Tuesday, April 16, 2013

5 Easy Ways To Take Control of Your Online Reputation

Andrew Shotland is a search marketing consultant with a specialty in Enterprise and Local SEO. He writes about this and other strange topics at LocalSEOGuide.com and AppleMapsMarketing.com.

Last week I got a call from an old client I hadn’t heard from in years. He had been arrested for a DUI and now when you search his name in Google, the first result is the court report of his hearing. Oh yeah, and he was unemployed and looking for a job. Not good.

The future is guaranteed to be some mash-up of The Minority Report, The Matrix, Blade Runner, The Terminator, The Social Network and Looper (if you haven’t seen it yet, rent it now) where all information is available all of the time. In the always-on world, managing your “personal brand” – a fancy marketing term for “your good name” - is critical. There are all sorts of reasons to be aware of how your name appears throughout the Web, from protecting your privacy to improving your ability to make that sale or get that job. But the basic premise is that if you don’t control your personal brand online, someone else will.

So where do you start? Some basic tips:

1. Get Your Own DomainOwning a domain for your own name is one of the simplest ways to improve how you show up in search results and to control your online identity. Don’t be intimidated. A simple one page website www.yourname.com with a photo and some text about yourself is all you need. The domain will cost you <$20 and there are plenty of instant website companies that have easy-to-use templates.SquareSpace.com has a good service for this that starts at $8/month.

2. Claim Your General Social Media ProfilesIf you haven’t already created a page on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest, go ahead and do so. Each of these sites typically ranks well in Google for searches for user names. Fill out the profiles as much as you can and make sure each of these sites links to the others (e.g. link your Google+ page to your Facebook page) as well as to your website. Of course, these URLs are more likely to rank for searches for your name if you are active on them and connected to a lot of other users on each service, so it couldn’t hurt to put some time into them, but don’t feel like you need to be a social media butterfly. Even occasional use of any of these for most people will affect their ability to rank in Google.

3. Claim Your Industry Social Media ProfilesMany industries have directories and other types of sites that allow people in the industry to create and claim profiles. For example, Avvo.com allows lawyers to claim a free profile and get listed. Find the big sites in your niche and claim your profiles there. And don’t forget to link them up with your social media profiles and your domain.

4. Keep As Much As You Can PrivateWe online marketers are known for over-sharing on the Web. That’s part of our game, but there’s no reason why most people should feel the need to air all of their laundry (clean and dirty) in public. Once you put something on the Web, even if it’s a benign photo of your hamster, it’s hard to control what happens to it from there. As a rule, set your privacy controls on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to limit what you share and what can be shared. Here are the basics on the privacy settings for the main social networks:

-Facebook Privacy Settings
-Twitter Public and Protected Tweets
-Managing Your LinkedIn Privacy Settings
-Google+ Privacy Settings
-Pinterest Account Security

5. Create a Power Page on Spoke.comWhile creating your own site and using social networks can help a lot, most of those tools are fairly narrow in their ability to create customized pages to help with your online-reputation. That’s where taking advantage of your Spoke pages can come into play. Spoke allows you to basically create a Wikipedia for yourself. You can create pages for every job you’ve held, links to major accomplishments, links to mentions you’ve received in the media, if you’re an author you could create a bibliography page, etc. All of these pages can help you control how you appear in the search results and provide a professionally curated picture of yourself to those searching for you. And by linking your Spoke page with your other social media profiles, each site could influence the rankings of the others.

So don’t wait for a robot to travel back in time from the future to start helping you with your online reputation issues. With only a few hours of work, you can easily
take control of it yourself while still leaving plenty of time to watch Looper (Trust me, it’s awesome).

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