My favorite part of SEO is Online Reputation Management. It’s probably because I’m a narcissist. I could literally and figuratively Google myself all day long. It’s also a really fun and creative area. Every problem is unique and requires a custom solution. Unlike trying to get a website to rank for a bunch of keywords, manipulating the entirety of the results for a given term is exciting. And the changes you see to the search results over time is rewarding.
As a result of my passion for ORM, I know pretty much all the ways to improve it. Don’t blindly apply them all; you want a strategy that works for your needs. Checking out the subject online, most of the content is dry, boring crap: “Use social media to your advantage” or “Optimize your site for your company name”. I wanted to get talking about actionable items. If you’re interested in knowing more about a particular subject, let me know. I could easily do a whole blog post on most of these. But I wanted to give you a simple resource list of things to consider when trying to improve the search results for your name. Here is that list:
Buy a relevant domain
You have to have a website. Duh. Ideally it would be yourname.com. If you can’t get that, try yourname.net or yourname.org. Still nothing? yournamecity.com. Think about what people will be Googling after your name. You want a domain that matches most closely what people will be searching when trying to find you.
Don’t worry. You don’t have to actually use Google+, but you need a profile. Google+ is more than a social network. It’s an identity platform for supporting everything else Google does. Since Google is pretty much the Internet, you want to have an identity there. Fill out the profile information, put up a nice picture and try to have a non-laughable number of people who have you in circles.
This is the leading identity service on the Web. You probably already have a Facebook. If not, get with the program, grandpa. Like Google+, you need to fill out your profile information and have a nice photo. Be careful what you share and pay attention to your privacy settings.
Yes, you need this too. It’s another profile that can easily rank for your name, but in addition has other benefits. Twitter is maybe the quickest and easiest way to be someone online. It’s not as real and depressing as Facebook, and you can easily connect with strangers in your industry (whereas Facebook is for people you already know).
You’ll probably get a lot of spam from recruiters, but it’s still a good profile to have. Grow your number of connections, but mostly just make sure that it functions as a nice, up-to-date resume.
This is a great site to have a profile on that ranks for your name, but it can also grow your influence. Prove that you’re an expert by having top answers to important questions. Then, use your well-earned Quora credits to promote yourself.
Video content is important. If any is out there about you, it will likely rank. So, make sure you have approved video content on the Web. In addition, your channel will hopefully be another result ranking for your name.
Set up relevant community profiles
Sign up on relevant communities. For instance, you can have a membership profile on SEOmoz or Forbes. This makes it seem like you’re serious about something. Make sure the community is well-known, though. Otherwise it just seems like you’re doing random stuff online.
Have a photos page
Image search is very important. To help control what’s there, you should have a page on your site devoted to official photos of you, like a press kit. I’d recommend having 5 to 10 photos on it.
This is a great way to increase your reach online. Don’t settle for crappy blogs as if this were part of some link-building campaign. Go for well-established, prestigious industry sites. Get your content out there. It will be a valuable link back to you, provide great awareness of your personal brand to their community and rank for you-related search queries.
Don’t get married
When you get divorced, all that stuff about you being once married to a jerk will still be around. Not to mention, if you’re married, anything she does online will reflect on you. So, you’re just adding a ton of risk with no real gain.
Manipulate Google Autocomplete
What does Google think of you? Well, there are ways of influencing that. Negative words such as “divorce” or “arrest” may encourage users to actively search out negative content about you they would have never known existed if they’re just doing a casual search. Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely you can get the terms kicked out completely. However, you can throw buffer terms into it with some hard work and/or money.
Don’t use the same photos on questionable networks
Sometimes you want to use the Internet for things you may not want to publicly associate with you. Sometimes these things require photos of yourself. Just using an anonymous handle isn’t always enough. With reverse image search (and facial recognition) people can find where you’re showing up online, even if you don’t tie it back to your real name in any way. Maybe you want your online dating profile to stay private. If so, don’t use images that are otherwise associated with the real you. And maybe stick to services that don’t get indexed or allow you the option of not having your profile indexed.
Own a nickname
Got a common name? A nickname can be easier to own than your real name. This can be a variation on your name “Chuck” instead of “Charles” or maybe Charles “The Biceps” Potter. Or you can go with a unique handle instead. MacaroniMarbles. Think of yourself as a stripper and run wild.
When you Google yourself, make sure you check variations on your name and use different search services. Do an image search, video search, blog search, discussion search, etc. Try “your name city” or “your name occupation”. Try questions like “who is your name?” and “where can i find your name?”
Have a blog. This is a great place to store your awesome content, so people will come across it and go, “You’re awesome!” In addition, it could help take up another search result listing, especially if you use a subdomain for it.
Participate in relevant communities
Sign up on forums using your name. Then participate. Including a link in your signature will help you build up (low quality) backlinks and maybe send some traffic to your website. Make sure the community is good and relevant. Your posts may come up in search results, especially for unpredictable variations. When someone searches for “your name guilty” hoping to uncover the secrets of your criminal past, maybe all they get is a thread about you ranting over the OJ Simpson verdict. “Guilty, I say! He’s guilty!”
Remember the photo page? You need good images for it. And not just it, but your social profiles too. It’s likely that 20 to 40 images will be returned “above the fold”. That means if you have a problematic image showing up, you’re going to need a lot to displace it. Diversity is important, plus you want the photos to be good and interesting so that it reflects well on you. Pictures of you dressed nice, maybe doing fun, interesting and important things. “This is me advising President Obama on the Bin Laden strike.”
But not too unique! Try to find your voice. People will be more apt to engage with you or read your blog posts if you don’t sound like a cardboard cutout. Give yourself a real identity that should be an honest reflection of the real you, but maybe leave out the weird stuff unless that will somehow work for you.
Hashtags on your Twitter profile
Use the hashtags you want to be associated with in your bio on Twitter. This helps you come up for searches for those hashtags. And it means people viewing your profile will assume you’re really into those topics. So, if you’re an expert on juggling, then make sure you throw a #juggling into that 160 character bio.
Don’t get on an SEO’s bad side
Generally, you should try not to be hated by anyone. I’m reminded of a quote from a cartoon from my childhood. “Wait, Manuel! There’s something I forgets to tell you. Slowpoke Rodriguez, he carry a gun.” You never know what someone might do if you rub them the wrong way, but you always know what an SEO will do. They’ll write a blog post about you and optimize it around your name. So, if you care about your online reputation, don’t upset any SEOs.
Review your profiles
Check over your profiles from time to time to make sure they’re accurate, up-to-date and reflect positively on you. Maybe you authorized an app that is incessently posting dumb political cartoons to your Facebook, or you realize that you’re following too many porn stars on Twitter. Make changes as appropriate, and then check back regularly. Don’t assume it’s perfect and timeless.
Have content for places you’ve lived
So, you don’t live in Nampa, Idaho anymore. All your profiles have been updated to reflect your new hometown. However, when people who know you lived there search for you, they’ll likely want to see what you were up to back in the old days. “your name nampa” could return some interesting stuff. So, make sure you have content that is relevant and preferred. Answer Quora questions about your hometown. Mention it in your bio or about page.
Don’t get hacked
Getting hacked can ruin everything really quickly. The hacker could make a mess of your online profiles. Or they might discover and publish harmful content. At least you have the excuse “I was hacked”, but you’d be better off not being hacked. So, care about security. Protect your passwords and stop clicking exe files you see online.
Build relationships with awesome people
Awesome people tend to know other awesome people. So, until you become awesome, you can at least be awesome by association. When someone checks out who you are friends with, are they a bunch of losers from your college days that haven’t done anything with their lives? You can still hang out and play video games with them, but you might want to show the world you have responsible, talented people in your social circle too.
Find relevant certifications and obtain them for yourself. These often mean you get a listing on their website, or maybe just a badge you can put on yours. Either way, you’re earning some trust and helping to prove your value.
Register your name everywhere
You never know what might become the next Facebook. So, when there’s a new service online, grab your username. If you don’t, someone else might and then that fool may start popping into your search results. “I didn’t know you were so into country music!” I’m not. I just didn’t register my name on last.fm back in the day.
Stay aware of online mentions. Get a Google Alert set up so you can get an email anytime a new Google result with your name pops up.
Live clean in real life
Real life definitely influences your reputation online. If you’re a crazy drunk, then you’ll probably end up being tagged in some hilarioius Facebook pictures. If you punch a foreign ambassador, it’ll probably be mentioned online. So, keep things clean in real life to minimize the problems you could encounter online.
Put Google Analytics on everything you own. You want to know traffic information anyway, but for ORM specifically this will show you what people are searching for and give you important demographic information. Why are Texans so interested in me all of a sudden? That could be a red flag. Or someone searching “your name liar” got to your site. Uh, oh. What else ranks for that term that they might have seen?
Know your search volume. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s a lot. Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool (try phrase and exact match) and check out the search volume for your name and related search terms.
Avoid obvious spam tactics
Don’t spam. You don’t want people finding a bunch of stupid, spammy crap when they’re checking you out. “But you didn’t see any of the bad articles because they fell to page two!” No, but I saw you’re a spamming idiot.
Make the news (for something good)
News sites have great authority, so if you get mentioned in the news it could easily rank well for the rest of your life. Do something good, or even neutral, and get an article written up. This doesn’t have to be Huffington Post worthy. You can submit press releases to your local paper or industry blogs. Maybe a simple write up about you participating in the science fair is enough to lock up one of the top ten search results.
Speak at conferences
Go to industry conferences. This makes you seem like an expert. The catch is you usually need to be an expert to go. But if you’re doing ORM stuff right anyway, when the people making the choice Google you, they’ll think you are one! And this will help solidify that. Aside from the obvious personal branding benefits, you’ll get written about in blogs and probably get a speaker profile on the site.
Write a book
Nobody will know that literally no one read it. But you know how they say, “He wrote the book on it”? Well, that could be you. Just write a book. It’s not that hard, and you can even buy content from something like Text Broker. Slap together an ebook, hire a designer for the cover (and to make a hardcover photo of it even though it doesn’t exist) and boom! You wrote the book on backward jogging through Central Park.
When people say good things about you, save it. If it’s public, then you might want a way to showcase them. I like to use Twitter Favorites for this. If you tweet something nice at me, I’ll probably favorite it. However, I also favorite stupid things and negative comments directed at me. So, my new strategy might be to create a Twitter account that retweets positive things about me (and links to mentions outside of Twitter).
Promote your content
So, you’re blogging and making stuff, but nobody sees it. That’s no good. You need to promote it and get it out there. More traffic might mean more likes and tweets for the content, which is going to make it look like you know what you’re doing. And it means more exposure. Don’t be afraid to spend money on promotion. If the content is good, then maybe you can get your money’s worth out of it.
Bid on your name. A pay-per-click ad on Google takes up some extra space above the fold. So, if you’re trying to distract people from the TechCrunch article about you drowning kittens, then paying twenty cents a click might help.
Charity and community involvement
Aside from making you a nice person in real life, this has the added benefit of giving you opportunities to put a positive spin on your name online. When people search for you, they might forgive the kitten-drowning if they see you’re also into helping cancer research. And if you participate in some local charity events, then the story might get covered by some local press. That means an article and maybe a picture mentioning you.
Friends in high places
Get help from people you know that are in a position to help you. They could link to you, for example, helping your website’s authority. Or maybe they could write up something about you on their website. Maybe they can tweet at their followers to follow you. See how the big shots in your life can benefit you, and then just ask them for some help.
You probably have some unpopular opinions and ideas. Perhaps you’ll want to keep them to yourself. As a rule, it’s best to avoid argumentative subjects. Don’t give people any reason to write you off.
Don’t be a sex offender
This not only ruins your online reputation, but it also makes your life insanely difficult. So, try not to offend sex. In fact, avoid breaking the law in general.
Change your name
If all else fails, change your name. Or maybe you just want a better name anyway. Not everyone can be as lucky as me in getting an awesome name from birth. Granted, you will not be able to completely escape your previous name, but a name change could be a helpful step.
People like attractive people. So, be attractive. Yeah, genetics are against you, but you can actually do a lot, especially digitally. No, I don’t suggest you completely fake what you look like. But get your photos professionally retouched. Also, make sure you dress nice, take care of your hair, brush your teeth, etc. Get in shape and you’ll be more attractive than half the country already.
Links pointing to a webpage help its rankings in search engines. So, you want links, especially to your website. You’ll also want them to your blog and social profiles and positive articles about you. Anything you want to rank needs links. Don’t buy them, though. You don’t want to penalize your good content. Develop a good linking strategy and get to work.
Have good SEO
You should make sure your website is optimized properly for your name and important terms. The same applies to your blog and any other websites you control. Improve their on-site SEO and you’ll improve their strength for your ORM strategy.
Remove what you can
Sometimes you can get bad stuff removed. Rarely, though. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Reach out to site administrators or blog authors and ask them to remove the content. Try to give a valid explaination. Maybe they’ll cooperate. If not, you could try threatening legal action. That might work on smaller sites, but the big guys know their rights and will likely not remove anything. However, if you do have a legal case, then perhaps taking full action against them is the appropriate (though costly) course. It could get the job done, or it might just draw more attention to the content. So, you should consult with your legal team and an SEO before proceeding.
Don’t comment on, link to, tweet or like negative stuff
Interacting with negative content can only help it rank. Don’t do that! Now, if it’s impossible to beat, then you might have to comment to at the very least offer your side of the story. But don’t get into a flame war. That will just make things worse.
Link to positive content
Use websites you own to help the good stuff rank. A press section is great to have. Link here to articles about you that you want to have rank. Your website should be highly relevant to you, so a link from it would carry a lot of weight.
This is a useful tool for seeing how you look online. I don’t know that I completely trust their scoring and analysis, but it does a good job of pulling in data and showing you an overview of what things look like. Plus, it might rank for your name and if you score well people might think you know what you’re doing. I have an 807 out of 850. Seems about right.
This site isn’t too popular, but I love it. It’s a great way to prove yourself. I’d recommend taking tests on the things you know the most about and trying to rack up a few “Master” ratings to show off. I’m a Master in Twitter, Facebook and Google.
Fake personas that share your name
If you’re trying to fight negative content, then you can run interference through dummy content. You can buy up additional domains with your name in them and set up personal websites for people who happen to have the same name as you. Create an identity, such as a baker, and set up a website about them where they blog about some baking related stuff. They’ll need social profiles too. Of course, don’t tie anything back to you. Buy domains on different dates and don’t use your name in the whois information.
Comment on blogs
This isn’t about spamming, so don’t go around mindlessly commenting on everything you come across. Instead, find some blogs to follow that are authoratitive and relevant. Then, when you read an article, leave a comment. This helps your exposure, but it also can help create additional content out there with your name on it. If you Google me in relation to some random thing, you’ll probably get a Mashable post I once commented on. So, this is a great strategy for helping protect against unpredictable longtail searches.
Use meta descriptions
You can control what the result looks like in Google. So, make sure your websites have the proper messaging.
Have additional domains
If you want to lock up more top results, then consider having multiple domains. This is the reason I have my blog on a subdomain. It is seen as a separate site. However, I could also register variations on my name so that they’ll also come up. Maybe yournamefoundation.com where you feature your philanthropic activities. Or yournamefoodblog.com where you just post pictures of the stuff you eat. Ultimately, you need to make sure there’s a rationale, other than getting a search result, for having the site. And if you do too many of these, it will be obvious that you’re playing SEO defense.
Everything is permanent
Once something is on the Internet, it will exist forever. So, be very careful about what you post online. Make sure you proofread your tweets or might have to live with that missing apostrophe for the rest of your life.
The metric might be mostly meaningless, but people still seem to care about it. So, make sure you keep an eye on your Klout. Try to get it to a respectable number. The most important thing is probably the topics, though. Make sure you don’t have things like “Domestic Violence” in there. Try to be influential in relevant and meaningful topics. You can ask for +Ks in specific topics, and giving +Ks is a great way to get some back in return.
Set up authorship for your blog. When you’re Googled, your image will show up next to the result. Users are more likely to notice, and it helps Google connect all your content to you.
This is my preferred commenting system. Use it on your own blog. It’s got the best functionality. There’s also community elements to it. So, you can use it to discover other blogs to comment on and maybe grow your connections in the process.
Have a talent
You need to be able to do something. Otherwise, what’s the point? Be good at something so you have a purpose to your online presence. Also, if you’re talented, then good things will naturally follow. So, find a talent and do stuff with it online. People will see and go, “Ooh” and “Ahh”.
Don’t create a Wikipedia entry for yourself
Wikipedia content is unbiased and user-generated. So, if you set up a page for yourself, be prepared for the unfiltered truth. You might not like how people interpret your activities. What you see as keen business sense, others may see as heartlessly ruining lives.
Create a Wikipedia entry for yourself
A Wikipedia article can be a great hub of information about you that will definitely rank on page one. So, if your information is positive, then you’ll definitely want one of these. However, you need to be able to merit one. Don’t complain when admins delete it if you are literally a nobody. But if you’re slightly public, then maybe this is for you. Just make sure you aren’t going to attract vandalism.
Edit your Wikipedia entry
If you do have a Wikipedia entry, then you need to be smart about it. Number one rule is don’t edit it as yourself in any way. Fake account, use a public or IP address not associated with you. Then, keep in mind that deleting stuff isn’t the answer. If you raped the environment, then you have to live with that legacy. But you can make a compromise, and this is where the strategy comes in. Find a better way of wording the negative. As long as it sounds unbiased and true, it should pass moderator approval. For instance, a section on “Lawsuits” seems provocative. (And it might show up as a sitelink on the Google result.) So, instead, change this section to “Notable Rulings”. Suddenly you sound like a Supreme Court justice instead of a white collar criminal.
Google your friends and colleagues. Try to go for people on your level and in you’re industry. Keep an eye out for what they’re doing and steal the good stuff. Google the big shots too, since you should aspire to reach their level of online awesome.
Don’t forget Bing. It is used by people who don’t understand the Internet. This often means employers. Bing has a tendency to scrape your LinkedIn and append all your previous employers to your name for suggestions. So, you might want to see what comes up for those searches. In addition, Bing can be closely tied to your Facebook. The upside here is that you can actually tell Bing this is you and give it websites to link specifically to your identity.
Never assume privacy
Nothing you do online (or off) is truly private. There’s no such thing as privacy. Or if there is, it’s like an unreliable suit of armor. By default, nothing is private. All you can do is take reasonable steps toward protecting yourself. So, keep that in mind and don’t do anything you wouldn’t want someone finding out about.
There you have it. Thoughts, questions? Leave me a comment.