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Reputation Conversations Start With Search Results

This is the first article in which I will coin the phrase “Reputation Conversations”. Expect to hear me use this term further in this column, in future columns for Search Engine Land, and in other intellectual property that I generate.

How’s that as an opening statement? It’s a great way for me to “practice what I preach”, as I write an article about online reputation management (a term I did not coin).

Online Reputation Management Is Already Thriving

Simply Google “online reputation management”, and look at how many people are advertising in the Sponsored Results. This tells you right away that there’s money to be had there.

Your searching may turn up experts who also discuss managing reputations for companies and brands. For this article, I am talking solely here about personal reputation management.

The practice of managing your personal reputation online can mean many things, depending on who you are and what your goals are. Some of the obvious reputation management “conversations” include:

  • Job seekers to employers
  • Consultants to prospective clients
  • Entrepreneur/CEO to investors, potential partners, and the general public

Of course, there are many, many other Reputation Conversations that people have every single day.  The practice of managing your reputation online will involve a wide variety of tactics and strategies – from blogging, to using social media networks, to authoring articles, and many others.

Before A Conversation Begins, A Search Takes Place

Most Reputation Conversations start with “Googling” (but they don’t have to end there, and should not end there!). For the foreseeable future, you will be at the mercy of what Google says about you when someone is seeking to learn more about you.

Expect people who are researching you to look at at least 3 pages of 10 results each, if they are using the standard Google page layout (or, think of it as 30 individual search engine results).

The digging may go deeper depending on how much is at stake for that person in getting to know you better. For now, let’s put aside the “super searcher” who may either be very adept at conducting Web research, or may be a hired professional (or someone who already uses a service like Pipl). We’ll have to delve into the area of deep searches/super-searchers another time.

Your immediate goal is to come out “sparkling clean” in those first 30 search engine results. More is better.

The ultimate goal is to engage in the Reputation Conversation that you want to have.

What Will They Find?

Before that conversation can begin, you may be faced with some of the following results of the Google search that was just completed for your name (or, your name + appended search terms):

  • Past Indiscretions
  • Negative Identity Confusion
  • Common Name/Cluttered Results
  • Irrelevant Material
  • Sensitive Material
  • Nothing Special

Some of these search outcomes may put you in “Crisis Mode”, while other outcomes will make you realize that you just simply need to start doing something.

Developing A Plan For Crisis Situations

A crisis may not give you time for real planning. Or, at least you may feel that way. The truth is, if a search for your name comes out with a crisis result, then you need a plan more than ever!  Of course, a crisis does have to be dealt with fast, so there will be simultaneous Planning and Triage.

While planning, you will need to think through a number of issues, including whether or not you embrace that crisis, explain it, and turn it into a positive.

Your Reputation Management Plan will need to include answering the following questions:

  • What do I want people to know about me?
  • What do I want people to learn about me?
  • Do I have a particular tone, voice, or opinion that I want to convey?
  • How frequently do I want to publish material about myself?
  • How will I engage with people online once they find me?
  • How will I monitor changes in the results that people see?

Answering these questions will help you define the tactics that you will use in managing your online reputation. Once you have outlined a plan for how you ultimately want to engage in Reputation Conversations, then you can begin to consider the tactics and tools to generate positive outcomes.

Some Beginning Reputation Management Resources

This article cannot begin to list out, break down, and evaluate all of the myriad possibilities for how to manage your online reputation.

Also, I am not endorsing any of the resources that I am about to list. These are sites and services that you can explore and begin to evaluate on your own.

That said, in the spirit of this column’s place here at Search Engine Land – “In The Trenches … spotlights tips, tricks, and news about the tools search engine marketing professionals use to give them a leg up on the competition” – here are some practical suggestions for where to place your Conversation Starters (it’s a 100% certainty that I’ve left out important tactical areas and specific websites – please feel free to let me know!):

  • Specific Reputation Management Tools
  • Blogging
  • Social Networks
    • The “Big Players” (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook)
    • Social Bookmarking/Sharing Sites (Digg, Reddit, Mixx, StumbleUpon, Delicious, and every other conceivable social network out there!  There will be many reasons you’ll decide whether or not to use a particular social network).
  • Profile & Contact Sites
    • Profile pages for any associations you belong to
  • Article Writing
    • By-lines for mainstream publications and/or trade publications
    • Article Hubs (Here’s a nice starting resource)
  • Press Releases
  • Sharing Your Passions
    • Clubs, charities, associations, etc.
    • Create and share your favorite videos, pictures etc. (e.g. create channels/accounts under your real name for YouTube, Flickr, etc.)

All of these touch points should ultimately serve the purpose of pointing searchers to where you want to have your conversation. But, in order to avoid any Crisis, Identity Confusion, or Privacy Delving, it might be in your best interest to attempt to dominate at least the first 30 spots in Google with material that paints a positive picture.

In fact, don’t stop at 30 – keep publishing!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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