Thanks to the internet, it seems like our entire life is documented for everyone to see.
If you once went on a Facebook rant after having a less-than-stellar day, the Internet will be sure to remind everybody about it for the rest of your life. If a friend of yours publishes a photo showing you doing something questionable, future employers will probably see it after Googling you. Online reputations are fragile, and everything you do is documented for posterity.
Maintaining your online reputation involves more than just concealing pictures or posts from your past – it also involves presenting yourself in a good light. When someone looks up information about you, the results that show up should make you look like you’re worth talking to.
There are no shortages of companies out there that can help you build, protect, and clean up your online reputation, albeit for a hefty price. If you don’t have the budget to pay a professional online reputation management company, there are things you can do yourself without paying a cent.
Look Yourself Up on Google
Management of an online reputation starts with looking yourself up on search engines. Don’t settle for Google only – use every search engine at your disposal. Surgery yourself on forums, directories, video platforms, and social networks. Try to find all of the things written about you online, whether they are good or bad.
Search for your first and last name, nicknames, maiden name, and even variations of names you’ve used. You should also search the Internet for your name paired with relevant keywords (occupation, college, current city, hometown, etc.). If you’re concerned about what potential employers and other people could find, perform a query for identifiable information that they may be able to access, including usernames, your phone number, or email address.
Comb through accounts on social media, forums, or blogs that you commented on before to see if there are any problems.
Perform A Background Check On Yourself
If you really want to get a deeper understanding of your online reputation, run an online background check. A background check from Instant Checkmate can reveal facts about your history, including social media accounts and crimes you have committed. Depending on your state, there may be a way to get those crimes expunged so they no longer appear on your record.
Scrub Your Online Presence While Beefing up All Privacy Settings
After finding some old blog posts, photos, or links you posted in the past (that would embarrass you now), you need to find a way to have those things either privatized or removed altogether.
Let’s start with Facebook. First, the social network’s privacy menu should be opened up to access your settings. Instead of allowing anyone and everyone to see your posts, change the setting to “Limit Past Posts.” Doing so will ensure that the only people who see your posts are your friends. Now you won’t have to go through each picture individually, privatizing them one at a time. You will be asked to confirm this change of settings, as you will be able to undo this action.
For Twitter, after opening up your settings, click the link that says “Security.” Under the “Privacy” setting, you’ll see an option for “Tweet Privacy.” Check off the box beside it to privatize your tweets. That way, only your followers will be able to view them (that is to say, your tweets will only be shown to people you approve).
Don’t forget, though – online stalkers and employers are smarter than you think. Safeguarding your accounts on social networks might not be sufficient. If an unflattering photo of you is floating around the Internet, you should go above and beyond to have it removed. That may involve asking the original uploader to manually remove it. In the meantime, you’ll be able to un-tag yourself, however, the picture will stay visible until it is removed by the initial uploader. You can make a request to Google if you want your personal info removed from their search results. Having said that, you must understand that this will not apply to blog posts or photos.
Think About a Name Change
You don’t have to legally change your name, but you should think about using some kind of variation of it for professional reasons. It would do you well to separate your personal and professional life online.
If you are somebody with a common name like “Andrew Roberts,” then consider using a name variation to separate yourself from others who share that name, especially if some of those people have committed sketchy activities. In such circumstances, it would do you well to add either an initial or middle name between your first and last one. That way, colleagues and employers will be able to locate you when searching for your specific name online.
To separate yourself from the embarrassing things you posted in the past, or to maintain the privacy of your professional and personal life on the Internet, it would be prudent to change your name on professional accounts. That way, they won’t overlap with your personal accounts. A pseudonym isn’t necessary – just use the first of two middle names on personal accounts (“Andrew James D. Roberts”) and/or use your second middle name on professional accounts (“Andrew J. David Roberts”). By doing so, you can prevent people looking at your professional accounts from inadvertently stumbling onto your personal ones.
Establish a Brand
The most effective strategy to maintain your reputation on the Internet involves being proactive. Rather than attempting to suppress things from your past, concentrate on establishing your future. If you create all-new content by way of blog, forum, and social media posts, you’ll be able to enhance a professional identity while pushing embarrassing posts further down search engine result pages. This will work to your advantage because search engine algorithms prefer new content. As far as Google is concerned, updated blogs are much more relevant to users than a post you made on Facebook a decade ago. Fresh content dominates the top results on search engines.
Positive online reputations are priceless. Be proactive about maintaining yours.
Set up Google Alerts. Doing so will allow you to track certain search terms (like your name). You will be immediately notified when new search terms pop up. Google Alerts come with a convenient widget that notifies you if your email address and name are published.
Keep your email addresses separate. If you separate your professional profiles from your personal ones, or use different names, then it would be worth your while to use individual email addresses. A lot of social networks allow people to search for users by typing in their email addresses. When separating your professional and personal accounts, be sure to keep your professional credit cards and phone numbers distinct from your personal ones, too.
Be diplomatic. If you’re managing a business’ reputation, this will be particularly important – words carry ten times the amount of weight and five times less humor. This is especially true when they are published online. Before posting anything, think things through. When responding to people, it doesn’t hurt to be overly diplomatic. To put it another way, you won’t find yourself in trouble if you don’t tweet something controversial.