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Many hands make light online reputation work. Changing your reputation online is no small task. It’s also a house of cards. You can either do it yourself, about yourself, for yourself; or, you can start the equivalent of an online reputation club, inviting friends, family, your colleagues, and your industry to start building a universe of content that is germane and salient to who you are, what you believe, what you’ve done, and what you’re doing as well as who they are, what they believe, what they’ve done, and what they’re doing.

Treat your online reputation like a group writing project

Wikipedia was created by a bunch of casual experts who collaborated in creating a comprehensive, living, and growing resource of all there is. If the editors and experts at Wikipedia were to take an interest in your, how much of your true narrative, story, song, would they have access to? I know, I know, Wikipedia dictates that all its content be rigorously referenced and footnoted — but let’s assume it were different: and it is!

Google is an emergent Wikipedia, it’s index is comprehensive, living, and growing — but without the editors. And Wikipedia is only a small part of Google’s index. And unlike Wikipedia, anyone and everyone can contribute openly and generously to Google’s index.

And, even better — Google hungers for your contribution

You are compelled to become a contributor to Google — to write your very own life and to write your very own truth (to the very best of your ability) — to sing your very own unique song; for if you do not, anyone and everyone else may also, as easily and as completely. To paraphrase The Cluetrain Manifesto, people may be alreay talking about you online; and, even if they’re not right now, there’s no barrier to entry when it comes to other people writing about you copiously into the vacuum that you have left by not taking responsibility for your own storytelling.

Not just you, but your family, your friends, your colleagues, your brand, and everyone you know

And, to paraphrase The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Internet is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to the Internet.

So, if you want to make any inroads into “exploring space” then you’ll surely need to do one or more of three things: become immensely prolific and generative, producing copious amounts of content about yourself; hire my company, Reputation.com, to work with you on maximizing your online reputation profile; or, if you’re intent on captivating Google search but really don’t have the time, the technical prowess, the writer’s gift, or any idea where to start, you can start a reputation club.

What would a reputation club look like and how do I start?

Good questions. Since I have only ever done this in a limited way and only organically and over time, this is only conjecture based on years of experience. The first thing you need to do is to read my previous posts about reputation management: The best online reputation defense is a good offense, How to court Google with chivalry and courtly love, Do you have a handle on your online reputation?; then, you need to take everything I tell you to do in How to court Google with chivalry and courtly love and figure out how you can convince a bunch of folks to help you accomplish this — but not just for you, most likely, but for everyone who’s willing to take part.

Having someone else brag about you is always a better bet than bragging about yourself

Since reputation management, at a very high-level, leverages pieces and parts of search engine optimization (SEO), you and your friends need to brag about eachother in both name and links. Since Google doesn’t know who you or any of your friends are, you need to be very explicit.

While it might be more fun to brag about your friends and your brands online — to tell stories about how they were total nerds in high school or how they impressed you when they interned at your firm — all your work would be for naught if you don’t remember to remind Google again and again both who you are, by name, and who your friends are, by name — and not just their first name, their last name, or their proper name, but in all variations: Chris, Abraham, Chris Abraham, Christopher Abraham, Chris J Abraham, CJ Abraham, Abey-Baby, Broham, Dooga, Zeus, and Uncle Chris — if that’s important to you.

And, in the case of your brands, write out every variation as well. For example, Reputation.com is one name, but there’s also ReputationDefender, Picasso, MyPrivacy, Executive Privacy Plus, and any variation; for my old company, you would write out Gerris digital, Abraham & Harrison, AH, and maybe AHLLC — whichever are important to you.

Google only posseses the most basic and primative skills in putting disparate contexts together. While I do believe Google does know that Chris is short for Christopher, Google always errs on the side of the literal. Not only will Google always serve content based on literal search if all possible, but Google has no understanding at all of pronouns — so if you want to do this right, you’ll need to throw out your copy of Strunk & White‘s Elements of Style and always choose not he, him, they, or Chris, but always try to not only write out your proper name.

Linking is also important, so as you build your own story online, you can either link to your own work or to other pages — using your your own name as the linking text — or, you can have all the other folks who are part of your reputation party mention you in their story-writing, in their bio-writing, and in their profile-writing, linking you you and your new content not only by name but also by turning these names into “hot” text links.

None of this has to be perfect. Never let the perfect get in the way of the good enough. While you might surely want the content you’re writing to be appealing and compelling to human visitors, you also need to be even more compelling to three indices: Google’s, Bing’s, and Yahoo’s (who am I kidding, you only have to appeal to Google). So, be comprehensive, be awesome, and give ’til it “hurts” but be sure to get stuff up there — don’t write your online search legacy the same way you wrote your master’s thesis or your it-took-us-forever-to-make-it-perfect website and sales assets — write it quickly and personally and even imperfectly — it’s in your flaws thet the magic happens (though you don’t want to come across to your human visitors like a MySpace illiterate moron either).

I know I make this all sound super-easy — and it is! For me! Because I love writing, because I can write super-fast and pretty well publish-ready in a single draft, and because I really, really, really love this stuff. (Maybe I am one of the very first digital natives, though I am seriously old!)

For you, maybe not so easy. That’s when the motivation of a large group, broken up over time, can really help you. I mean, it’s only because Biznology’s founder, Mike Moran, prods and pokes me every week that I get these posts — that are awesome — done week after week.

So, use your team, your pack, your reputation quilting bee, to motivate you and keep you on-task, yes, but also pumped about it. Turn it into a game — the way I see the Internet. I mean, I really like Angry Birds but I love hacking reality in the form of influencing an impossibly hige and formidable search-o-sphere — the Googleverse — with my simple photos, graphics, text, and links! Amazing!

So, give it a go — and if you’re overwhelmed and starting to feel a little hopeless, don’t worry! Reputation.com, the company I work for, is there to make everything OK. That and the comments below — if you have any questions about what I am on about, feel free to pop your questions in the comments because I guarantee that if you have a question, they lots of other people do, too — and I am here to help.

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(Disclosure: I am a former employee of Reputation.com and they continue to sponsor my work)

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Chris Abraham

About Chris Abraham

A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and advisor to the industries' leading firms. He specializes in Web 2.0 technologies, including content syndication; organize search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management (ORM), content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.

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