As potential customers, business partners, and employers begin to use the Internet as a research and background check tool, your reputation in the search engines is becoming increasingly more important. For most of my clients I recommend taking a preemptive or proactive stance, and securing one or more listings on the first page for the company or their personal name, before there is a problem. However if there are already one or more unfavorable listings, there are still steps you can take to correct the problem, here is my basic plan for using social media reputation management.
Secure Your Domain: If you don’t already own, you should try to purchase YourName.com. If the domain is already owned by someone else see if you can make an offer to purchase it. This is generally best done through a third-party as the price goes up if the person you’re buying it from knows it’s your own use. If you are unable to purchase a domain yourself or from a third party, try adding your middle name or middle initial to the .com. As a last resort you can purchase a .net or .org domain. A.biz, .info, or .name domain should generally be avoided, as they are often associated with less reputable or lower quality websites.
Secure Your Profiles: Set up a profile on the most popular, frequently used, or industry related social media, or social bookmarking websites as possible. Most of these profiles will allow you to insert a link back to your website, if they do link them back to your domain name. If you’re working with a company name, resist the temptation to use keywords in your profile name (i.e. CheapTravelDeals). You should also associate as many of the profiles as possible to each other. Additionally try to use the same or similar image or avatar on his many of the profiles as possible. Some of the key sites include: Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter, Delicious, Blogger, WordPress, Digg, Mixx, Twitter, and StumbleUpon.
Use Your Profiles: Once you’ve established your profiles, and interlinked them as much as possible, you need to fill them with content. In most cases this content should be noncommercial, and non-self interested. Try to insert, link to, or submit informational or encyclopedic information or links. The goal is to make the profiles as useful to the community, and not yourself as possible. You should also try to make as many friends as possible on each of the services, as many of them interlink friends, allowing you to take advantage of any internal links and anchor text. You should also make an effort to keep the profiles alive, and looking as “lived in”as possible. Establish profiles with a longer history often carry more weight, and many systems delete inactive profiles.
Build Links to Your Profiles: In order for your profiles to rank there going to be links with the proper anchor text. Use any of your existing websites and link to your profiles with the correct anchor text. Again resist the temptation to use keyword rich anchor text (i.e. DiscountFloridaHotels).
Guest Articles and Blog Posts: Once you have set up links from your own websites to your social media profiles, you should start using other sites to build links as well. Guest articles or posts on other blogs or websites are the next step. Insert links in the main body or Bio section for each article. You should link to no more than one or two of your profiles, preferably the ones that relate to in some way to the article. If you can write articles or posts that are informative, resourceful, or otherwise noteworthy you will be rewarded. These posts or articles will gain links and give you links from important sub pages, which will transfer to your social media profiles.
Article Syndication Websites: While the importance of article syndication websites has diminished in recent years they are still a powerful tool. This is one of the few exceptions where you can be slightly more self-promotional. If possible try to insert your name or company name in the title of the article. Then link to this article from your website, using the desired anchor text. You can also insert a link to one of your social media profiles. A secondary strategy involves looking for websites that use your syndicated articles. Set up a Google alert unique phrases in your article, if you see they are being used by a quality website, reach out to the site owner and offer them a unique article.
Images: Using photo or image websites as part of social media campaign is key, especially as universal search comes into play. Try to keep as many unflattering images out of your profiles or your friends profiles as possible. While they may be behind a password protected or approved Friend websites like Facebook, all it takes is one “friend” to make a screen shot and the pictures are in the wild.
Local and Map Listings: If you are doing reputation management for your business and you have a physical address, map listings can help you secure another spot. Be sure to claim your business in Google Local Business Center and follow any local search optimization techniques.
Videos: Create interview or instructional style videos and upload them to video sites such as YouTube (see tips for video optimization ). Be sure to insert your name or your company name in the title of the video, and link to it using the appropriate anchor text from any of the methods mentioned above. Additionally be on the lookout at conferences or other news events for people who create and upload videos. Inquire about the possibility of giving a video interview. Inquire if it’s possible to put your name in the title of the video.