There are two main components to online reputation management:

Creating a presence

This is all about publishing, and any of the following activities can be used for reputation management purposes:

  • Creating or updating websites for yourself or your business
  • Publishing to social media
  • Leveraging automatically generated listings or third-party sites
  • Publishing photos, videos, and other media
  • Generating press coverage (if applicable)

Helping people find it

When people search for something online, they don’t usually look through all the results. Less than 10% go past the first page, and less than 1% go past page two.

For that reason, reputation management is not purely about publication, it also includes techniques that boost important content to the top of the search results. In the process, less relevant, inaccurate, or misleading results get pushed down to pages where they remain obscure and unseen.

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Reputation management principles

Reputation management activities follow a few basic ground rules. These are some of the most important concepts to keep in mind.

Authority and longevity. Sites of a higher quality tend to rank more strongly in the search results. How do search engines figure out which sites are better quality? One of the most important measures is how long the site has been online. That’s why it’s never too early to start with reputation management.

1 oz prevention = 1 lb cure. Most online reputation issues arise because someone (or some business) has let other people dominate the conversation. A blockade of good, strong content firmly under your control creates a buffer against unwelcome surprises. It makes it that much harder for negative or misleading results to jump to the top results.

Avoid visiting negative sites. If something misleading or defamatory appears online, resist the urge to visit it. The more traffic you send to negative sites, the more authoritative they look to search engines.

Deleting is impossible. Short of hacking into the offending site, there’s no effective way to delete sites you don’t like. Online Reputation management is not about sweeping issues under the rug, it’s about building a strong positive reputation.

doctor at keyboard

Don’t bother with take-down requests. It is extremely rare that an online reputation problem can be handled by having your lawyer write a cease-and-desist letter to the website owner. Legally speaking, the website is not usually required to comply, and even if it does, it’s extremely easy for the original poster (or someone else) to republish the material on any number of new sites.

Quality and diversity. The best online reputation management plans generate a wide range of unique, high-quality content published across multiple sources. When everyone is telling the same story, people (and search engines) are more likely to believe it.

Avoid shortcuts. Some people try to bury online reputation problems by posting the same or similar text across dozens of low-quality sites. Don’t do this. It looks suspicious, and it’s easy for search engines to spot. You’ll end up spending a lot of time and money creating sites without any staying power.

91% of people have done something to manage their online reputations

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Reputation management first steps

There’s a lot you can do to jump-start your online reputation. Make sure you cover the basics.

Create profiles on as many social media sites as you can reasonably manage (Twitter, Vine, Facebook, etc.).

Claim profiles on pages that may have been created without your knowledge (e.g. sites like PeekYou and Google+ automatically create profiles with your information). ReputationDefender provides a free scan to help with this.

Promote yourself professionally by offering your expertise on message boards, question and answer sites, and professional listings for your industry.

Update, update, update. A blog with one entry doesn’t rank particularly well in the search results; you need to keep hammering away at your pages with fresh content on a regular basis.

Monitor consistently for changes in your search results. Where are your efforts ranking? Where has the unwanted content moved?

Get a digital hobby that leaves a trail. Games or groups on Tumblr or sites where you’re given the option to comment and continuously post content easily are good options. Or take up photography and share your work on sites like DeviantArt or Flickr.

Use your real name when choosing usernames, and credit yourself for the content you post. If you’re trying to take control of the search results for your name, you have to use your real name as often as possible.

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