How to Create a Superior Image Online (and We’re Not Talking About Photos)

In my last post, I pointed out that before clients place an assignment, they often gather information about photographers with a search on Google. For most photographers, that shouldn’t turn up anything worse than their Web site, a reference on someone’s blog and a bunch of attributions. (Hopefully, there will be plenty of those.)

But for others, it could be a bitter fight on a forum with a rival photographer, a mention of a driving offense committed 20 years ago, or even deliberate attacks from an ex-spouse, former partner or a scooped rival photographer. Whether true or not, there may be things on the Internet that you’d prefer prospective clients don’t see. Fortunately, you can take steps to build a better image online.

Your first move should be to start tracking your online image in real time with Google Alerts, which enable you to enter any phrase (such as your name) and receive an e-mail each time it appears on the Web. Not only will that inform you whenever someone is talking about you; it will also tell you whenever one of your images is used on a Web site — or rather, whenever you receive credit for an image used on a Web site.

Having this information will give you an early heads-up on inaccurate or potentially damaging content; however, it won’t tell you where specific mentions of your name rank in search results. To discover this, you have to run a Google search on your name. If the first two or three pages contain references that you think might harm your chances of getting a job, you’ll need to push them further down the search results list.

How do you “push down” negative items? One option is to create a series of sites with your name in the URL. You might already have [yourname].com, but you can also create identical sites with a .net suffix and with hyphens between your first and last name. By doing this, you’ll achieve three things: you’ll increase the chances that someone tossing your name directly into their browser will find you; you’ll prevent someone else from taking them; and most importantly, you’ll have more sites to put above the search result(s) you want to hide.

Doing this right takes a little effort. The sites will have to be optimized until they’re riding high enough on Google to do the job. But it can be very effective.

A quicker approach is to place comments on photography blogs and forums. Make sure you include your name and, if you can, include a link back to your Web site. If the blog or forum is popular enough, each comment could become a separate appearance in Google’s search results and the inbound links will help to push your site higher in the results.

Bear in mind, though, that there’s a price to pay for those comments: they have to be good. No one wants spam in their forums, and remember that a client might well see them. So post intelligently about your experiences as a photographer, and you’ll replace a negative impression with a positive one.

You can take this approach one step further and write articles. There are plenty of photography sites these days looking for contributors (including ours). If you have something you want to say about photography, put it into an article and offer it to a publisher.

You can also become a publisher yourself. If you don’t have a blog, then protecting and polishing your image could be a good reason to start one. As long as your name appears on each page — in the domain will do — not only will each blog post turn up in a search for you, but so will references to your posts on other people’s blogs.

The result should be enough positive mentions to bury the negative ones several pages into your search results, making them as good as invisible.

[Image from ragepank.]

[tags]John Chapnick, online reputation management, photographer SEO, photography blogs, photography forums [/tags]

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