You are your reputation.
Search engines are a great tool, but they add to the vulnerability when the wrong information gets exposed online. It doesn't matter whether the misinformation is from neglect, a disgruntled former employee or a jilted lover, the damage can be real and sometimes, devastating, both socially and to one's career. People finding the bad data don't stop to ask questions, they just make an assumption and move on. That can deprive you of opportunities, or expose you to punishing consequences.
Keywords and Citations are the language used by search engines to define who you are (Citations) and what's important to you and about you (Keywords). No one can tell search engines like Google what to do. All we can do is make suggestions, so talking the search engines' language can be a strong advantage.
Citations are just that - references to a bit of data, plain and simple. Just as your English professor used them to check on the accuracy of your term paper's quotations, so Google uses them to establish the credibility of bits of data, such as name, address and phone number. Google looks for exact match data, and applies trust to the data based on how many times it is accurate (and where it is listed).
Citations may arise as a tool in a hostile competitive or disinformation campaign. Bad data can be misleading, thieves may use false citations to steal business leads, or simply to confuse readers. Incorrect data can hamper local search results. Unwanted disclosure of some data, such as credit card numbers, or unlisted phone numbers, represents a vulnerability that it is best to defend against.
What Can You Do?
Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) is a free 'clipping' service that can send you E-mail alerts when particular keywords that you select are found on the web and newly arise in their search index. Your Business Keywords may be:
A carefully-chosen bunch of keywords (when limited by 'negative keywords') can feed a warning system for personal and business purposes. As new mentions of your keywords are crawled by Google on the worldwide web, you can click through to them and find out if the mentions are positive, negative or neutral. Each type of sentiment expressed requires its own strategy to profit from any interaction. Some times it is even better not to react at all. The key is knowing the difference, and for that it pays to gain knowledge from a Reputation Management expert.
An even-handier tool for personal use may be Me On the Web, https://www.google.com/dashboard/ (part of the Google Dashboard). It offers email alerts when your personal information (name, company name, home address, email address, phone number, etc.) is posted on the Web. It automatically includes things such as one's E-mail address. Even better, it includes guides to "Manage Your Online Identity".
To use it requires one's Google services log-in. Clients and prospects must be cautious when providing this to their Online Reputation specialist, potentially making this a strictly personal tool. Information that's confidential, embarrassing, or just plain wrong should be addressed by taking the time to click the "How to remove unwanted content" link to request the removal of a page from Google's search results. That way, one can reduce the risk of exposure of unwanted material.
An Online Reputation professional who is made aware of the undesired presence of personal information or incorrect listings in Google has strong tools at their disposal. They may apply effort to ProActively or ReActively alter listings in Directories or Business Indices in order to correct the data. They may add more and better Citations. They have experience in how best to respond to Comments and Remarks, whether complimentary or complaining. They may even advise on contacting Google or other methods to improve the situation. Results are tracked and reported on a regular basis. That way, the successful improvement of your Citations, Keywords and thus your Reputation will be clear.
And what of Social Media? Mentions on Social Networks can be utterly scathing, yet Twitter and other social sites' messages are not indexed by Google. How will you know what is being said about you? WhosTalkin.com is a search tool focused on social media sites. SocialMention.com is another, very fully-featured tool. If people are talking about you or your company on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any of the 60 other social sites that these sites monitor, this service will help you keep tabs on those discussions. How to respond then is up to you. Time is of the essence… most complainers resist any effort to change their attitude after about 24 hours have elapsed.
Any good, ethical Reputation Management specialist can talk knowledgeably about your situation. Don't hesitate to contact WebiMax with any concerns you may have. After all, it's our reputation on the line, too!