There is a new world order out there people. Your reputation (both personal and business) is getting a flash back from the old days.
Remember when everybody lived in small towns? Okay… I was born in 1983 and lived in Orange County, CA but my dad tells me stories of growing up in a small farming community. Back then your name was everything. Small towns are full of gossip, rich history and family ties. They were a town size version of our modern “water cooler.” If people didn’t know you personally, they knew your reputation. And your reputation was directly tied to your family members.
And if you lied, cheated or stole you better just pack up your bags and move. There isn’t anyone that’s going to give you a leg up if you have ruined your reputation.
Thankfully, most people are not cheaters or liars. The vast majority of us have never been malicious and certainly never driven out of town. However, the old days of reputation management are back on the coat tails of SEO and social media.
If you have a fairly generic name like Jeff Jones, the chances of you ranking high on Google for your name are pretty slim. On the other hand if you have a slightly unique name like mine, “Amie Marse” you better watch your back. Yes, go ahead… google me. The whole first few pages are me. And yes, the “Amie Marse and The Dog Treat Jar are a Scam…” is about me. In fact, it’s the reason behind this post.
Here’s the dish:
I had launched an online ecommerce store to sell organic dog treats. I knew close to nothing about working online but I was desperate to start a business and I just love my dogs. I plunked down close to 2k for a website, another 2k for inventory, another thousand or so for marketing stuff. I was going to rule (!) the organic dog treat business.
I hired sales people, I hired forum commenters (before I knew what blackhat was), I was tossing out cash left and right.
And….It was a total loss. I learned many painful but important lessons in business. The lesson in SEO and reputation management was yet to come.
During all the fun part of starting a new business I hired a sales person/forum commenter. Her job was to go on dog related forums and talk about how great my business was. Except, after her second week I was concerned that all the other people were making more traction than her. So I inquired on the list she provided of the places she was registered. Once I looked it over I realized this person had completely lied to me. Her job was to go and make comments, she didn’t. I was angry and I told her I wouldn’t pay her. I had already paid her for a week when I clearly shouldn’t have.
Running an online business (no matter how terrible the business plan) is about trust. And here I was being cheated. I took a stand and I refused to pay her. She filed with the BBB and the wage board. And she posted about me and my business as a scam on a forum. She went crazy and I went a little crazy too. It was less than $200 but it was the principal and I wasn’t going to budge.
And guess what? Two years later and this forum thread is still a top ranking site for my name. My name which since I work exclusively online is both my reputation and my livelihood. All because I was naive about SEO and reputation management.
Since this time I have built a very profitable business in Content Equals Money and I make a point of using my name “Amie Marse” any time that I can. Just like the family with a shady past, I am working everyday to regain my reputation as a trustworthy person.
Here are a few quick tips for reputation management so you learn from my mistake instead of making one of your own:
~ When attacked publicly by someone, enlist the help of your fans to defend you. Your clients, friends and others that know you are a genuine person will get a lot more traction than you would trying to defend yourself.
~ Don’t simply ignore the problem by producing a bunch of sites to “lower the rank” of the offending page/post/tweet. The last thing you want to do is keep it hanging over your head. Deal with it and move on.
~ Be careful how you write out biographies, even short ones. If you want to be known as a specific type of person in a specific type of industry, use those specific terms any way you can. And keep those terms as close to your name as possible.
~ Weigh the consequences and know the consequences. Had I known that my “stand” was going to cost me thousands of dollars in potential business I would have just paid the woman. I would have paid her under protest and left a bad review, but I would have paid her to avoid potential customers seeing my name and the word scam together for the rest of my career.
~ Remember that the internet is now like a small town. Put in enough key terms and even a “Jeff Jones” can be tracked for years to come. Deal with others honorably and be quick to defend those that are being treated unfairly.
~ Be vigilant about your online reputation. In social media and otherwise. Your business and your brand depends on it.
These tips are just the tip of the iceberg for reputation management and SEO. What’s your top tip to keep your name or brand rankings on target?
This post was written by Amie, the fearless leader of Content Equals Money. If you would like to discuss your next online project with her, she will be all ears! Contact her via firstname.lastname@example.org
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