Andrew J. Chapin is a technology entrepreneur specializing in product discovery, a writer, and a member of our White Collar Support group that meets on Zoom on Monday evenings. He can be reached at andrewjchapin.com.
After you’ve been involved in a legal case, your Google search results may be overwhelming to the point where you wonder if your online reputation will ever recover.
You may have had conversations with search specialists who promise the moon in exchange for an exorbitant fee, or spent serious time watching supposedly-instructional YouTube videos. And on the other side of either of those things, you’re probably still left without solutions.
When I found myself in this position following my arrest in 2020, I leaned on my experience having worked with search engines to drive e-commerce product discovery throughout my career. I knew the good news: there is a lot that you can do to repair and restore your personal search engine results page. And most of these things can be done at no or low cost.
Stay on Social Media
When faced with legal trouble, many individuals instinctively retreat and make their social media profiles private or delete them altogether. However, it is important to resist this urge.
Major search engines consider social media profiles as high-authority websites, prioritizing them in search results – and you want to have control over as many of these high-authority spots on Google’s first and second pages as possible.
At minimum, keep pages on major social platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, and TikTok alive but inactive.
Best practice, if you’re able, is to embrace the opportunity to rebuild and shape your online reputation through strategic use of social media. Optimize your profile pages, ensure they are public, and engage actively by reposting news stories or making comments.
Build a Resume Website
Google wants to display search results that contain the most complete information from the highest-authority sources possible. What could be more reputable than a website featuring your biography and resume, straight from the source?
You will need to register your domain and purchase web hosting to host the contents of your website. First, register a domain name that closely resembles your name, or use variations with a middle initial or alternative top-level domains (TLDs). There are many domain registrar services with very little difference between them, though I prefer GoDaddy. A reliable web host like Hostinger should be chosen to store your website files, and the domain should be linked to the web host.
Once you have your domain registered and a host set up, install a content management platform (like WordPress) which will allow you to build the pages on your site. Ensure your website includes a title matching your name or relevant search terms, a brief summary of who you are and what you do, and a rundown of your background. Strategic use of keywords and proper search engine optimization techniques will help your website climb the search result rankings.
In addition to your personal website and social media profiles, creating additional content can provide search engines with more relevant information about you. Guest posts on blogs or news sites, YouTube videos, podcasts, or even books can be effective tools for search engine purposes. Google, in particular, tends to prioritize video content, making YouTube an excellent platform to leverage. By providing more content related to your expertise or interests, you increase the chances of occupying valuable space on search engine results pages. Always remember to link your content back to your personal website and social media profiles to establish authority through backlinks.
Remove Your Case from Legal Aggregation Websites
Numerous websites aggregate publicly available legal filings, which search engines often index. Fortunately, most of these websites are willing to de-index your legal content upon request as their mission is providing legal research tools, not destroying your personal reputation.
By contacting these legal aggregators directly, you can make your case invisible to searchers. In a matter of a week or two, you can ensure your case listings on sites like Casetext, Law360, DocketBird, Justia, and CaseMine are invisible to Google, minimizing the negative impact of your legal trouble on your search results.
Remove Outdated Articles
Press releases and news stories can pose a significant concern when it comes to managing your online reputation. While it may be challenging to control or remove published content, there are strategies to address this issue. If the content is outdated, inaccurate, or no longer relevant, you can request removal or amendment directly from the publishing source.
There is no better way than to approach the publisher respectfully, providing a compelling case or legal justification for the removal.
You may find some articles are stubborn and don’t appear to be going anywhere. In instances like these, consider enlisting the services of online reputation management firms who may have relationships with publishers and can advocate on your behalf.
Repairing search results following legal trouble requires a strategic approach to reclaim your online reputation. By staying active on social media, building a personal website, creating additional content, removing your case from legal aggregation websites, and addressing outdated articles, you can gradually repair and restore your search engine results page, just as you gradually repair and restore your life.
For further assistance, read the full guide to online reputation management at Repair My Search.