Online reputation management is all about managing “image”, sometimes quite literally.
In one of my recent engagements, I worked with a model who was concerned about her Google Image Search results. Many of the top pictures of her were unflattering and outdated — potentially costing her work. We crafted an online reputation management campaign that:
- Pushed up flattering new images.
- Suppressed negative images.
- Actually removed some of the worst offenders from Google’s index.
- Fixed our client’s Wikipedia page.
- Increased our client’s site usability.
Assessing The Situation
Models have fans. As it turns out, they have lots of fans, and those fans are loyal. As soon as we activated Google Analytics on our client’s site, we saw high levels of direct traffic. Our client is also fairly active on Twitter and has a strong Facebook presence.
Additionally, there are dozens of blogs that host pictures of her from time to time, whether they’re posting the latest shoots or talking about older images.
Our client also had access to her own gallery of images, which were generally newer and higher in quality than most of the images available online.
In short, we had a lot of raw material to work with.
Unfortunately, we immediately ran into some problems:
- Our client had a fan-run Facebook page, which was more popular than the official page.
- Our client’s Wikipedia page had inaccurate information and a very old photo. And that photo was the top Google Images result.
- The image gallery on our client’s site was flash-based, and the individual images weren’t getting indexed.
Controlling The Message
We started a two-pronged approach: trying to take control of the Facebook page, and trying to edit the Wikipedia article.
The Facebook situation was tricky: it was managed by a devoted fan, who was: a) a minor, and b) overseas. Over a period of several weeks, we were able to negotiate back and forth in order to establish trust.
At first, our faithful fan was worried about legal action, and spoke to an attorney, but we explained that we were happy to have her manage the page, as long as we had administrative access as well. A few days later, we had full rights to the page.
Wikipedia was trickier. Merely taking down the offending image (and replacing it with something better) didn’t work. Editors immediately reverted it — which made sense, since Wikipedia has to be careful about letting people edit their own content or upload images they don’t own the rights to.
We spent a few weeks securing the rights to an image — exchanging emails with the modeling agency, photographers, stock photo brokers, and our client, in order to find an image that she liked and that we could use.
Meanwhile, we started exchanging emails with a Wikipedia administrator, explaining the background; he pointed out that the easiest way for us to remove the offending images was to license higher-quality, more up-to-date pictures so Wikipedia could use them.
Those two conversations paid off at roughly the same time: we secured rights to some great new pictures, and the Wikipedia editor helped us to replace the offending images in the client’s article.
We also corrected a few factual errors in the article. Those mistakes had been copied on other sites, which could then be cited as evidence for their own veracity.
To mitigate this, we wrote an official biography on our client’s site. This biography carried more weight than the online citations used by other Wiki editors.
Many SEOs spend most of their time on link-building: convincing people to add a link to some good content. For us, the path of least resistance was “link-razing”: finding old links to bad content, and destroying them. Fortunately, the easiest way to do this is to replace old, low-quality images with better ones.
To expedite this, we rebuilt the client’s flash-based image gallery as an HTML gallery. We built static pages for each image, and created an embed code that linked back to the image page (with the image title) and back to the main HTML gallery page (with our client’s name in the anchor text).
Once we made it easier for fans to access and share positive images of the client, we began our outreach to bloggers and webmasters hosting negative images. We contacted them from an email address associated with the client’s official site, requesting that they remove the questionable image(s). To sweeten the deal, we attached a high-quality, up-to-date pictures to these emails.
One surprising result: although we could have considered legal action to take down photos (we owned the rights to many of them), we never had to resort to this.
In every case, fans have been happy to oblige us by adjusting their content (even going back to edit years-old blog posts with new photos).
Ultimately, this was an online reputation management campaign, not an SEO campaign, a community outreach campaign, or a usability overhaul. But the results speak for themselves:
- The site has more links than before, and more of them have relevant anchor text (the client’s name, not “pic_13243i502501.jpg”).
- Fans are thrilled that they’re getting a sneak peak at new pictures, and a message from an online spokesperson.
- The site is easier to navigate for older computers and mobile browsers. With a young, highly international fanbase, our client benefits from this.
Finally, those pesky low-quality photos are quickly dropping off page one. For someone whose income is entirely dependent on image, controlling those image results has been critical.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.