Building a good reputation requires a lot of work whether it is online or offline. It can take years to establish yourself as a credible person or business, and this hard work can be demolished within a brief moment of time.
As Benjamin Franklin put it best,
“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”
Unfortunately, times have changed since Benjamin Franklin, and people and businesses are now faced with many online reputation challenges due to social media, blogs and immediate news story releases. Oftentimes, instant news stories lead to false accusations or damaging blog posts.
Recently, I had a peer, who we will call Jared, who was personally attacked by someone who bought the domain name JaredExample.com and published damaging things about said person. Practices like this can be quite damaging to a business or individual, so here are some steps to help guide you should you ever be put in this type of situation.
(It should be noted that this is not intended as legal advice. Should you be presented with a situation like this, contact your attorney first to see what steps you should take. Legal action may be needed depending on the circumstance).
Five Steps for Cleaning Up Your Online Reputation
- Contact the person publishing the negative information. Please use discretion here, but if you feel like a story is being unfairly represented, try contacting the reporter to provide the known facts. In the example above, Jared should look under the WHOIS records to see who is cybersquatting and ask the domain owner to take the site down. (Side note: If the domain name of your personal name is available, I’d recommend paying the $6 to own it and prevent others from misusing it).
- Create your own sites on the given topic. If possible, create your own site(s) on the topic to help push the negative press down in the search results, just make sure you publish unique content on the sites. Also, if you buy multiple domains and only want to publish one, use a 301 redirect for the unused domains to the new site. This will help claim one of the ten available spots and control what story is being told.
- Use your current website(s) to help tell the correct story. If you already have a website up and if it is related to the current situation put up a page on your site to explain the facts. Also, provide an outlet for people with questions, so you can help control what is being said and so you can properly address concerns. When creating this page, make sure you optimize the title tag, URL and utilize appropriate internal links to help it get indexed and ranking.
- Write and publish press releases. Depending on the severity of the incident, I recommend writing and publishing multiple press releases. These may or may not get picked up by the news sources, but quality press release should perform well in the search engine result pages (SERPs), and therefore, push any negative press down.
- Claim social media channels and relevant directories. If you haven’t already claimed your Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google + profiles, do yourself a favor and sign up for those services after reading this post. Even if you do not intend on using them, you should maintain your business and personal names on these platforms. I’d recommend searching other profiles as well like Quora to help strengthen your SERPs.
We live in an imperfect world, and as a result, false accusations and unfair online attacks do happen. There are many software companies that offer reputation management services, which may be helpful; however, if you are a small business and don’t have the budget for expensive services, I’d recommend signing up for Google Alerts to monitor mentions of your name or brand.
If you have not experienced damaging online press, then you should be preparing for such an occurrence by implementing preventative measures. To do so, I recommend building up the SEO on your website and blog to strengthen your online visibility. I also recommend building up social media channels, so you will have a band of strong advocates for your brand if ever attacked.
Have you ever been the victim of malicious press? How did you handle it?
John oftentimes takes the lead as the Agile Project Manager and SEO expert on selected projects, which allows him to be hands-on with the latest trends.