You, Online: Manage Your Reputation

By Shannon Wilkinson, CEO Reputation Communications

Over 3 billion people worldwide now use the Internet. That number grows each day, making a compelling argument for strategically using the internet to showcase your reputation capital. Online reputation management helps people achieve that.

As the founder and CEO of Reputation Communications, an online reputation management (ORM) firm based in New York City, I am often asked questions about how ORM works. These are the most common:

What is ORM?

ORM is a practice that ensures the information you want your audience to find appears high on Google searches of your name.

To achieve that, ORM experts create, expand, amplify and maintain the publicly available online information about individuals, businesses and organizations. We use techniques to place content online in such a way that it replaces old content, moving it lower in search results. ORM can also raise other online content higher. Once successfully arranged, the results must be maintained. Otherwise, the unwanted material may resurface at the top of Google search results — usually within three to six months.

When you manage the information that is publicly available online about you or your organization, you “take ownership” of your reputation. When you don’t, the world does. And what the world publishes about you or someone with your same name may not be accurate, credible or up to date. That is what makes ORM a widely-used service, though it is still new to many people.

What are examples of reasons people seek ORM help?

In the majority of cases, people have not been proactive in taking ownership of their online image. Or they just want to create a polished personal brand on the Internet. Sometimes a crisis, major or minor, has prompted them to start actively managing it.

Often the material that shows up at the top of Google results isn’t necessarily negative, just out of date. It doesn’t reflect an individual’s current brand. An example is when most of the information is about a position they held a few years before, rather than their current career level. Or, when recent media coverage about them doesn’t show up on the first page of a Google page.

Some professionals and organizations are too invisible online and want to create a distinctive online presence. Others have extensive visibility, but their online image is dominated by third-party content. It doesn’t represent them authentically.

Businesses are grappling with customer and employee reviews and how to best manage them. We often consult on the best consumer review management platforms for their type of operations.

What differentiates ORM from other content creation, personal branding and public relations services is that we utilize optimization and SEO techniques that such providers often don’t.

What surprises many consumers about this practice?

False advertising has led the public to believe that unwanted Google content can be “suppressed.” Consumers spend a lot of time seeking that result. They are confused or disappointed when they find it is not a viable option.

To change the order of content on search results, you must replace it. To replace one piece of content, you may need ten, twenty or more new content entries. That content must be high-quality. If it doesn’t add value to a brand, it can devalue it.

For that reason, consumers need to be wary of guarantees from providers who assure “suppression.” Typically, they create masses of low-quality content to populate internet “flogs” (fake blogs) and similar types of sites in the hope of lowering unwanted material. Google and other search engines don’t favor that type of material and can penalize such sites. But consumers don’t know that.

What advice do you give to people who want to reshape their online image?

I encourage them to consider three questions:

·         How do you want to be perceived?
·         Who is your audience?
·         How does the world currently see you online?

Once you have the answers, you are ready to create a strategic plan. The Internet is the world’s best communication platform, so maximizing how you use it can attract tremendous new opportunities.

Shannon M. Wilkinson is a contributor to The Wall Street Journal's "Crisis of the Week" column. She is a member of the new Coptics: Policing in the Digital Age  team and the author of How to Look Better Online: Online Reputation Management for CEOs, Rising Stars, VIPs and Their Organizations. She blogs at You (Online) and tweets at @reputationnews and @shannonnewyork.