A few years back, I found myself battling to have damaging information about me removed from several sites. A couple stalkers were trying to get under my skin because I would not give them attention. These girls set up complete websites about me with some really ugly stuff on them. I often wonder if services like Reputation.com would have saved me a lot of time and headache.
Reputation.com is a site, but it’s a bit more than that, offering reputation management services with people behind them. But let’s start with why such a thing might be needed.
Online Reputation And How It Affects You
The first thing you might think of in terms of your online reputation is stuff you and your friends put online. This is the easy stuff. Weather you’re hunting for a new job, starting your own company, or just want to keep your name associated with good things for your existing business or career, you’ll need to make sure you cover all your bases. The easy stuff you can do on your own by simply removing your own content (or setting up viewing permissions for friends only) and contacting friends to eliminate that photo from New Year’s that might turn away a potential employer or client. It gets much harder from there.
After the easy stuff comes the sites you can’t control. Google, Google Places, Yahoo, and scores of other review sites, blogs, and information aggregation sites could potentially contain harmful information about you or your company. These things can be critical to address as soon as possible because every person who reads that bad review is a potential customer you may lose. Google offers tools to help you become aware of such content, but you’ll need to learn some tricks and be comfortable with them. Removing content once it has been discovered is another story, completely.
Curious about how many businesses pay attention to their online reputations, I headed to Google Places and clicked on one of my favorite restaurants. They’re a little more expensive, so I thought they would be managing their reputation online like champions. Sadly, I found the review below.
This review was a prime example of the problem I’m talking about and was the second of the top two reviews that appeared. This restaurant should have been aware of this review right away and attempted to win back the customer in some way. Instead, a month has passed and not only is the patron probably still unhappy, but they’ve likely swayed the opinions of several friends and many hungry readers of that review. One can only imagine the business lost here. This is the cost of not managing your reputation online.
What Does Reputation.com Do?
In my last example, you may wonder how a restaurant is supposed to be on online reputation expert, too. The truth is that they shouldn’t. I would bet that they have an accountant handle their bookkeeping, and I would suggest they hire a professional to manage their reputation online as well. This is where a service like Reputation.com enters the picture. Reputation.com has software in place to automatically find and report any mention of you or your company and people in place to help you improve potential customer perception.
They start by building up a profile for you. With a little help from you, they find and confirm existing information about you and set up real-time monitoring to alert you to anything new. Some things, like a bad review on Google Places, can’t be removed directly. However, if you’re aware of a bad review and react professionally to it, you greatly increase the chance that the customer will remove, amend or respond more positively to their own review. And let’s not forget that your customers are your bread and butter, so you should want to make them happy regardless of public perception.
Of course, there will be times that you simply can’t do anything to get negative material about you removed from the web. After all, everyone has a right to their opinion. Additionally, some information will be about someone with the same name or similar company name, completely unrelated to you. What you can do is help guide the information that reaches more people. Just as you would want your company’s site to appear higher in search results than that of a competitor, you also want positive information about you or your company to appear before negative information. One great way to accomplish this is to make sure there’s more positive things about you online. Reputation.com employs professional writers to generate positive content that they then optimize to show up higher in search results. That bad review is a lot less harmful on the second page of Google.
Finally, Reputation.com reports on privacy issues and helps you remove your name, address, phone number, etc. from all kinds of sites. This happens on an ongoing basis to ensure that problem data doesn’t pop up again. When I set up my free trial account, they found 9 addresses online for me, all of them relevant to where I live, have lived, or work, and I don’t move around much. It can be creepy to think of who could just type in your name and show up at your house an hour from now. Beyond just looking out for listings of your phone number and address online, they also offer to do the following:
- Optimize your web browser’s privacy settings
- Block ad tracking software
- Filter unwanted email for you
To sum it all up, you should be aware of your online reputation at the very least and if you run a business, you need to be on top of your reputation, alone or with professional assistance. Reputation.com looks to be pretty solid and is sure to make things a lot easier. How much does it cost, you ask? The trial is free and pretty limited, but the pricing for one year is $99, which was a lot less than I thought it would be. By contrast, a dinner for my wife and I at the restaurant mentioned in the negative review above was about $130, which has happened several times, but may not have if I’d read that review and had no other information. For most businesses, this seems like an obvious decision.
The preceding is a sponsored review. As always, all opinions are honest and my own.