The year of 2018 is being called a lot of things, but one thing is clear – it’s an age entrenched in technology, and online reputation management is more necessary than ever.
In 2016, social networking audiences around the world surpassed two billion users and the average person spent 126 minutes on social media every day. In 2017, the audience number moved closer to three billion and daily social media usage was up to 135 minutes. Predictions for 2018 follow this rising trend, and more people than ever are living their lives online.
With so many people online, it’s standard practice to google business reviews, look up romantic dates by name and inspect a prospective employee’s internet presence before making a hire. What’s said about you online can impact every aspect of your life and the first page of Google is the new business card.
Whether you have embarrassing college photos, negative reviews from vengeful customers or mugshots from your teenage years online, every negative item in your search results has power over your life.
The good news is that you’re not helpless, and you can take charge of your online reputation. We’ve compiled a list of the eleven most important things you need to know about online reputation management in 2018 to help you guide the conversation about you or your business online.
After reading the list below, you’ll be more equipped to manage your image and stop negative Google results from harming you in your daily life:
- The Stakes Are High for Businesses
Did you know that almost half of consumers report choosing not to buy from a business based on something they’ve found online? Or that more than half of consumers have found information online that solidified their choice to buy from a business? Last year, 97% of consumers looked online for business reviews, and that number is getting even closer to 100% in 2018.
If your business has a bad reputation, it will impact your bottom line, and the only thing you can do about it is deploy a reputation management strategy to fix it. Most customers find online reviews – falsified or not – as trustworthy as an in-person recommendation.
- The Stakes Are Equally-High for Individuals
It’s not just business owners who need reputation management – individuals have a lot at stake too. The internet can be a vicious place where your personal information is exposed and used in ways that you’ve never agreed to. For example, many legal documents are online and publicly-available with the Freedom of Information Act, and sites collect this information to put in large, revealing databases.
Anything from posts by a former spouse with a grudge to a mugshot from twenty years ago can have serious effects on your future. For example, if private photos or dated legal matters are on the front page, you might be turned down for promotions, left by romantic partners or avoided by your friends.
- Everything You Do Online Matters
Each comment, blog post, social media update, online review, domain name, public legal document, new article and video that has your name or brand attached to it is part of your reputation.
If you post comments on your friend’s Facebook profile about how drunk you were last weekend, that’s part of your internet reputation too. If a customer posts a made-up bad encounter with your business, it’s integrated into your online image whether it’s a lie or not.
The internet is a powerful research tool that allows people to dig up almost anything with a simple search. Employers, hiring managers, business partners, investors and literally anyone else can find your online activity in seconds, and use it to judge you.
- You Can Start Fixing Your Reputation Today
To fix a problem, you need to identify it. Start by googling your name and looking through the first couple pages of results, and through the images, to identify anything about yourself that you don’t want other people to see when they look you up. Do the same for any business name(s) that could impact you.
Save these pages to remove or suppress later, and then set up Google Alerts for your name and brand names. This will make sure that you’re aware of any new content that hits the web.
- You Can Change Social Media Settings for Increased Privacy
Changing the privacy settings on your personal social media accounts can do good things for what shows up on Google. It won’t fix everything, but it helps to take a minute to log into every social media account you own, delete the ones you don’t use and put the privacy settings to maximum on the ones you’re active on.
This only protects you if you’re not friends with coworkers, bosses, clients, customers or employees on your personal social media profile, but it’ll remove certain items from the frontpage search results. If you’re friends with professional associates on social media, make a second account on each relevant platform to maintain these connections.
- Claiming Domain Names is a Great Start
If you don’t own www. [YOURNAMEHERE] .com, or www. [YOURBRANDHERE] .com, buying those domains is a good way to begin protecting yourself. With domains in your name unclaimed, they can be purchased by anyone and turned into a way to slander your name.
Imagine this… Someone googles your name and, of course, www. [YOURNAMEHERE] .com appears. It’s been claimed by an angry client, though, who’s exaggerated claims, made up lies and warned any potential clients from ever doing business with you. How would you solve this problem? Legal aid?
Don’t land yourself in hot water. Claim web properties under your name now to avoid disaster in the future.
- Emotional Behavior Never Helps
False, negative, dated or otherwise unflattering information elicits a lot of emotion. The Internet Reputation team has helped thousands of clients, and we understand how difficult it is to stay calm.
However, responding emotionally isn’t the answer. It’ll only hurt your reputation more to reply in anger to a negative review or leave defensive comments on a database regarding a past legal matter. Every online reputation matter needs to be handled from a cool, strategic mindset if you want to help the situation.
- Not Everything Can Be Removed
Unfortunately, some things are on the internet for good. Many review sites won’t remove a review unless you can prove it’s false, cheater websites make the process of removal impossible in several cases, mugshot databases aren’t breaking laws and social media posts are largely unregulated.
The good news is that 93% of people never look past the first page of search results, let alone the first couple. If something can’t be removed, it can be suppressed by regular content generation, social media management, press releases and other online reputation management strategies.
- Results Don’t Happen Overnight
You can’t change the first page of Google with one long night’s work. Search engine results take months to change and are only updated every few weeks. To make reputation management work, you must accept that it’s an ongoing effort and you’re going to need a long-term strategy. Patience and consistency is key.
When the Internet Reputation team works with clients, we do updates every thirty days to track the progress of our campaigns. This is a good rule of thumb to keep your goals and milestones in check.
- Reputation Management is an Ongoing Effort
Reputation management is an ongoing effort that works best if you’re proactive. The best time to start managing your reputation – just like saving for retirement – is now. Once you’ve removed or suppressed any negative information, you’re ready to keep active monitoring, continue producing useful content and otherwise maintain the barrier around your name.
Search engines favor the latest content, so if you launch a great campaign and then forget about it, new negative results will rank higher than your old positive content, undoing your hard work.
- Sometimes, You Need to Bring in the Experts
Reputation management is demanding. Imagine trying to keep your computer safe from viruses without antivirus software – you’d need to do a lot of research, build your skillset and then devote time to it daily. If you’re under direct attack from negative content or your business’s life is on the line, you might not have time to learn and do everything necessary.
Each situation is different, and it takes a full reputation analysis to determine whether expert help is needed. Use your head and admit when handling your online reputation is too much for you, otherwise your efforts could land you deeper in trouble.
If you’re not sure if your situation is something you can handle from home, call us at 1-888-591-0930 to set up a free consultation or click here for additional information.
Protect your reputation online.