When you start building your online brand, your biggest goal is to increase your visibility. You want people to be able to easily find you online. You want Google searches that include your name to lead back to you.
But what happens if something bad is showing up when people search for you? In this article we’ll discuss how to clean up your reputation online when something negative appears…
The more time you spend working on personal online branding, the more your emphasis is going to shift to maintaining your image. Once you reach a point at which your brand is visible online, you have two priorities.
First, you need to make sure that you stay visible online, and that you continue to dominate search results for your name. Second, you need to monitor those search results and make sure that they all impact your brand in a positive fashion.
What happens when something negative does show up in your Google search results? The answer is the next big segment of online reputation management.
Google search results matter, and what people see when they look you up online has significance for your future. The first page of results under your Google search can influence the way people perceive you, from employers to colleagues to friends.
Positive results can boost your chances of landing a job, assist you in growing your social media following, and accelerate your rise to becoming a trusted authority in your field. Negative results can undo all your hard work.
Negative search results on Google can take a lot of different forms. Articles or blogs that portray you in a not-so-flattering light are the most common pieces of negative content that tend to show up in Google search results. The more visible you become in your career, the more likely you are to be the subject of negative content on the internet. Such is the curse of building a recognizable online brand.
The costs of these negative search results will vary dramatically depending on multiple different factors. For instance, a piece of negative content that makes it to the front page of your Google search is going to hurt you much more than something that stalls out on page two or three. Precisely how damning the content is will also matter. For instance, an article that quotes you out of context and makes you seem rude or dismissive won’t help your online image, but it won’t hurt it like a blog post that explicitly accuses you of a crime will.
The consequences of negative Google search results will vary depending on who is looking. If a damning piece of content shows up on the web right when you are in the middle of a job search, it could affect your ability to find a job. If you already have stable employment, the content might not affect you as much—at least not immediately.
As a rule, you should never ignore negative content, even if it doesn’t completely drag your name through the mud and even if you don’t think it can hurt you. A reputation is a fragile thing. In the echo chamber that is the internet, that statement is especially true. Every negative piece of content—no matter how minor it may seem at first—can weaken your defenses and tarnish your image. Eventually, even minor blemishes on your reputation can have major consequences.
It’s because of these potential consequences that you have Google Alerts set up for your name. That way, when a negative piece of content about you does surface, you can leap into action. Here are a few steps you should take when that first negative search result materializes:
In a perfect world, you would never have to deal with negative content about yourself. However, part of being a well-known professional in your field is dealing with controversy and backlash, and controversy and backlash breed negative online content. It’s how you respond to these negative posts and news stories that will define your online reputation—not the content of the posts and news stories themselves.
About this guest author:
Michael Klazema has been developing products for employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.