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August 1, 2010Managing your online reputation

So, it’s finally happened. Now, there’s specialist companies claiming to be capable of giving you an ‘online detox’, cleansing your online reputation — getting rid of those nasty photos of you, drunk, on Facebook, cleaning up the vindictive messages left on some blog by your ex. More importantly, these companies claim to offer the ability to manage the reputation of your brand or business, “burying the damaging stuff and promoting the good.”

So how does it work?

Well, it’s a little like reverse SEO. Where a page or a comment can’t be deleted, it can be buried. SEO tactics can be used to push positive news stories higher up the page and negative stories lower down. For $15 a month, apparently, a company called Reputation Defender will “clean up and monitor your internet reputation.” For $30, “you can subscribe to a service that will try to destroy hostile internet content.” — whatever that means.

The fact is it’s pretty hard to cover up your online presence. That’s why so many professional people are worried. If you’re a newly qualified lawyer, the last thing you want is the photos of your party days five or six years ago from Facebook turning up in a Google image search.

Google yourself.

It’s a lot easier to bury bad news than it is to eradicate it. For example, a quick search of “Alastaire Allday” on Google brings you back to mostly the same place: my site, or links to one or the other. Because my site is modern, well-known and regularly updated, Google seems to have practically forgotten that I was once a journalist writing some fairly controversial articles for minor-league publications in an attempt to get noticed. Perhaps not the best thing for my reputation now — but an important part of my past nonetheless.

What else does Google bring up? Well, the only ‘personal’ result on page 1 is a blog post on a friend’s feminist blog. The next personal result is on Page 2, a letter to The Times I wrote some years ago about law and order — but since I wear my politics on my sleeve anyway I’m not too worried. Besides, before you get to that, you have to wade through a blizzard of information about my career as a copywriter, including my profile on the awesome Modern Copywriter blog.

In short, I’m not worried about my online reputation. I’ve been careful not to be photographed doing funny things (very often), my Facebook profile is clean, and my reputation intact.

But what do you do if you don’t have such a great reputation?

It seems to me the answer is clear:

  • You should have your own personal website, including your name, so you can make sure your personal brand is the first thing people see and click on.
  • Blog regularly, so people have an instant idea about you. You can learn a lot from the way people write, and what they write about.
  • Make sure your social media profiles are clean, accurate and noticed by Google. My LinkedIn, for example, is the second result on Google for my name. Worried about dodgy photos? Why not set up a flickr in your name promoting the good side of your life.

In other words, if you can’t hide the bad stuff, make sure the good stuff gets found first. An employer is far more likely to forgive a bad facebook photo if they’ve already seem your impressive portfolio first.

If you’re a business, big or small, all this is still true, in fact, even more so. What business these days doesn’t have a website? And it’s definitely worth paying a reputation manager, or SEO expert, to make sure the right results come first.  No matter how small your business, you need good publicity.

Can a copywriter help? Yes. The better written something is, the more likely it is to get found, or be linked to. Why not employ a professional to write positive news stories about you?

Remember, most people don’t search past the first page on Google.
But don’t forget, it’s harder to destroy information on the internet than bury it.
The internet has a long memory.

The best way of keeping a clean reputation is to not get in trouble in the first place.

Good luck hiding those photos, folks.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, August 1st, 2010 at 12:33 pm and is filed under Blog, SEO, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One comment

  1. Neil says:

    Some good concise advice there – definitely worth a ponder in some cases!

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