How Leaders Can Proactively Protect Their Online Reputations

As much as 70% of a company’s reputation is attributable to the perception of its CEO—and what you don't know can hurt you. A case study in rep repair.

Reputation is the most important asset you’ll ever own. A recent study found that 70% of a company’s reputation is attributable to the perception of their CEO. Unfortunately, many CEOs don’t know what appears when searching their name in Google search results or on social media until it’s too late.

Luckily, there are simple and effective ways to establish an online presence that can withstand negative media campaigns.

For example, one of our clients is a technology industry veteran. In 2015, she was the target of an accusatory and baseless article—an article that, unfortunately, gained a lot of traction because of its inflammatory wording. It quickly rose to the first page of her Google search results.

We teamed up with this client in late 2015 to help her gain control of her Google search results and displace the negative content that was cropping up. This would include not only SEO tactics, but also a full personal brand build-out that would enable the promotion of the client’s work as an advocate of online safety while gaining control of their online reputation.

The strategy:

1. Optimized the client’s personal website and social media accounts for SEO.

‍2. Drive traffic to positive media mentions of the client.

3. Develop client’s personal brand messaging.

4. Create and promote new, rankable content via personal website and social media channels.

5. Monitor the online conversation surrounding the client.

The first step was to establish an online hub that could be optimized to rank for the client’s branded keywords while also providing a launching point for branded content. We built, optimized and grew her website, which now ranks at position 2-3 on the first page of Google search results.

Next, we built and optimized profiles on websites such as Wikipedia, Crunchbase, Bloomberg, etc. for the client and linked them to important assets. These profiles establish positive and controlled links that rank well in search results and provide an authoritative platform to share her brand message.

Then, in order to build an authentic personal brand, we stablished a social media strategy to share content, drive engagement and build a following. We curated and promoted daily social media content that not only drove traffic to target sites, but also established her as a thought leader in her industry.

The Result

• The tabloid article was successfully displaced, and additional negative content that has been published since has also been displaced quickly because of the client’s strong online presence;

• 80% of the first page of search results is controlled, and the client has a strong and engaged social media following. This ongoing digital presence has helped the client find opportunities to further her work;

• Additional negative content published since 2015 has not ranked on the first page of Google search results long-term;

• 80% of the first page of search results is controlled (i.e. created by the executive who then has power to edit the content as needed);

• Client’s website, social media accounts and Wikipedia are ranking in the top 8 search results;

• Client’s initiative organization has gained traction on Google and is ranking on page;

• Established a Google Knowledge Panel for the client’s branded keywords;

• Built the client’s personal social media following to 16,700;

• Established the client as an influencer and thought leader in tech industry.

There are simple steps CEOs can take right now to protect their reputations in 15 minutes or less. The most important piece of advice—execute the below BEFORE there is a problem! We have worked with hundreds of executives, celebrities, high-profile politicians; we have found that the individual or company almost always wishes they would have been more proactive about protecting their reputation. This is a problem that is more common than you might think.

1. Understand your personal and company “brand signals.”

When Google decides what content to display for a person’s name, the Google algorithm will look for “brand signals.” Brand Signals are key online profiles, social media accounts and websites that Google considers authoritative assets for individuals. If the algorithm can’t find information about you on these key sites, the search results will populate with content that mentions your name—some of it may be positive and relevant, but some of it may cast you in a negative light—if there is not much there you are at risk of the first bad thing happening the results will be crowded with that event!

Performing a simple Google search to see what links currently appear when you search your name, your name + your company’s name, your company’s name + major deals or media events, etc. can give you insight into what people see when they search your name and business.

Taking this a step further, there are new tech tools that monitor your data and warn you as soon as trends emerge online so you can react and be informed. This could mean jumping on a trend that extends your marketing reach or proactively dealing with a negative story that’s beginning to circulate.

2. Look at competitors.

Depending on your industry, there may be online profiles or directories that your colleagues and clients rely on and trust when making business decisions. Establishing a presence on these sites can give you a sense of what profiles and sites you can leverage to make your online presence more resilient, search the names of peers in similar positions to yours at competing companies and see where they appear.

3. Make a plan

Once you have an idea of what’s currently ranking for your name and where your industry peers are appearing online, make a plan to fill in the holes in your own online presence. This can include updating your LinkedIn profile, claiming your Crunchbase profile, posting 1-2 social media posts a week or whatever is most appropriate for your industry. To expand your visibility, search your name on social media and industry forums as well. A full digital audit that looks across news sources, social media, blogs, forums, etc. can give you an idea of what’s being said about you and your company across the Internet and where you can strengthen your presence.

More than ever, your digital portfolio as an CEO is crucial to your company and career. Just as you would be strategic with your financial portfolio, take the time to do the research and make a plan. Your reputation is the most valuable thing you own and protecting it is worth your time and investment.