Adam j

Managing your online presence / Online Reputation Management (ORM)

[Part 1]

{I have decided that I will be breaking this into multiple posts since it can be quite an extensive topic and I’m finding it challenging to write in a timely fashion.}

As almost everyone knows, in the digital age information can be spread widely and quickly. However what many people still don’t think about is where that information is stored and how difficult it can be to remove.  In a place where information can be copied almost infinitely it should be assumed that once something is put online it is there indefinitely.

This is not intended to be a lecture about the dangers of the internet; the internet is just a tool that makes information more accessible.  For a large percentage of the population the available information is primarily dictated by you, employers, friends, and family.

This means that YOU need to manage your online presence, (also called Online Reputation Management (ORM)).  {I rarely cite Wikipedia but in this case the ideas are laid out in a fairly accurate and concise manner. This prevents me from having to fully explain it.}

In my last post: Starting your online portfolio I asked you to Google yourself before settling on a domain name.  Here we’re going to talk a bit more in-depth about those findings and managing the evidence. You should hopefully know what you’re going to find in advance of a Google search and most of it will be benign, but what if you find something unanticipated or a poor image reflected based on a previous life choice?


Worst case scenario:

you find negative or unflattering information directly about you. This is a potential problem that you need to solve sooner rather than later.  Where to start depends on the content and where it’s hosted.


Items on Facebook, YouTube, references/comments in blogs or any user driven site

These items are the most common and the easiest to start with.  Simply asking the poster or site host to un-tag you or to remove the offending item is often all you will need, especially if you know the person who put up the content.  There is nothing that you can do to compel this action, but most people and sites will not have a problem doing so when asked, there are of course always exceptions.  If the answer to a takedown is NO do not escalate the problem by making demands or threats, give a response of thank you for your time and consideration and leave it at that.  You don’t want or need to draw more attention the item that you are trying to eliminate.


An anonymous ratings site as Honestly, Rate my Co-worker, Rate my Professor, etc.

Many variations these sites exist and if you see your name in the search results check what is being said about you and what your rating is.  If the rating is good and people are leaving positive comments you’re very lucky, and are obviously you are doing something right.  Unfortunately like many things unhappy people take the time to leave comments first and post the negative experiences rather than positive ones.  Many of these sites have some sort of feedback/response mechanism built into them and you should utilize it whenever possible.  Respond courteously and professionally to any comments or accusations that appear to hold any validity; do realize that by doing this you are also drawing more attention to the comments which ultimately makes them more visible.


What happens when you encounter something that can’t be taken down

Some things just cannot be taken down/back; unresponsive sites, items going viral, or just spreading too widely to track all the sources.  For whatever reason the item is now out there with your name on it and you won’t be able to get it taken down.  Depending on the item and how it affects your online image you can look at several courses of action.  Looking at the potential impact from smallest to largest you can do any of the following:

Embrace the item

Just include it as something you openly disclose about yourself or don’t mind other people knowing.

Cover the item up with other search results

This may take some time and effort but it is often the best choice.  The further down something appears in search results the less people will view it.  Statistically speaking for every position a page moves down in search results it’s page views decrease exponentially, additionally if you can bump an item off of the first page results even less people will view it {Google measures only a 1% click through rate for items on page 2}.

To accomplish this you need a little information on search engine optimization (SEO).  SEO is a technique where web pages and sites are adjusted in a way to raise their ranking in search engine (Google) results.  This is done by knowing what search engines look for and creating items to match.  Google page rankings are dictated by some key items:

  • Keywords/page titles
  • Number of links to a page from other sites
  • Page traffic
  • Relevance to the search
  • readable data and coding languages used

The quickest way to break through the noise and create neutral results that will rank highly (and cover up the existing negative ones) is to sign up and join large sites that have substantial traffic and let you create a user profile.  There are too many sites to list 10 good examples (in no particular order) include:

When you register make sure you use your full name and any information you would use professionally and leave the profiles open so they can be searched for.  You can further boost the search results by adding links from one profile to another.  You don’t need to be very active on most of the sites as their popularity will carry your name up the results regardless of profile activity.  The ultimate goal is to create essentially information that will lead most people away from what you’re trying to cover.  You do need to be aware though of what information sites make publicly available and how that may impact you. {I’m looking at you Facebook}  There are many books, blogs and articles available on this subject, for more information and resources just Google Online Reputation Management.


Hire an Online Reputation Management (ORM) firm

This is obviously a last resort or to cover a large life impacting item or for an individual who has a high profile position.  ORM firms will specifically target the offending item and create content to bury things in search results and further monitor search results to keep a squeaky clean online presence for you.



I’m going to wrap up here for now in the part 2 & part 3 of this post I’ll be talking about positive/neutral online profiles, Internet common sense, the pitfalls of being popular, and the problem with being able to give instant feedback.


Followed by I’ve got a domain name – now what?



Any comments, questions, concerns – Let me know.


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