Lindsay Olson

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Online Reputation Management is Not Just for Businesses

A guest post from Rich Gorman.

We like to tell ourselves that we don’t really care what others think of us — but of course, it’s never really true. The fact is, popular perception and public opinion matter a great deal — whether we’re seeking to sell a product, land a job, or simply get a date.

That’s why the online reputation management industry has sprung up — because in the age of Facebook and Google, there’s never any telling what kind of information people are finding about you on the Internet. For major brands and small businesses alike, this information can be potentially devastating; if a Google search reveals nothing but negative reviews and consumer complaints, you can be sure your company’s profits will sink.

It’s not just businesses that need to be concerned about their branding and reputation, however; individuals need to be aware of this issue as well. Who hasn’t done an online search before going on that first date, following up on that prospective hire, or checking up on that new neighbor? It used to be enough to have a clean background — no arrests, no DUIs, no busted credit made for a clean bill of health. Now, one embarrassing photo or unwise Facebook comment can sabotage that first date or cost you that dream job.

But do online reputation management firms offer services for individuals, not just major corporations? The short answer is yes — all the time. Reputation management firms help lawyers and doctors, software engineers and schoolteachers, anyone and everyone remove unwanted photos or undesirable listings from the first few pages of Google, Yahoo, and Bing. They do it all day, everyday.

Your online reputation management situation may not quite call for that, however. For those seeking DIY reputation defense, there are a few basic tips and strategies that are sure to prove effective.

The first step is basic awareness. It’s vital to know what’s out there about you, and the best way to do that is to scour Google — known to many not just as a search engine, but as a reputation engine. Search for all possible variations on your name, as well as your phone number and your street address. Learning what’s out there about you is the first step toward defending your reputation, and combating unwanted listings.

Just searching on Google is not enough, though. As potent at Google may be, there are plenty of sites — including a lot of social media profiles — that are beyond its grasp. Try using a “people search engine,” like Pipl or Spock, to find out whether anyone’s talking smack about you on some long-forgotten MySpace page. These search engines will also determine whether you share a name with, say, a convicted felon or a porn star, both of which might be less than desirable if you’re trying to get a job.

If protecting your good name is the goal, opt out of mailing lists and bulk e-mail groups. Being present on these lists means your information is more accessible to those who might attempt to steal your identity. Removing yourself from these lists (or better yet, declining them in the first place) can really help make sure your identity is as safe as can be.

A great way to defend yourself from bad PR is to build a wall of good PR — which basically means making good use of social media. Populating your Facebook and Twitter accounts with information that presents you in a positive light is the key here. Signing up for those accounts but never using them is only so effective; if you post to them regularly, they’ll rank better on Google, hopefully out-ranking any negative listings you’d rather people not see.

If all else fails, online reputation management firms can provide an invaluable service, clearing your good name and restoring your reputation. However, by following these DIY defense tips, the hope is that you can keep your name clean on your own, and leave yourself with nothing to worry about on that first date or in that job interview.

Rich Gorman is a serial internet entrepreneur with an extensive background in direct marketing, affiliate marketing, and online reputation management. In addition, he helps companies and individuals with brand protection plans that prevent unscrupulous competitors from damaging their brand and reputation.

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