Lee Odden

Online Reputation Management for Individuals

Lee Odden     Online PR, Reputation Management


Recently I’ve had several discussions with a reporter on how small businesses can effectively use blogger relations and PR to market themselves. Out of that conversation came another topic about Online Reputation Management – not for companies, but for individuals.

There’s a tremendous amount of content and in some cases debate, being generated in the search marketing and public relations communities about the need to measure brands and reputations online. The first step in a ORM program is to start monitoring and there are some pretty incredible and often times costly software tools emerging to do that.

That’s all fine and good for measuring brands or companies, but what if the brand is you?

For example, there’s no doubt that both companies and candidates do a bit of “Googling” on each other to get a sense of what they’re getting in to before an in-person interview. I’m sure you’ve heard of stories where a company either didn’t hire or in some cases fired employees because of what was discovered on Facebook or MySpace.

Alternatively, candidates use search to look up companies they might want to look for and the top ten search results on the company name are distinctly influential in the mind of the searcher. Are the results littered with complaints, law suits and “yourcompanysucks.com” entries? Or are they displaying social profiles, blog, press releases and news coverage of the company?

There’s a case to be made for individuals that anticipate working or being involved in an industry where their “online persona” could significantly affect (positive or negative) their ability to get work or maintain employment. Whether a person is starting out on a job search after college or a tenured executive is making a career change, it is without question that the ease of being able to type a person’s name into a search box will drive some queries. The question is, what will come up?

Monitoring one’s own personal brand (whether it’s your name or an online user account name) can easily start with Google Alerts. You can also subscribe to the search results on a blog search engine like Technorati or to something like Google Video search results.

Let’s assume we’ve made the case for taking charge of our online persona. What can a person who’s not savvy in the ways of SEO, social media and online public relations do to make sure they are represented positively and at least accurately online? I could spend another 500 words answering that topic but what I’ll do is update this post when the article comes out and point to that. Awwwww, you say? OK, I’ll put a few ideas below:

  • Be smart about what you allow strangers to see on your Facebook and MySpace profiles or blogs. There’s a reason you have a network of friends and why some people are in it and the rest of the world is not.
  • Create business profiles on social networks like LinkedIn as well as niche social communities according to your interest such as YouTube, Flickr, Digg or any of the other many social media sharing and news web sites.
  • Start a blog. Register your own domain name and use the Blogger.com service to host the blog itself. The domain name costs $10/year and the Blogger.com service is free. You could also spend just a little more and use WordPress.org software on your own hosting account.
  • A domain name that uses your own name is important so your dopleganger doesn’t get it 🙂 and also because the likelihood of others linking to it will use your name as anchor text. Use the blog to cross link to your social profiles and embed any videos, audio or images – even your resume – that you would like people to find.
  • Find the good stuff that’s already out there about you that might not yet be ranking on the first page and get links to that content. Cross linking between profiles is one way to do this, but promoting your interests and even content that you’ve created online with links to the pages that represent your accomplishments can also work well. A few social bookmarks on anything that presents you accurately and positively isn’t a bad idea either.

There are many more things an individual can do to improve their online reputation but the important thing to remember is that whatever gets put online, is pretty much forever. Sometimes it seems like a good idea at the time and now it’s not, sometimes it’s simply not accurate and sometimes the information reflects a person’s previous situation but is not an accurate representation now.

Whatever the situation, there are many individuals that would do well to make an effort to take control of how they’re represented online before undesirable information gets published. As it is for companies, a proactive approach is insurance for individuals as well. If something does happen and a person already has multiple personal networks established with several different social networking, news and media sharing services, a blog and plenty of links coming in, it’s likely to be a nominal issue.

That all sounds like a lot of effort but spread over time, it’s not difficult or time consuming and networking/making friends is a good thing. Plus it’s a lot better than being put into a reactionary situation and starting from scratch.

I’m curious what readers of Online Marketing Blog think in terms of the need for individuals to be aware and proactive about their online personas. Does it make sense? Have you experienced the positive or negative of being easily found online?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Great post Lee. I agree that individuals should absolutely care about their online reputation. Why?

    87% of consumers look at the reputation of your CEO, when judging your company’s reputation.

    59% of hiring managers are influenced by your online reputation.

    In Radically Transparent we talk equally about individual reputations as much as corporate brands–it’s that important!

  2. With as many times as I’ve had new clients tell me they “googled” me, I’ve got to imagine the practice is more common than many may think.

    Interestingly, my twitter account appears in top 10 results for a search of my last name.

  3. Great post Lee, and I couldn’t agree more with personal brand management.

    It blows me away when I read people that blog/tweet/etc. with the language of a sailor (and I was a sailor)! Even if they will never need to get a 9-5er, it really alters my perception about who they really are, in a negative way.

    My .02

    Keep up the good posts.

  4. It’s important for young people first starting out to get a concept of what employers find about them when they search the Web. A Google Alert is a great way to do that.

    The search results that you may not want employers to see might be hidden away on Page 6 of the Google search results, but an alert will find them eventually. It also acts as a constant monitor if another friend or co-worker speaks about you online publicly.

    I think setting up a Google Alert is great advice, and I strangely enough blogged the very same thing last week at my own blog, wannabeMogul.com.

  5. Thanks Andy, I was wondering how fast you would post a comment – that was FAST! I’m looking forward to writing a review of your new book.

  6. @Lee – LOL, I have an implant in my head that goes off if anyone mentions my name, links to my site, or utters anything to do with ORM. 😉

  7. @Dan, thanks. I can relate to the ex military thing. 🙂

    It is interesting how common and normal it is with Millenials to share so much information online. It’s something many hiring managers aren’t used to finding.

  8. @Andy There you go again! You are an ORM Cyborg. 🙂

  9. OK, if it’s freaking you out, I’ll stop now. But, you will be assimilated! 😉

  10. As a “Millenial” myself (at least by age), most all social interaction happened online.

    AOL instant messenger was the only way to chat after school was out. Xangas and Geocities pages were set up with pictures and journals and often led to more drama than it should have for all involved. It wasn’t until Facebook/MySpace that many of my friends let their Xangas and Livejournals go to waste, but some started up blogs instead (like me).

    Unlike many of my friends, I’ve always been more interested in maintaining close control over what pictures/words go online and how that portrays me. I guess I have been concerned about my employability for longer than many people my age.

  11. In my opinion, yes, individuals should proactively control what is available about them online. In particular, if you are going to have myspace/facebook profiles, where you write provocatively (or like a sailor as Dan said) or post suggestive pics, keep your page PRIVATE and accessible to your “friends” only. Use the FB privacy settings to keep the page from showing up in search results or being accessible to people not in your “friends” list. On your Myspace account, don’t list your full name, and use a different email address than the one you put on your resume (because on the social nets you can be found by email address.)

    And not to mention pay close attention to who you add as friends… remember that recent story about the school cop who got in trouble b/c one of his “friends” was in porn or something?

    The world of your online rep as pertains to the social nets is a murky one indeed!

  12. Great post as usual Lee:

    It really boils down to you take responsibility and manage your online reputation (or know how to ) or become a hapless victim in the event that one of your competitors learns about leveraging web 2.0 properties and employing negative SEO.

    Better safe than sorry, having a tool in your repetior and not having to use it, is better than not having it at all. Thanks for the great information, I am certain many CEO’s who’s companies have been targeted with a smear or two can finally get some sleep at night knowing that the tainted top 10 results can be suppressed…

  13. I unfortunately spent years on the web just having fun before I found anything to do with it as a business. In those days, one didn’t have to worry about getting Googled, and therefore no one would ever see my comments about the Denver Broncos on one site and my stupid questions about reef tanks on another.

    I have actually had to spend quite a bit of “damage control” time cleaning up my own name and taking my “fun” things under a different “code” name (that can only be tied to me if you work for the CIA).

    I didn’t lose a job or not get one because of this, but when I check my stats for the site with my name on it and click on that Google referrer just to see the results that other users get, I was quite surprised and a little ashamed. Before I cleaned it up, of course.

    Well said though, and something that I’m actually finding more and more relevant in today’s world.

  14. I think whether you run a business online or whether you have a brick and mortar business and advertise online building a name for yourself and building trust is always key. I have been following the principles of the Freedom Business System and I have never found myself on the wrong path. Thanks for the article.

  15. Erica, I can’t believe I didn’t see your comment. Thank you for the excellent tips. I’m sure there’s more than a few people in need of those adjustments.

  16. One more to consider on the personal side – Naymz. Your Naymz ad show up on the paid side when someone searches for you. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of clicks on my name. I haven’t thought about it much, but these clicks probably result from people researching the CEO.

  17. Excellent article. I have been following most of what you advise for a while. I use many of the social network sites and have a Real Estate blog as well. I also have a few Google alerts set up.

  18. Fantastic article and it goes to show that managing your reputation can be a relatively easy thing to do. Especially for individuals who are in business, networking is one of the most powerful ways of getting work and contacts. To network online is even more important.

    In my opinion, proactive management is the only way to go. It is sad that there are so many people out there who haven’t been proactive and have suddenly found how bad things can get when they aren’t putting out their story. It all becomes very one sided – and not in a good way. I am sure these same people are the first to ensure that they are wearing a clean shirt and watch their language around a prospect, managing your online reputation is an extension of this.

  19. My personal experience was when my sister googled my name and voila, my blogs turned up on the first page. THat was my first experience with online reputation. It wasn’t a bad experience, just freaked out as I wanted to keep it a ‘secret’ from my family..lol…didn;t turn out that way.

    A great article here Lee. I agree with you about being care of what you want others to see (I think my example above is good enough to scare me).

    I read up a bit about self branding as a form of marketing tool and I’ve got to say it is very important to keep a positive image online for so many reasons. I guess one of the main ones is future career prospects. Not a pretty sight if employers find out information about you that would jeopardize one’s prospects.

    I actually posted an article on my blog about this issue and a couple of other ones too.

    One thing i would always remember to recommend is that one should be very very careful about giving away your Social Security Numbers, Credit Card # (a bit hard with all the online deals out there though) and Birth dates. You might never know who’s hands it might land in!


  20. This is very helpful information. Interviewers almost always look up potential candidates online before they interview them

  21. Avatar Eric Melchor says

    You are completely right. Some kid on Facebook shares the same name as me and I'm always afraid people will think I am him. About to go purchase my own domain name now…


  22. Avatar Eric Melchor says

    You are completely right. Some kid on Facebook shares the same name as me and I'm always afraid people will think I am him. About to go purchase my own domain name now…



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