A couple of years ago I had a meeting with a desperate and defeated client. Due to some past personal and business turmoil, when you Googled his name, all you could see was negative stuff. A bankruptcy. A bad business deal. A public failure.
However, what you saw online and the person who sat in front of me were two completely different people. The online image simply didn't match the real person, who was in a new line of work. He had totally turned his fortunes around and wanted the world to see his new successful life.
"Can you help me get rid of those old negative web results?" he asked.
The other day, I was listening to the Glenn Beck radio show and heard an ad for "Reputation Defender." It claimed that it would monitor your online presence and remove all negative references, for a small fee, of course.
I can see how this scenario would be tempting. Just pay some web jockey to erase all the bad stuff! There's just one problem with this. The Web is not some giant white board with a magic eraser. Information on the web, especially if it's a matter of public record, is not possible to change or delete. Just ask Rick Santorum, the presidential candidate who is suffering through a cruel web hoax, perpetrated by some political pranksters.
Back to my client. I asked him if he participated in social media. Not surprisingly, the answer was no. The first thing he needed to do was create some social media accounts. The same Google that was publicly humiliating him was the same Google that could save him. How? By creating social media content in places like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, he could make those negative links appear less prominent by pushing them down to page 2 or 3 of Google results. Here's how that works:
- Google loves social media and rewards you every time you post. It's algorythms are tuned to social content and rank it higher than almost anything else.
- You control your own social media accounts. You control what is posted and can screen all comments before they are posted.
- Social media accounts rise very high in natural Google results. Google my friend Drew McLellan and see what you get. Even though he shares the name of a famous web developer, Drew's social media accounts and blog rank higher than the thousands of web results of his namesake.
- Reserve your own URL. I highly recommend reserving "yourownname.com" before someone else does. I use GoDaddy.com but there are other services out there.
It takes time, persistence and hard work to push a negative result off your Google results page. It's disingenuous (at best) to promise otherwise. Use the money you would have wasted on "Reputation Defender" and use how to use free web tools like Google Alerts to monitor your own reputation. Then use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and your own blog to create content that accurately represents you and your business. The more stuff you post, the quicker you will start smiling when you Google yourself.
Here is a site that compares these supposed "web reputation" services. The interesting remarks are in the comments section, as usual! Did you notice that I didn't link to Reputation Defender? That's because it's not worth your time to explore. Thanks for reading.
This post originally appeared on IowaBiz.com on October 6, 2011.