With a few strokes of the keyboard, individuals can post their opinions about a business, product or person online, and there are dozens of big, authoritative website platforms that exist specifically for this purpose. The reason this is important is because the size, age, strength, and trust these mega sites maintain plays a huge role in the reputation management process. In later chapters, the weight these review sites have in the scope of reputation management will become clear, but what makes a positive online presence so necessary today?

Individuals are often caught up in swells of editorial, news, and review content pushed to the web. Whether it’s the personal name of a CEO running a company who is highlighted in some form of online content publication, specific details of a person’s personal lifestyle featured in a rogue blogger’s endeavor to expose behavior or share opinion, or a falling out of professional stature – there are hundreds of events that might lead to someone’s personal name being featured in negative online content.

For a person, a digital reputation can begin as early as high school or middle school. These days, many tech-savvy children publish rich media content to the web on a daily basis, spending countless hours on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Vine, and any other name-the-trendy-platform community where their friends are. Lunch break clicks, campus behavior, and extracurricular student events give birth to rumors, gossip, and offline reputations that frequently take form in the digital world. Sure enough, if the comments or opinions are published online, search engines crawl and index the pages they are on and before an unsuspecting child knows it, there they are featured like a tarnished celebrity in some take-down editorial column at the top of the search engine. Parents are often shocked to learn that their child has an online reputation problem before they ever seek a job interview.

Adults experience escalated personal name reputation liabilities and opportunities online. Whether interviewing for a new job, working for an existing employer, seeking a partner for a business opportunity or life, the content served for a person’s name search has weight and impact on the circumstances, opportunities, and outcomes in their current and future life.

Arrest records and mug shots, court appearances, marriage disputes, unethical professional practices, or employer/employee misconduct all have their place online. Individuals are often shocked to learn that the local government keeps records of their residents in their digital database, or that the employer they worked for committed some unforeseeable act that became associated with their personal name while they worked at the company, or that a former coworker they were involved with decided to embark on an Internet crusade and is now blogging about their affair together. These types of situations are rarely expected to become visible to the public, yet every day hundreds if not thousands of people realize they have negative content about them on the first page of the search engine.

Even as early as 2010, a study by Microsoft and Cross-Tab Market Research revealed that 70% of companies have rejected candidates based on the candidates online reputation, but only 7% of Americans believe it affects their job search. While a survey by CareerBuilder.com found that 1 in 4 hiring managers used search engines to screen candidates. One in 10 also checked candidates’ profiles on social networking sites such as Facebook.

The shifts in search demand dictate that users are often best satisfied by socially infused content, giving merit to the concept that suggests a positive online reputation is important for businesses today. Users expect to find a community driven collection of information about a business, product, or service for any given search query. And even if they do not expect it, they usually get it.

With a strong majority of consumer buying decisions being dependent on whether or not they can locate and validate reviews or opinions about the product or service they are considering for purchase, the importance of having a positive online presence should be apparent to businesses.

In today’s search engine landscape, it is not uncommon for review related editorial content to appear at the top of results for a company’s brand-name search, even if the user does not include a search modifier that indicates they are seeking review content. Most businesses today focus only on their singular website, which in reality, can only secure one or a few of the results on the first page of the search engine. This leaves the remainder of the typical ten results open for the search engines to decide (based on mathematical calculations) what content best serves the user, and if the search engines operate with a mentality that seeks to provide users a variety of content, there is a high probability of editorial or review content being present in the top results.

When a user searches a business or product name and they see additional resources or consumer review sites available for them to access, they naturally gravitate towards those sources (at least with a mental note to revisit and check later) even if they click on the primary business website source first.

Negative reviews, unfavorable news stories, employee profiles, customer uploaded images, or blog articles all have the influential power of derailing a business’ growth. Detrimental and horrifying complications can arise for companies that have negative content present in the search engines. Of course, search demand varies by industry sector, and some organizations are searched for more than others, but rarely is there a business that would not benefit from a better online search reputation.

Similar to many problems people face in life and business, the obstacles and liabilities presented by negative online content often remain undiscovered, undervalued, and unresolved by the people under the wrath of impact.

For those acting under the assumption nothing is wrong or causing interference with life or business in the digital search space, it is recommended to do some mild due diligence in order to confirm or invalidate what may or may not be visible to other interested parties through a simple search engine query.

For businesses, the statistics around Internet user behavior should be enough to convince a business owner of the importance of having a positive online reputation. Either way, there are perspectives to consider.

  • If a business’ online presence is an important component to its growth strategy, then managing its online presence is vital. Statistics prove that a strong majority of any business’ potential or existing customers or clients will research that business. The results that show influence their decisions and are easier to control if approached before it gets bad.
  • If a business has not yet analyzed their brand name in search, and has yet to thoroughly analyze the positive and negative content that is being displayed, they should. If the situation appears OK, one should know that at any moment it could become bad. Additionally, if the situation is already bad, its not the end of the world – there is help available and this guide provides numerous methods by which someone can suppress negative content, and repair the results with positive assets that support business growth.