When Blogs Bite Back: Managing Reputation

Suppose that you have a personal blog (like many of us starting out in blogging do or did at a time) and that you learn blog marketing by promoting your own blog (site optimization, link building, etc). Then sooner or later you move on to professional blogging, where there’s a need to be more formal and impersonal (you can’t talk about your problems or swear on your business blogs).

The only issue is, thanks to your efforts in building links and trying to rank your personal blog for your name, you end up in a situation where a potential client comes across your business blog, sees your name and decides to Google you. He finds your personal blog, reads your latest rant on dog poop (or whatever), forms a negative impression of you immediately and decides not to do business with you.

The same thing can happen with potential partners and competitors – if the search engines know you because of your personal blog, then that’s what people will find – and that can be, in this case, a hurdle in building your professional reputation online.

My specific situation – I’m starting a business consultancy blog very soon. Only problem is that in this field people often do a background check on you to find out who you are and what you’ve done. If my personal blog comes up on top of the results (full with a rant on some obscure issue), how will that look? I would have (probably) been judged by a potential client negatively for something that is totally unrelated to what I’m providing, but because at this point the search engines know me through my personal blog, that’s what the people get.

My question is – how do you “hide” your personal blog from the eyes of your readers? I shudder at the thought of sanitizing my blog, but then again I wouldn’t want most of my readers from my business blogs to go over to my personal blog and read about what I did today (or whatever).

The obvious answer here is to not post anything that you wouldn’t want other people to read online, but that’s not a solution anymore. You can try to get yourself de-listed from the search engines, but that takes away a lot of your traffic (and if no one’s reading, why are you writing?).

How do I deal with this? Any suggestions?

Note: I know this has been discussed by Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger and Nick here at Performancing, but I want to talk about this from a blogger who is just starting to gain ‘traction’ in the pro blogging field.

20 thoughts on “When Blogs Bite Back: Managing Reputation

  1. Well, the way to go with this problem is just to be honest of what you do. Reputation is something you have to build on your own and the Internet is a media that is too public. If you have initially built personal blogs, then you don’t have to worry as long as you are honest about what you do. As always said, truth will set us free. And it’s true, no matter how hard truth sometimes is.

  2. Was just scouting around for people to help… Hope I did not sound offensive or such.

    Wishing you luck for your ‘endeavors’


  3. 1. as stated above, don’t write anything you wouldn’t want *everyone* to see.


    2. Don’t work for anyone who wouldn’t feel comfortable with “the real you.”

    I tend to subscribe to both theories more or less. Like anyone, I’ve occasionally posted things online that might bite me back later, and I’ve even wished I hadn’t once or twice. On the other hand, I’ve always been much pickier about who I work with than potential clients might have been about me.

    I guess there’s actually a third alternative: You could selectively delete the offensive posts on your old personal blog while leaving the posts that won’t damage you. this would allow you to keep most of your google juice without running the risk of offensive material being seen. You could even get sneaky and just edit the offensive posts to say something completely different and benign… the search engines will re-index them eventually and might even give you bonus points for updating!

    I would bet that in most cases the posts that bring in the most traffic are not going to be the offensive posts anyway. So if you delete or edit those and leave the rest, you should be okay.

    Honestly, though, my best advice is just not to work with or for people who wouldn’t be comfortable with your more naked self (metaphorically, people, metaphorically). If there’s a side of you that’s going to rub your employer wrong, you’ll never be able to keep it hidden forever. And if you do, you’re paying too high a price to earn a living.

    Also, I think formal is over-rated… I’ve found that the more real I am, the better my income gets. Way back when I freelanced as a designer in pretty standard office environments I started being much less formal towards the end, even using the F word fairly casually at work. Oddly, though I was subconsciously trying to get out of the industry, I found that more and more people tried to hire me full time. I think they liked the freshness of someone who did great work but didn’t care about the rules. I suppose it may still not be that way in all industries, but hey, it *did* work pretty well for me at the time.

  4. I’ve chosen to ‘sanitize’ my personal blog, plus follow graywolf’s advice and build up links to my new pro blog.

    Shri – wordpress lets you do all that.

    Gwen – stick to your guns indeed

    thanks for the feedback guys, helped me ‘clear my head’ for sure.

  5. for the same reason i write casual stuff under a different name(pseudonym). only my professional blog uses my real name. those who know me personally know that both of them are mine; to the others, the two blogs are unrelated to eachother.

    for a person like me for whom there is no requirement that the personal blog carry the real name, its a fairly safe setup. though its not impossible to dig out the relationship between my two online identities, its effective enough in keeping the casual googlers at bay.

  6. If you’re at all worried about losing money because of your personal blog, sanitize it. When money is at stake you need to think with a clear head. Some of your potential clients might look down on you, costing you business. Why risk it?

  7. Or did you mean publishing it publicly, but ensuring that people do not see your rant-laced posts, but instead manage to see the business blog up in the rankings?

    If that is the case, then you will have to go all the way into link and reputation building all over again until your new blog supercedes the old.

    Or you could try out a new service that is currently being developed. It’s not ready for primetime. But it has exactly the things that you want. You can post public and private posts on the same blog. You can restrict individual blogposts to selected users only. You can mould any and all of your posts the way _you_ want.

    So what’s the catch, you ask, eh? Well: No RSS feeds (Status: Currently being incorporated). But there’s a more powerful alternative to that, too…

    Write back to me, if this has piqued your interest. Sorry if I have indulged in blatant marketing or promotion. In that case, I urge you to nuke this comment immediately. In my defense: The conditions you put forth were too enticing to ignore.


  8. You must indeed not publish anything you aren’t willing to have follow you, perhaps in perpetuity. It is practically impossible to outrun your reputation, and it is, in my opinion, dishonorable to try.

    If you don’t believe in it, you shouldn’t be writing about it. If you believe in it, you should stand up for what you believe. If that means that you don’t get a particular job, or a contract you wanted doesn’t come to fruition, you need to ask yourself: “Would I respect myself if I caved on this issue? And more to the point, would I respect an employer that would want me to?”

    I write a personal political blog, and maintain the blog for a political organization. I don’t need to name-drop — suffice to say that “stick to your guns” is pertinent; the blogs are firearm-rights oriented. I feel very strongly about the issue, or I wouldn’t be writing about it in the first place. I am proud of what I have written, and I regularly Google myself. I’m out there a lot, and I stand by everything out there. If an employer finds something I’ve written and has a problem with it, that’s HIS problem. If they decide they don’t want me working for them because of it, then by gum, I don’t want to work for them.


  9. thanks for the feedback people.

    dossy – excellent point, and exactly what was on my mind.

    Nick – your previous community site wasnt exactly a personal blog, but I can see that you’re making an effort over here at performancing

    I think graywolf’s (hey man, i’m a big fan of your blog, thanks for posting) and Michael’s advice is the best – work on getting your professional site enough links so that it ranks for your name, and at the same time work on sanitizing your online reputation.

    For any blogger moving from the personal to the professional realm, this is definitely something to think about…

  10. If somebody sees something that I have written in the past, then I stick by it. My opinion may have changed, but they have a more complete picture of who they are doing business with and personally I believe that can only help me. I am not ashamed of my opinions.

    Of course, I’ve never felt a need to be overly vulgar in expressing myself.

  11. I’ve no doubt that some companies would actively seek to hire those who blog in a personal way, showing a sense of humour and character – as well as writing style. On the other hand, there will be many conservative corporations who would be too risk adverse to go near anyone with a blog – whether it’s got a cartoon of an illegal act or a bit of a business rant. Definitely a good idea to get a third party to look at it from a client’s point of view though.

  12. I blogged about this over a year ago.

    Bottom line: If you feel you have something to hide from a prospective employer or client … put yourself in their shoes: would you hire yourself? Seriously?

  13. I recently heard of an instance where an employer Googled a potential employee’s name, and found their personal blog, including a cartoon depicting them involved in an illegal act. They were asked about it, and explained it was just fun, and they didn’t really do what was depicted, but the damage was done. He didn’t get the job.

  14. The obvious answer here is to not post anything that you wouldn’t want other people to read online, but that’s not a solution anymore.

    It’s the only solution. If you post something, people will read it online. Period. If you have something you don’t want your clients, your boss, or the general public to read, don’t post it or use a private site that only your friends have access to.

    In the “real” world, you have obvious boundaries to help you–you can go to your local bar on Saturday and say whatever you want, but if you’re professional in the office on Monday, nothing (usually) comes of it.

    On the internet, despite illusions to the contrary, there are no boundaries. This can be a good thing and a bad thing, and it’s a lesson most of us learn the hard way.

  15. Damn, there goes my pooh blog. No seriously, I’ve had the misfortune to be taken in by hucksters in person several times, as I try to give everyone a chance. Had I looked online beforehand, I would have seen all the bad comments about these people. Not everyone believes everything they read online.

    On the other hand, if you plan to be a professional consultant, you’re better off not revealing your true persona, quirks and all. You cultivate a persona and you stick to it day in and day out. That rules out a personal blog revealing what colour you dye your hair each day.

    On the other hand, shooting off their mouth hasn’t hurt the extreme right- and left-wing A-list bloggers a whit. They get speaking engagements, etc., and do quite well.

    Me, I’m a hot-headed semi-anarchistic old-school bootstrapping do-it-yourself punk who speaks his mind. But I’m open-minded and extremely tolerant, but only until someone screws me or a friend over, or simply lies, which I can’t stand. I’ve been out of contract work for 4 years anyway, and I am who I am. I figure, my hard work speaks for itself, and I don’t care to work with anyone who is offended by a difference of opinion that wasn’t directed at them.

    To make my long story short, in other words, if you open your mouth online, you’d better be ready to stick by your guns or be prepared to apologize a lot.

    But my line of defensive reasoning isn’t recommended if you’re just starting out. Be professional and keep the personal stuff personal. When you amass your blogging and consulting fortune, then you can open your mouth and scream.

  16. Find a some pages where you sound extremely professional and relevant, and get some external links to those pages instead of the ones that show now.

  17. The only difference between writing online and say writing in a notebook is the potential for others viewing it and forming an opinion. Certainly stand by it as your own expression – but this relates to the wider issue of people being ‘googled’. Difficult situations could arise (dating or otherwise) if someone ‘googles’ you. That’s why I chose to use a pen name for my blog even if it is about computer games

  18. >>how do you “hide” your personal blog from the eyes of your readers?

    You dont.

    Make a point of writing about the difference between personal expression and writing for business. Use it as the potential marketing tool that it is.

    When i ran my last community site, people used ot congratulate me on managing to post without swearing heh!

    dont make a big deal out of it, and most likely no one else will.

  19. Chris,

    that’s what I was afraid of – but this solution (getting your blog out of the SE indexes) means that effectively your blog is dead (if it gets a lot of SE traffic, like mine does). Kill one blog off for the others? Sounds kind of harsh, but that’s the way it has to be done, I guess.

  20. The answer is don’t write anything you wouldn’t stand by later if confronted with it. Easier said than done and people and their opinions change. After that the only solution is to ban your pages from the search engines using robots exclusion and hope noone else has cached it.

    It would be nice to think you could be selective and only ever have like-minded clients but commercial reality means your opinion on seemingly irrelevant topics could be a real burden in business.

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