Why Every Blogger Should Monitor His Online Reputation
Bloggers have become an integral part of almost every industry, issue, and market today. As a result, many of them are becoming more familiar to readers all around the world – most of whom they have never directly communicated with.
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So how can these readers so closely identify with people they don’t even know? Because their perception is formed by the bloggers’ online reputations. This article will discuss the exact nature of an online reputation, reveal what the consequences are when this reputation is neglected, and provide suggestions on how bloggers can effectively manage their online reputations.
What is an Online Reputation?
Perhaps the proper way to begin a discussion of online reputation is to dispel a widely-held belief of all computer users: that one’s online reputation is similar to the person’s personal or professional reputation. In reality, these three notions are distinct from one another, and they may or may not be affected by (or even resemble) one another. For bloggers, this means that they may have stellar professional credentials and garner substantial personal respect, but if their online reputation is poor, they will ultimately be unsuccessful in their blogging efforts.
This phenomenon baffles many bloggers. They think, “How can other people have this impression of me? It’s not even close to be accurate or truthful.” Here’s the problem: In cyberspace, not only does perception equal reality, but in a virtual world where popularity is determined by a search engine ranking, the most incendiary information is often the most popular. Since search engines compile all types of data and not just blog postings, computer users who type a name into a search box might receive results that include news stories, social media entries, and even unflattering photos or videos.
Consequences of Neglect
That’s why neglecting one’s online reputation can have severe consequences. Even one piece of negative information in cyberspace can snowball into a major image issue for a blogger, often without him or her knowing that it is happening. As a result, the number of readers and/or blog followers can dwindle suddenly and without warning.
A tarnished online reputation can stymie any attempt by a blogger to expand. For instance, bloggers can take all of the proper measures to grow their audience, including increased output, targeted marketing, and solid SEO and link-building strategies – but still be unable to boost their audience. Why? Because potential new readers will hear about (and may even seek out) information pertaining to a blogger’s online reputation – and if they don’t like what they see, they won’t read his or her blog.
In extreme cases, an abysmal online reputation can start to impact other aspects of the blogger’s life. The blogger may be turned down for jobs, consultant opportunities, or speaking engagements. Longtime business colleagues may alter their personal view of the person.
There have even been cases where a blogger’s personal life, marriage, or emotional state has been damaged thanks to (often false) content that originated online. (One New York Times survey revealed that more than one out of every three employers chose not to offer a job to an applicant based on information they uncovered on a social media site.)
What Can You Do About Your Online Reputation?
Now that the consequences have been identified, it’s time to discuss how bloggers can keep tabs on their online reputations. (It should be noted that there are also several companies like Reputation.com that will manage blogger’s online reputations for a fee.)
The initial step (and simplest method) involves bloggers performing online searches on themselves. Simply typing the blogger’s name and/or blog title into a search box can be pretty revealing. Ideally, bloggers want references to their postings and blogs. But if other information appears on the list of search engine results, then it presents the possibility of an inaccurate online reputation.
The threat level is lower if the SEO listing is on page three or higher. Since 80 percent of search engine users make their decisions based on the first page of search results, problematic SEO listings on the initial page indicate a potential issue for the blogger.
There are several ways to remedy this situation. If the problematic content is on a Web page that is controlled by the blogger, he or she can simply remove it from the Web (like with a compromising photo or an imprudent comment on the blogger’s social media site). If the content is on a different site, a simple request to its Web administrator might be able to get it removed.
The other strategy is to “drown out” the negative information with positive feedback or content, which in practice means pushing the targeted search engine listing off of the first page of results. This is accomplished by posting flattering comments and testimonials on the blog site or elsewhere, expanding the blogger’s social media footprint by creating more profiles, and writing more content on the blog itself.
Speaking of social media, bloggers who are proactive in expanding and managing their social media profiles are less likely to be surprised by a blow to their online reputation. Not only does a large social media presence improve search engine rankings in a positive way for bloggers, but since detrimental content often originates on social media portals, bloggers who are plugged in to their profiles are more likely to spot (and address) the issue before it balloons into a problem for their online reputation.
Here’s a fun fact: The highest-ranking social media site in the eyes of Google is one that does not cater to comments from others – LinkedIn.
Online Reputation = Personal Brand
But even the online reputations of the most Web-savvy bloggers can suffer at the hands of a single person with an axe to grind and/or too much time on his or her hands. That’s why it’s smart to take precautions against this by treating online reputations like major companies treat product brands.
There are several ways to accomplish this. The simplest is to stake out online real estate by purchasing domains that are similar to the blog – such as those with a dot-org or dot-net suffix, or similar spellings of the blogger’s name or site. Doing so eliminates the chance of these domain names falling into the hands of unscrupulous individuals who wish to harm your online reputation.
Another easy way to keep track of a blogger’s “brand” is to set up Web alerts (through sites like Google and Yahoo!) that are designed to inform you whenever your blog is referenced by a third party. Bloggers should think of these alerts as an early warning system against potential damage to their online reputation.
And then there is the arena of reader feedback. One of social media’s greatest strengths – the ability for regular people to communicate with bloggers and other people who own websites – can also be its biggest drawback.
The challenge for every blogger is to walk a fine line when it comes to responding to comments on the blog. While it’s counterproductive to completely ignore the questions and issues raised by commenters, it’s also not smart to try and respond to every complaint or question that appears on the blog.
A good rule of thumb is to address recurring questions and respond to frequently occurring viewpoints, either with another comment or with a separate blog entry. It’s also prudent to give more weight to commenters who are important in your market, niche, or subject matter (like a fellow food critic who comments on a blogger’s foodie site, or the president of a women’s rights group responding to a parenting blog entry).
Moreover, the way bloggers address comments (and criticism) is probably more important that their actual responses. No matter how biting or inappropriate the comment’s content or tone is, the blogger must respond calmly and respectfully to the commenter. Nasty responses, mudslinging, and ad hominem attacks will only tarnish your online reputation, even if you are in the right.
It’s also important to know when to “give up the fight” and agree to disagree with a commenter; after all, the more virtual ink devoted to a disagreement, the more likely it is to appear higher on search engine pages.
The Most Important Asset for a Blogger
Finally, the biggest weapon that a blogger has against a negative online reputation is the same one that governs the images of businesses and people in the physical world: trust. All of the skilled brand management and Web marketing in the world won’t help a blogger who is untrustworthy and/or disingenuous in the eyes of his or her readers and the entire online community. Know that trust is something that is earned from others, not bestowed upon by them.
Building trust can only come from acting with integrity, playing fair, and doing what you say you will do. Not only will trust reduce the likelihood of a blemished online reputation, it will also grow organically among readers and followers who will sing the blogger’s praises and ultimately become the blog’s most effective marketing tool.
What About You?
What do you think about managing your online reputation as a blogger? Are there other strategies that work well in achieving this goal? Feel free to leave your suggestions or observations in the comments below.
About the author
Chris Martin is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites and is also a ghostwriter for several blogs. In addition, he is an accomplished voice actor and an experienced sportscaster. Martin has also worked as a radio DJ, a traffic reporter, and a public address announcer for sporting events.