I’ve been thinking a lot about online reputation management lately. It used to be that reputation management was all about how to make sure that when someone Google’d your name, good things came up in the top ten search results, and bad things didn’t.
About six months ago, I was interviewed by a reporter who asked me how you could “suppress negative search results on Google.” My answer then was: don’t think about things that way. The Google team earns $20 billion every year by finding and delivering relevant content. Don’t try to trick them, because it won’t work, and most attempts to do so are unethical anyway. Instead, you need to create new content that is more relevant than the content that you don’t like.
Take Michael Vick, for example. He was caught killing puppies, which, in this country, is arguably considered more evil and outrageous than killing people. Any PR strategy that involved suppressing those negative news stories would have failed more miserably than BP’s attempts at suppressing the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico by using trash to plug the hole. Instead of suppressing old stories, Michael Vick became the spokesman for the Humane Society. He created new stories that competed for attention with the old stories.
Your focus should always be on creating interesting, relevant content, and positioning your content so that it’s easily discoverable. The technical side of reputation management is still important — you need to understand (as best you can) how Google and other search engines deliver results. But you need to understand the rules so that you can follow them, not so that you can break them. In my next post, I’ll cover how reputation management has changed in the last few years.
PS – I took the photo of the two dogs above (Lexie and Zeus) in Michigan last week. More photos from the trip here.