Why You Need to Monitor Your Online Reputation

Manage Your ReputationA couple of times every month I browse on over to Google and search for my own name to see what the results will bring. After I’ve done that, I type in the name of my website and run the search engine again.

Checking your online reputation like this is something that every freelancer should do on a regular basis. I wouldn’t recommend stopping with Google, either. You should also check on Twitter and on other social media sites.

While it might seem vain to search for yourself online, it’s actually an important step in protecting your online reputation. If you do business online, then you not only be checking on but also working to protect and manage your online reputation.

What You Can Learn From Your Online Reputation

Every time you search for your own name on Google or Twitter, you can learn several important things:

  • What people are saying about your business. If you have an unhappy customer, it’s possible they won’t express that dissatisfaction to you. Instead, they may blog about their dissatisfaction or comment negatively about your work on other sites. Sometimes, untruths and misinformation are spread about your company online without your knowledge.
  • Whether your work is being used without permission. As a freelance writer, my work is often “scraped” by plagiarists and used on other sites without my permission. Many plagiarists are careless about stealing my work — often my name remains with the piece. A quick search can turn up my articles on sites that I never submitted them to.
  • Whether someone else is using your personal or business name. As a freelancer, your name and your business name are important. But, are you the only one using your name? With a few quick searches, you can determine who is using your name online. If another individual or business has the same name, how are they using that name? Do they appear to be reputable?

What To Do If Your Online Reputation Is In Trouble

Fortunately for me, I haven’t experienced any severe complaints or untruthful information, although I often run across sites that have “borrowed” my work without asking. I share my personal name with several other individuals and a popular television character –- but fortunately that has not affected my freelancing career.

However, not all freelancers are so lucky. If you find that you do have a problem with your online reputation, then you have several options:

  1. Ignore It. If you have a dissatisfied customer or find that someone has stolen your work or is spreading misinformation, you can look the other way. Perhaps the offending person will stop their activities or the plagiarist will take the stolen material down. If the complaint is minor or if the poster doesn’t look credible, ignoring the problem might be the best solution.
  2. Confront It. Another option if you find that someone is posting negative information online is to confront the negative poster directly. Contact them and ask them why they posted what they did and ask what you can do to make it right. This approach can be particularly effective with former clients who have legitimate complaints with the service they received.
  3. Get Help. If your problem is too large or you are facing a particularly aggressive onslaught of false information, then you should get professional help. There are companies that specialize in online reputation management services that range from monitoring your reputation to correcting misinformation to taking legal steps (if needed).

Share Your Online Reputation Management Strategies

I’ve shared some of the steps that I take to protect my online reputation. What steps are you taking?

Do you regularly search for your personal and business name? Have you had to deal with plagiarism or anything worse?

Tell your stories in the comments.

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Comments

  1. says

    Super smart tips and ones that we shouldn’t really have to be reminded of (but do). Whether you’re a freelancer, looking for a new job, or at a corporation – monitoring what’s being said about you or your brand allows you to connect with not just the naysayers but especially those who are praising your company. What better feeling do we have when a company we’ve talked about on Twitter with high praise, reaches out to us and says a thank you and builds a bit of dialogue from that one comment.

    Good or bad press, communicating with the community is important.

  2. says

    Hi Laura, Nice Article

    I recently heard that the designer guy has fined for the use of his own work. I don’t know the full story behind that, but it’s strange!

    I google frequently my name, so that I can understand my online presence. We can get our online reputation. But the main thing is to maintain it.

    Laura, Can you write a follow up post on How to Maintain the Online Reputation? That will be great….

  3. says

    Communication is key to keep your reputation good. As a freelancer, you will have projects that you could not keep up with and unfortunately, you have to refund the person and tell them you can’t complete the project. That, can either ruin your reputation or help it in the least bit.

    To monitor my reputation, I look for my name and business in Google and see if anything bad appears. I haven’t had this problem yet, but I will either confront the person or ignore it.

  4. says

    Hi Laura,

    These are some excellent tips on monitoring yourself online. I tend to google my name frequently. Amongst that we have developed a client forum that is closed to the public but open to our clients. This allows them to field questions, comments, and concerns. It also shows that we are open to all of our clients and do not mind taking the risk. At the end if other clients read what was written and our response we reap greater benefits for the customer support we have offered. It is a win win, and a great way to ensure things stay within the company.

  5. says

    Two resources that are helpful for monitoring your online reputation:

    *Copyscape.com searches for other sites that are scraping your blog or website content. I’ve had this happen to me, and despite repeated attempts to contact the website owner and the company that sold them the domain, I couldn’t get any satisfaction or attribution. Others must have tried to shut them down, because they eventually removed all their content.
    *Google Alerts emails you daily, weekly, or whenever with any search results for a given phrase. Because I have such a common name, I’ve set it up alerts on specific domains where I’m a frequent contributor so I can keep track of when my articles get published. Otherwise, the email would be completely unmanageable!

  6. says

    Hi All!

    Thanks for the feedback. There are lots of good suggestions here. Nikhil – what sort of followup post did you have in mind?

    Mitesh – I like the idea of a client forum.

    Susan – Thanks for pointing out Copyscape – that’s definitely another way to find out whether your work is being plagiarized.

  7. says

    Along the lines of the Google Alerts Susan mentioned, there is also Tweetbeep.com, which also always you to get email alerts when someone on twitter mentions your name, a domain, or any phrase you choose. Very useful.

  8. says

    I have a question for you Laura. Should you consider trademark registration for the name of your website or blog in the case of the unauthorized use of it?

  9. says

    The post on
    How to Create & Maintain Good Online Reputation…
    means which can guide to, what we can do to Build our reputation.

    This thought just came in mind but is seems to be very common topic, isn’t it?

  10. says

    Great comments!

    Adam, thanks for sharing about tweetbeep.com.

    Johnny, you raise an interesting point that I hadn’t give a lot of thought to. According to some experts, trademarking your website or blog name is a good idea.

  11. says

    Thanks for the valuable tips. My advice for protecting your reputation involves verifying site ownership by checking WhoIs at least once, also.

    An alarming number of website owners have contacted me months or years after getting package deals that include domain registration, a web design, and hosting only to find out later when they want to change services that they are not listed as the registrant.

    More importantly, you and specifically your email address should be listed in the domain registration as the admin contact to be recognized as the authorized license holder of your domain. If you pay a monthly service fee for an online package, the license holder may be reluctant to agree to a transfer at a reasonable price for the domain.

  12. says

    In maintaining several blogs, I have had more than one occasion when someone has decided to take my content and use it without permission. It has been my experience, however, that many people will stop if you just write a note informing them that they are engaging in unauthorized usage of your content. You wouldn’t think that a simple email would get the job done, but it really does.

  13. says

    Heather, that’s assuming that the blog actually lists a contact email, and many of them don’t. In fact, I’ve found that a lot of splogs appear to accept comments, but those comments never get approved to appear on the site or you get an error message when you try to contact them. I even tried getting the contact info through WhoIs and it was listed as private (a big red flag to me that they’re doing some shady stuff). Obviously, we want to attribution for your work, but sometimes they leave you with no way to contact them.

  14. says

    Thanks for the reminder, but not really rocket science. Ever tried Google Alerts? Saves you lots of time to search once a month :-)

    Volker

  15. says

    Great introduction to Online Reputation Management. We did an article a while back on responding to negative feedback http://www.socialtrending.com/blog/8-tips-for-responding-to-negative-comments-online.html and covered all of your tips in addition to a couple more.

    I would like to stress the point you make about not responding to certain feedback. A bad response can cause a backlash that sees the negative sentiment reach much further than the initial comment. Consider your options wisely before jumping in and responding in a public environment.

    Tom
    SocialTrending

  16. says

    Thanks Laura!
    I find that it is important in personal branding that you do what you belive feels right. I wouldn’t spend too much time on people who just simply disagree. I spend my time wisely, and only on growing and building my brand, rather than defending it.

  17. says

    There’s a nifty little tool buried in the Google services called “alerts”. With it, you can instruct Google to show you all the results it can dig-up containing your name.
    Or whatever you instruct it to look for.
    This will A: save you a lot of time searching, and B: show you results you never thought of searching for yourself.

    Regarding the options you have in responding to a post you don’t like, I would say, consider your reply or comment carefully, but do react. At least for the benefit of telling your side of the story.

    If you do use Google alerts, for god’s sake, use it’s rss option or your email will fill up faster than you can blink your eyes twice.

    And finally, the best tip to avoid finding anything nasty: PREVENT IT! Especially as freelancer, you are in control. If you behave professionally, deliver and follow through on your promises, chances are you will never find anything bad…

  18. says

    Great conversation!

    One of the things I love about this community is the way that everyone pitches in to add their own information.

    I think Google alerts on your name is a great idea! It’s a good tool and best of all, as you pointed out, it’s free!

    I also like the advice to be professional. While it’s possible that you could be blameless and have your reputation smeared, professionalism decreases that chance. Thanks for adding that tip.

    Thanks also to those who linked to professional reputation management companies. As I point out in my post, there is definitely a time to bring in professionals and it’s good to know that you folks are around.

  19. says

    Those interested in a more powerful tool than Google alerts should try BuzzDing! (http://www.buzzding.com)

    We’ve built it specifically for online reputation management. It finds mentions of your keywords, name, brands, etc. across a wide range of social networks, twitter, blogs, videos, forums, etc.

    And it helps you really manage your mentions keeping track of mentions you need to follow up on and those that you already have. Sort of an inbox for your reputation management.

  20. Bobe-On says

    Hi Laura,

    I wrote the below response (with a small edit or two) about the subject at Adam Pash’s Lifehacker.com site. Some of it should have relevance to yours:

    In a healthy society/community, people would do well to feel safe typing, for the most part, whatever they please, with relatively little regard for their so-called reputation or any so-imagined repercussions.

    Just because I know nothing/much about your online persona as a prospective employer/colleague/etc. doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be good/bad for the position– and vice versa.

    One might be tempted to suggest that this (Pash’s) article might give them a wee twinge of fear-mongering about it, and/or a subtle challenge to the notions of freedom-of-expression and human rights.

    I’m reminded of all those cameras in urban areas pointing everywhere and at everyone, and of which-hunts, and even a particular quote by the Captain Picard character of Star Trek:
    “Those who cloak themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged.”

    For many, their online persona is fun or fiction, a chance to be someone else, to “sandbox” and create new ideas, communicational modes, scenerios, etc.. Field research.

    For everyone, communicating online is in a different context than in person, and that’s important. For one, you’re often staring at a flat screen full of text and typing your thoughts– hardly a natural expressive act– without speaking or gesturing, etc., and, in my experience and by my knowledge, many find it difficult to translate emotions to text, never mind general issues of speech, sight, speech or neurological impediments, or the inherent limitations of language, itself.

    “…the first thing most of us do is Google them…”

    If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were attempting to manufacture a modus operandi or consenus, speaking for everyone else. Where’s the research that confirms this?

    Perhaps there is, but regardless, I’m also well aware that people behave differently with different people and, again, in different contexts.
    I personally like to interact with people on my and their own turf and terms, so to speak, and so almost never Google anyone, being conscious of how easily we can be biased, influenced and prejudiced.

    Incidentally, I’m sure– or at least hope– that you’re aware that there are laws against discriminatory hiring practices on the basis of such things as one’s sex, sexuality, religion, age, marital status, and so forth, and I’m pretty sure that, even though very difficult to prove, they include one’s freedom of expression.

    “As a freelance writer, my work is often ‘scraped’ by plagiarists and used on other sites without my permission. Many plagiarists are careless about stealing my work — often my name remains with the piece. A quick search can turn up my articles on sites that I never submitted them to.”

    AFAIK, copying and reposting work is not stealing because the work is only copied.
    In any case, work posted online is under a new digital/network-distribution context that may in the end prove uncontrollable without the imposition of draconian measures.

    If you don’t want your work plagiarized or mashed-up, etc., Laura, then I’d suggest simply keeping it to yourself under lock-and-key.

  21. says

    @Bobe-On — The hypocrisy of your comment is wonderful.

    After prefacing every one of your paragraphs with an omniscient 3rd party phrase like “One me be tempted to suggest” or “In a healthy society/community” you then go on to accuse Laura and Adam Pash (Lifehacker.com) of presuming or manufacturing a consensus. Wow.

    Also, to clear the record, there are no laws against hiring (or not) based upon a person’s ‘Freedom of Expression’. To protect a person’s right to free expression is wonderful, and lawful, but that doesn’t mean that they are guaranteed a job no matter what expressions or statements they make. In fact, that would be ridiculous.

    Finally, to suggest that plagiarism and copyright infringement is an essential or protected part of society is just as ridiculous. The rights of content creators are there for a purpose, and copying or plagiarizing something without permission is illegal. Even in a new medium like the web. Period.

    /rant

  22. says

    Wow, such interesting things happen while I sleep!

    Thanks Mason, for jumping to the defense.

    To Bobe-on, I can say right now that I have never met Adam Pash of Lifehacker, nor did we discuss this topic before writing these respective posts.

    However, I do respect your right to disagree.

    The advice that I give here is geared primarily towards those who have a freelance business (or want to start one). The advice may not be of interest to those without such a business.

    My stance on online advice has always been: if it doesn’t fit your situation, ignore it.

    I think it makes since for freelancers (and particularly webworkers) to monitor their online reputation. For one thing, many of us never meet those we work with face-to-face. What’s online is the only information that we may have.

    Likewise, it’s important that intellectual property be protected because that’s how many of us earn our keep. While words, music, or design may seem cheap or free because it’s online – it is not. Believe me, a lot of effort goes into such endeavors.

    For comparison’s sake, If you owned a hardware store you probably wouldn’t think it okay for people to come in and help themselves to tools whenever you opened your doors to the public.

    That, at least, is my opinion on the matter.

    Best wishes!

  23. says

    Of course, the flip side to monitoring online reputation is to actively seek to enhance it. For businesses, particularly small businesses, having customers or clients post customer feedback is a big help. Local directory portals are becoming more popular for users to see what is being said about businesses they are researching.

  24. Lara says

    I think it is so important to monitor what is being said about you online. Poeple search engines are so effective for online reputation management.. i’ve used sites like http://www.yasni.com for this sort of thing in the past

  25. Patrick Jane says

    Monitoring online reputation is very helpful. Thank you! This can really help me with my business. I don’t want something like what happened to my friend’s business happen to mine. Someone who hated her, perhaps a disgruntled customer posted some awful things about her business, and her as a person, on the Internet. The links were impossible to remove so she contacted Reputation Technologies and they removed the bad links for her right away.

  26. says

    I check my name online because there’s a former TV personality in my city whose name is spelled almost exactly like mine, but she doesn’t have the best reputation. So I check to make sure we’re not getting mixed up.

    Best thing I’ve found: I’m also an Irish comic book character who “has developed sonic powers of her own.” My character is “an Irish mutant, who possesses a ‘sonic scream’ capable of incapacitating and injuring an opponent’s hearing and sending powerful vibrations through the air.” AWESOME!

  27. says

    We have a program which monitors malicious pr unfavorable content. It covers all the SOE’s and social networks, we have had a lot of success for clients with bad break ups or disgruntled employees ….or who have people who have just had a bad experience with cyber bullying.
    It sends a report each week. I designed it originally after hearing of cyber bully suicides and it just broke my heart, so I felt I had to do something about it.

    It is worth looking at
    http://www.my-reputation-monitor.com/index.html

    Contact us if you want help

  28. says

    If you want to go more like a brand, bad reputation is sooo not good! Especially unpleased customers, they’re the most important bad issue in online reputation because if they say bunch of shit ’bout you online, social engines kinda trust they’re opinion…

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  1. [...] Protect Your Brand April 20th, 2009 Goto comments Leave a comment Hello there! If you are new here, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on this topic.Powered by WP Greet BoxI received this link from one of my twitter buddies, and I have to agree with the wirter,  bloggers who are conscious of  his/her brand  should do this regularly: Monitor Their Online Reputation [...]

  2. [...] Freelance Folder: Why You Need to Monitor Your Online Reputation – “While it might seem vain to search for yourself online, it’s actually an important step in protecting your online reputation. If you do business online, then you not only be checking on but also working to protect and manage your online reputation.“ [...]

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