Even though there are 3.17 billion users worldwide on the Internet, it can seem like a small town when you do something that hurts your reputation and that of your website. Just ask former veterinarian Kristen Lindsey, who posted a photo to social media of her holding a cat with an arrow through its head and the caption “My first bow kill lol. The only good feral tomcat is one with an arrow through it's head! Vet of the year award… gladly accepted.”
I won't post the actual image here, because it is disturbing to most people, but you can imagine the fall out from her one, not very well thought out post on Facebook. The Internet lit up as people shared her post, commented about her words and the photo and people began to demand justice for what turns out may have not been a feral cat at all (I believe this is still being investigated). She subsequently lost her job. While officials say she won't face any charges, they are looking into revoking her veterinary license.
Then there is the case where a fraud impersonated the actor Jonah Hill. The impersonator set up a Twitter account using the actor's name and began posting some not so flattering things which created backlash for Hill. He had to do some fast PR to make it clear that was not his account and, in fact, he didn't even have a Twitter account.
Whether you posted something completely off the wall that angered half the world or you simply participated in some tactics that were a bit black hat, your reputation for your website or yourself may have had a complete blowout and need to be rescued.
Dumb Things You Shouldn't Do
If you are just getting started in promoting your site and having a solid online presence, then you've come to the right place at the right time. There are some definite no nos when it comes to online reputation.
Sending out indiscriminate spam. People hate spam. They hate it when you email them spam. They dislike it when you add them to a mailing list without their permission. They especially get angry if you add them to a social media list without them asking first. There are plenty of effective ways to grow your traffic without resorting to spam.
Stuffing keywords into your posts in an attempt to improve your Google rankings is not only annoying and often makes for poor writing, but it won't even help your page rank. Google has grown wise to all these little tricks that content mills use to use in an effort to drive up page rank and traffic. If you just throw a bunch of keywords on your page, you may even get penalized for low-quality content. Not to mention that your readers won't stick around for long.
Self-promoting on forums. It has always been considered poor taste to jump on a forum and start blatantly self-promoting. Instead, you should look at forums and decide if you have anything of value to add to the conversation. Many forums allow you to add a link to your signature, but make sure you understand the rules before you do so and never overdo it or just post a link without adding something of value.
Posting controversial statements on your social media about race, religion, or politics. Just don't go there. In fact, I am a big believer in people not posting about these issues on social media ever. It can impact your ability to secure a new job if the recruiter checks out your social media, it can alienate half of you blog readers, and it most definitely makes people on the other side of the fence angry. Your mother was right when she told you to never argue religion or politics.
Create posts that are inappropriate. A good rule of thumb is that if you think your mother would call you by your first, middle and last name for posting that content, then you probably shouldn't post it. Yes, it might get a lot of traffic to your blog because of the shock factor, but is that really the type of targeted traffic you want?
Praising your amazing abilities and genius. People don't want to hear how wonderful you are. If you are truly knowledgeable about your topic and you can teach them something, they will be naturally drawn to you and your content.
How to Rebuild Your Reputation
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to begin rebuilding your reputation online. First, before you do anything else, stop whatever you've been doing that has trashed it. Are you getting bad reviews on your customer service? Fix it.
I was thrilled that one of the top experts in reputation management was willing to talk to WHSR and share his ideas on fixing a bad reputation.
Zac Johnson of Blogging.org
Zac Johnson, the founder of Blogging.org, has been featured in publications such as Forbes, Fox News, and Entrepreneur. He offered the following advice if you aren't getting a very good page rank or traffic from search engines. This could be due to a bad reputation, or could be a variety of other factors.
When you have a web site or blog with a lackluster page rank, it's always important to remember the factors of increasing your page rank in the first place. This usually comes down to the quality of content on your site and how many trusted authority sites are linking back to your site. Once you have that realization in place, you can then focus on different ways to improve your page rank and brand exposure in the process.
For example, one of the best ways to increase exposure for your brand while also building backlinks to your site, is to focus on your outreach. This can be anything from guest blogging on other sites within your industry, creating shareable infographics or participating in expert roundups like this one.
Just because your site doesn't have a great page rank, there are many other high value determining factors to your site – such as domain authority, page authority, moz rank, incoming backlinks and anchor text structure. Focus on each of these elements as a whole, and not just one, and you will see continued growth and success for your site.
Mr. Beal was unfortunately on vacation and couldn't get back to us directly for this post. However, Andy Beal was recently interviewed by Nick Stamoulis over at Brick Marketing and offered some essential advice that will help you out if you're trying to repair your reputation.
Beal is one of the top reputation management names in the industry and the creator of Trackur. Trackur is a monitoring tool that track social media mentions about the person or the business so that business owners know exactly what is and isn't being said about them at any given time.
One thing Andy shares that is important to remember is this:
“The biggest faux pas tends to be the knee jerk reactions you see from businesses under attack. They react with venom and anger at the person attacking their reputation—which inevitably makes the situation worse.”
Fixing Poor Reviews
Perhaps your problem is something completely out of your control. For example, you have horrible reviews on sites like Yelp. Perhaps when you started, you were inexperienced and had poor product delivery. However, you've since fixed the issues and yet the poor reviews live on forevermore on review sites.
Maybe the problem is that a competitor or individual has a personal issue with you and is trashing your business just to make you look bad. Whatever the reason, poor reviews can drive customers away.
Kevin Harrington shares some advice on Forbes about handling poor reviews. First, he says to take a step back and do not return the bashing with a similar response. This only makes you look petty and unprofessional. He gives some specific steps to repairing the damage, which include admitting to what you did wrong, apologizing for it, and to try to find a way to have the post removed. When all else fails, he advises hiring a reputable reputation management company to help you repair your good name.
Not an Overnight Fix
Repairing your reputation isn't going to happen overnight. You'll likely have to use a combination of positive social media, pushing negative content down with good SEO, and working hard to build brand loyalty through excellent customer service and integrity.
Of course, the ideal thing is to not build a bad reputation in the first place. However, people sometimes make mistakes or come under attack from an outside source. Know that you aren't the first or last person this has happened to and that while it takes a lot of work and effort you can recover from a bad reputation.
About Lori Soard
Lori Soard has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 1996. She has a bachelor's in English Education and a PhD in Journalism. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and she's had several books published. Since 1997, she has worked as a web designer and promoter for authors and small businesses. She even worked for a short time ranking websites for a popular search engine and studying in-depth SEO tactics for a number of clients. She enjoys hearing from her readers.