This is Day 18 of our new series: 30 days to a better online reputation. Be sure to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss a single important lesson!

“Search without Google is like social networking without Facebook: unimaginable.” Evgeny Morozov

repped-day18During the next four days, you’re going to work on improving your search engine reputation. Search engine reputation management (SERM) is generally the most important part of any online reputation management campaign. It’s virtually impossible to go a single day without using Google, Bing, Yahoo or even DuckDuckGo (yes, there really is a search engine called that).

When it comes to SERM, you should focus all of your efforts on what shows up in Google’s search results pages (SERPs). With Google holding a healthy 88% global market share (source: StatCounter), anyone conducting research on your reputation is going to start at Google.com. Unlike the wild west of the late nineties and early two thousands–when the search engines couldn’t agree on the best way to rank a web page–they now use pretty much the same ranking factors. The bottom line? If you can clean up your Google reputation, then you should also find your reputation on the other search engines will improve.

Create a benchmark

Before you start optimizing your web site and tweaking your social media profiles, it’s important to know your starting point. How does your Google reputation look today? If you don’t know the baseline for your SERM efforts, then you won’t know how much of an improvement you’ve made.  With this in mind, your first step in improving the SERPs for your reputation is to take a look at those results and conduct a reputation audit. Acting as a benchmark for your success, a Google audit will also show you any threats or opportunities to your reputation.

Conducting the audit

The first step in your audit is to open up a spreadsheet and create columns labeled Rank, URL, Page Title, Status, and Sentiment. After that, type your name, company, product, etc, into Google and review the results. Remember to use the Incognito mode you learned about on Day 5.

Fill out the spreadsheet with the first 30 results shown by Google; enter each piece of information under the corresponding column:

Rank – what number ranking is the page in Google’s search results?

URL – what is the URL of the web page?

Page Title – what is the headline displayed for that web page?

Status – mark this either Own, Control, Influence, or Third Party. Own is something you host yourself. Control is a site only you can publish to, but is owned by someone else (e.g. your Twitter account). Influence is a page that you cannot directly update (e.g. a business partner’s profile of you). Lastly, Third Party is a page where you cannot change the contents or is about someone or something with the same name.

When you fill out the Sentiment column, you will use Positive, Negative, or Neutral. Use Positive for something you would want a customer or future employer to see. Negative, is something you hope they never see. Use the label Neutral any web page that is either benign or about someone else with the same name—it exerts neither a positive or negative influence over your reputation.

When you are done, use your spreadsheet’s highlighter tool and highlight any result you’ve listed as positive with green. Anything negative with red, and any neutral results with yellow. This will help you more readily identify the positive from the negative results.

To download an example of how this audit should look, please head to http://www.trackur.com/google-reputation-sentiment-analysis

Update it often

Once you’ve completed your audit, you should have in front of you a table that shows the first 30 Google results, color coordinated to help you identify the threats and opportunities to your reputation. The search results will change often—sometimes daily. With that in mind, you should aim to update your spreadsheet at least once a month. You may find it beneficial to create a new spreadsheet each time, so you can keep track of any improvements you’ve made to your Google reputation. If you get to the point where your reputation is under attack, then you will likely need to update the spreadsheet weekly or even daily.

The 80/10/10 rule

Google auditNow that you have a better understanding of the current state of your reputation in Google, you can focus your efforts on the positive pages you wish to push up and the negative pages you wish to suppress, or push down. Generally, your goal should be to see all green for the first 10 results in Google. Few searchers will dig deeper than the first 10 results, so long as they don’t see anything negative about you.

When deciding which of the web pages to optimize and, hopefully, improve upon their Google ranking, you should keep in mind the 80/10/10 rule. The 80/10/10 rule is designed to ensure that your Google reputation tactics are applied to the web content that will benefit you the most. Here’s how it looks:

Spend 80% of your effort on web content you own – those items that you fully control, are hosted on your server, and cannot be edited by anyone but yourself. Those pages in your audit marked Own, are the ones that you will spend most of your time optimizing.

Spend 10% of your effort on web content you control – any social media profile (e.g. Twitter or Facebook) or any blog not hosted by you (WordPress.com or Blogspot.com) will fall into this category. While you are the only one that can update the page, you are also at the mercy of the provider going out of business or deleting your account for violating its terms and conditions.

Spend 10% of your effort on web content you influence – examples of this type of content include profiles of you published by a business partner, or a listing in a business or local chamber directory. You can ask for changes, but you cannot apply them directly.

The 80/10/10 rule is designed to help you concentrate on the web content that will always be around to help shape your reputation in Google. By spending less time on pages not directly owned by you, you minimize the risk that your hard work will evaporate overnight because you failed to comply with a social network’s user policy, or because that hot social media start-up runs out of cash and shuts down.

Roll up your sleeves

Roll up his sleeves

Now that you have a clear picture of your Google reputation, you can start working on optimizing and improving those pages that will help you put forward the best reputation possible. If you find yourself staring at a lot of red on your spreadsheet, you may think it’s going to take a super human effort to improve your reputation.

Don’t worry. Superbrand is to the rescue!

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