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 doing the same for your name as well. If they find anything bad about you online, they'll surely move on to the next person. Make sure that what people find in the search results is true to your own character.
Just like companies must manage their online reputation, individuals must as well. You wouldn't do business with a company with a bad reputation, would you? You are your own brand, so this article will cover how to manage your online reputation and how to brand yourself online.
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
How to manage your online reputation
Online reputation management starts with Google. Knowing what others are saying about you online is the first step to controlling your online reputation. We've outlined five steps to manage your online reputation below.
75% of U.S. adults Google themselves, and half aren’t happy with the results.
The first step to taking control of your online reputation is to audit what already exists 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 by 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. This is all just to see what is out there about you so that you can have a good idea of what someone might see when they are Googling your name.
Take notes of your 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.
Manage your social media
It’s safe to say that, at this point, social media isn’t going anywhere. It's critical to manage your presence on various social media platforms. Not only do your social media accounts come up in search results, but most people are also using social media as a search platform. Protect your online reputation by ensuring that when they search for your name, it comes up and shows positive or neutral content.
If you don’t already own your name on the major social networks, it’s time to create an account. Start with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram and consider platforms like TikTok, Pinterest, and YouTube as well.
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.
Make sure your social profiles have the following elements:
- Clear profile photo of yourself
- Your full name
- Link to your blog/company website
- Background image
- At least a few posts
You can also adjust your privacy settings to control what people can see on your social profiles. In fact, more than two-thirds (71%) of 18-29-year-olds have changed the privacy settings on their profile to limit what they share with others online.
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.
Perform a self-audit on your online reputation
Are there still photos of you partying in college circulating on Facebook? Are these same photos showing up on Google Images when you search for 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, here are a few options to start the removal process:
- You could kindly ask them to delete 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 to control your online reputation
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.
Here's a sample schedule:
- Week 1: Post on Facebook, Twitter, and your blog.
- Week 2: 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.
- Week 3: Focus on Instagram, Twitter again, and perhaps another blog post.
- Week 4: Publish a video on YouTube.
This is just a sample schedule. Find out what works for your brand and spend most of your time creating and promoting content that suits your needs. 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.
Respond to or remove what people post about you to manage your online reputation
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 control and improve your online reputation. These are things anyone can start doing today. But if you find you need extra help or run into any roadblocks on the way, feel free to contact us to discuss further options.
Online reputation management FAQs
How can I improve my online reputation?
These five tips can help you improve your online 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.
How often should I Google myself?
It is a good idea to Google yourself somewhat frequently to keep an accurate pulse on your search engine results. A quick Google search can reveal what is being said about you online, what content is ranking high, and whether there is any negative content. Since search results are constantly changing, it is important to monitor your results.
How do I build my personal brand?
Building your personal brand starts with owning all of your web properties. Take a social media audit and fill out any incomplete profiles. Delete any negative content. Publish unique, high-ranking positive content.
About the author
Brianne Schaer is a Writer and Editor for Reputation X, an award-winning online reputation management services agency based in California. Brianne has more than seven years of experience creating powerful stories, how-to documentation, SEO articles, and Wikipedia content for brands and individuals. When she’s not battling AI content bots, she is cruising around town in her Karmann Ghia. You can see more of her articles here and here.