I’ve been very excited that Search Engine Land‘s editors have recently allowed me to start a new column series dedicated to Online Relationship Management, which will be published on their sister site, Marketing Land! My first article for it, “9 Key Points for Cleaning Up Your Online Reputation Nightmare Via SEO“, appeared a few weeks ago. In that article, I tried to provide some basic steps for people who wish to try the do-it-yourself approach, or for agencies less familiar with this type of work.
I’ve worked at various aspects of Online Reputation Management (“ORM”) for a number of years now, as a sideline of Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”). This has involved a whole range of aspects of ORM — from handling local business reviews, fighting RipOff Report pages, removing lies and defamation from Wikipedia, and helping clients to deploy websites and social media accounts to counter and displace negative materials that damage their reputations.
I’m fascinated by the human stories involved with ORM work — it’s highly compelling to me because it has such a big impact upon people’s lives, compared to the mere jockeying to attain high rankings for commercial keyword phrases. To a large degree in the interactive world of today, your name is equivalent to your identity. You don’t realize just how much your online identity is central to your relationships and success in the real world until it becomes damaged — the perceptions created by the materials that appear when your name is searched in Google, Bing and other search engines is nearly inseparable in people’s minds from your actual identity.
I’m compelled to work in this area by the human stories and how much my work can help people so directly. I have come to know so many things through the various cases I’ve worked upon — fascinating stories about what often happens behind-the-scenes to what you see in the shallow surface you see represented in the search results. I’ve worked upon companies and nonprofit organizations that have been attacked by irrational people, CEOs and small business owners victimized by criminals using extortion ploys, academics erroneously targeted by ecoterrorists, and individuals who made a mistake in their past which they can never seem to escape.
Most of these stories are so sensitive and so confidential that I cannot share them.
However, my involvement in one recent case was highly-publicized, so you can see one clear example of the type of reputation cases I sometimes work upon. Media has reported broadly on the case of Mr. Hegglin, a U.K. citizen and former Morgan Stanley executive who was the victim of a massive online reputation attack which made all sorts of wild and false claims against him, including that he was a “paedophile”, Nazi sympathizer, that he laundered mafia money, and more — including casting aspersions upon his former colleagues and some of his family members. My assistance in that case was in the role of an expert witness for the court in his eventual lawsuit against Google, seeking to compel them to assist him better in cleaning up his online reputation. Google settled the reputation lawsuit, providing some of the assistance that was demanded (I cannot speak to any specifics of the settlement). This case is an example of what individuals can face in trying to address reputation attacks online, and the conflict is but one that will help to build pressure for search engines and larger online companies to assist those who are so easily damaged in online attacks:
It’s these sorts of human stories that I’d like to relate in this new ORM column at Marketing Land. I won’t always be able to disclose specific identities of my clients in such cases for obvious reasons, but I may be able to obscure the identities just enough to relate the facts of some of the dramatic stories I’ve encountered.
From a professional and technical point of view, I believe ORM is one of the most challenging areas for online marketing and reputation specialists to address — it continues to be an emerging frontier that exists right at the point where laws, technology and rapidly-changing culture overlap. It’s arguably a unique beast of its own — not quite solely SEO, not quite solely Social Media, not purely solved by legal salvos — but, some strange hybrid combining elements of all of these disciplines.
So, stay tuned, and whether you’re interested in learning new online marketing strategies, technical tricks and methods — or, if you’re just fascinated by some of the dramatic and salacious details — I think you’ll find something of interest in these articles!