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Chris Abraham

Why You Must Armor Your Online Reputation

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

When high-end online reputation management experts like me get together and kibitz about prospecting new business we always talk about how much all our clients would have benefited from taking our calls well before their sundry crises struck.

Long story short: hire me or someone like me if you don’t have a big pile of time but do have a small pile of money; otherwise, spend some of your own time, talent and treasure doing a serious domain name buy; setting up a comprehensive array of sites, blogs, and social media profiles; and keeping them fresh through updates and thoughtful maintenance.

Yes, this could well be a pretty big project that will probably require special budgeting, a little hiring, some additional managing, or some personal time-management for the additional items on your own plate, for sure.

However, spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours now will help inoculate you against the inevitable aggressive online reputation attack that most certainly happen to you at some point in the future, be it from something really stupid, evil, or illegal that you and yours have done (or been discovered as doing or having done) or for no good reason other than your competitor wants your concern to die and give up all your clients or because a simple personal break up, perceived slight, psychotic former employee, permanently displeased former client, or inconsolable patient has made you into his or her own personal jihad.

Aside from being perfect, noble, generous, and awesome all the time while making sure that all of your employees, past and present, and all your products and service are above reproach, something’s going to eventually try to give you a black eye online. The question is, how prepared are you and how armored are you on search so that when someone does a cursory search from your name, your company, or your staff, the only thing that comes up on Google are results you control?

The only two other optional besides search engine hegemony are: 1) nothing at all or 2) stuff about you by others; either way, reputation abhors a vacuum. The reason there’s stuff up there about you now even though all you have up online at the moment is a brochure web site and a LinkedIn page is because Google is the most co-dependent, people-pleasing, piece of software on the planet. I believe it feels pain if it cannot give its visitors lots and lots of compelling and delicious content that is at the very least germane to the search and, at best, a sensational laugh-riot of gossip, intrigue, speculation, and embarrassment.

Google’s not about judging the validity or gentility of the content returned but it is about delivery the hottest, freshest, most delicious donuts possible, and if you’re a sleepy little brand, there’s nothing that can jack your traffic and drive attention than a hoary case of crisis.

And, once the cycle begins, it’s virtually impossible to stop its acceleration — the more people who click through to defaming content, especially through Google properties, the more prevalent on Google the content will become and the more people will click through, thus starting a feedback loop that will quickly color and influence universal brand perception of your brand.

Sometimes it’s temporary and sort of like just weathering a storm; other times, however, after the storm is past, there’s a lot of destruction left in the storm’s wake and you’ll need to mortgage that house, sell that plane, and contact someone like me who can start your online reputation rebuilding process.

High-end, high-profile, online reputation management campaigns often cost well north of half-a-million dollars-a-year, not including traditional crisis communications, and take upwards of half-a-year of constant work, savvy upkeep, support, and engagement before the tides change and we’re able to take back all, most, or some of the hills ceded to the crisis, depending.

There have been times I have told prospects, incredulous as to how much fixing their search results would cost, that they should probably consider selling a house, a yacht, or getting a second mortgage on their house if they’re really serious about repairing the gaping hole that bad first page search results put into their business revenue and potential for still existing in one calendar year.

Even if you’re just a regular schmo with an angry ex, the repair bill will be proportionally equally steep for you.

Attacking you, your business, your profession, and even your partners and family, is free. There’s no barrier to entry — all it takes is some time. It doesn’t even take any skill as single-minded obsession with destructive intent tends to be pretty resourceful. The thing about single-minded hateful obsession, it tends to be irrational, fearless, and willing to not only endure lawyering but are willing to trash their own personal reputation in order to destroy yours.

And it gets worse: do you own your own domains? Yes, all your domains? And the domains of your colleagues, board of directors, executives, family members, products, services, intellectual properties, as well as all the top-level variants: .com, .net, .org, .us, .co, etc. As well as all the above separated by hyphens as well. Yes, this will cost you hundreds of dollars-a-year; however, this is 1/1000th of the investment you’ll need to make if your domains are scooped up, instead, by your competitors, your exes, or even less-honorable SEO and ORM shops.

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About the Author:
Chris Abraham, president of Social Ally, is a leading expert in online public relations with a focus on blogger outreach, blogger engagement, and Internet reputation management.

A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and advisor to the industries' leading firms. He specializes in Web 2.0 technologies, including content syndication, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.
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