In these days of mass online interaction, trying to assess the volume of information and opinion flying around the ether is as easy as counting the particles of dust in a beam of light.
This amazing world gives us unlimited access to so much knowledge, wherever we may be, that it has changed our lives perceptibly. We can spread, or receive, the word about whatever we like, and we can promote ourselves and our interests to a seemingly insatiable readership.
On the downside, it’s also easy for others to promote an agenda which can be highly damaging to our interests. In both our business and social lives, we might find that our good name is being sullied by professional competition, or personal attack.
All it may take, is a few well placed comments on a popular blog or comment board and one’s name could be appearing at the peak of search engine results lists, for all the wrong reasons. In a social context, this can be extremely harrowing; a jealous ex, or spiteful acquaintance might cause all kinds of trouble for an individual and their family by spreading malicious lies. Where business is concerned, this can be financially devastating if a vindictive competitor should choose to blacken a hard-earned reputation, with potentially damaging untruths. It can take years to built a good reputation, but just minutes to destroy one.
Imagine someone searches for your name, and finds it in a less than flattering context on a competitor’s site; they will doubtless form an opinion based on what they read. Worse still, they’re also actively visiting an untrustworthy competitor’s website. So, in searching for you they’ve gone directly to the one place you don’t want them to be. That is not exactly what you want.
If going directly to the source and attempting to working on a compromise, or pleading that they desist, doesn’t work, the best way to enhance an online reputation is to improve one’s name ranking. This can be done by posting regular content about your business, or yourself. It’s all about active participation. Post regularly on the various social network sites. A regularly updated blog will help, and add a few pictures to enhance your online status. Ask friends, and satisfied customers, to respond to your posts and encourage them to write positively on websites, blogs and forums about their experiences with you. It may take a little time, but ultimately you should see some of the bad stuff slip down the rankings.
Of course, it may not always be negative vitriol aimed specifically at you that’s the issue. Sharing one’s name with a notorious celebrity, criminal or individual featuring prominently in the news, can see a well-earned high ranking on Google plummet beneath a list of salacious tales and posts featuring ‘your’ name. This can make life very difficult for those in business, as potential customers could either actually confuse you for one of these unsavory individuals, or be negatively distracted by the association.
Imagine the scenario: Teddy Pickles, award-winning real estate agent of Morecaster, has ranked top of every search using his name, for years. All of a sudden, Teddy Pickles, 14-year-old star of the latest teen-oriented TV show becomes the hottest property in Hollywood, and our friendly real estate agent sees his online rankings disappearing from the page faster than junior’s sudden rise to fame. This is an online reputation management headache. On one hand, the Teddy currently topping the list may not be damaging the agent’s reputation as such, but on the other, he’s sending our hard-working realtor’s name beyond cyberspace and into a SEO black hole.
Again, prolific online activity, carefully optimized to be search engine friendly where possible, can pay dividends and return our property pro back onto page one of the search engine site. It may not be a quick-fix and isn’t necessarily all that easy, often taking considerable time and effort, but ultimately your reputation really does matter. And, as the world gets smaller and we come to rely further on our online presence, we really need to make sure that we brand ourselves as carefully, and positively, as we possibly can.