If you’ve Googled yourself lately, you’re among the 75% of the population who wants to know what kind of online reputation you have. Be warned – nearly 50% of people don’t like what they find.
Your online reputation can impact every aspect of your life, both personal and professional. Employers, coworkers, romantic interests, hiring managers, and prospective business partners will most likely search you online before making any decisions about you.
Ready to land that dream job? Rest assured that your potential employer is scouring the internet for potential red flags. 75% of recruiters and HR professionals have rejected a candidate based on search engine results, and 93% of searchers never venture past the first page.
Track down old, negative and irrelevant media – everything from old Myspace profiles to possibly incriminating photos – and delete them. This may require contacting the websites hosting the material with a request to remove it or a requesting to access an old account.
While it’s not a bad idea to cultivate your existing profiles to your new brand image, you don’t want old drunken college photos or potentially insulting comments to come back to haunt you. Delete anything which could be perceived in the wrong light and make your personal accounts private unless they are completely aligned with your company or personal brand goals.
An easy way to locate content that you might not want to have online is to do an image search of your name. What comes up? If there is anything there that would make you think twice if you were a potential client; delete, delete, delete.
Sift through all your old social media profiles and photos to remove what you wouldn’t want to represent your current personal brand and avoid posting new content that doesn’t show you in a positive light.
Still searching for that special someone? 48% of people have searched for someone before a first date and found information that made them decide to cancel their plans – likewise, 51% of people found information that made them excited for the date.
Interested in joining the growing number of people who are taking control of their online reputation? Check out our twenty essential online reputation management tips for individuals and put your best foot forward when it comes to what people see about you online.
Search results are algorithmically generated. Your online reputation is determined by complex calculations run automatically by computers. After all, nobody has time to take in all the information that’s out there, so search engines and social media sites make educated guesses about what people will find interesting.
Popularity over accuracy. No algorithm can tell whether information accurately reflects you or not, so popularity becomes the main measuring stick. That’s why embarrassing party photos, frivolous lawsuits dismissed years ago, and other kinds of irrelevant but intriguing “click bait” often dominate online reputations.
Don’t click. It can be tempting to visit the negative pages in your search results over and over again. Don’t. This tells search engines that the page is relevant, driving it up in the results. For the same reason, don’t tell all your friends to go visit the page. And under no circumstances should you link to it on social media or from another website.
Don’t engage with detractors. If someone writes something unflattering about you, don’t write back, don’t post a comment, and don’t refer to the offending item in online forums. All this does is send more attention to the issue you don’t want seen. There’s also the danger that truly malicious posters might take your response and twist the words against you. Why give them additional ammunition? It’s better to fight their taunts with radio silence.
Get your story out there. You can only promote the materials that are out there. That means you need a solid base of positive, accurate content to improve your online reputation. You can do this yourself to some extent—starting a blog, posting YouTube videos, etcetera—but you may need a publication team in order to affect competitive search results.
Use social media. Not on Twitter? Sign up, using your full name as your handle (e.g. @johndoe). Are you active on LinkedIn? Make sure your resume is up to date. Social media sites often rank well in your search results, and you control the content they display, so they can make a big difference to your online reputation.
Protect your privacy. Keep tabs on the personally identifiable information about you posted online. Opt out of services that sell your personal information, and remove your data from people-search sites. This makes it less likely that sensitive personal details can be used to hijack your online reputation.
Assume everything lasts forever. If something has been published online, it’s potentially part of your permanent online reputation. Search results aren’t arranged chronologically, so old news items, outdated information, and stories from years ago can continue to rank if they’re seen as relevant by search engines. This can work for or against you.
Registering your name protects you from someone else controlling your name online. Buy and develop the .com with your name on it and, if you want to be very safe, do so for common variations of your name. Using the .com with your name as your blog is an excellent place to begin.
Next, do the same for your business, if you have one.
The last thing that you want is someone else owning “YOURNAME.COM” or a social media site pretending to be you or even worse, posting defamatory comments on a site that carries your name but that you can’t control.
Although this may seem a little overwhelming. Relax! Don’t be pressured into immediately populating your domains with content. Although you will definitely want to do this in the future, the first order of business is simply owning them so you are in control of this valuable real-estate.
An easy way to curtail the possibility of this is simply to register as many online properties with your name as possible, especially your personal and business domains.
If you own a small business or otherwise receive reviews, or if you’re very active on social media, chances are high that you’ll have opportunities to argue online. Resist the urge to respond emotionally, angrily, defensively or in ways that aren’t positive, polite, and professional. There is simply no good that can ever come from arguing online. Always take the high-road and don’t let your emotions get the best of you. It’s only natural to want to come to defend yourself from negative reviews and online insults, but never do it in a way where you come across as argumentative or petty.
Arguing online is an easy trap to fall into. We all know the illusion of anonymity that typing into a keyboard affords. Many of the worst things said online, would never be said in a real world, face-to-face scenario. Remember this, and don’t fall for troll-bait meant to trap you into an awkward circumstance. Always take the high-road.
It’s easy to go too far in an online discussion reacting to comments meant simply to provoke you. Take a deep breath. Go for a walk and ignore the trolls. You’re looking for meaningful engagement and discussion. Let trolling roll of your back. No need to engage.
Before every post, ask yourself how you would feel if asked to address what you said in front of a hiring manager. In short, never post anything that you don’t want coming back to haunt you.