This guest post is by Rich Gorman of Reputationchanger.com.
In this day and age, there’s really nobody who is exempt from the supreme importance of online reputation. Business owners need a sterling online reputation to ensure that they keep attracting new clients. Job seekers need a good reputation to put their best face forward, in the likely event that a potential employer checks them out on Google.
Bloggers need a good online reputation for any number of reasons; whether you’re seeking to build an audience or sell products, having people know that you’re reputable and authoritative is key.
The problem is, the chances for an online reputation to be utterly derailed are abundant. Things aren’t the way they used to be in the days when protecting your image was basically just a matter of keeping DUI arrests and mug shots out of the local paper! Now, a business rival can post something defamatory about you to the Web, or an old, embarrassing photo from your college days can surface, and the damage can be immense.
What’s your reputation like?
There are ways to monitor and protect your online reputation, which is good news, but there is also much misinformation about the ways in which online reputation is accurately monitored.
There is an increasingly large population of people, particularly bloggers, who are using tools like Klout and FollowerWonk to help them evaluate where they stand, reputation-wise. While these tools are useful in many ways, it’s not quite accurate to say that they offer an assessment of your online reputation.
Take Klout, for example. Klout will tell you many things about your online persona and your “Google footprint.” It will tell you how many people you directly influence, what kind of sway you hold over others within your industry, and more. What it does is effectively measure online influence through the prism of social network import and reach.
This is hardly without value, but it’s not quite the same thing as reputation monitoring. What these tools tell you is how influential you are, but they don’t tell you whether your overall online image is good or bad, or whether there are potentially embarrassing listings out there that could cost you, personally or professionally.
Let’s say, for instance, that the old DUI report or frat party photo surfaces on the Web. A good way to stay alert about these negative listings is to simply search for yourself, on Google and Yahoo and Bing, as often as you can.
A couple of professional reputation monitoring tips are in order here: First, log out of Google before you search for yourself, lest you get “personalized” results that fail to show you the big picture. Second, search for spelling variations on your name, particularly if your name has alternate spellings; if you go by Cammie, for example, there’s a decent chance someone might post about you under the name “Cammy.”
Setting up Google and Yahoo alerts is another important step. This might all seem a little less sophisticated than using something like Klout or FollowerWonk, but for bloggers and professionals seeking up-to-the-minute knowledge about their online listings, this is really the most effective way to go.
Proactively managing your reputation
Of course, merely monitoring your reputation is not always going to be enough. You may wish to proactively shape it, ensuring that when someone searches for you on the Web, the first listings to appear on the page are positive ones. Crafting a positive online reputation is essentially a matter of populating the search engines with flattering content about yourself—but how?
The first thing to think about is your online real estate portfolio. Make sure you are the owner of all the domain names associated with your name; if you go by Jon Lener, try to secure access to jonlener.com, jon-lener.org, jonlener.net, and all the exact-match variations you can get. Do the same with social media accounts: a Twitter account is not going to provide you with Google rankings if it isn’t directly attached to your name.
Remember that your goal in reputation defense is to fill the first page or two of Google with positive listings—that is, listings that you control. Make sure to get a LinkedIn page, then, because LinkedIn ranks better on Google than any other social network! Other social networking suggestions include a WordPress blog, which ranks better than Blogger or Tumblr; a Vimeo account, which, surprisingly, ranks better than a YouTube account; and limited time spent on photo-sharing services, like Flickr, which simply aren’t as useful for obtaining search engine rankings.
Measuring your online influence is ultimately useful, but when it comes to ensuring that your online image is a positive one, there is no substitute for basic reputation monitoring. There is also no replacement for the tried-and-true methods of using exact-match domains and social media accounts to foster an online reputation you can be proud of.
Do you monitor your online reputation? Tell us how in the comments.
Rich Gorman is a recognized thought leader when it comes to online reputation management techniques and a designer of direct response marketing programs for companies large and small. He leads the team at www.reputationchanger.com.