SEO and online reputation management go hand and hand. As SEO evolves it becomes harder to manipulate. As SEO becomes harder to manipulate so too does it become harder to clean up a negative reputation - or proactively build a more positive reputation - online.
But “harder” does not mean “impossible,” and many of the old tools still work. In fact, two of them, blog commenting and forum posts, are sometimes even a bit overlooked in the world of online reputation management. This is because a reputation manager might be a little uneasy about generating either of these two types of content on your behalf.
There’s a big difference between setting up a webpage or a press release which references you and speaking for you, after all, no matter how much impact “participation” has on your overall web presence.
But all this means that these are easy tools which you can use to build up your own online reputation. It may even be fun - if you do it right.
Relevance, relevance, relevance!
You don’t want to choose just any blogs or forums to interact with. Instead, you want to spend a little time locating those who are truly a part of your community. Look for blogs and forums that:
- Keep you up-to-date on the latest developments in your career or field.
- Speak to your specific interests and hobbies—the ones that you can talk about enthusiastically, at length.
- You are 100% okay with people knowing you read and interact with these blogs.
- If possible, make an effort to consciously choose blogs that have been around for awhile, that rank well in Google and that have a good following.
Remember that any act of online reputation management is an act of building an overall brand. The blogs and forums you choose to interact with should be relevant to that brand.
That doesn’t mean you have to be in “work mode,” every time you get online. If you’re a graphic designer who also travels all over the world it’s okay to jump on a travel forum. You just have to make sure you don’t mind “world traveller” being part of your brand.
Of course, some blogs and forums don’t have anything to do with hobbies or work, but can still be beneficial. For example, blogs or forums about personal development, productivity, or general business success are all usually positive places to be.
Keep Your Comments Clean on Blogs and Forums
When Blogging or on Forums Speak & Act Professionally at All Times
You may not have to be a professional at all times, but you should always strive to act professionally. That means that you’re going to want to avoid making comments unless they meet several important criteria:
- You’ve checked them for spelling, grammar, and clarity.
- You’re speaking respectfully. It’s okay to disagree, but name calling, “flaming,” and sarcasm could hurt you in the long run.
- You’ve thought long and hard about bringing politics or religion into these very public forums. If you choose to include them you do so knowing that they could limit your employment opportunities or your ability to score certain clients.
- You’ve made an effort to really contribute to the conversation—you’re not posting “great post” or “me too” style comments.
In short, if you wouldn’t want your mother or your future boss to read the comment then you don’t want to make the comment.
How does all of this contribute to your reputation management strategy?
Many blogs and forums rank extremely well on Google and have been around for a decade or more. This means that a few blog comments have a better chance of ranking well than any website about you does.
Forum posts always rank well. How could they not? They’re keyword rich, the content is almost always 100% unique, and multiple users are contributing to it, meaning the content grows and grows while remaining as fresh as it gets.
Of course, this cuts both ways. If you’re making a fool of yourself on blogs and forums then those who are checking out your reputation online are going to see this. They might see your flame war directly under your LinkedIn profile on the search results. It’s going to make a difference - a big difference - to how you are perceived.
What about anonymous comments and aliases?
Some people hide their less savory or more controversial blog and forum posts under an alias, or hope that anonymity will shield them.
You can try this, but it carries a risk. You see, a truly determined sleuth is usually pretty good at figuring out who is who if they really want to. Most people aren’t as slick at hiding their identity as they think they are, and may give themselves away in a hundred tiny ways.
That’s not to say that the average employer is going to dig this deep. However, the risk is always there. And since many reputation threats come from determined, vicious enemies who are out to get you it might be better to refrain. If you make one of those enemies they have every reason in the world to dig as deep as they can. They’ll use anything that they can against you, and your own words will certainly be stronger than any story they might tell. So keep your online reputation in mind and comment with caution, even if you think nobody knows who you are.
Is community participation enough in ORM?
It’s not feasible or even desirable for every single person to start a website or blog just to build their online presence. If you just don’t have the time or creativity to update blog posts on a regular basis, for example, community participation can be a nice strategy. You’re still showing that you have something to contribute to the conversation. You’re still standing out as a thought leader (albeit a lesser one). And you’re still showing potential employers or clients a piece of who you are and what you can do.
However, it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you have a freelance practice or other business to market then community participation isn’t going to be nearly enough to get you where you need to go. If you’re in a steady job and just want to make sure that you’re building enough of a presence to help you in the event that you need to seek a new job, then community participation is just about perfect.
And both decisions should be tempered by the strength of your current online reputation. Community participation builds neutral reputations up to good ones and helps maintain good reputations.
But if you have a bad reputation it’s going to take a lot more than a few blog comments to undo the damage. That’s the point where you’re going to want to consult with an online reputation repair company.
Evaluate where you stand and what you need, and then act accordingly.