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Lessons from Santorum Search: Online Reputation Management for Politicians

Rick Santorum Reputation ManagementGoogle yourself. It’s a lesson most common citizens are acutely aware of, yet politicians of all parties seem to be unaware of this simple step to protecting one’s online reputation within the political arena and outside of it. A Google search by a Business 2 Community writer of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum right after he announced plans to run for the Republican presidential nomination is proof of this.

A simple search of Santorum’s name led to a No. 1 result of “Santorum: 1. The frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex. 2. Senator Rick Santorum,” a definition created by columnist Dan Savage in 2003, who was responding to Rick Santorum’s comments about homosexuality and right to privacy. Although there’s no way for Santorum’s staff to remove the search result entirely, there are plenty of ways to try to push it out of the top search spot, especially over an eight-year time span.

Search engine optimization is an important tool in online reputation management for politicians and the average Joe as well as most companies. You must create a steady flow of positive content about your company or yourself to push the negative content toward the bottom of searches. So while you can’t stomp out negative press entirely, you can at least bury it in a Google search better and faster than the Santorum team has done to date.

While some may consider this practice deceptive, it’s even supported by Google. “If you can get stuff that you want people to see to outperform the stuff you don’t want them to see, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of harm that that negative or embarrassing content can do to your reputation,” the company said in response to the issue. The practice is likely supported because the negative content, as in Santorum’s case, is not always accurate or on target for the search.

Once Santorum’s crew follows this sage advice, there are plenty of other politicians follow in his footsteps (read: Anthony Weiner).

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