Your reputation is your most valuable currency.
Unfortunately, its value isn’t always transparent. Your personal, professional, or organizational cachet can fluctuate from month to month, week to week, even day to day, depending on what’s being said about you online.
Improve Online Reputation with SEO
The downside risks are truly alarming. According to Graham Winfrey of Inc, roughly 80% of consumers simply refuse to buy from businesses with negative reviews. For individuals, derogatory search results and negative social media mentions too often mean the difference between “You’re hired!” and radio silence.
There are no shortcuts here. Stabilizing and improving your digital reputation takes time — longer than you might like. The good news is that the process isn’t rocket science. In fact, you can get a head start by incorporating these eight simple tips into your SEO strategy today.
1. Take Your Issue Directly to Google
If you’re up against a derogatory result that you believe is unfounded, such as a copyright infringement that reflects poorly on your organization or a diatribe containing explicit material that violates the terms of Google’s SafeSearch, you can take the issue directly to Google.
Start by reviewing Google’s instructions for requesting removal of negative search results on web properties that you don’t control.
2. Monitor Your Online Reviews
Yes, individual online reviews are visible in search engines. As noted up top, even a single negative review can be devastating to your online image. Since you can’t please all the people all the time, hoping and praying that you’ll maintain an unblemished review profile simply isn’t a sustainable approach.
Use a tool like Google Alerts or ReviewTrackers (there are dozens of others) to automatically track your mentions on popular review sites like Yelp and Google Maps. Look to “reviews” on social media as well — Twitter and Facebook attract sour reviews like flies.
3. Challenge Inaccurate Directory or Database Information
Google results and review websites aren’t the only sources of false or misleading complaints. Business directories and databases, such as the Better Business Bureau, can contain dubious information about small businesses and independent professionals.
Every directory’s procedure is different, and some are more resistant to pressure than others, but it’s often possible to resolve complaints. This is almost as good as removing the result outright. For instance, resolved Better Business Bureau complaints are effectively minimized — a record of the incident remains, but it’s not the first thing searchers see.
4. Set Up “Exact Match Domains”
Most serious reputation management efforts require fresh, positive content built around “exact match domains” controlled by you or your allies. Exact match domains’ URLs contain your (or your organization’s) name: yourname.com, yourname.org, yourname.net.
Once you’ve set up your exact match domains, develop a realistic content creation and publishing strategy. The goal here is to build multiple homes for original content that reflects positively on your accomplishments, interests, projects — whatever reflects best on your brand and aligns with your broader self-promotion strategy. (“Self-promotion” sounds gauche, but that’s what it is.)
5. Fortify Your Social Media Presence
At the outset, your exact match domains won’t rank well in your organic search results, particularly if you’re already a popular subject.
Your social media profiles are another story. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest — when it comes to SEO value, they’re all as blue as blue chips can get. If your reputation troubles have already bled into your social media sphere of influence, set up new social profiles and follow social media best practices to promote your interests, including the occasional plug for original content posted to your exact match domain sites.
6. Use Your Sphere of Influence to Build Positive Links
It’s a big digital world out there. Social media alone can’t shoulder the immense burden of your online reputation.
Supplement your exact match domains with niche websites that play to specific facets of your personal or professional persona. Stock them with quality content. Create link networks between them, your social media profiles, and your exact match domains. Pursue reciprocal posting arrangements with authoritative publishers in your field — you’ll be surprised how many are willing to play ball.
The goal here is to create an umbrella of positive content that slowly but surely renders your negative mentions less visible to casual searchers. In industry parlance, this is known as “suppression.”
7. Develop and Leverage Positive Multimedia Content
Last, but not least: It’s almost impossible to overstate the SEO value of video. If a picture is worth a thousand words, video is worth — well, a lot more.
If you don’t have one already, create a YouTube account and start developing compelling video content that people actually want to watch. You don’t need a professional writing staff or glossy production values, just engaging, from-the-heart videos that educate viewers.
Your videos’ subject matter will depend on what you and/or your company do. You yourself don’t have to be the central focus of each piece — in many cases, it’s better that you’re not. As long as the content is compelling and your target keyword is included in the URL, channel name, and tags, you’ll have done your part.
Follow the same process with photographic content. Create a Flickr account, upload original photos, and use your sphere of influence — including your exact match domains, guest posts, and niche websites — to point traffic to it.
Have a favorite reputation-enhancing SEO tip? Please share in our comments section below.
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