I'm not even going to link to the problem for fear of boosting it's Page Rank, but you can see what I mean below. While I was away from the world of blogging some dirty little thieving oid has been using my name - or possibly our name, if it is indeed his name (which is pretty unlikely) - to scam people out of money for non-existent car parts.
Being in forums this is SEO gold, and so my (until now unique) name is suddenly associated with criminal doings that are slap bang in the middle of a page 1 vanity search. Annoyingly I can't even challenge the aforementioned oid about any possible identity theft, as he's currently providing special services to Mr. Big at Her Majesty pleasure.
Now the people in the forums know it's not me. Links to my assorted social profiles (invariably accompanied by comments involving sending the boys around) have turned up in the streams with other people immediately pointing them right. They've every right to be angry, but (with such a distinctive name as mine) the casual searcher doesn't know this isn't me. Online identity, especially with what I do for a living, is important. Also, frankly, it's just damn well annoying. I need to take my name back.
So, what can I do? The same thing I'd recommend to a client. I need to take control of my brand:
Step 1: This blog post. An SEO friendly statement of intent peppered with the name "Nik Hewitt" (plus a bit of constructive spamdexing using my name) and setting out the facts. It's a beginning. We'll get plenty of inbound links and social friends to spread the post (please tweet or pass this on in some way if you're reading it). At least it's out there for public record. Let's remember, Google loves fresh content. The more I update this blog, the better.
Step 2: It's time I got a Wikipedia entry for myself. Heck, I'm published enough and I've got awards and stuff coming out of my wazoo. I must be eligible. Time to provide a friend with a write-up (any offers, I'm lookin' at you Shelli Martineau - coz I bet this show's up in your Google Alerts) and get them to post it on my behalf. Wikipedia is like chocolate for Google bots an spiders.
Step 3: Write in some other places. Well, I've started doing that of late. Hubspot, Conversify, Target Marketing, etc. So getting the name in other (high profile) decent PageRank places'll hopefully help. I'm open to others, give me a shout if you'r interested. It's a good idea, if your a business, to do the same and be seen as an industry leader. Control your brand and message etc.
Step 4: Let's try and not let this happen again, or at least be aware of it when it does. From now on I need to set a Google Alert on my name. Simple, but I've never bothered. Easy to set up, and I recommend it to everyone curious about brand and reputation management. Rocket science it ain't.
Step 5: If this was a client I'd ream off a big list of social channels where they should go out and claim their brand: Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Google Plus, LinkedIn, YouTube (especially video titles), Flickr, etc. but I'm all over these like a rash or they're just not suitable. To be honest, this is slightly disconcerting bearing in mind the number of these I'm on already.
So, for now that's all I can do. It's annoying, but it's not the end of the world. Eventually the dirty little thieving oid will drop off the front page and it'll stop niggling me.
It's reminded me of an important lesson. We're brands too. Each and every one of us. What if a prospective employer saw this out of context? "We're not havin' 'im, he robs car parts" etc. Ouch. In the modern world the individual is as fragile as any on-line business, and as individuals who work in social and on-line reputation we clearly need to practice what we preach.