Online Reputation Management in 6 Easy Steps

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A few months ago I had the pleasure of teaching a roomful of executives and professionals in downtown Chicago how to manage their online reputation. This is often referred to as online reputation management or ORM – and typically becomes a priority when a service provider finds an undesirable search result on Google or Bing.

ORM is a niche practice within the larger SEO discipline that focuses on gaining control of the first page of search results for your name, your business’s name or a product name. Online Reputation Management goes well beyond SEO to include aspects of PR and external communication, blogging, copywriting and social media.

Before beginning any online reputation management campaign, consider the following list of action items. The examples below assume the goal is to control the search results for your name, but the principles apply to virtually any ORM campaign.

Take an Inventory

Take an inventory of the online assets that are available to you. Sign OUT of Google and run a search for your name. Go three to five pages deep. Grab the URL of every result listed and classify each as positive, negative or neutral. Now go do the same thing on Bing/Yahoo.

Stay Alert

Schedule a Google Alert for your name to arrive in your email box every time Google sniffs out new material with your name in the content. This will help you stay on top of new results whether or not they hit the first page of search results.

Optimize Existing Positive Assets

Perform basic on-page SEO techniques on pages and assets that you categorized as “positive” in step 1 above. Revisit the pages you have control over. Make sure your name is in the title tag of each page. Ensure your name appears in the description field of social media profiles.

Link to Existing Positive Assets

Create links back to “positive” pages that are already performing but need a slight boost. Here are some examples – I’ve created a page on my personal blog where I link to guest posts I have written on other blogs. I also use the “Publications” area of my LinkedIn profile to do the same thing. And my Google+ page includes the same set of links.

You can also create personal hubs that link off to all your social media profiles. Google+ is excellent for this, as are the “personalized home page” or “web resume” type tools. Two good examples are AboutMe and BrandYourself, but there are many others to choose from.

Create New Positive Assets

There are certain tactics that you simply MUST do when it comes to online reputation management. If you have not yet done so, create a robust and complete profile on each of the big four social media locations: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. I also recommend you create the following profiles: Flickr (Yes – FLICKR!) Quora, Slideshare, Vimeo and Youtube. A great tool to help you on your way is KnowEm, which can quickly and easily tell you if you name is available to be claimed on hundreds of different social sites. Just creating the profiles is not enough. You must also use each service – at least periodically. Make sure you loop back to step 4 above and add links to these profiles from your link hubs.

Now, create a blog on, on blogger and/or on your own domain name – but make sure your name is in the url. Get a domain name and start blogging. Ideally, you should buy the .com of your name. If that’s not available, buy the .net, .co, .me or .us version. The subject of the blog is irrelevant. Until a year ago, was on the first page of every search I ever did. Now is on page one, and I blog there VERY infrequently.

Don’t forget about images and video when “creating assets.” Both major search engines offer blended search results, often including images and video in the first or second page of search results. Make sure you are creating images and video titled, tagged and uploaded with your name.

I also recommend writing guest posts for reputable blogs (e.g., Small Firm Innovation). They may not push down powerful profiles (like Twitter and Facebook) but they may outrank some negative posts. PRO TIP: Getting INTERVIEWED on reputable blogs can be even more powerful than writing guest posts. Are you interview worthy?

Reputation Management

A classic case of failed reputation management, the Corvair was decimated by Ralph Nader’s book “Unsafe at Any Speed.”

By optimizing existing assets and building new ones, your objective is to push negative and/or
neutral search results off the first page. Sometimes there’s another way. Here’s a quick list of
ways you can try to make a negative post go away.

  • Ask the publisher to remove it. Nicely.
  • Address the underlying issue that prompted the negative content – and be sure the original creator is fully satisfied with the outcome. Perhaps suggest they “update” the post – thus turning a “negative” post into one that highlights your responsiveness.
  • If the post is illegal, abusive or threatening you can report it to the hosting company.
  • Ask the search engines to remove the search result from their index. This usually only works only if the poster has posted private information or info that otherwise violates the law.

Don’t Wait Until You Need Online Reputation Management to Start an ORM Campaign

Do not wait until you need ORM to begin doing this. If you wait until you need it, it’s already too late. Get started today. Practice with your name. Then move onto your firm’s name. Devote 1-2 hours a week working on your program. That way, you’ll have a head start on the Negative Nellie’s in the event something does happen.

One last piece of advice…Check out BrandYourself. I mentioned it above as a good personal page tool. The site is MUCH more than that. Imagine a web 2.0 toolset built around the concept of ORM for dummies. That’s BrandYourself. I’ve been playing with the tool for a few months (they gave me a free paid account for 3 months to test it) and I was VERY impressed with the ease of use, the recommendations and the quality of service.

Online reputation management is, in most cases, a relatively simple small scale SEO effort. It can become complicated quickly, and in extreme cases can morph into an exceptionally critical business task that can fundamentally alter the business landscape.

Image courtesy of Dok1 via Flickr creative commons license.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Spin Sucks blog.

Sean McGinnis

Sean McGinnis is founder of 312 Digital, full service digital agency based in Chicago, Illinois. 312 digital provides high performing websites, SEO, content marketing and other online marketing services to small and medium sized businesses across the US. He speaks and blogs about SEO, content creation, social media and a number of other digital topics. Sean has been involved in Internet Marketing since 1998. You can find him on .

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Hosting an own domain is necessary, it gives more power than any other type of sub-domains, Online reputation building and enhancing is becoming an essential part because the world is going on the internet for everything they want. Thanks for the informative post


Owning is such a simple and essential step to take. I can hardly believe I don't own mine. Good thing my name isn't John Smith. I can only imagine how I might manage that. Thank you, again, for the valuable insight.


I love how you describe not only what to do, but how to do it. This is the sort of thing I need to do, especially the branding of my images. It only takes a few minutes to add the extra information on that cow photo, before I insert it into my blog post. If I make it a habit, I'll be one step closer.


@LizCpher Thanks for sharing that post Liz! Glad you found the tips useful. :)


@seanmcginnis are you familiar with the @VendAsta ORM tools for SMBs?

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @rdopping More than just owning the url, you'll need to actually do something with it. How much you'll need to blog etc may be dictated by the level of competition out there for your name.

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @ExtremelyAvg Glad you liked the "how-to" nature of this post. Fits in nicely with what we're doing with out training classes - focusing a LOT on the how-to side of the equation and less on the "why."

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator





Changing a domain name is different from starting a new blog from scratch and should always be thought through very carefully prior to pulling the trigger. In fact, changing any domain name a big decision and should not be done lightly. I'm happy to talk through the implications with you if it's something you're seriously considering.


My advice in the post above was focused on adding a new property for someone who is focused on owning page 1 real estate for their name. If you've been blogging on your existing domain name for a while, there's a good chance it already shows up for your name search (if your name is not common).



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