** Course Updated December 23, 2015 **
Everything you do, write or say can be online within minutes.
Yes, mistakes do happen, but they can quickly cause harm to the online reputation of your business or you as an individual.
For businesses, bad reviews from unsatisfied customers; negative news; legal troubles and other matters can quickly spell doom for your company.
For individuals, unflattering photographs circulating in social media; controversial conversations in Twitter and, yes, even legal issues can all equate in you having a difficult time finding employment after college.
In this course "Online Reputation Lab: Protecting Your Business Image," we'll review five case studies in which companies and individuals are suffering through a rough time with their online reputation. However, we'll also offer some solutions on how they can start taking steps in repairing their reputation as well.
Every business and individual has either a good or bad online reputation. A negative online reputation can be built up over time or, in some cases, an event can cause immediate harm. In either case, reputations need to be fixed either by "emergency" plans or through a long-term program.
The best course of action is to prepare an execute an ongoing online reputation management program which helps maintain a positive online image and protects from any negative search results.
In this course, we'll break down:
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About the Instructor, Steve Phillips
With over 15 years of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Online Reputation Management (ORM) experience, Steve Phillips has helped clients create, improve and optimize their online business profiles and repair their online reputation.
Clients he counseled across a wide variety of businesses include heating and cooling; law firms; accountants; dentists manufacturing; florists; photographers; mental health service providers, and many others.
Online Reputation Management (also known as "ORM") is vital for all businesses and professional services in developing and maintaining a positive appearance for companies; business owners; professionals; staff; products and services. A business owner or their marketing staff must consistently be on top of their ORM before a PR crisis occurs.
Every business, company, corporation, medical practice, law firm and, yes, even individuals have an online reputation.
Either a reputation is good, or it's bad.
In this lecture, we'll preview our course and discuss more about online reputation for both businesses and individuals.
Lecture topics include:
“Online Reputation” is a term that is used to describe how you appear online in search results; review websites; news articles; blogs; videos; social media and anything else that is published online that mentions you and/or your business.
Notice I said YOU and/or your business.
Online Reputation isn’t just for businesses.
The term is about “reputation” for everyone and everything, including:
Everything and everyone has an online reputation – whether they know it exists or not!
Specifically on the business side of things, your company’s online reputation can be harmed by a number of different ways, including:
Individuals also have an online reputation that can not only be very distressing and humiliating, but can cost you employment opportunities and career advancement.
The good news is, a negative online reputation can be repaired, but it will take time.
The best way, however, to keep any negative matters from reaching the Top 10 in Google is to create and have an ongoing online reputation management program in place.
ORM – online reputation management – is the process of creating an ongoing positive reputation for you as an individual or for your company.
This protects you.
As long as you continue to contribute to your ORM, you’ll always be protected from any singular or minor negative news, reviews, etc.
For both individuals and for businesses, you’ll need to do things such as creating a blog and writing positive content on an ongoing basis. You’ll also need to be active – and positive – in social media networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
Remember: anything – ANYTHING – that you do off-line or online can (and probably will) be published online by someone someday and when it’s published, it will be soon indexed by search engines.
In the upcoming section and upcoming lectures – within a case study format - we’re going to examine some businesses and some individuals who are currently suffering from a negative online reputation and we’ll try to see if we can offer some suggestions on how they can start to improve their reputation problems.
News broke in mid-September that Volkswagen (also known as VW) was caught in a scandal in which it rigged diesel engine emissions tests in America and Europe. It is now in the midst of the worst business crisis in its 78-year history.
When conducting a search in Google, remember search results are probably going to be based on the physical location of your IP address for your internet connect, so some results will vary from person to person.Can it be fixed? Not overnight.
Actor Adam Scott is throwing a party commercial
Volkswagen has set up a website for the owners of its emissions problems.Volkswagen has apologized via it's Facebook Page.
Some dedicated employees are defending the company
The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is the sponsor of the USA Cycling team
Recent news: A family drove 13,000 miles in a remodeled Volkswagen bus to Philadelphia to see the Pope (at his request).
These are all things that can be used individually and collectively to try to generate some positive news and better content for Volkswagen.
Ashford University is an online college offering opportunities to earn degrees in a wide variety of subjects.
It had a campus in Iowa that recently closed (bad news) after budget cuts (bad news).
Ashford and the company that owns it, Bridgepoint Education, recently settled a lawsuit filed in Iowa in which it denied any wrong doing, but agreed to pay $7.25 million to settle claims that recruiters lied to convince prospective students to enroll in online classes (bad news).
Suffering from many online negative reviews, including nearly 300 complaints about the university on the Consumer Affairs website.When you search Google for “Ashford University” you'll see a mix of positive and negative search results. A few things on the second page of search results would serve better if they can be optimized and pushed to the first page of Google.
Ashford University needs to push off the 2 bad stories at the bottom of the first page of search results.
On Page 3, Ashford University has a Better Business Bureau rating of an "A." That should be better optimized in order to move up higher in search results.
In addition, Ashford Unviersity should work on improving its Twitter account; YouTube should be ranked higher; its LinkedIn page is on Page 5 of Google search results, so that could be better; Instagram is also on Page 5.
Also, Ashford could spend some time - while its still open - to focus more on the positives and try to develop more of a positive reputation by the time the school closes. Write articles and blogs about how the school starts; popular instructors; how previous graduates are doing, etc.
You may have heard of Walter Palmer. Well, actually, you probably know him better as a dentist from Minnesota.
Still doesn’t ring a bell?
OK, how about if I tell you he’s the guy who shot and killed Cecil, a beloved African Lion. Now you know him!
This is a case of an individual with a potential online reputation problem. Seriously.
His name is in the news anytime anyone mentions "Cecil the Lion"
Not only does he have a local reputation problem, but it extends nationally and internationally.
If you go to Google and search for :Walter Palmer" you'll see he is suffering from a bad online reputation problem.
According to the first search result, Dr. Palmer was going to go back to work in his dental practice in September, but he later changed his mind.
Take a look at his Yelp account. There was so much public outcry for Palmer, that Yelp had to step in and post an “Active Cleanup Alert” meaning discussing the dentist with a Yelp review (even if you are a patient) won’t work and that Yelp will be removing them (hence the “cleanup alert").
More news indicates that Zimbabwe wants to extradite Palmer to face charges of the illegal hunt.
This is truly a bad reputation.While “time” will take care of some of the bad reputation for Dr. Palmer, he’ll need to do much, much more in order to turn things around. After killing an elephant in Africa, Bob Parsons, CEO of Go Daddy, went through a similar ORM case. They have since dialed down the tone of their marketing efforts – less of the “Go Daddy” girl ads and more small business, family-friendly ads. But the Business Name of “Go Daddy” and “CEO” is what is remembered for the elephant kill.
Fortunately, not a lot of people connect Walter Palmer’s name with the incident. Millions of people will remember Cecil and if they want to learn more about Dr. Palmer, they’ll most likely have to search for “the man who shot Cecil.”
Even in our course (and in talking one on one with staff), not many people immediately connected his name with a bad online reputation.
Some online reputation repair options:
Recently, I was hired by a search engine optimization firm to help them with an online reputation management problem for one of their clients.
Long story short: A doctor had bailed on a relationship and for revenge, his former girlfriend decided to write and publish a very detailed – and somewhat steamy – blog about it. She named names and posted personal pictures.
Lots and lots of content and, because the good doctor didn’t have an ongoing online reputation management program in place, the negative blog shot up to No. 1 in Google search results whenever you searched his name.
This was “emergency Online Reputation” (notice I left off the word “management”).
Several action steps were created and implemented in order to increase SEO on “positive” content and get the good stuff to move up in search engine rankings, while pushing down the negative blog.
Action steps included:
Emergency online reputation doesn’t get repaired overnight. We managed to push the negative blog site down a few positions within a month and, all of a sudden, the blog disappeared.
How did that happen?
Well, you see, the writer of the negative blog was using a free blog service and, because of the nature of the content of her blog, she was violating the blog service’s terms of service. One of the first things we did as part of our ORM service, was to contact the blog service company and notify them that someone was violating their terms. The blog company agreed and deleted the blog.
Granted, not all projects will be that “easy” to fix. If the blog hadn’t been deleted – which was a long shot in my opinion – then we would have continued to create and optimize positive content and, slowly but surely, get it to move up higher in search results and push down the negative blog post.
“Emergency” online reputation takes time.
We currently have a client – an individual – who was arrested nearly a year ago and charges were dismissed.
Fortunately, he had a strong online reputation in place. Not really a plan, but our client had written several articles; was somewhat active in social media; had nearly a dozen articles written about him in the local newspaper and he was familiar with search engine optimization and how it works.
So, when he was arrested – and his picture appeared in mugshot-related and arrest-related websites on his name – he took action into his own hands.
You see, the worst arrest-related report was ranked around No. 50, so as long as no one searched down five or six pages into Google results, they would never see the arrest report.
So, our client, created additional blogs on a variety of topics and, over time, pushed the arrest report down to around No. 70 in Google.
Still, this wasn’t good enough. No one was finding the arrest report, but if someone did, then his career and his marriage would be in ruins.
So, he hired us and here’s what we did:
On average, we were able to push down the arrest reports 2-5 positions in Google per week.
As of this lecture, the arrest reports are no better than No. 125 in Google and our efforts continue on a daily basis.
Have a strong online reputation in place – whether you planned it that way or not – is critical in holding off any negative news or reviews about you or our business.
Whether it’s for your business; private practice or even yourself as an individual, you always want to be checking and reviewing your online reputation on a regular basis.
Once a week is probably good enough and once you have an online reputation management program in place, you can use free tools that will check for you automatically and alert you to any problems.
The best manual way to check your company’s online reputation is to conduct a simple search on your company name in Google.
Try different combinations, too. For example, with and without Co., LLC, Inc.
Try adding the city location to the search string too.
Within the search results, dig 10 pages deep (10 results per page = 100 search results) and look for any negative results. Record them and keep track of their position.
If you find any in the Top 30 (first 3 pages), you may need ramp up your company’s online reputation management efforts and, perhaps, implement some emergency ORM tactics to bury the bad news.
If you have anything appearing below the first 30 results, you’ll want to keep any eye on these results to ensure they don’t creep up into the Top 30 anytime soon.
For more businesses, review websites tend to be the initial problem with any negative online reputation problem.
As a business, you may also want to review the online reputation of your management team and/or staff as any negative online reputation on their part could eventually cause your business negative harm.
True story: one person we were going to hire actually featured a public picture of herself drinking while driving a car on her Facebook page. Everyone could see the picture. She was actually creating her own negative online reputation (and I might add that she was pretty proud of the photo as well). Not being prudes, but our insurance provider advised us that it put our business at risk as a possible liability issue with client work.
While businesses tend to deal with more online reputation problems than individuals (review websites; social media; local news articles, etc.), individuals seem to get into more trouble than businesses.
For example, businesses don’t get arrested and, typically, businesses don’t get intoxicated at a party and tagged in Facebook. Businesses can usually evolve from the missteps of founders and staff.
But to protect the business as a means of protecting revenue, business owners, CEOs, Presidents, board members…all the way down to interns and those seeking to gain employment after college, all need to review; clean up and protect their online reputation and image.
Using the Google search engine, enter your name and where you live. Check the search results. You’ll also want to try variations of your first name as well (Robert = Bob). You might want to try with and without your middle initial.
Within the results, look 5-10 pages deep for any potential negative results.
You’ll also want to check Facebook and other social media platforms for any negative posts and pictures. Note: these can include pictures that you DIDN’T take or post, but that a friend “tagged” you. Some of these pictures may have been taken and posted without your permission, so you might need to have a talk with your Facebook friend and have the picture or tag removed or remove the tag within your own Facebook account.
As a best-practice technique, lock down your settings so that nothing appears linked with your name in anyone’s timeline without prior approval.
A real, working and effective online reputation management program can only begin when you have a clean and positive online reputation. If you currently have negative reviews or other negative news appearing in the Top 50 positions in Google, then you should implement an emergency online reputation plan in order to repair (and bury) the problem.
So, first things first: make sure everything online about your company and/or about you as an individual is under control.
Next, as a business, you should claim, confirm and optimize all review websites for your company. These include sites like Yelp, Manta, Google+ Local, etc. There are approximately 25-50 review websites that you should claim for your company.
Also, you should start a blog for your company’s website. Plan to write 1-3 blog posts per week. Each blog post should mention your company name as least one time.
Develop and implement a social media plan for your company which should include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest among others. You’ll need to be active regularly in social media; start conversations with potential customers and help people.
Create videos and publish them to YouTube. Use them in your blog posts and in other social media networks.
Take pictures and use Instagram. Publish pictures in Facebook; in your blog and in other social media networks.
Individuals should also:
As you can see by our Online Reputation Lab, it only takes one thing – one mistake; one slip of the tongue; one Twitter post or even a legal matter – that can cause serious harm to you or your company’s online reputation.
Online reputations can be repaired, but depending on the severity, it could take as long as six months to fix your reputation.
Obviously, it’s much easier to maintain a positive reputation on a daily or weekly basis than it is to spend month after month trying to repair a reputation.
Remember: check your business and personal online reputation on a regular basis.
Businesses, especially, should create and implement an ongoing online reputation management program. That way, in case a negative matter comes along, it can be easily fixed (and often overlooked by customers).
If you have any questions about this course or any of the lectures here, please be sure to ask and I’ll be happy to help out.
From time-to-time, I’ll be adding new and updated lectures to help you along the way with your own online reputation matters.
Until then, I wish you all the best of luck with your online reputation. Goodbye for now.
How well do you know Online Reputation issues and how an Online Reputation Management program can help protect businesses and individuals?
Let's find out in our course quiz!
There are now more opportunities for small business owners to build more positive reviews thanks to Facebook.
In our latest lecture update to this course, we take a look at the Facebook Editor.
Here, you can make suggestions or edits for improvements for businesses and place pages within the Facebook garden.
I have over 15 years of online reputation management and search engine optimization experience working with a variety of local, national and international businesses in helping them improve their online reputation; earn better customer reviews and obtain higher rankings in Google and other search engines.
Previously, I worked as a self-employed, software consultant and trainer helping law firms and lawyers understand new technology and upgrade their network systems and software programs.
My background also includes 13 years as a newspaper sports writer and news reporter.
I am currently the Vice President of Mountain Woods Media, LLC.