online reputation management company. It explains the qualities of quality ORM companies, as well as the red flags that you should look out for.
You should also take a look at our article What are Reputation Management Consultants? This explains the steps involved in a successful online reputation management campaign in more detail.
Finally, give us a call here at ReputationDefender for a free consultation. One of our experts will be happy to discuss your situation with you and make recommendations on the best way forward.