This is part 1 of my Building Brand Identity guide. Part 2 coming soon!
When people talk about SEO, most people only think about promoting a business or website using search engines like Google to drive business.
But do you know this is not all SEO can do for you?
In fact, if done correctly, you can use SEO to help you manage your reputation. Your online reputation, that is.
When someone Googles for your personal name, brand, or business online do you want them to hear the good stuff about you, or do you want the horrible (and probably fake) news about your business?
When people search for you on Google, they should find only your website, blog, and main social profiles.
Unfortunately, thanks to social media and other platforms, it’s not uncommon to see bad reviews, complaints, and harmful content ranking high up on Google when people search for you, ruining your reputation.
The practice of removing bad publicity online, monitoring what is being said by others and understanding how to control these issues is a process called reputation management.
Why do you need to care about online reputation?
The birth of the internet has given rise to a ton of great stuff - and arguably, a lot more not-so-good stuff.
Your personal and business name can end up in the hands of the wrong people, such as those who don’t know you, those that dislike your business, or even those who are in places you’ve never even heard of.
So someone says something negative about you, or they are spreading old but damaging stories, they can really hurt your business.
Perhaps a disgruntled ex-employee is spreading rumours, or your marketing team put up an insensitive video on social media. These are some of the many typical examples of online reputation harm.
When your reputation is appropriately managed, you can silence these negative voices and stop people from hurting your business with their opinions.
While at the same time, your digital reputation can also create significant yet hidden opportunities.
If you aren’t taking steps to build a positive online reputation, your audience isn’t seeing you put your best foot forward.
Fortunately for us, people today have short attention spans, they usually start chasing the next shiny story and forget yesterday’s news.
So when reputation management is successfully executed, you can restore your good name to its former glory.
Remember, your online reputation is a reflection of you and your business in the real world.
A bad reputation may even have enough influence to create problems within in your company, your customers or even at home, keeping future opportunities out of your reach.
SEO reputation management is about much more than quelling unfair reviews or feedback.
It’s about making sure your brand, products, and services are accurately represented in the search results.
How to Manage your Online Reputation with SEO
One of the most potent methods to control your online reputation and how people see your brand online is to make sure you “own” the search results.
This means you should be having as many page one rankings associated with your personal or brand name as possible.
Create more positive content
The basic idea of managing online reputation through SEO is to make it difficult for your audience to Google negative information about you.
The best way to do this is to publish more positive content to counter the negativity. With positive and relevant content, you generate interest among your audience, which then pushes the negative stuff down to the bottom of Google ranks until they drop off almost entirely.
The first thing you should do when you find unflattering content about you or your business is to ask yourself “Did you or your staff post this?”
If the content is within your control, such as on your business blog or Facebook page, remove them immediately.
Otherwise, submit a takedown notice to the relevant support team and request for them to remove the offending content.
For worst case scenarios, you can try using the Google URL removal tool and request Google not to show the offending site on its search results.
Remember, the more positive content you can associate with your name and brand, the faster you can get rid of the negative publicity.
If you can’t get rid of all the online negativity, your only other choice is to create more positive content quickly to push the negative results about you further down in the rankings.
Author a Universal Bio with Embedded Links
Your online bio can be an essential asset to your reputation.
If you or your business appears in a blog, publication or an event, chances are you’ll get a chance to provide a profile of yourself to place alongside your name.
This stock paragraph may seem ordinary, but it’s an incredible place to backlink to your own web pages so that readers can see you in a more appropriate light.
Placing backlinks in a well-crafted bio works reasonably well for businesses. As an individual or sole proprietor, these bios work even better as they follow you across your professional and public life.
When you send your bio out to publishers, ensure to follow up when you send these to press outlets, places you're advertising or events you participate in/sponsor to make sure the links are included. 50% of the time or more, you'll need to send a reminder email to make sure they're attributing you correctly.
Speaking, Investing, Donating & Hiring
You might be surprised, but these are some of the most effective techniques you can use to propagate your brand and build your reputation across the web.
Speaking at key events in your industry is usually free (aside from travel) and places your business name in a positive light.
And when you can place a high-quality bio with links onto the event organizer’s website, you can almost guarantee good backlink traffic back to your business.
If you have the funds to spare, you might want to try investing in smaller businesses or donating to non-profits.
Even investing in individuals with business potentials can have an equal effect and can save you the time and effort from speaking in front of an audience of strangers.
Guest blog posts, media press releases, and articles in industry-recognized publications may play a smaller impact, but they go a long way to help boost your backlinks.
If you are looking to increase manpower in your business, hiring can also be a unique opportunity.
To be specific, the placement of your hiring ads can also contribute to your backlinks. But hiring ads don’t last, and they tend to expire after a few months or less.
However, many sources for job ads will maintain a permanent profile so long as you regularly or intermittently have jobs available.
If you've have been posting hiring ads only on your own website or on the newspapers, consider using other employment services where you can publish your company’s or personal profile.
Avoiding public sites such as Wikipedia
In reputation management, the first rule is always own the pages where you have complete control.
Wikipedia pages allow the public to add or edit any content freely. That means anyone can misquote or publish misrepresenting information on the page, and anyone can read it.
Don’t be distracted by Wikipedia’s high domain authority. If you think Wikipedia only publishes accurate information, then you wrong.
There is a tedious process you need to go through if you wish to make any changes with the editorial team, so it is not worth the trouble. You should just avoid them altogether.
So before you invest any time or money into building external links, ensure you have control over the general quality and the content.
Ideally, there should also be a place for you to submit any takedowns or complaints if you found something on a platform that is tarnishing your name.
Create an Alternate Blog
Over the years, blogging has exploded as a powerful channel for anybody to create their own message and share it online.
At the same time, thanks to the popularity of content marketing, it has transformed into a medium of choice for building an authoritative reputation for any business or organisation.
To secure as many page one rankings on Google as possible, you’ll want to own as many authority sites and social profiles as you can.
Creating a blog that revolves around your personal or business brand is an excellent way to accomplish this.
With blogging, you can also write original content that goes well beyond your reach by interviewing industry leaders through articles, podcasts or videos.
All these content will be seen on your site with your name on it, and it will also likely be distributed by those whom you’ve interviewed too.
Because of this reason, most reputation management SEO consultants recommend that you register a domain such as firstlastname.com or brandnameblog.com then use it as a professional or personal blog.
You can take this strategy further by introducing alternative blogs into your arsenal, covering on separate topics.
For example, imagine I want to manage my name Murray Dare.
Not only will I manage a blog at Murraydare.co.uk, but I'd also create another blog that focuses on my niche, hobby or interest. Let’s say my interest is in cooking, I will also build a blog call murraydarecooks.com to complement my other blog.
While it is true that setting up a brand new blog takes time, including writing new content and setting up a new domain, but you can tie up a topic of interest that you love to do and share, you’ll find the backlink references will come quickly.
If your blog is part of an existing blog network, be sure to make use of them and use social media to spread the word.
Using your connection, you can quickly tap into your network of friends, family and business contacts to help you get your content get noticed.
Leveraging your low-quality links carefully
While you should never waste money buying low-quality links, but if you ever find yourself in control of potentially crappy links, do the smart thing and never point them to your own sites or any newly registered domains.
Instead, point them towards high authority social media platforms you've built under your name. Such as your Facebook business page, LinkedIn profile or Medium blog.
This method works really well especially for nofollow links from the comments section, wiki pages and other social media interactions across the web.
Even though nofollow links are low quality, but there are several occasions where a ton of nofollow manage to pull social profile pages up Google’s ranks.
So if you are in possession of some old, unused websites with weak domain authority, you should give them a test by linking them towards other social profile pages, then measure the impact of these links.
Only when you find the results satisfactory, then point them at your own profiles. Remember, always be safe than sorry.
Over the years, there have been several cases where aggressive SEO practitioners went overboard with the linking to social profiles.
As a result, they suffered the penalty of having their sites downgraded by Google, wasting days of hard work.
Remember, your brand’s online reputation can make or break your business in the blink of an eye.
Unfortunately, when your reputation takes a nosedive, you can almost guarantee sales will follow behind.
Dealing with even a few negative remarks can be an overwhelming task, but staying focused and determined is the key.
You just have to keep doing it to improve your brand reputation in the long term.
The smart placement of backlinks, use of positive comments, and leveraging on high authority sites are some of the best ways to get your brand name on the top spot of Google without any negative impact.
One thing you should understand is that online reputation management should be treated as a preventive measure rather than a rectifying measure.
Just like smallpox and dengue fever, prevention is better than cure. When you’ve reached the stage where you need to fix your reputation, chances are the damage to your brand equity has already been done.
Most businesses only call in the experts after the event to control the damage.
By having a strong and positive reputation in place will make it tough for any of your haters to ruin your name online.
About Murray Dare
A digital marketing consultant and entrepreneur,
Murray runs his marketing agency Murraydare.co.uk and several online startups.
Murray has helped startups and businesses achieve online success through a considered approach to marketing.