While we continue to change and grow from year to year as businesses and individuals, so does Google and the way people are searching for and finding things online. With the constant growth of the internet and social media, it is all the more important to actively control, manage, and define your own online presence with these 19 reputation management best practices for the new year.
The majority of internet users are spending their time online:
-researching products and services before making a purchase
-looking up family, friends, peers, prospective employees, and potential dating interests
-browsing topics on the web that are relevant, important, or interesting to them
Since it is impossible to control what others might be posting about you online, it is important to develop your own online presence that allows you to promote yourself or your business in a true and positive light for family, friends, employers, competitors, and the whole world to see.
The new year always welcomes feelings of exciting opportunities for a fresh start.
Instead of reacting to a crisis or negative circumstance, be proactive in strengthening and protecting your online reputation with a solid foundation and knowledge base for success.
Begin 2019 on your terms with these 19 reputation management tips and best practices:
1. Google Yourself
Before you are able to develop an effective reputation management strategy, you will need to discover and analyze what is already out there. What are people seeing when they search your name or a search term you are affiliated with?
For example, if you own an Italian restaurant, you may already have a strong presence in search results when someone types in the restaurant’s actual name. But what if someone were to search, “Italian restaurant in <insert your city here>” or “best chicken parm <insert your city here>”. Does your restaurant appear in search results where the highest number of potential customers are looking?
Figure out how you are being found online or if you are being found at all. A company without any online presence will likely lose business to a competitor with a strong, positive presence at the top of search results. The same goes for someone looking for a job. A hiring manager may be more likely to call back a candidate with a distinguished, professional profile over an individual with no online presence or an individual who has negative associations online.
*To get the most accurate picture of how people are seeing you online, conduct a Google search in an “incognito” window so that your previous searches or browsing history will not impact the results.
2. Don’t Over-Google Yourself
Now that you’ve viewed and analyzed your Google search results to obtain the information you need to start your reputation strategy, it is important not to continue googling yourself over and over again. This unnatural searching behavior can be confusing to Google site crawlers and robots causing your search results to jump around. This means any progress you may be making will be hindered as Google tries to understand the reason behind a sudden upsurge in searches.
*When you complete your initial Google search and analysis, take a screen shot or print out your results so that you can look back at them at any time without having to keep googling yourself. You can also set up Google Alerts or allow a reputation management professional to monitor your results through their own professional platforms and programs.
3. Register Your Personal Domain Name
If you haven’t already, it is a best practice to take control of your name or business name’s web domain. Once someone else has purchased that domain name, it can be difficult and/or expensive to get back. Even if you are not planning on building a website right away, it is an extremely handy tool to keep under your belt.
Top-Level Domains (TLDs) with registered domain names – source: https://www.verisign.com/en_US/domain-names/dnib/index.xhtml
*There are currently over 1.5 billion websites across the world wide web with new ones being added every second! With this in mind, you will want to act fast. As many are already aware, the .com is the best ranked domain extension by far. However, in the likely event that your .com name has already been taken, you will still want to register your domain with the next best option, whether that be a slightly different take on your name with the .com address or another top level domain such as .org or .net. A reputation management professional can help you decide which option is best for you as well as help you through the domain purchasing process.
4. Keep Your Social Media Usernames Consistent
As you want to go out and grab your personal domain name as quickly as possible, you will also want to acquire the same handles, urls, and usernames on top social media sites that will be useful for your brand. Consistency in your usernames across all of your profiles and online platforms will help connect your sites together to help both Google and other users recognize you as one entity and separate you from sites that may be posing falsely as you or from someone completely unrelated with a similar name.
In the same way you can over-google yourself, you can also overwhelm Google by creating too much at once. Creating 100 social media profiles in a day is not beneficial to internet users, Google, or your brand or business. Having all of these new links suddenly pop up in a short time frame will signal to Google that something unnatural is occurring, especially if many of these sites are left as basic “shells” rather than properly built out and frequently utilized. It is likely many of these new, quickly formed sites will be looked at as spam and penalized in search results.
*Once a site is penalized, it can be difficult to restore its ranking and linking value, even if it is eventually built out and used correctly. While it is a best practice to secure your name on different social media platforms, your efforts will be more effective in selecting a few sites at a time that work best for your brand and specific situation.
Social media can be your best friend when it comes to growing a following and boosting your reputation but it can also be your worst enemy. Even something as simple as sharing a post or favoriting a tweet that was ill-timed or taken out of context can lead to an instant reputation crisis. While it’s important to be active on social media, engaging with others and keeping your content up-to-date and relevant, how you present yourself is even more significant. Participating in forums, threads, and other online discussions can be a great way to get involved and connect with others in your niche community. However, be sure to do your research and think twice before posting anything and always avoid entering into an argument or harmful conversation online.
*Because news spreads so fast on the internet, once you make a mistake, it can be hard to bounce back. Be sure to freshen up on some of the top social media dos and don’ts from our previous blog post.
7. Do Your Research – Avoid Fake News
2018 was a big year for fake news stories spreading across social media and other online platforms. While work is being done to combat this trend, the problem will still hold significant weight for businesses and individuals going in to 2019. In order to have a strong online presence, you will need to be reputable and trusted by your audience. Taking the extra time to double and triple check sources before sharing or publishing content will be well worth the effort to provide your audience with some stability in an increasingly chaotic online world.
Developing and understanding your brand voice will be key in establishing your reputation management strategy as you begin to build out sites and put out content. Since nearly everyone and everything is reachable online in today’s world, you will need to set yourself apart from the rest with a unique voice that is easily recognizable and engaging to your audience. First, figure out exactly what you are looking to get out of your online presence and build your brand from there. Are you looking to get hired, earn a promotion, start a new relationship, build a new business, become more relevant in your industry, etc.? Once you know what you are looking for, you can develop a brand voice that allows you to promote that goal effectively as you understand when and where to post content as well as the type of content you want to put out there into the world.
9. Pay Attention to Google Autocomplete & Searches Related
While trying to develop your brand voice and content strategy, the best thing you can do is figure out what is already out there that you can leverage and connect to your new profiles and sites. Google has many tools out there to help users find related content to their searches including Google Autocomplete, Searches Related, and “People Also Ask”. Using these tools will help you identify potential topics to use in your content and brand strategy that are closely related to your specific search term that other people are already searching for.
*Using these tools can also help you discover topics that are being connected to your name that you may want to stay away from and replace with more positive, accurate, and relevant topics that portray who you are now rather than negative or outdated instances from the past.
10. Develop Content Diversity
In order to stand out and develop high authority sites that will rank in search results, you will need to create plenty of unique, relevant, and interesting content. Many companies and individuals will make the mistake of creating one bio or “about us” blurb to use across all sites and social media profiles. Publishing the same content on multiple platforms will not be interesting or refreshing to readers and can also leave your sites penalized for duplicate content. Help yourself stand out by providing readers with something new and attention-grabbing with each site, blog, or profile they visit. Of course, each piece of content can have a similar theme or topic, but should never be presented word-for-word in multiple places. Additionally, all of your content does not need to be written. Diversify your brand by presenting yourself in different ways through video, infographics, podcasts, music, slideshows, and other medias.
*Fresh and new content will typically have a better chance of rising to the top of search results rather than outdated content or content that is just repeating what has already been said. Even if you have an awesome website design and exact match urls and usernames across your sites and profiles, without good, high quality content, these sites will dramatically decrease in value overtime.
11. Don’t Over-Diversify
While it is important to diversify the content itself that you put out, you will want to stick to only a few specific keywords and topics to write about and highlight throughout your sites and profiles. This will help make your brand or persona memorable and easy to understand, both to Google and your target audience. You simply can’t be known for everything everywhere across the internet all at once. Allow your profiles to gain strength and traffic in certain targeted areas through high value keywords and keyword topics that relate specifically to your brand. If your content is too diluted with an unorganized mess of topics, your sites will become confusing to readers and to Google while it is trying to decide which search queries to rank your sites for.
12. Start Blogging Consistently
While developing your online presence through websites and social media sites, you will want to stay relevant with fresh new content on a relatively consistent basis. One of the most effective ways to do this is through blogging regularly, whether it is off of your own website or other blogging platforms such as Blogger, Medium, Tumblr, etc. Try to set up a schedule for your blog posts so that your followers know when to expect something new and keep coming back for more. But the same advice stands from up above; don’t post too many blogs at once to overwhelm Google and online readers. Depending on your specific situation and needs, 1-2 blogs per week or even per month are plenty to keep both readers and Google interested.
*Blogging is not only a great tool to stay relevant, it is also a great way to incorporate links to your other content and sites for users to find more easily, ultimately strengthening and adding authority to those sites while increasing traffic.
13. Seek Opportunities for Guest Blogging
Once you get the hang of posting blogs on your own sites and profiles, you may want to seek out additional opportunities to get your knowledge and content out into the world through guest blogging. There are many sites out there that allow users to submit a guest post or become a contributor on their site. Putting content out on established, high authority sites will benefit your own blogging efforts as you gain exposure and build authority in your niche field or industry.
*Guest blogging will also help you build strong backlinks to your site from outside sources, an essential aspect to any reputation management strategy.
14. Send Out Press Releases
Similar to guest blogging, press releases are a way to get your name and content out there from a source other than your own to build authority and engagement. Unlike guest posts or blogs, press releases serve a more formal purpose to educate the public on a specific matter or to make a form of announcement that is often newsworthy or relevant in a specific industry. When working to improve your online presence and reputation, the more ways you can put yourself out there in a positive light to different audiences, the better.
15. Have a Contact Page
When you decide to build out your personal or company website, it is essential to include a “contact” page or way for people to get in touch with you. Just a simple contact form will increase your credibility, showing you are approachable, trustworthy, and engaging. This will allow you to make real connections with your audience and online users rather than simply throwing up content on your sites with no way for your readers to engage or respond. Networking and building connections online is the way of the future for both businesses and individuals.
16. Use Unique Images
A well-rounded reputation management strategy is not just about written content, especially in 2019 when information is easily and immediately presented to us in large variety of ways. As we mentioned diversifying your content up above, we also encourage you to utilize images, photographs, artwork, etc. that are uniquely your own. Incorporating images into your sites and profiles is an important piece of establishing your online presence. In the same way you want to take the time to develop high quality content, you will also not want to skimp on creating high quality images to increase the value and attractiveness of your sites and profiles. Simply taking an image from the top of Google Image results will not provide any added benefits and may bring you into trouble with copyright laws.
*In some cases, users will first come across your websites, blogs, and profiles from a unique image alone. Google often highlights a few top images on the first page of search results and also includes them in most featured snippets. Putting out high quality images that can grasp a viewer’s attention is another great way to increase traffic to your site.
17. Branch Out
If you really want to take that next step in improving your online image and reputation, you will need to branch out and look for distinct ways to put yourself out into the world. As with guest blogging, online networking, and press releases, there are many other ways to increase your authority and credibility such as:
-Becoming certified in your particular field
-Attending events and seminars related to your topics/fields of interest
-Giving presentations or speaking at an event
-Sponsoring an event, charity, local youth sports team, etc.
-Get interviewed on a blog, podcast, local tv channel, radio, etc.
*Through these connections you will improve your reputation on and offline while also gaining high level links to your sites from outside sources.
18. Be Patient & Realistic
Cleaning up or building up your online reputation can take time. Every situation is different, depending on a variety of factors including:
-What is already out there
-The uniqueness of your name and/or level of competition for your desired search term
-The domain authority of sites you want to remove or suppress
-Your ability to branch out and increase your own authority
-And much more
With all of these different factors, it is impossible to compare your situation with that of another individual or business. It is important to understand that things will likely not happen overnight as it takes time for Google and other search engines to crawl and render your different sites and the changes you are making. If you are able to set realistic expectations, you will be happy to see the progress you are making as your strengthen and build your brand.
*A reputation management professional can help you analyze these different factors to help determine the length of time and work required for your specific project. However, there is no way to know exactly how long each project will take as there are many other uncontrollable factors including Google’s constant changing and updating of its algorithms.
19. Think “User-First”
When all else fails and things feel like they aren’t moving fast enough, remember that Google ultimately ranks content and sites based on their user-friendliness and ability to provide the information that is being searched for. If you focus your efforts on providing for the user, you will eventually see improvements to your Google search ranking.
*It can be tempting to opt in to black hat SEO methods that may be able to provide a quick fix, however this tactic can ultimately leave you with more trouble than you started with and will not be able to provide stable and long term results.
Following these guidelines and best practices will set you up on the right track for success for your branding and professional goals in 2019.
Connect with one of our experienced engineers today to get started on developing a unique and customized strategy to improve your online image, reputation, and search results. Our team can help you monitor and manage your reputation while implementing these tips and best practices to match your exact needs.