Why Online Reputation Management Is Like Brushing Your Teeth You don't wait until your teeth are rotting and gross before you clean them, do you? Don't wait until your online reputation is a mess either before you decide to take care of it.

By Ryan Erskine

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Think about why you brush your teeth. You don't do it because your teeth are brown and dirty. You do it preventatively. It's a habit that's good for you because it impacts your long-term health and the look of your smile.

Now think what would happen if you waited until your teeth were gross before you decided to start brushing. Your teeth might fall out. You'd probably get gum disease. Your smile would be tarnished and discolored. It might be too late to fix everything and, at the very least, you'd have a lot of ground to make up.

Brushing your teeth is an insurance policy against all those negative outcomes.

Online reputation management (ORM) works the same way. Many folks realize how important their online presence is only once they have a problem -- a nasty negative, an ex's rant, a sketchy forum that sticks out like a sore thumb, etc. We fix these results, but it can take months and months, or even years. And that can be a hard pill to swallow.

Related: 5 Ways to Embrace Online Reviews -- Good or Bad -- and Win New Customers

But ORM can be just as effective -- even more so -- when it's done preventatively. By building up your reputation now, you're able to lay a strong foundation before anything negative has a chance to dominate your search results.

The impact of your search results

Your online presence is critical to success in the business world today. People spend hours and hours sweating over the smallest details in their resume, but then forget about the very next place potential employers and clients look -- their search results. Even when someone gets your name via word of mouth, their very next step is to look you up online and see what you're about.

When people have negative results, they finally realize how many people are actually Googling them. They realize this because they find themselves in the uncomfortable position of needing to defend themselves to potential customers and employers. They have to explain that old lawsuit or the story behind that nasty forum. And there's no way to recover from that negative first impression.

When people have irrelevant results, they don't hear about it, because there's nothing for potential clients to complain out. But there's nothing to impress them with either. Clients and employers can't find relevant information on you so you lose out on business opportunities. They look you up and find a forgettable, irrelevant reputation.

People with stellar search results are, to a certain extent, in the same boat as folks with negative search results. They finally realize how many people are Googling them on a regular basis, only this time it's to the advantage of their business. It's a no-brainer really. Relevant, kick-ass results that direct people to the right information is bound to result in more business.

Related: How to Handle the Disgruntled Employee Out to Sabotage Your Business

The best kind of insurance is one that brings in business.

And this isn't just an idealistic notion. I've been actively managing my online reputation for less than a year, and I'm already bringing in positive business for Brandyourself thanks to my blog posts and active online presence. This stuff legitimately works.

That's why we've started to take on more clients who are interested in these proactive, branding-focused campaigns. They understand the benefit of maintaining a healthy smile, and they understand the benefit of keeping their online reputation in pristine shape. It's the best kind of insurance policy -- one that brings more business in the door every single day.

You don't wait until your teeth are gross before you decide to get a toothbrush. So don't wait until you have a negative search result before you start managing your online reputation. Get started today.

4 things you can do today

1. Purchase your domain: Go on a site like GoDaddy.com, and buy the essential domains with your name in it. (RyanErskine.com, .org, and .net for example). This is an incredibly important form of online insurance. Even if you don't plan on building a website right now, you'll still prevent other people from taking this valuable piece of real estate away from you -- or using it against you in the future.

2. Get a personal website: Having a personal website is a terrific way to consolidate everything important into one central hub. You can put your resume, accolades, portfolio, biography, contact information and blog all in one place. Plus, there's nothing better than having your site come up when people search your name. It's the best way to direct potential clients and employers to the information that matters most.

Squarespace makes this easy with classy and professional themes. If you don't want to spend a $8 a month and are a bit tech savvy, you can make yourself a nice site for free on Wordpress. Alternatively, sign up for a site like About.me or Tumblr and use your new domain as the custom domain.

3. Keep an active blog: There's a lot of compelling information out there for why blogging is a worthwhile investment. It can depict you as a thought leader in your industry and bring in free business. It can earn you a loyal following and will build authority on your website so it ranks well in search results.

Write an article today and put a reminder on your calendar to write another in two to four weeks.

Need some help coming up with effective article topics? Write down some trends or innovations in your industry that are making you excited, worried or angry. What lessons can you teach others about a recent event in your professional life? Find some news articles in your niche you'd like to comment on or take in a new direction. Or, write down some challenges in your industry. This is the birth of the how-to blog post.

4. Build a social presence: Sign yourself up on some of the most authoritative social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. Try out ones like Crunchbase and About.me -- up-and-coming networks that don't require much effort on your part but still look great and rank well.

Then follow these six steps to optimize them properly for search engines. For instance, use your full name as your username: RyanErskine, not RyGuy9000.

Related: Star Ratings Matter Just as Much as (If Not More Than) Online Reviews

Ryan Erskine

Brand Strategist at BrandYourself

Ryan Erskine is a Brand Strategist at BrandYourself and a leading expert in personal branding and online reputation management. He empowers individuals and businesses to develop their personal and corporate brands, take control of their search results, and position themselves as thought leaders in their industries. He's completely rebranded online images for everyone from c-suite executives and entrepreneurs to middle market professionals and college graduates.

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