ORM (online reputation management) is one of the fastest growing segments in digital marketing. It can be pretty easy to see why too with the amount of indexable information exploding across multiple platforms, coupled with never fully being out of the public eye in a world of iPhones, twitter accounts, and free blogging services. Make one bad mistake and it can dog you for a very long time (or at least until the U.S. adopts a similar “right to be forgotten” policy like that of our neighbors across the Atlantic). Don’t be sad.

Now, there are a lot of different methods when it comes to ORM; I will be discussing the darker topics over here in London this May, but such methods aren’t suitable for everyone. So for the sake of only discussing what’s appropriate for CopyPress clients we’ll instead delve into some cleaner approaches to clearing up your name.  In order to do that, let’s discuss reasonable goals.

A lot of personal clients will fly to my hometown and approach me with an ORM situation over a quiet lunch in a hotel and say something to the effect of “make this go away” – yes, that’s doable in some cases, but it could be a) cost prohibitive and b) crossing a few ethical lines depending on the method chosen to eliminate a URL. At this point I find it helpful to educate and discuss what the problem is and almost always it is a matter of a client not wanting a specific result or set of results to show on the top page of Google and/or Bing; some are adamant though and want the listing to be invisible forever, but tempering unrealistic expectations aside, most can be generally convinced that getting negative listings off page one is the primary goal.

Are you expecting me to already dig into the how-to? I’m getting there, honest. It’s just important to point out a few more things; since we’ve now determined that the goal is essentially a clean page one listing for your name it’ll be vital that you understand there are multiple components to the material that exists on page one. As frustrating as it can be for a SEO old-timer like me that misses the ten blue links, it is still important that we look into each component so you can manipulate optimize the various pieces for your name. That means understanding the mega SERP.

For the most part ORM on a key executive’s name isn’t going to be concerned with carousel/snack pack listings, which are primarily of importance in local search. Since this is just a ORM focused article, we’ll stick to those things that I tend to be asked about when cleaning up someone’s rep. Within each piece, I’ll explain a few tips on how you can try and take back control of the situation.

  1. Adwords/Adcenter ads – obviously you’re not going to want to see awful material advertised on your name. Granted, you can complain to Google and Bing on the subject, but in many cases you are also going to have to pay to play. This is the simplest and probably the most cost prohibitive method depending on the volume of queries, but phrase matching “Firstname Lastname” is a quick and dirty method of clawing back a slot on page one.
  2. Knowledge Graph – this can be a bit more complex depending on the nature of what type of person is being cleaned up. If it is a public figure, it would be best to ensure a Wikipedia entry is created for that person’s name with as an objective biography as possible regarding that person’s professional career or other notes of public interest. Handlers of entertainers will want to also ensure that a IMDB listing is created. The dual importance of creating entries on these two properties is that they often have sufficient authority to rank without needing to engage in a linkbuilding campaign to push the properties individually to page one. There are other major properties that the knowledge graph will pull from, but for the most part these two should be the biggest focus.
  3. Images (either as mega block or simple image results) – boy do I love and simultaneously hate images within ORM. When it is bad, it is really bad. It can be worked though, and all within the confines of what search engines want.
    1. Get some professional and amateur photos of the person in question.
    2. Seed those photos EVERYWHERE, using variations of the name + setting + situation on proper alt markup. More info on image SEO? Here you go. Having a lot of great images to choose from will come into play later.
  4. Video – very similar to image optimization above, the goal is to have a lot of different videos out in the wild, attached both to the professional’s and business accounts and through various fan accounts. Don’t just use Youtube though and feed the monopoly, consider other platforms. Promote the best videos, grow their viewership, and that’ll be yet another page one slot taken back.
  5. News – if you want to have positive press, do positive things. You need to get involved with charities, do some noteworthy things and push PR on it, and of course you’ll have to make sure it is front of a camera / video camera at the same time. It can feel disingenuous, but the news sections on the major search engines get a lot of traffic in and of themselves, so constantly pushing positive press, doing lots of interviews, and being more publically accessible will result in more avenues for an expanded new inclusion section on page one of the results and similar to the knowledge graph concept above, these are additionally individual listings that you can choose to help promote for the organic listings.
  6. In-depth articles – this is more difficult to break into, but isn’t impossible. It involves having an incredibly powerful piece of content and that is very comprehensive (get it? In-depth?) and is utilizing the proper markup for in-depth. Usually this can only be accomplished by working with a major publisher. It is possible for a piece to show as in-depth as well as in the regular organic listings, so commissioning a massive, evergreen piece can serve that dual purpose. If Google chooses not to use it as an in-depth piece, it can at the very least be a solid recipient of your linkbuilding work to provide an alternative listing to the negative pieces currently tarnishing your name.
  7. Site-links – I find these piece interesting because sometimes the #1 organic listing for the person’s name isn’t the person itself but instead the company he or she works for. In such cases, you can attempt to tease out several of their most important pages in an attempt to give the listing expanded site-links, trying to get it seen as the overall most authoritative source for that name query. Doing so pushes all the other organics down, so it is worth your time. Without pushing into more of the blackhat methods that I have to fight myself from writing about, your focus here should be on improving CTR and volume of traffic to certain phrases either direct from the query or as part of the overall path of the query; having links that make mention of the person’s name to those pages also helps.
  8. Reviews – trickier when a person’s name is involved, but if it is a company, you’ll want and need positive reviews; try not to fake this as it will come back to bite you in the ass. Solicit your best customers, ask for honest reviews, and it’ll generally work out. You’ll need the right review markup and accounts created prior to solicitation. A bit grayer method (don’t tell my board I went on this tangent) is to identify a listing in the top 100 for the query that you’re trying to clean up and help out their review process a bit – after a sufficient number of reviews, it should pop to page one.
  9. Related searches – this is more important than you think. If your name is “Joe Sinkwitz” you probably don’t want related searches to be “Joe Sinkwitz is a penguin” or “Joe Sinkwitz terrible writer”. This is a manageable piece though, and similar to the site-links tactic above, can be handled with the right mix of volume and CTR. The whitehat method of this would be get a benign / positive phrase associated with the person or companies name and then create viral videos that additionally mention the phrase, seeding images with something worth looking at.
  10. The organics – the best for last! If you moved down this list and made your checkmarks on the way down, you’ve actually come a very long way to achieving success in the organic listings due to how the pieces can overlap with individual listings. You won’t be 100% done though, and there is a lot more that can be done. The content creation / white hat method is:
    1. Use a service like http://knowem.com/ to find and register for the various social accounts not already claimed by the person/company in question.
    2. For those new accounts and the old accounts that probably already exist (assuming powerhouses like LinkedIN and Twitter), start posting original content!
    3. Interact within the communities of these various social media networks so the posts are not orphaned; if you are authentic in your interaction, editorial links will follow.
    4. Cross promote your material. If you created a fantastic piece on LinkedIN Pulse, tweet it out, share it on Facebook, include it in the description of your Youtube video, etc.

 There you have it; that wasn’t too bad, was it? If you are faced with a ORM situation, you can get it fixed using the above prescribed methods and creating the appropriate content along the way. Need help with creating the appropriate content? That’s what CopyPress is for. ☺

We all win!