Are you happy with the results people get back when they Google your name? If not, there are easy ways to monitor and guide what information is published about you online. Two years ago we covered how to have a say in what Google says about you, and more recently, and how to track down anyone online. But a rash of social media sites have arisen that give you more tools to help you manage your online reputation and become more findable. Let’s take a look.
Why Reputation Management’s Important
Anyone can create a web page that describes you inaccurately or criticises your performance at a company. Web sites have emerged to trash bad dates and insult company representatives—and those pages are not what you want potential dates or employers to find when they Google you. If making a good name for yourself online is a priority, it’s time to take a proactive approach to getting your name out there the way you want.
How to Monitor Your Online Reputation
One of the easiest tools for tracking what Google knows about a topic is Google Alerts. Subscribe to a Google Alert and receive an email as soon as your search phrase (like your name or company) enters Google’s index. Google Alerts cover news stories, video comments, blogs, pages found in web search, and even Google’s own mailing lists, Google Groups. Be forewarned: popular search terms will yield a lot of messages! Narrow your results down or opt to receive a daily or weekly digest (versus as-it-happens alerts).
Blog search engine Technorati tracks buzz in the blogosphere, by indexing the body of blog posts as they are published. You can subscribe to Technorati searches for your name or product in your feed reader. If you’re looking to monitor blog comments, check out previously mentioned co.mments which keeps you informed of the ongoing discussion. For all things “web 1.0,” Board Tracker watches conversations in discussion forums and keeps you up to speed.
If you don’t want to track each location manually, previously mentioned MonitorThis aggregates data from 22 different sources, including many of the aforementioned sites. MonitorThis will give you an OPML file you can import into your feedreader.
Control the Message
Once you start monitoring what people are saying about you or your product, you may find inaccuracies or incomplete statements. There are a few ways you can amend and respond to them.
Your own blog is the most effective method for getting your message seen and heard. Here are some free tools for setting up your own blog. Once your blog is up and running, address the points you found on other blogs and maintain pages that get your name and message up on top of the search results. Tip: Google loves fresh content. The more you update your blog, the better. As long as you keep the search phrases you want Google to find in the forefront, you’ll likely find yourself closer to the top of the search results.
Social media sites offer countless ways to participate in online community, and most of these profiles offer the added bonus of search engine visibility. Flickr, YouTube, Digg, Wikipedia, Facebook, and Twitter are six mainstream social media sites that feature results when you perform a web search. They are also high-authority sites that are favoured by search engines. Use each one appropriately and make sure to emphasise correct key phrases (such as your name or your company name). If you can interlink these social media profiles with your blog posts with acceptable anchor text, you can help push up other positive pages in the search results.
Here are some tips on how to get the most search juice from these profiles:
- Flickr (photo sharing): Use your name in the title and description of the image. In Flickr, you can also add links to comments and HTML. Also, take advantage of tags!
- YouTube (video sharing): The title of your video can help a lot. Popular videos are often ranked high in search results.
- Digg (social news): Digg and other social news sites allow you to customize your profile with your personal information and affiliated websites. There is also room for a short bio where you can emphasize key words.
- Wikipedia (collaborative encyclopedia): Wikipedia is a bit of a tricky one because you’re not allowed to edit your own page or your company’s page as per their guidelines. However, you can contribute to Wikipedia and use the Talk: page to engage in a discussion.
- Facebook (community): In order to display your profile in the Google results, you will need to change your privacy settings.
- Twitter (micro-blogging): Claim your username on Twitter (before someone else does) and fill out the short bio.
You can do all of the above as an individual, but the web is about interconnectedness, so the next step is to get involved in the community. Network with others in your field of interest. If you’re passionate about science and love to write, contact a science blogger and ask to post a guest post on their blog. Put your social media site membership to good use and participate in the community and in forums. If you don’t like what others are saying about your company, be receptive to criticism—and address it.
One of the most important things you can do to control the message is to go to the source and communicate directly with the publisher. However, that option isn’t always available. Sometimes you’ll just have to deal with Internet meanies and grow that thick skin. When direct methods fail, take the opportunity to be proactive and to create web pages and social media profiles search engines will find and use to push negative inaccuracies further down in the results.
Got your own effective methods to manage your reputation online? We’d love to hear them in the comments.
Tamar Weinberg, Lifehacker’s weekend contributor, believes in the power of social media.