5 Steps You Can Take To Repair Your Damaged Reputation
Whether it’s the new guy you met or that interview you’re stressing out about, somewhere along the way, that guy or that interviewer is probably going to do a Google search on you and take a look at your online reputation.
With so much information on the Internet, it’s the place to check out someone, and it’s also the place where it all can show up – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Sometimes the information is from the long ago past and irrelevant, sometimes it’s fabricated by an angry ex, sometimes it’s true, but it’s living out there in the virtual world all the same, just waiting for a prospective employer, college admissions board member, or your newest romantic possibility to see.
Is there anything you can do to guard your online reputation or repair your damaged one? The good news is yes, there is!
It may take a bit of work and some time, but you can certainly take the steps needed to repair a damaged reputation and feel confident that anyone searching your name will see the good things about you, not the bad or the ugly.
1. Promote GOOD Information
Sure, this one may seem easier said than done, especially if you’ve uncovered a whole slew of damaging content out there about yourself. But you can do it. The most important thing is to create positive content and have that push the bad stuff down the Google rankings. The bad news is that it’s pretty hard to actually remove something from the Internet once it’s there; the good news is that it’s not so hard to hide it.
When people do a Google search, they rarely look beyond the first page or two, no matter how results showed up. Your job in reputation damage repair is to get the negative material off that first or second page. One way to do this is to create your own material, focusing on certain keywords.
If you are looking to clean up your business reputation, think about submitting a positive press release every so often. You can talk about new products, new endeavors – any positive changes or new successes. Make sure your website has enough SEO keywords so that it ranks high. Keeping a professional blog is another great way to increase positive information regarding both you and your business.
Maybe it’s your personal online reputation that’s gotten a little dirty. The same tip applies – promote good information. Even if it’s a personal blog you’ve got going, promote it so this information takes the place of the ugly stuff on the high rankings. Once enough positive information is out there, professionally or personally, it will push that negative trash talk to the underbelly of Google rankings.
The way Google ranks is a complicated technique using search algorithms and search engine optimization (SEO) rankings, and if this seems too intimidating or cumbersome for you to think about doing yourself, online reputation management companies are out there to do this very thing for you.
2. Be Wary of Living Your Life Online
It’s easy to do – live your life online, that is. With Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, and more, you can certainly document your every move and thought in the online world. But is it a good idea? Something that seemed pretty funny one late night may not seem so funny to your prospective employer. Your new girlfriend may not get such a kick out of what she read on your Facebook wall when you were still a single guy. So be careful of what you put out there.
If it’s already there, look to get rid of it. You may want to delete your YouTube account before your new job search. That doesn’t mean no one can ever find those damaging videos, but they won’t be so available. You can try to hide some Facebook posts or old Tweets, but once they’re out there, they can be hard to remove.
The best thing to so do is be smart from now on; think about what you say and do. If you continue to post and tweet, keep things in a positive light. You never know who may come across what you’ve said or where it can end up. A good idea is to go by the old adage of “Would you want your mother to read/see this?”
Another way to deal with social media is to maintain good privacy settings. Don’t forget, you can limit who sees what, and no matter your situation, that’s a smart move. You don’t need the whole world knowing where you ate dinner last night or how many cocktails you had; save that for the celebrities.
Also, just as we try to teach our children, don’t give out private information. Keep your online life as clean and as private as you can. Remember, there’s always a way around things, so just because you have all the privacy settings implemented, don’t feel like you have free reign to let it all out there.
3. Communicate Online
Maybe this contradicts number 2, but it’s a good idea to put your voice out there. Do this not only to promote good information about yourself (as in step 1), but also to comment on positive as well as negative information that someone else posted about you. If you keep abreast of material about you on the Internet, you can interact with it and thank people for nice comments, as well as defend yourself against negative ones.
Many sites allow comments from customers, patients, and clients. If you are a professional worried about your career reputation, keep an eye on these. For instance, when it comes to doctor reputation management, patients often post about long lines in waiting rooms, interactions with staff, or other aspects of their visit.
As the doctor, you can communicate as well on these sites and maybe explain what actually happened and the reasons behind it if you find negative comments. Just as in the real world, communication is key in the virtual one, too. This leads us to Step 4 in repairing your damaged reputation…
4. Own Up and Talk About It
Communication is important, and so is making sure someone hears the negative news from you before coming across it online. If you are worried that your new boyfriend may find out something defamatory that your ex wrote about you, tell him about it before he finds it himself.
You can explain it and tell your side of the story. If you’re worried a job interviewer may stumble across something you wish he wouldn’t, maybe bring it up yourself first, as hard as that may be. It helps if you take responsibility where you should.
In any case, if you bring it up, you give yourself the chance to explain it, defend yourself, apologize if necessary, and share what you’re doing to fix it. Maybe something out there was written in a mean-spirited way and you’re completely innocent.
Maybe you really did something you wish you hadn’t and it’s there for the entire world to see. Be an adult, step up, talk about it, and then let it go. If nothing else, you should be respected for your courage in talking about it and taking ownership and responsibility.
5. Be Proactive
This one step virtually incorporates all the rest. The more you can take responsibility and be proactive with your online reputation, damaged or not, the better the chances of keeping it clean or fixing it if it needs fixing. Along with all the other steps previously discussed, you can be proactive by consistently checking your reputation yourself.
Yep, that means do your own Google searches on yourself; see what comes up. You’ll know what you need to do then. Maybe you need to add a comment, ask someone to remove something, or explain a misunderstanding. If it’s really bad, consider hiring a company to help you fix your damaged reputation. Just know it’s not going to fix itself; you need to take action.
Don’t be afraid to take a look and be proactive. The worst thing you can do is nothing. Then whatever damage is done will stay, and things could get progressively worse for you.
The bottom line is that the Internet has huge benefits that we can enjoy, but it also can be a bit sticky and hurt our reputations in one way or another. The time you search yourself may be the scariest Google search you’ve ever done, but you need to know what’s out there about you.
Once you see it, you can fix it. It’s a whole lot better than sitting back and doing nothing, wondering why you can’t get that job, or didn’t get into the college you really wanted, or that guy never asked for a second date.
You can repair that damage and clean up your reputation.
What About You?
What do you think? Have you experienced this; if so, what did you do? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments below…
About the author
Heather Legg is a writer who blogs on technology, Internet safety, and healthy lifestyles.