Reputation Basics for Individuals

Before I get into resolutions, I’d like to briefly go into my background in this area – even people who know me don’t realize that this is my most common application of my search skills. Plus you always want to make sure you’re not listening to an architect talking to you about how to cut hair, amirite?

Evolution of Strategic Risk (Deloitte study, click through for Marketing Chart's coverage).

Evolution of Strategic Risk (Deloitte study, via Marketing Charts).

So first, who am I to be advising you on this topic?

Well, since about 2002, one of the services my corporate services firm has been providing is reputation management. We usually do highly complex jobs for companies, under the following conditions 

  • the problem is within our specialty, which is handling difficult situations that can’t be solved with simpler methods
  • the company is under an active attack,
  • the organization in question is already working on the larger issue with a PR agency or will work with one of our digital-current PR agencies that we bring with us.

That way we can deal with the entire issue, instead of just the SEO end. It ends up costing about the same, because

  1. we can share labor-intensive tasks and their costs with the PR firm, and
  2. we don’t have to keep cleaning up the same messes, as the PR firm mitigates or eliminates future damages by helping to improve communications. So after initial cleanup, the SEO team is only focused on new threats or recurrent attacks.

Burying any negative thing someone says about you isn’t Reputation Management. Not to mention that it doesn’t always work. True reputation management will help you create an accurate image of your company that appears when people look you up, online or off.


But what if you have a personal reputation management problem?


You don’t necessarily need to have done something wrong to have a reputation management problem. Anyone of the following scenarios could land you in a quagmire.

  • You could be in a situation where your name gets you confused with someone else.
  • You could have an issue related to the place where you work…
  • , where your only error was having a name tag on or identifying yourself as an employee, at a time when someone was already angry about another experience they had.

  • An inaccurate listing that might say something that is flattering but untrue, and you just don’t want people getting the wrong idea.
  • Or you could have the simple problem of wanting to get your Amazon page to rank ahead of a more generic listing.

Even if you don’t know the basics of SEO, if your situation is simple enough, you may be able to resolve the issue by providing alternate content for Google and other search engines to rank from more relevant sites.

A Friend’s Reputation Management  Problem

Recently, a friend of mine asked me to Google his name. The top few listings were his LinkedIn profile, a link to a post on his ex-girlfriend’s blog, some images of him at a frat party, and a handful og links to news articles he was in recently.

He was looking for a new job and panicked -not only because his LinkedIn listing was the solitary professional listing that appeared on the front page.

The next two listings weren’t exactly what he was hoping to show a prospective employer. His ex-girlfriend had written something benign that could be taken the wrong way out of context– and was no one’s business anyway.

The rest of the page had irrelevant listings. Meanwhile, his new blog, his social profiles and other links were on the second and fourth page.

He had attempted to reach his ex many times, but she’d long since abandoned the blog, the city she was living in at the time, and her email address.

I told him it happens sometimes when people move back to their hometowns after college. You can’t always count on the people who created the problem to fix it.

(It may be different with customers though. If the problem is resolved and there’s no bad blood? Just ask them nicely to “update it as resolved”.)

Why isn’t my job stuff showing up first?”

After a quick look and a run through

  • Open Site Explorer (helps me see glaring link issues at a glance),
  • Ahrefs (similar link tool that has a great interface for showing recent link adds and drops) and
  • some in-house tools (links aren’t the only game in town when it comes to SEO, by far),

— I could see what the problem was.

The SEO Element of Reputation Management

My friend had the right instinct- he created other content about himself, hoping to replace the listings that he preferred would come up later in the search, if at all.

This is often enough for some problems – creating content about yourself at sites that are in better favor with Google with a few well-placed quality links can be just what you need to push that number 9 ranking you don’t like to the second page.

But more often than not, there’s more than one listing and the problem’s not quite that simple.


3 Tips for Solving a Reputation Management Issue with Content Marketing


Let’s say you find yourself in this situation. Or you want to keep yourself from ever getting into the situation that what someone else says about you, good or bad, controls general perceptions about you.

First, decide what you want to project. If someone said “who is John Galt?” that fictional character would want you to know that he intended to stop the wheel of the world.

What do you want your first impression to be?

It’s even better if you can curate other people’s existing and published opinions of you, (interviews, past webinars, honors you’ve received) but you can start out with a simple bio page, published on your site, on an author page at Amazon, or in your Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+ profile.

I’m also very fond of a beta tool called Infusd. It’s easier to show you what it does than tell, so here’s my page.

Second, if you’re going to create content about yourself to maintain or prevent reputation management issues, make sure whatever you create follows the basic rules of SEO.

At minimum you need to have your name in the title and featured prominently in your profile pages. Your page is supposed to represent you. So make sure you’re referencing yourself as much as is natural for that social channel.

If you combine that with providing value, you should be able to do it within content you share, without coming off like a blowhard.

If there’s an active attack against you, you might need a bit more than you can do on your own.

However, I strongly encourage you to try some things on your own to see if you can move the needle even a little.

It will help you learn a little about what your reputation management consulting firm will be doing for you, what some of the sketchier practices are, or even help you evaluate whether you have the in-house expertise and manpower to do this by yourself.

Worst case scenario you get some SEO and content marketing work done that you should be doing anyway.

So even if you’re convinced you need to pay someone, do a little bit on your own. Remember that if you want better things to rank about you than a white pages listing, you need to create better content both on more popular sites, and on at least one you own and control, such as a self-hosted blog or newsroom.

While how much Google is already favoring a site may have some general bearing, there are literally hundreds of factors that go into the Google algorithm.

Don’t be scared of the word algorithm by the way. It just means “complex formula”. It’s in reference to the equation that Google is trying to solve in order to arrive at what the best answer to the query is.

Because it’s mathematically based, and also because all the elements involved are not weighted equally, the combinations of things that can potentially result in a top ten Google ranking are endless.  

So to put it in simple terms, 8-1= 7, but so is 6+1 and 5+2 or 10-3.

Your title may be a ten in the equation, but whether or not that works in your favor depends on what the rest of the equation is.

SEO is like attempting to solve this equation thousands, even millions of times, knowing what is being solved for, but only part of the equation, then using those observations to make the best possible guess at what the most accurate answer will be.

It’s the best shot we have because the answer to Google’s algorithm is not only secret but constantly changing.

By studying the most recent information you can find about those changes and how they correlate with changes in rankings. It’s part of what helps search professionals create repeatable experiments with predictable outcomes that we can then use to attempt to influence how your information is presented.

When many experts agree on interpretations of available data as in the surveys Moz does, this is a good starting place for drawing conclusions on the data. 

Third, you need to market that content. 

It needs links, updates if it’s a social media profile, and social shares. It’s not just that Twitter might outrank your blog in Google search. It’s that if people who are connected to you are willing to spread good things about you, that’s social proof in your favor.

Why not make that information more visible?

But don’t cheat by buying followers or strong-arming friends to share.

Shares that aren’t authentic work against you at some point.

More people than you might think can sniff out that type of BS. And trust me, even if you manage to pull it off, you don’t want to have to one day explain questionable tactics in a court of law. If anyone ever wanted proof that you have a pattern of lying or attempting to deceive people, there it would be in black and white.

I have seen enough of the fallout up-close to tell you – it can come up in something that has nothing to do with the web.

Not a pretty thing to watch. But I digress.

Using Social Media to Maintain Content Marketing Rankings

Instagram and other Social Media Apps

Ongoing social media attention not only helps to get the content you curated or created more exposure, if your problem is minor, the resulting links may be all you need to keep listings about you ranked in Bing and Google.

However, you never want to fall back on stale content.

Make sure you’re promoting the original content people have written about you, too, not only the page where it’s curated. They took the time to promote you, and this is one of the rare, guilt-free occassions when your self-promotion will be welcomed even by people who don’t know you.

The reason is because you are providing value.

So do that.

Taking Reputation Management Offline

Once the immediate digital problem is solved, you must solve the problem that sparked it, online and offline too. There’s no point putting a band aid over the cut on your finger if you’re going to shove your hand into the garbage disposal and flip the switch on.

Yeah, I know, that’s graphic. I want you to remember this. This is the stage when you’ll be relying more heavily on the PR part of your resolution and (hopefully) not as much on marketing and SEO. You have to get this right. There’s no digital erase button in the physical world.

If whatever is causing people to comment about you negatively online never gets to some point of resolution, it will never die. It’s hard enough to get rid of inaccuracies. A valid, accurate complaint can’t simply be wiped out of Google on a per-instance basis.

Why not?

It’ll just come back, and the price to keep it off the front page will continue to rise. By the time you realize you should have applied a PR solution, the damage will be done and the price of the resolution will be permanently and needlessly higher.

You cannot skip this step.

What If These Steps Don’t Solve My Reputation Management Problem?

Well that’s where my team comes in.

If you know you have a reputation management problem, and the situation is too important for you to experiment on your own, or too urgent for you to wait, get in touch with me.

Seeing how much this issue affects people who don’t have the same budget as a big brand to solve the problems in-between personal and enterprise inspired our team to action. We now have a starter package that will allow us to treat as much as your problem as we can in a month.

At that point we can then give you the option for us to make a plan for you to continue to build on the foundation we created, or for us to proceed on your behalf on a monthly basis. We’re able to see progress in a month most of the time, and our average time of resolution is four months.

We’ll let you know what to expect for your specific problem after our initial evaluation.

But don’t pull out your credit card. It’s important that we assess your issue first. You might not need us – no one wins if you dedicate resources to a problem you don’t have.

(I know I never go back to a mechanic if they give me an estimate for things I didn’t ask for or need.)

Contact us to set up a 15 minute strategy session if you need help. It might be a simple, fixable problem you can’t see because you don’t know what to look for or are too close to the situation.

And if it isn’t something that jumps out in 15 minutes, we can go from there.


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