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How-To: Using SEO to Manage Your Online Reputation

Is there a page you don't like about your company on the web? The best way to "take care" of undesirable material with a high organic ranking is through search engine optimization, writes SEOmoz.

Google has posted advice on how to remove unwanted pages, but its strategy is mostly to contact the person who put up the unwanted webpage and trying to convince them to modify and maybe remove it, with the option of taking the request to court if the page contains something illegal.

But there is a third method – left wanting in Google's response - that involves using SEO to help with reputation management. Unfortunately, it is neither easy nor cheap.

The three main components of an SEO-fueled reputation management campaign:

  1. Identify which keywords produce prominently listed and undesirable results.
  2. Create content on multiple sites that will outrank the negative content, keeping in mind that Google generally only lists a maximum of two pages from a single domain on a given results page.
  3. Optimize those pages with content & links to achieve rankings higher than the negative content, thus "pushing it down" to the 2nd page of results (or further).

To create content with the aim of outranking a negative result, leverage as many positive "pre-existing" conditions as possible.

These include:

  • Exact Keyword Term/Phrase Domain Name Matches  Owning/optimizing a keyword-match domain name leverages the boost these sites receive in Google's ranking algorithm.
  • Authority Domains  Use or create content on high value, authoritative domains like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other user-generated-content portals.
  • Pages Already Ranking Well for the Query Giving an upward nudge to pages ranking in the top 10-20 results for a query, via links with optimized anchor text, you can push the negative listing down.

Other effective measures include press releases, pay-per-post blogging that leverages the keywords in the title of the posts, linkbait that leverages the keyword terms/phrases, sponsoring charitable donations in "honor" of the brand/person's name that will get press attention, and building multimedia content that are likely to get listed in vertical results, with videos & news results ranking the most effective.

Reputation management campaigns are costly - firms charge $50,000 and up - so often the expenses can outweigh the results. But in cases where you've followed Google's "advice" and failed to erase those unwanted pages, it remains a viable option.

A CareerBuilder.com study in 2007 found that companies were increasingly called on to help job hunters and brands clean up their online images.

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