Guest post by Rich Gorman
They used to call it “ego surfing”—the practice of typing your own name into the Google search engine and seeing what results rise to the top. Now, of course, Googling oneself is anything but an ego trip; it’s a necessity. Whether you’re a business owner, zealously protecting his brand; a doctor or legal professional, ensuring her name remains reputable; or simply a job-seeker, hoping to maximize the chances of landing that interview, knowing how you’re presented on the Internet is key.
It’s so crucial, in fact, that an entire industry has risen up to provide services in monitoring and improving one’s Google listings. It’s called online reputation management, and its basic goal is to ensure that, when someone Googles your name (or the name of your company), the information they find is all positive and flattering—particularly on the first page of search results.
Why the First Page Matters
This may strike some as rather short-sighted, this emphasis on Google’s first page. If protecting your reputation and presenting yourself in the best possible light is the goal, then wouldn’t it make sense to be concerned about everything that’s out there on Google—not just the first page?
The short answer is that this is simply impossible. Let’s say that you run a business and someone posts a bad review of your product. That review is out there on the Web, for all the world to see, and there is nothing you can do to remove it. You can’t delete an online listing, just because you don’t like it, and you can’t force the reviewer to take it back.
What you can do is seek to ensure that as few people as possible see that damaging review. That’s where the first page of Google search results comes into play. Statistics have shown, time and time again, that most Internet search engine users (as many as 90%) never click past the first page of search results. So if that negative review is on page 1, it’s a potential PR disaster. If it’s on, say, page 5, then it’s as good as non-existent—a virtual non-issue, for the simple reason that almost nobody will ever see it.
It’s the same in other situations—like job-seeking. A would-be employer is surely going to do his due diligence, weeding out undesirable or red-flag applicants whose first-page Google listings are less than stellar. It is unlikely that the employer is going to click too far past that first page, however. So, a DUI mug shot or embarrassing frat party photo on page 1 is a disaster; on page 3 or 4, no big deal.
SEO on Steroids
Some might think that this is all just a fancy presentation of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and it’s certainly true that reputation management and SEO share some similar concepts and strategies. Thinking that the two are largely synonymous, however, is missing the big picture.
SEO, for the uninitiated, is basically the science behind ranking well on Google. An SEO specialist will try to get a particular listing to the top of a Google search results page. An SEO campaign, meanwhile, is declared successful when that listing takes the #1 place in a Google search, for a given search term.
In online reputation management, the stakes are higher. It’s not just about claiming control of the #1 slot; it’s about claiming the entire first page—controlling the first ten Google search listings for the given keyword! It is not difficult to understand why some experts have rightly called reputation management “SEO on steroids.”
Controlling the First Page
The trouble with reputation management is that there’s never any way to know if or when a new negative listings might appear; even something as simple as a bad review on Yelp can come along at any time, and do major damage to an online reputation. That’s why seeking control over those first ten listings—and maintaining control—is an essential defensive move.
But how is it done? One important step is to snatch up social media accounts, particularly LinkedIn. In most cases, LinkedIn is the highest-ranking social network for an individual—so if you’ve got a LinkedIn page, it will very likely rank at or near the top of a Google search. Other social media accounts can also be helpful here.
In addition, it’s good to buy up exact-match domain names. If your name is Greg Langer, buy GregLanger.com, GregLanger.net, and so on. An exact-match domain is likely to rank well for Google searches—which is why it’s so vital to control your own exact-match domains. Even if you don’t use them all, controlling them means nobody else can seize them and use them against you.
A third and final tip for asserting control over the first page of online search results: Make regular content creation a priority. The kinds of sites that rank the best on Google are the ones that offer something relevant and engaging to users. What this means is that you need to not only have social media accounts, but update them regularly. As for the domains, you may not use every one of them, but upload some content to at least a couple of them—even if it’s something as basic as a resume or quick biography.
Serial internet entrepreneur Rich Gorman has consulted with many top brands on issues of concern like personal online reputation management. Rich also works with companies and individuals to create reputation repair clearing plans, and is an acknowledged expert in the fields of direct and affiliate marketing.