ORM involves placing new content online that pushes old or unwanted content lower in search results. It can also raise other online content higher to displace unwanted material. Once successfully arranged, the results must be maintained. Otherwise, the unwanted material may resurface at the top of Google search results — usually within three to six months.
New content does not automatically appear at the top of search results. The key challenge of ORM is to create content that search engines will rank highly. That involves an understanding of search engine algorithms as well as, increasingly, the ability to create high-quality content. The best ORM uses strategies that Google considers “white hat,” which is described in the SEO section below. (This article by our CEO sheds more light on effective ORM tactics…and ones to avoid.)
ORM consists of monitoring, improving and maintaining the publicly available online information about individuals, businesses and organizations. (We also describe it is as “managing your digital footprint.”) ORM began in the mid-‘90s, in response to the proliferation of online social media and the opportunities for anonymous commentary to be made about anyone—and for that commentary to remain online forever.
ORM helps you create and maintain an appropriate online image so that any attacks on your image are counterbalanced with more credible, factual information. It helps remove personal addresses and other data from public databases, also known as “people search” databases. It protects your online brand from being taken over and misused by third-parties. There are also specialized services that help businesses to track and manage their consumer reviews.
Since the European Union passed the Google “Right to be Forgotten” law, many U.S. citizens have taken a renewed interest in trying to have their own content removed from the Internet. Our tips for becoming an informed consumer regarding your removal options are featured in this post: How Google’s Content Removal Request Process Works.
Managing the information that is publicly available online about you or your organization allows you to “take ownership” of your reputation. When you don’t take an active role in determining what biographical and professional information about you appears online, others may make that decision for you. “Others” include automatic programs (“bots”) that continuously collect and index publicly available information online. Many focus on personal data, which can include your age, home address and family members’ names.
That’s why it’s important to take the first step of knowing what information about you exists online. You can’t control what people say about you in articles, blogs and online forums. But you do have control over such items as professional biographies, company profiles (often compiled by sources other than your place of employment) and other types of content.
If the information is abusive or violates the law you can contact Google to submit a legal removal request. (Before doing so, it is best to check Google’s Program Policies to see if the material is considered inappropriate.)
Otherwise, much depends on where it is located and how it originated. There are many online information platforms that exist to aggregate and republish information. Some allow users to access their profile, so you can edit and update information about you on those sites. Other platforms make that process much more difficult. Public databases like Intelius collect home addresses, ages, family members’ names and other information that they publish in profiles that are accessible to virtually anyone.
Blogs often will correct information that is inaccurate (the name of your company, your title or position, etc), if you contact them in a neutral, reasonable manner – the way you would a newspaper editor.
If the information is on other platforms, such as an online gossip site, you have little control over it short of legal action (if you have grounds for an online defamation suit). In many cases, any request you email to the website administrator can be ignored, declined or posted online, as these actions are compliant under the U.S. government’s Communications Decency Act.
The expungement, or erasure, of public records from news providers and other resources is an issue of growing debate. In “Erasing History,” an April 29, 2013 New York Times op-ed piece, Bill Keller addresses legal and related aspects of the topic.
As noted before, creating your own online image – with information that accurately profiles your career, business and other relevant endeavors – is the best strategy for counteracting and possibly replacing inaccurate online information. LinkedIn is a useful tool to begin building such an image. Publishing articles and posts on your LinkedIn profile will help it rise high online.