Curiosity may drive individuals to Google themselves, but for business people search engine queries are actually research opportunities. Business owners and executives need to keep tabs on their reputations, both online and off.
A poor reputation can do irreparable damage to any organization, and false rumors spread online can be hard to recover from.
Hopefully your online research will turn up nothing but glowing reviews and satisfied customers. If so, all you need to do is stay on top of things and do the occasional Google search. You also do not need to worry much if negative information is buried in the lowest pages of your search engine query. Few people go beyond the first page of Google results, and the statistics for other search engines are similar. You may need to take action if the negative information creeps closer to page 1, but until then you can probably safely ignore it.
If you do find negative information about you or your company on the web, you could hire a professional reputation management company to deal with it. Many such companies have popped up in recent years, and they all promise to bury or delete negative information and improve the reputations of their clients. While reputation management companies generally do good work, you probably do not need to hire one. The do-it-yourself approach can be just as effective and considerably less expensive.
You can start by deleting any old accounts that could come back to haunt you. If you have an old Flickr album full of party photos, go ahead and delete it. If you find old newsgroup posts that could be taken out of context, delete them and give yourself one less thing to worry about.
Things are a bit more difficult when the account is not yours. If you find untrue and potentially libelous information online, contact the webmaster or owner of the site and ask that the information be removed. Sites like BeenVerified and Spokeo are generally responsive to legitimate requests, and Google will even delete search results under certain circumstances. If you receive no response to your first query, keep trying. It often takes repeated attempts to get rid of negative information.
If your campaign to eradicate all negative information comes up short, there is another strategy that could be even more successful. If you can successfully push that negative information beyond page 3 of the search engine results, the vast majority of web users will never see it. Most people do not go beyond the first page when searching online, so getting the negative reviews to page 3 is almost the same as erasing them.
Improving your search results could be as simple as updating your company website or starting a daily blog. If you do not yet have a website, you can find plenty of free templates on the web and all the tools you need to create one. You can start a free blog using sites like Blogger and Blogsport. Just keep the site updated with interesting articles, business vignettes and other content. Having a great website and regularly updated blog helps you in two ways – it shifts the negative information lower in search engine rankings and enhances the new reputation you are trying to create.
You can further enhance your online reputation by participating in professional networking sites like LinkedIn. Answering queries from other users, posting job openings and updating executive resumes can all enhance your reputation and make sure web searchers see your company in its best light.
Once you have everything in place, you can keep tabs on your company and its reputation with a simple Google alert. Signing up for Google alerts is easy – just go to google.com/alert and enter the text you want to search for. You will receive an alert whenever anyone searches for that text, so you can get an early warning if anything changes.
In the online world, you are your reputation. Fixing up old problems and preventing new ones from popping up is the best way to protect yourself and the business you own. There is no magic bullet to fixing your online reputation, but the series of steps outlined above can be remarkably effective.