So, one day you decide to do a Google search for your or your business’s name, and you don’t like what you find. Negative articles. Bad reviews. Personal attacks. Issues you thought were either already addressed or long buried. online reputation repair
The first page of your Google search results is ugly, and you’re not sure what to do about it, but you definitely need to fix the situation. But how?
We live in an age when the entire direction of news and popular trends can ride on what Google says is important, as does one’s success or failure. Everyone wants their content to rank highly on search engines, but the nature of the content Google Search finds is just as important as how high the content ranks.
Negative search results can sink businesses and destroy personal reputations. Although it isn’t easy, you do have ways of mitigating the situation. Here are six strategies for effective online reputation repair.
#1 Identify the Root Problem Affecting Your Reputation
Every business has unique needs with respect to online reputation repair and management . Does the problem stem from negative reviews? An old news story that won’t go away? Defamatory content?
Identifying the core issue and its source can often be more complicated than you might think. Given the internet’s complex social media and news publishing landscape, the origin of the negativity could be hidden somewhere obscure, such as someone’s personal blog or a review on a rarely visited website.
You and/or your business must first undertake a thorough inventory of what is being said about you online to gauge the status of your online reputation.
In terms of personal online reputation repair, sometimes the damage can come out of nowhere. For instance, someone with the exact same name as you might do something embarrassing in public, but the internet can’t tell that you’re not the same person who did that embarrassing thing. As a result, those viewing search results on your name mistake your identity and reputation for theirs.
Once you have located the origin and nature of the problem, you need to craft and implement a strategy unique to you or your business.
#2 Understand What Online Reputation Management Can’t Do
Businesses and individuals must understand that online reputation management is not a miraculous process. Some things have a life of their own or just won’t go away. So understanding what can and can’t be done to address the problem at hand is important.
For example, in a “same name” situation like the one just described, an individual can start including their middle initial on all their social media and professional accounts, all the way down to their email signatures, to differentiate themselves. Doing so can help distinguish someone in search engine results, though there will almost always be a similarly named person out there with something embarrassing in their past.
You can always ask the original publishers of the content to remove it. This tactic rarely works, but it can be worth trying, depending on the circumstances. Some publishers will allow updates or clarifications.
If someone is using your owned and copyrighted material to defame you, you have the right to request a DMCA takedown, but this option can often draw even more attention to a situation, which is understandably not ideal.
With online media, this can be a particularly difficult strategy; although one publisher might remove content when requested, any other sites that covered or reposted the content might not. The process can become a never-ending game of whack-a-mole where your reputation is on the line. But more effective ways of protecting yourself are available.
#3 Recognize the Power of the First Page of Google Search Results
Fortunately, negative content doesn’t have to be deleted to lessen the threat it poses to your reputation; it can instead be pushed down in Google’s search results. Multiple studies have found that the vast majority of individuals who perform Google searches (over 90%) never go beyond the first page of results. In fact, most click only on the first few links.
This means that pushing down negative search results so that they do not appear on the first page effectively makes them “disappear.” This is true for most search engines, such as Bing, and not just Google. SEO is therefore crucial to your online reputation repair strategy; it is simply one of the best and most straightforward ways of effectively addressing negative content that is adversely affecting you or your business.
Another thing worth noting is that sometimes, Google will proactively remove content from its search results, such as when personal identifiers are included or finances would be put at risk. Because these circumstances are very specific, a qualified consultant could best determine the optimal strategy for updating the narrative about you on the first few pages of search enginge results.
The next section explains how to push things down in search results rankings.
#4 Proactively Build Your Online Presence
Amplifying your online presence is an effective method, especially for businesses. It is practical and perhaps common advice for businesses to claim their Facebook page, but what about Yelp and the Google My Business listing? Ensuring that your business profile is active on these platforms is a competitive advantage because they will rank and can feature positive information about your organization.
Are you monitoring what is posted about your business on Glassdoor? Do you regularly check review sites and respond to negative reviews, both positive and negative? Do you have a presence on the various social media sites, large and small alike?
Because the number of places on the internet where people can talk about you is almost unlimited, from Reddit to personal blogs, you and your business must quickly address issues that arise almost anywhere and at any time.
A site such as Yelp, for example, might have a listing for a business without the owner of that business even knowing about it. When this happens, the public can comment on and review the business, yet the business is unaware of these posts, leaving it in the dark about possible growing negativity about it online. It is best to assert your presence and benefit from keeping yourself in the loop.
In addition, creating positive content and news about yourself and your business will help replace and displace earlier news stories and postings that appear in Google search results. In-house blog posts on your website and other engaging content can “fill the gap” as negative content ages and Google reindexes websites.
#5 And Keep Your Eye On It!
Even the best online reputation repair is never instantaneous. Anyone seeking to repair their reputation online must understand that taking the proper steps and doing so in a way that has a lasting effect, takes time. Creating sufficient positive content to push down negative content takes time. This reality reinforces the need to monitor search results so that you can address opportunities for improvement immediately.
SEO will not significantly affect Google’s or Bing’s search results right away. For example, Google’s process for reindexing websites and accounting for optimization strategies can take up to six weeks
For those who wish to keep an eye on what people on the internet are saying about them, Google Alerts is just one of many monitoring tools that are available. Using it, individuals and businesses can receive instant notifications about new mentions and news stories, allowing them to react quickly with the necessary measures to protect their reputation.
#6 Hire Someone to Do the Work for You
Perhaps the most effective way of addressing any issues with your online reputation, whether repairing it or proactively improving it, is by hiring an experienced consultant or consulting firm. An outside perspective can be more objective about the problems that you or your company is facing, and a specialist firm can more quickly and adeptly pinpoint and implement the online reputation management tools that best fit your specific needs.
A key thing that anyone interested in personal online reputation repair needs to understand is that it is not the same as crisis management. The two overlap to some degree, but online reputation management is a long-term, strategic way of both addressing and preempting damage to your online reputation.
But Don’t Hire the Wrong Someone or Team!
The idea of a quick, easy fix for damage to one’s online reputation can be incredibly tempting, if not irresistible. Naturally, some “consultants” use this temptation to take advantage of people by promising immediate results.
To be clear, no one can solve your reputation problem overnight, at least not ethically. Furthermore, the benefits of such short-term solutions tend to not last much longer than the time used to employ them. Victims of these kind of consultants often find they encounter the same problems over and over again.
In addition, some quick-fix techniques could violate Google’s SEO rules by spamming links and keywords. Although some content might be pushed down in the search results rankings temporarily, the tactic used could also draw Google’s attention to the influence peddling, complicating efforts to suppress negative results over the long term. In other words, when you don’t follow Google’s guidelines and advised protocol, there are lasting effects that further exacerbate the reputational challenge.
Some unethical consultants might threaten bogus legal action against the publishers or companies hosting the negative content, which can create legal risks for the client, in addition to attracting more attention to them and their problems.
Realizing that your company’s online reputation has taken a hit or worse, has been damaged almost beyond repair can be terrifying. Online negativity often takes on a life of its own and can persist far longer than the original issues or problems that created it in real life. Addressing such negativity is often difficult and complicated.
Repairing a person’s or company’s reputation is possible, but the process requires real effort and patience. A knowledgeable and experienced outside consultant can help you develop and implement a sophisticated, effective strategy to put you and/or your business on the right track and protect it far into the future.