Monday, April 23, 2012
Online reputation experts weigh in on the "do's and don'ts" of fixing one's own
I noticed a year-old article (link) in Time, “Repairing Your Damaged Online Reputation: When Is It Time to Call in the Experts?”, by Megan Gibson, April 19, 2011. She discusses two major services, Reputation.com and Integrity Defenders (link). It’s possible, of course, that some of the prices and information could have changed since publication.
I checked my own a few moments ago, by my legal name (“John W. Boushka”) in Google and it still looks pretty clean. The websites that contain my name come up ahead of “doaskdotell.com”, and a Master’s Thesis from grad school shows up high, which would generally be a good thing.
It’s clear that people who have to sell to the public for a living (insurance agents, for example, or financial planners) or who are entrusted personally by the public (teachers) can have a lot a stake with the permanence of negative digital information popping up in the first few pages of a Google, Bing, or Yahoo! search. It’s remarkable suddenly this whole issue became a problem in the 2005-2006 time frame, in the days when Myspace was still more popular (or more universal) than Facebook.
Another good question could be, would the popularity of mobile computing affect the way reputations are perceived?
As noted in a posting here March 12, the presence of “tattletale” sites, discussed on Anderson Cooper’s afternoon show, creates issues, as people can turn in others suspected (often incorrectly) of things (like STD’s) and then possibly be extorted into some sort of reputation cleanup. As I discussed there, it’s controversial and unclear how much the Section 230 downstream liability protection for hosts fits in with these sites.
Professional reputation management is expensive, and requires the active cooperation of the client. When can reputation repair be a “do it yourself” operation?
“Reputation.com” (founded by Michael Fertik) does have a white-paper-like page on this issue, warning users of likely mistakes (link). True, the more positive or professional stuff you put out there, the better, up to a point. Websites and blogs with your name (which can be a problem if someone with the same name or similar name has a bad reputation), twitter, Linked-In and Facebook accounts tend to show up first, as do resumes and things that sound “occupational” to most search engines. But avoid techniques that search engines consider unethical or spam, such as hiding text, link farming (probably the worst offense) or “website cloaking”. Avoid too much literal copying (“cut and paste”) of text from other sites – this is not only a copyright risk (and visitors know I have covered the copyright troll issue – “Righthaven” – thoroughly), but it may cause your web work to look spammy. Maybe your English teacher was doing you a favor by using turnitin.com to look for plagiarism.
An "inconvenient truth" is that many people have to scrap and compete for a living (and to provide for real-world families) and will sometimes do or say things that others consider "over the top". And the digital world have very long memories indeed.