Online Reputation Management: The Ultimate Guide

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What is Online Reputation Management?


Online reputation management is the process of controlling what shows up when someone looks you up online. We'll show you how to identify and clean up any damaging content about you online, like negative Google results, risky social media posts, and images as well as help you promote positive content that helps you look great online.

Why Online Reputation Management Matters


How you look online directly impacts your career. Negative items showing up online can damage your career whereas having a positive online reputation leads to career opportunities. There are 4 main reasons why building & managing your online reputation is so important:

  1. People are looking you up online & making decisions about you based on what they find. Every day, over one billion names are searched on Google and 77% of job recruiters are required to look potential employees up online during the hiring process. While you may not have looked yourself up, it's certain that someone else has - and they are making judgments about you based on what they find. 45% of people have found something in an online search that made them decide NOT to do business with someone.
  2. Anyone can say anything about you online without getting in trouble, whether it's true or not. If you upset anyone–an ex, a fired employee, someone you received a promotion over –they can go virtually anywhere online and trash you. It happens all the time and there are very little laws in place to protect people under these situations.
  3. Everything we do is now recorded online forever, which means we need more tools to make sure this doesn't harm us. We do everything online and we now have the technology to track and store all that activity. That means everything we post on Facebook or Twitter and every item we search for, website we visit, online transaction we make and conversation we have through text or messenger exists somewhere. A Facebook status update you made year ago may eventually get you fired. Even more scary, a private email or message you sent to a friend — even if you deleted it — could come back and bite you. We've seen hackers invade the privacy of everyone from celebrities on snapchat to major politicians running for president. But, it isn't just hackers you need to worry about. Outdated laws that have not kept up with Technology — like the ECPA — make it easier than ever for people to access information you thought was private.
  4. Having good content online helps you, but most people don't know how to do it: In an increasingly competitive economy, more and more companies, schools and customers are looking for positive information about you on the web. However, most people don't know what they can do to increase the positive footprint they can have on the web and build a positive online reputation.

In an age of cyber-bullying, revenge porn, hate sites and inadequate online privacy laws, everyone needs the power to understand and protect their reputation on the web.

How BrandYourself Can Help


Before we jump into the guide, BrandYourself has DIY tools as well as custom services to help:

Have any questions? Give us a call at 646-863-8226 or message us directly using the chat box in the lower righthand corner of your screen.

About This Guide


In this guide, we show you how to clean up, build, monitor, and protect your online reputation:

Table of Contents

  • Part 1: Diagnose & Clean Up Your Current Online Reputation
  • Part 2: Intro to Personal Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Part 3: Building the Foundation of Your Online Presence for Google Search Results
  • Part 4: Advanced Tactics to Boost your Google Ranking & Online Reputation
  • Part 5: Emergency Tactics For Fixing a Negative Google Search Result
  • Part 6: Improving your Google Image Results

Part 1: Diagnose & Clean Up Your Current Online Reputation


The first step to controlling any situation is determining whether or not you have a problem and, if so, how bad the problem really is. In the first part of this guide, we'll help you diagnose your Google ranking (what shows up in the search results for your name and in what order they appear), audit your presence on social media, and take you through how to begin cleaning up your online reputation.

Step 1: Google Yourself

The very first thing you need to do is go to Google and type your name into the search bar. Make sure to:

Step 2: Diagnosis - Which Google Ranking Category Are You?

Once you have your search results in front of you, it's time to figure out which category your Google rank and overall online reputation falls under. Decide which of these categories best represents your first page of search results for your name (it may even be a combination of them all!)

Tip: Concentrate on the first page of your Google results - 93% of searchers never go past the first page and use the first 10 search results to form their impression.

The category you land in can have a big impact on the impression you make with people searching for you online. Take the following job applicants for example - who comes across the best to a potential employer Googling each candidate during the application process?



Three applicants, one with negative, one with irrelevant, and one with positive search results


If you find yourself with little to no positive content about you on the first page of Google results, you're not alone. In a study of BrandYourself users, we found that 1 in 4 people have no positive content about them on the first page of Google and only half of people own the first spot. We broke out more of what this study found in a handy infographic:



Breakdown of a person's Google results and how they affect them.

Step 3: Audit and clean up your social media presence

Do an audit of your social media accounts and delete old posts/photos that may be inappropriate. This includes obvious things like posts that reference sex, drugs, bigotry, sexism, etc. as well as polarizing topics like religion or politics that may not seem bad, but could damage your reputation if seen by the wrong person. More and more HR departments are required to use social media as a candidate screening tool, both to look for red flags as well as reinforcing the candidate as a good cultural fit.

How BrandYourself Can Help

Many people currently on social media have had certain accounts for nearly a decade. That means the average person can accumulate hundreds or even thousands of posts, comments, likes and photos over the years. All of this data can be near impossible to sift through and monitor. A new feature of BrandYourself's DIY online reputation tool is our Social Scanner. It scans your social media accounts for anything risky posted by or about you as well as polarizing topics you should be mindful of discussing on the web. We also help you continue to monitor your entire online reputation for anything risky that pops up in the future.

Step 3: Figure Out How Much Work You Have Ahead and Make a Plan

Once you know where you stand, it's time to be proactive and start improving your online reputation. Your goal is to fill your first page with as many positive results as possible. Depending on your web presence, you can figure out how much work lays ahead and plan accordingly. We'll cover how to tackle each situation in the next few sections of the guide.

Notepad and checkmark icon to show the importance of a strong online reputation management plan

Conclusion


You spend a lot of time building your reputation—you work hard, treat others well, follow through on duties and show up on time. Now it's time to apply that same discipline to your online presence. The rest of this series will cover everything from the basics to advanced tactics for controlling your search results.


Part 2: Intro to Personal Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of creating or improving content to make sure it shows up as high as possible in web search results for the right keywords (in the case of personal SEO, Your Name).

  1. Why Is Personal SEO Important?

    Every time someone conducts an online search, search engines like, Google and Bing, use complex algorithms with hundreds of factors to make sure the most relevant results show up highest—but sometimes they make mistakes.

    You probably know somebody who has made an entire personal website, yet it may not show up on the first page of search results for their name. There are a number of factors that could result in poor results, such as a poorly structured page, which makes it difficult for the search engine to understand. Other times, the site does not seem as credible as it actually is. Worst of all, sometimes the search engine isn't even aware the content exists.

  2. How Does SEO Help?

    By employing general SEO tactics, or using a tool like BrandYourself's online reputation management tool, you can make sure all of your best content is as search engine friendly as possible. This means your best content will be:

    • Quickly found by Google
    • Structured so search engines can quickly tell it's about you
    • Linked to and stored in credible databases and directories across the web so search engines know it's trustworthy

What Factors Do Search Engines Use to Rank Content?

Search engines employ algorithms with hundreds of factors to determine how to rank results. However, there are a few main factors you should always keep in mind when it comes to search engine reputation management:

  1. On Page SEO Factors:

    These are factors within the actual page. The good news is, if you own the content, you have direct control over these:

    • Frontend & Backend Structure/Architecture: Any content on the web is supported by a number of frontend and backend computer languages or code—things like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, and so on—which communicate information to the search engine and your computer. However, problems arise when people create great content, but it is so poorly structured that search engines are unable to properly communicate with the website and therefore have no idea what the page is really about. There are many things you need to be mindful of as you structure your code–the sitemap or navigation of the page, the history of the domain, the placement of headings and dozens of other things. It can seem daunting, which is why we wrote this guide to walk you through the most important parts. BrandYourself's online reputation management tool can also help take you through the steps of this process.
    • Relevancy: This one is simple—keep your content updated. If your content hasn't been updated in a long time, search engines start to view it as irrelevant.
    • Keyword/content: When a search engine visits your page, you want to make sure it quickly understands which words and phrases are the most important—what we call keywords. For example, if you want to rank for "Your Name" (i.e. John Smith), but "Your Name" isn't written anywhere on the page, a search engine would have no idea to rank it for that. There are two important elements to keep in mind:
      • Placement: There are certain places on the page that search engines consider more important than others, so that's where you want to include Your Name. These include outwardly visible areas (the URL, page headings, bolded words and anchor text) as well as areas in the backend (title tags, heading tags, meta-tags, and descriptions). You want to include Your Name in all of these places.
      • Density: Search Engines also take into account the density of these keywords throughout the site, to make sure any content on the page lines up with those words. This way, you can't simply stuff keywords, like Your Name, in those important places if the page is about something entirely different.

  2. Off Page SEO Factors:

    These factors aren't directly tied to the content on your page and are meant to gauge the page's outside credibility. Since you can't directly control these factors, it's important you dedicate time to the most important ones:

    • Incoming Links: Search engines consider each link to a site as a "vote" for that site to show up higher. The more places that link to your site, the higher search engines will rank it. However, the credibility of the link is also important. For example, a link from CNN.com is weighted more heavily then a link from a random no-name site. This is one of the most important factors in SEO.
    • Social Sharing: Sharing a page across social networks is one of the easiest ways to build credible links. If you share a relevant, valuable page, people will pass it around, signaling a great deal of credibility to search engines.

Avoid Black-Hat Techniques That Get Your Content Banned

OOP (Over-Optimization Penalty): Many search engine marketers are tempted to try to "game" search engines and create an artificial edge by abusing the above factors. Fortunately, search engines are smart, and these "black hat" methods are quickly caught and harshly penalized (banned from results).

These include:

We don't condone these tactics, nor are they effective, so we won't bother explaining how they work. However, it's important you don't accidentally employ anybody who uses them. As a basic rule, if you ever encounter a service provider or a product that guarantees quick results, chances are they use black hat techniques and you should take your money and run. It's not worth doing anything or working with anyone that gets you permanently blacklisted by Google and other search engines. (Note: Most honest SEO tactics take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to start showing results).

Conclusion

While all of this may seem daunting, you can start one step at a time and know that just by understanding the above you have a far deeper comprehension of how search engines and SEO function than the average person. Now that you have an understanding about how search engines work, let's tackle how to start creating a positive online presence.


Part 3: Building the Foundation of Your Online Presence for Google Search Results

You've diagnosed your Google presence and learned the basics behind Personal Search Engine Optimization. Now it's time to actually start building the foundation of your Google presence with these basic steps everybody should follow to get started. The idea behind this part is simple: you can't make your google results look better if you don't have any good content in the first place. So let's get the basics in place.

Step 1: Purchase Your Domain (yourname.com)


Purchasing your domain name is quite possibly the most important step you can take if you want to show up on the first page of Google. It's roughly a $10/year investment and incredibly easy. You can buy your domain at any number of registrars such as hover.com, 1and1.com or GoDaddy.

Step 2: Build a Personal Website

Now that you have your domain, it's time to build a personal hub on the web where you can display everything from your work history to your personal interests. Today, anybody can create their own personal website, without having any technical knowledge. This is an extremely powerful tool for practicing effective search engine reputation management. There are a lot of options out there but we usually recommend WordPress. It's easy to get set up, but also allows for a lot of customizing as you develop your personal identity online and get more comfortable (or if you're interested in tweaking your design, etc.).

Step 3: Get on Social Networks:

Search engines tend to rank social media profiles like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ high, and for good reason: They require some sort of authentication to create, so search engines view them as more credible. Also important, they are constantly updating, making them extremely relevant due to their "timely" content (which we covered in SEO basics). In short, if you're trying to show up higher in Google, creating professional social media profiles is essential. (We'll go more in depth about the best profiles to use and how to structure them in Part 4: Advanced Tactics).

Step 4: Full Out Your Profiles:

Joining social networks is a good first step by itself, but the true power of these services doesn't come through until you completely fill out your profile. You want Google to find your profile, so give it as much relevant info as you can. Be sure to add links to your other social profiles as well.

Conclusion

Depending how competitive your name is, you could very well start seeing many of these places populate your first page of Google after only a week or two. Remember, social media may seem all fun and games, but these profiles are essential for the foundation of your online presence. We'll cover tips on how to boost all of these profiles higher in search engines next.


Part 4: Advanced Tactics to Boost your Google Ranking & Online Reputation


Once you've built a foundation for Google, it's time to apply all the basic SEO Rules to your content. This section of the guide will cover how to make sure the different content you're building is as search engine friendly as possible.

Sample personal web pages that show name, title, and contact information

Building Your Personal Website:

In part 3 of this series, we encouraged you to build a personal website using a free sitebuilder. We mentioned that your goal is to let search engines know this is the most comprehensive source on the web about you, so its important to fill it with as much information as you can. Here are some important things to keep in mind when creating your site to ensure it is as search engine friendly as possible:

  1. Create Relevant Pages: If you want your site to show up high, you want to make sure it's filled with as much relevant, updated content as possible. Here are the pages you need to include:
    • About Me: This is your chance to fill your site with all the information you'd want someone to know about you. Include your personal bio, education, your work experience and your personal interests. If you have any examples of your work, upload them here. This is the page that lets search engines know there is a lot of relevant information about Your Name.
      Tip: Use your name wherever possible. For example, instead of "I am a marketing professional……", say "Pete Kistler is a marketing professional……"
    • My Links: This is where you should link to all the other places someone can find you online. This includes your social media profiles, online directories, and everything else we suggested you build in part 3. This sends search engines to even more content about you, making your site that much more credible. Links are an important factor in search engine rankings. The more credible pages about you that your site links to (and vice versa), the higher it will rank for your name.
    • Social Stream: Add a feed of your most recent updates from networks like LinkedIn and facebook so visitors see all of your social activity in one place. More importantly, this also keeps your website constantly updated and relevant, which is a very important part of its search engine ranking.
  2. Create a Blog: Blogging serves two functions that help your site show up higher. First, it's another easy way to keep your site updated and relevant. Second, every post you write is a potential result that can show up on your first page. The more content you create and share, the more chances you have to be indexed, linked to, and of course, ranked by search engines. Here are some things to keep in mind to get the most out of blogging:
    • 1 hr a month: You don't need to be a professional blogger to blog. Write one post a month. It's as simple as reading an industry article or op-ed and writing a brief summary and reaction to it.
  3. Keyword Placement: There are certain places on a page search engines consider more important than others. Once you've finished building all of your pages, you want to make sure you include "Your Name" in each of these places:
    • Navigation: By including your name in the navigation (think "About Pete Kistler" instead of "About Me") you let search engines know Your Name is one of the most important elements on the page.
    • Headings: Make sure you include Your Name in the heading whenever you start a new section. For example, there should be a heading over your work history, labeled "Pete Kistler's Work Experience" depending on which sitebuilder you used, there will either be an option to make a heading, or you can do it manually in the html using the <h1>Your Name</h1> tags.
      Tip: Only include one H1 heading per page
    • Anchor Text: Anchor text refers to the underlined text that indicates that text is a link (example: The anchor text for Pete Kistler: Personal Website is "Pete Kistler: Personal Website"). Since links are such an important part of the algorithm, you want to make sure search engines know what the links are about. On you're "My Links Page", make sure you label each link with your name such as "Pete Kistler Twitter" rather than just "Twitter."
      ***There are many other places you can include your name within the HTML , like your page Title Tag. By using a service like BrandYourself, you can ensure your site is automatically as search engine friendly as possible.

Social Media Profiles

As we mentioned in Part 2, social media profiles are excellent results that you can push to the top of search engines. The "big four" of social media sites are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. These sites rank high in search results, so if you haven't done so already, make sure to create profiles for these sites. The following tips will help you ensure they are as SEO friendly as possible and the most effective for your search engine reputation management strategy:

Conclusion:

You are now well on your way to having a great first page of Google! However, in some cases there is something specific you need off the first page. A negative review, a damaging blog post, or just someone people are mistaking for you. If this is the case, continue on to Part 5: Emergency Tactics For Fixing a Negative Search Result.


Part 5: Emergency Tactics For Fixing a Negative Google Search Result


Even if you've gotten your Google diagnosis, setup your basic presence for Google and used our advanced SEO techniques to raise them to the top, sometimes it's just not enough. This part of the guide is meant to provide effective tactics for people who have negative or unflattering content on the first page of their results.

Bad Results Can Happen to Good People:

While this section may seem like it's only relevant to politicians or criminals, negative content is something that can happen to anyone. All it takes is one bad blog post or status update from a pissed off ex, one disgruntled former client or employee, or one photo tagged in bad judgement after a night out with a friend. The point is, bad results can happen to good people, and this guide is meant to walk you through the emergency tactics you can use to salvage your reputation.

Here's what to do when negative results show up when you Google yourself:

Option 1: Get it Taken Down

This option is often the first step people take. In some cases it's worth it to try and have the content removed (although there are a few issues with this route which we'll discuss later on). If choose this route, there's a few steps you can take:

These methods can frequently prove time-consuming, frustrating and, at times, expensive. And what's worse, at the end of the day, they may not even work:

Option 2: Bury It

This exemplifies the main concept of this guide: raise positive content higher in search engines, essentially burying content farther down the page. While this doesn't technically remove it from search engines, it does drastically decrease the chances someone searching for you finds it. In fact, 93% of people don't even go past the first page, and even if they do, they've just gone through an entire page of positive content that lets them know who you really are. This means, you don't only need one or two results on the first page, you need enough to bury the other content. Here are the best ways to create high ranking content that will bury the negative result:

Search results example of positive results outranking negative results
  1. Basic Tactics

    Make sure you have the basics covered that we discussed earlier in the guide before jumping to the more advanced tactics:

    • Create a basic online presence: This includes buying your domain name, building a personal website, creating social media profiles and joining online directories.
    • Make sure that content is search engine optimized: There are certain things you SEO tactics you can implement with your content to make sure they are as search engine friendly as possible, which we covered in parts 2 and 4.
  2. Additional Content That Shows Up High

    Sometimes, a well-optimized, basic online presence (as outlined above) is not enough to bury something off the first page. Depending on how high the unwanted results shows up and how credible it is, you may need to get as much high-ranking content on the first page as possible. Here are a few other creative ways you can quickly get content on the first page:

    • Throw a party and put the event on MeetUp: Yes, we're serious! As we mentioned earlier in the series, you should create a personal profile on MeetUp–a place where people create and attend events–because Google ranks these profiles very high. Most people don't realize Google often ranks events on meetups even higher than your profile there. Throw a party and make sure you:
      • Use your name in the event title "Patrick Ambron's Party for New York City Entrepreneurs".
      • Take the time to actually create a party people will want to attend and invite all your friends to RSVP on the event page. It might be a little investment, but the more people who are attending and linking to the page, the higher it will show up, so it's well worth it (plus, its a great excuse to throw a party.)
    • Write a Press Release and release it on PR Newswires: Most people don't realize they can use the same tools PR agencies use to automatically distribute press releases across the web. There are a handful of free newswires, but if you are serious, we recommend shelling out $300 for PR NewsWire, as it's one of the most effective newswires on the web.
      • You can write a press release about any life event–you graduated college, you started a new job, you just created a new website, anything. The point is, you want any positive content to show up higher than those negative results. Tip: Remember to include links to other places the person can find you online.
    • Comment on news articles: As you can imagine, any results coming from a domain like the NYTimes is considered highly credible by Google. Commenting on articles in places like these is an effective way to get a high ranking result. While they aren't the best possible results about you, at least they aren't negative. Make sure you link to your personal website, this way when someone finds it, you can direct them to more positive information.
    • Create profiles on your schools website, or local gov't website (like the library): As we mentioned earlier, search engines consider .gov and .edu the most credible on the web, and rank them accordingly. If you want to get content on the first page quickly you should create as many profiles on .gov or .edu sites as possible. Here are some places that you can create .gov or .edu content:
      • Check Your Local Government: Browse every single website your local government offers, from town hall to the local library). There is a good chance there is some place that will allow you to create a profile, or comment on an article. For example, take a look at the website from this Library in Delaware.
      • Contact your alma mater: Check your college's website to see if there is anywhere you can create a profile. Be creative. It might be in the intramurals section, or in some small on-campus group. You're just looking for anywhere you can create a profile or result.
      • Write a guest blog post for your local government or local college: If all else fails, most government sites and college programs have blogs. Figure out an article you could write that would be relevant and reach out and offer to write it. For example, if a college has a program for your field, volunteer to write an advice piece
    • Write an article for a major blog or news site: This is an easy way to get a result on the first page. Contact your local newspaper and offer to write a piece on your expertise. There are also blogs that allow people to blog for free as long as the content is quality such as the Huffingtonpost.com and Examiner.com

Option 3: Bump It Off

While entirely possible, it's obvious that burying something off the first page requires a lot of time. There is a little known, but very valuable piece of information when you find yourself in this situation that could save you a lot of time: Google only likes to rank one result on the first page per domain.

What does that mean? Let's pretend someone wrote an op-ed bashing you in the Huffington Post, and it shows up as your number one result. It's going to be a lot of work and a lot of time to get ten other results to rank higher than the Huffington Post and push it off the first page.

It would be easier if you simply bumped it off by replacing another result on the Huffington Post in your top ten. While this may seem like a tall order, you'd be surprised how easy it is to create a well optimized result on almost any domain.You just need to figure out how you can publish something on the site. For example, poking around the Huffington Post, you would realize they allow you to create your own profile on the site (huffingtonpost.com/myname). All you need to do is create a profile that is more relevant to your name than the bad article. A few things to remember when making your profile:


Part 6: Improving your Google Image Results


A picture says a thousand words. Whether it's a mugshot or an unsavory party picture with friends, if you have a negative photo showing up online, Google image results for your name may not be saying what you want (especially with Google displaying the top image results for a corresponding web search right right on the first page). The good news is that you can take similar tactics with your Google image results. While the concept of "burying" bad content with good content is the same, we'll tackle specific steps you can take to improve your Google image results in this last section of the guide. Frequently, negative images rise to the top of image searches simply because of a lack of content.

Step 1: Leverage photo-oriented social networks and websites

The first thing you should do is join a few sites that will enable you to post some images online. There are plenty of services available, but we recommend signing up for at least three of the following accounts (remember to file out the profiles completely, with your name and relevant info).

Step 2: Post positive photos to your accounts

Now that you have methods to post the pictures, you'll need to collect a few photos of yourself that you don't mind having online (we're talking professional photos and G-rated activities). If you don't have any, start snapping some. The more photos you have the better - there are many more image results generated than a basic web search. To be safe, you should have a few dozen on hand to post.

Step 3: Let Google know the image is about you

When you upload a photo or image to any of your sites or profiles, you want to make sure Google knows the image is of you. That means you'll need to add some descriptive info to the photo:

Image of girl with icon around face to demonstrate the tag feature on social networks

Step 4: Use your profiles to push the image out there

Now it's time to get your image out there. Create a new post with the image on the (if available) or share the image with your social networks. This will help to create more links to the positive photo and make it search engine friendly so that it can rise above your negative images. You'll want to do this for all of your images. As with most content, you should begin to see results in 2-6 weeks and your negative image(s) will become just a bad memory.

Conclusion:

This concludes our guide. If you follow these steps you should be able to improve your search presence no matter what your situation is. If you found this guide helpful, you might be interested in signing up for BrandYourself's free online reputation management tool. It simplifies the entire process and makes it easy to get your best content on the first page of Google and monitor your progress.

BrandYourself offers a DIY tool as well as custom services to help you monitor, clean up, improve, and protect your online reputation. Get started with our DIY tool for free, give us a call at (646) 863-8226, or schedule a free consultation to begin taking control of your online reputation today.