Online reputation is like a credit report everyone can see. Whether you are a movie star or an investment banker, your online reputation determines how others perceive you. Everybody can (and should!) manage their online reputation to make sure that it is the most accurate representation of themselves.
We live in a world where you can’t attend a job interview, meet a first date, or even visit an old coworker without Googling their name beforehand. So it’s safe to assume that all of these people are Googling your name as well. Make sure that what they find in the search results is true to your own character.
The following five tips can help you take control of your personal reputation.
- Google yourself
- Claim your social media presence
- Delete negative posts or make accounts private
- Post regularly to build your brand
- Manage information other people post about you
The first step to take control of your online reputation is to audit what already exists out there on the internet. By simply Googling your name you can find out what is being said about you, what content is ranking high, and whether there is any negative content. Negative or inaccurate content is more common than you might think. In fact, 75% of U.S. adults Google themselves, and half aren’t happy with the results. Take the time to audit your search results, and if you don’t like what you see remember that you can take steps to change it.
Don’t stop with Googling just your name, either. Also try variations of your name, common misspellings, and your name along with other keywords, such as the city you live in, your company name, or your job title. Google your telephone number as well to see where it comes up. Take note of the search results, both positive and negative, and use them as a benchmark for developing your personal reputation management strategy later down the road.
Once you complete your initial audit, it is important to keep up-to-date with any changes to your search results. Remember to check your search results regularly. Many people find it helpful to set a calendar item every quarter or so to remind them. You can even set up alerts through Google’s Me on the Web tool to track mentions of your name or email address in news articles. Another good choice is TalkWalker for free alerts.
Claim your social media presence
It’s safe to say that at this point social media isn’t going anywhere. Do you already own your name on the top networking sites? If you don’t, it’s time to create an account on the major ones (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram).
Even if you don’t plan on using them, you should at least claim your name, fill out the basic information and upload a profile picture of yourself. This will secure your account later down the road if you choose to become active on social media while preventing others from creating false accounts in your name.
Depending on your personal goals, you may also want to consider purchasing your own domain/s. By creating a website for yourself you can publish content that will strengthen your online reputation and paint a better picture of yourself and your personal brand. Even if you don’t create a website, simply purchasing the .com, .net, and .org “exact match domain” versions of your name (if available) will keep others from using these domains against you.
Delete negative posts/photos or make accounts private
Are there still photos of you partying in college circulating on Facebook? Are these same photos showing up on Google images when you search your name? Someone in the HR department will eventually find them. These and any other old photos that don’t serve you well should be removed immediately if possible. If you posted them, simply hit the delete button. If someone else posted them, you can kindly ask them to delete the photo. If the person can’t be convinced to take down the photo, you may be able to untag yourself or change the privacy settings on your account to hide it from the public. Sometimes websites that have “scraped” your information, like Spokeo and others, will remove information if approached in the right way. This helpful list of ways to remove negative content online may also be of use.
The same goes for any negative or controversial posts or comments. You’ll want to comb carefully through your accounts to remove anything that suggests: unprofessional behavior, criminal behavior, drinking, drug use, offensive behavior, violence or bullying. Many people also scrub political leanings from their online content – they strive to appear “politically purple” online.
Build your personal brand
Once you’ve audited what already exists about you online and have cleaned up anything negative, it’s time to focus on building your personal brand. Whatever you put out there, whether it’s social media posts or unique blog content, make sure that it is on brand.
The more unique content you publish, the better your chances of it ranking high in search results. If your content is consistently ranking high, then your reputation will benefit and you will have more control over it. So it’s important to take the time to determine what your personal brand is and develop a voice online. We suggest scheduling time each week to publish content about your online brand. Do so on different platforms, not all in the same place. For example, post on Facebook, Twitter, and your blog one week. The next week author a guest post for placement on someone else’s site. When you create an article for your site, or someone else’s, follow these best practices. The following week focus on Instagram, Twitter again, and perhaps another blog post. Mix it up.
Publishing unique content allows you to better control your online reputation by owning more existing content. The more you publish, the harder it will be for other content to rank high in your branded search results. This is one of the tenets of online content suppression.
Manage information other people post about you
No matter how much effort you put into owning your personal brand and creating unique content to control your online reputation, there is no way you can fully suppress outside information that others post about you. This is why it’s important to continually Google yourself or set up alerts so you can be aware when any unflattering or untrue information about you is posted. If you find any such posts or photos, you can quickly act to remove them before they can cause any damage to your online reputation. Untag yourself if possible or contact the site owner to request the post be removed.
Your personal online reputation is an asset that should be tended to ensure it is the best representation of you. There isn’t a single person who couldn’t benefit from improving their online reputation. How others perceive you online can make a huge difference in anything from landing your dream job to being able to join an afternoon running club. Without a good online reputation, you will struggle to make a name for yourself in today’s world.
Luckily there are steps you can take to control your personal reputation. Auditing what already exists, claiming your social media presence, deleting negative posts, creating unique content, and managing information others post about you all help you to control and improve your online reputation. These are things anyone can start doing today.