Personal Branding: Online Reputation Management in 6 Steps

Our old friend, Sean McGinnis of 312 Digital, wrote a brilliant post about Online Reputation Management, or ORM.

The original post, uniquely strategic and tactical, was written for C-level executives and organizations preparing to closely manage their corporate online presence. However, as we read the post… it was more than clear the advice provided by Sean applies very well to careerists – and their personal brands.

Take a look at Sean’s practical advice for online reputation management… in six easy steps:

Step 1: Take Inventory

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

Step 2: 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 (and perhaps your Twitter handle, also) in the content. This will help you stay on top of new results directly related to you, whether or not they hit the first page of search results.

Step 3: 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 go to step 4 and add links to these profiles from your link hubs.

Now, create a blog 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; is on page one of every search, and I blog there VERY infrequently.

I also recommend writing guest posts for reputable blogs. They may not push down powerful profiles (like Twitter and Facebook)… but they may outrank many negative posts and mentions.

Step 4: Actively Push Negative Assets off Page One

By optimizing existing assets and building new positive mentions, 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)

Step 5: Link to Positive Online Assets

From your social media and personal URL, create links back to “positive” pages already performing… but may need a slight boost. For example, I’ve created a page on my personal blog where I link to guest posts I have written on other blogs. And, I use the “Publications” area of my LinkedIn profile to do the same thing. Lastly, 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 consider.

Step 6: Start Now!

If you wait until you need ORM to start ORM… it’s already too late. Rather than waiting you need a job, for example, get started today. Practice with your name, devoting 1-2 hours a week to working on your program. That way, you’ll have a head start on the Negative Nellie’s in the event something that may damage your online reputation does happen.

One last piece of advice…

Seriously… 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); I was VERY impressed with the ease of use, the recommendations and the quality of service.

Online reputation management, in most cases, is a relatively simple effort. Left unchecked, however, unresolved negative mentions of you can quickly complicate how you are perceived by a potential employer or influencer.

Stay on top of your O-R-M… well before you need a J-O-B.


More About Sean McGinnis: An actor, lawyer and digital native, Sean McGinnis is the founder of 312 Digital and Vice President, Sales & Marketing at DotCO Law Marketing. He speaks, consults and blogs about SEO, internet marketing, social media and a variety of other topics. Sean is based in Chicago and has been involved in Internet Marketing since 1998. Follow Sean on Twitter!



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