Protecting Your Online Reputation

Online marketers began talking about online reputation management (ORM) a few years ago.  As a small businessperson, you’ve undoubtedly thought about the concept, but perhaps not the term.

Online reputation is simply the items throughout the Internet that people find when they research you or your company.  I had the pleasure of interviewing online reputation guru Andy Beal earlier this year upon the publication of Radically Transparent.

The key takeaway about reputation management is that you can be blindsided by something that occurred in the past — even before the Internet was popular.  As Andy said when we spoke

It’s not just what you happen to put online today. One example is we’re seeing newspapers – The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal – opening up their archives so that content previously behind a user name and password is now available on the web. We see a lot of instances where people were written about negatively in mainstream media and that was buried deep in the archives and you had to be a user to find it. Now as we see those media companies open their archives to the web, it’s starting to bubble up to the top of Google’s results. It’s really understanding that any action you have could have a future repercussion.

I have personally experienced that interesting event when music files I had created in my 20s and uploaded to small sites were part of a restoration effort from some hardcore hobbyists.   These were Commodore 64 days when we had 3 tones to play with and constructed the tone by actually building the sound wave in a line of code.  They don’t sound very good today, but we were thrilled then.

The music is a benign, geeky event, but underscores Beal’s words.  The past will surface on the web, and you better be ready for it.  Radically Transparent is a great read and offers plans on how to repair or burnish your online reputation.  We have also become an affiliate of the Trackur service that resulted from  the research in this book.

I was an early adoptee of the product and for about the price of a soda each day, I get a sophisticated system that automatically checks the web for my name or my business name or any phrase and emails me.  As Small Wonders launches, we can even monitor the new blog’s name and see how many people are referencing the site — good or bad!

Knowing the good and bad is what makes online reputation management so important.   I believe everyone should have an account because maybe your prom date finally cut loose with some pent-up hostility, an old co-worker wrote about you or your competiton does a side-by-side comparison with your product.  You don’t have time to search the Internet every day for all of these terms.  And if you’re paying someone to do that like I did earlier in my career while gathering competitive intelligence, you’re paying them a lot more than 60 cents a day.

There are a number of reasons why Trackur is a better value than Google Alerts.  Since you can’t manage what you can’t measure, the site includes tracking and trending, live updates and many feature a free offering won’t provide.    Try the service free, and if you really don’t find value, cancel.  I’m convinced, though, that you’ll learn something new every time you look at the results.

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