As a business leader or small business owner, what shows up in your search results affects your bottom line.
According to a 2012 Harris Interactive survey, 42% of Americans have searched for a company or individual online before doing business with them. Although you can’t completely control your digital footprint, you can positively impact your online presence.
Below are seven easy steps to manage and protect your online brand:
Search yourself and analyze what shows up online. Anything you want to improve? Immediately tackle and correct areas of vulnerability. Speed matters. The longer something negative appears online, the more damage it causes. It’s natural to be concerned with negative publicity or unflattering photos. But be equally concerned if nothing shows up in your search results. If you have no digital footprint, create one today.
Build a Personal Website
Buy your name domain (i.e. JohnDoe.com) and make an online resume website that highlights your career and accomplishments. Google’s search algorithm values fresh, relevant content and will naturally think your personal site is important when anyone searches your name online.
The big social media sites usually show up on Google page one. Plus social media platforms make it easier to connect with your target audience and establish relationships. When selecting a platform, consider your personal brand or business goals. You should also understand which platform your target audience uses and how it works. For most professionals, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook are an absolute must.
Take Professional Photos
Hire a photographer to shoot headshots for your personal website and social media properties. Make sure to dress in business attire and smile. People judge you within the first second of seeing your photo online. So you might as well look your best!
Content Is Still King
Content is the foundation for any successful online brand management campaign. Consistently create content that’s helpful to your target audience, and you’ll become an authority. Plus you’ll boost your organic search rankings. Also take advantage of opportunities to become a thought leader by guest blogging on websites in your niche. Guest blogging increases the credibility and exposure of your brand. Not only will you build your online portfolio, you’ll strengthen your presence by speaking directly to potential customers and clients.
Public Relations to the Rescue
If you have negative press on the first page of Google, part of your strategy must include getting new, positive press mentions. So how do you do that? Learn how to write a press release and hone your pitch to journalists. Before pitching, consider the five factors that make a story newsworthy: timing, proximity, prominence, significance, and human interest. Apply those factors to your pitch and create a fresh angle for the editor.
Bring in Experts
While the steps above seem easy, coordinating a campaign, especially if you have bad publicity on Google page one, is daunting and time-consuming. Professional online reputation management firms have experienced staff and processes in place to improve your online reputation quickly and easily. When hiring a firm, ask for references. And avoid firms that have very low pricing. Low prices indicate outsourcing overseas, which can lead to embarrassing and ineffective results on your online reputation.
Darius Fisher is an entrepreneur, investor, and the President of Status Labs, the premier online reputation management, digital marketing, and public relations firm with offices in Austin, New York, and São Paulo. His goal is to help his clients look their best in search results, fix online crises, and grow sales via effective digital marketing and public relations strategy. He lives in New York City. Connect with @statuslabs on Twitter.
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