A few days ago I received a call from a professional who is in the midst of a job change. As he is applying for several new jobs, he is concerned that a prospective employer might Google his name and find an unfortunate news article that details a minor infraction for which he was arrested over two years ago.
Currently the news site is sitting in position 5 when you Google his name and the site's domain carries a domain of PR 5, which means it is probably going to be tough to move. Since he is actively job hunting now, he needs a quick fix. So, what do you do?
==== UPDATE JUNE 5, 2013 =====
I'm pleased to report that the young man who contacted me with this problem was able to SUCCESSFULLY get the report about him removed from the web page. He followed my advice below - making sure to be extra NICE to the website owners and within a week they removed the negative content.
This is a terrific result because you are nipping off your problem at the root when you can get the content removed at the source. We are all human and we all make mistakes. If you want to call me (503-890-6663) to discuss your specific situation, I am happy to advise you based on our experience. You might be surprised what a little bit of kindness can do for your situation.
Feel free to keep reading below to see how you might be able to nip your situation in the bud.
==== END OF UPDATE ====
Here is how I advised him:
Contact The News Site And Ask For Removal Of The Damaging Content
The cheapest way to perform reputation management is to get the negative content removed. Each web page in Google's index will "disappear" in about 1-2 weeks after the webmaster or site owner removes the content.
I advised the client to write a letter, make a phone call, or stop into the news station's office, whichever he felt most comfortable doing. The gist of the request would be like this:
I am writing to ask if you will consider removing my name/web page at [insert the exact page]. The incident described happened over two years ago and I have since made restitution by [attending classes/doing community service/etc]. I regret that the incident happened and no longer engage in that sort of activity.
My problem today is that I am changing jobs. I work as a [insert your profession] helping [what you do]. I love what I do and am applying for a new job, so that I can continue my career.
My fear is that a potential employer might Google my name and find the report on your site, which could be very damaging and hurt my chances for employment.
I know that what I have done is in the public record, but it is also in the past and I wish to move forward. Would you consider removing or changing this page on your site?
You can use the above letter as a reference, making necessary changes where needed to reflect your circumstances.
Claim Your Brand On Blogs and Social Media Sites
The next thing to do is to setup several free blog sites and social media sites with your name in the URL. In this gentleman's case, he already his Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts already outrank the news site. So, now it's time to add more:
- Wordpress.com - claim [yourname.wordpress.com]
- Blogger - claim [yourname.blogspot.com]
- Weebly - claim [yourname.weebly.com]
- Pinterest - claim [pinterest.com/yourname]
- Tumblr - claim [yourname.tumblr.com]
This is just a short list, not meant to be comprehensive, but you get the idea.
Now, the trick is you need to do two things,
- Optimize the sites
- Be active
Optimize The Sites
By getting your name in the URL, you've taken the biggest step toward optimizing your blogs and social media sites. Make sure to also include your name FIRST in any titles and descriptions. If you add images, include your name in the ALT tag of the image. For blogs, try to work your name into your post titles (without being spammy), if you can. On the social sites, include your name FIRST in any descriptions you are permitted to add.
For blogs, being active means blogging. Write as much as you can. I've had good success outranking negative content by writing 2 posts per week and making sure each post is at least 300 words. The more you can write the better. With both Wordpress and Blogger, you can schedule your posts so that content is being added on a regular basis.
For your social media sites, the first thing you can do is share links to your blog posts. Then make comments, add friends, and in general 'Like' things. Be seen and be active and it will help those sites to rank more quickly than if they are just sitting dormant.
Remember that each new site or web page could potentially take up a slot in Google's organic results, so the more content you create, the better your chances of seeing it rise up.
Lastly, you promote your sites by building links and an easy way to do this is to cross-link each of your sites. For example, Tweet your new Wordpress site. On your Wordpress site, offer connections to your Pinterest and LinkedIn sites. Mention a post on Blogger within your Weebly account, and so on.
Be careful not to overoptimize your anchor text in your links - my recommendation is to use your URL (since your keyword is already in it). Otherwise, if you make all your links using [yourname], you could actually see the rankings for that site drop.
What If This Does Not Work?
Well, this is where we come in. The guy who called me is going to take action on steps one and two above and see what happens. He told me he's get back to me if he needed help.
While I'd love to help him, I hope he can fix the problem himself. Being that the site causing him problems is a news site, he is most likely looking at a minimum of 6 months of work in order to push it off page 1 in Google.
We have the resources to work fast, but no matter what we do, it takes time for Google to trust new sites. They have to get a little bit of age on them. It's not uncommon for us to see things really move around a lot in the first month as we are adding fresh content. That's because Google's algorithm is trying to figure out which site(s) are the most relevant for the search of your name.
We dispense free reputation management advice on a regular basis because it's the right thing to do. The work we do is not rocket science and if you have the time you can do it yourself. Most people don't have the time or patience, so they hire us. We also offer hourly consulting if you just need a little guidance on how to push down those negative web pages. Feel free to give me a call at 503-890-6663 if you'd like to have a confidential consultation to discuss your situation.