Think your in-person reputation is all that matters? Think again. In today’s society, your online persona is what you are to most people. This includes college admissions staff, prospective employers, and potential romantic partners.
1. The Internet is omniscient (and sometimes mistaken).
If you’ve ever Googled yourself, chances are you haven’t actually seen everything there is about your online reputation. The Internet is designed to track your location, your previous searches, and which sites you are currently logged in to. Search engines are programmed to use this information to make search results more relevant.
To get a better idea of the reputation someone else might see, log out of your online accounts—Facebook, Pinterest, WordPress blogs, etc.—and clear all cache files, including cookies. All major search engines take these cached files into account when aggregating data for display. You will get a more accurate view of “you” if the Web doesn’t know it’s you who’s looking.
2. Log out and log in from somewhere else.
Once you’ve logged out and cleared all stored data, switch browsers. If possible, search for yourself on vacation (away from home) or have a friend or family member in another state look for you, as Internet results very by location. Your online reputation management shouldn’t be conducted from just one location.
3. Get an outside perspective.
Once your computer is clear of data that may affect search results, search for your name. You may also want to input your name plus the city and state where you live. To see what others see, browse the first page or two of search engine results pages (SERP). Few people go beyond these so they will give you the best gauge of your online reputation. You can also create a fake profile for each social media site and perform a search from that account. This will help to ensure that you get untainted results.
4. Fix it but don’t forget it.
So, you searched and found something about your former self that doesn’t quite represent your current lifestyle. Or, even worse, someone out there doesn’t like you and has made that disdain very public. You’re ready to go into online reputation management mode. One of the first things that can be done to offset negative information is to join every reputable social networking site available. In other words, if you haven’t created a professional LinkedIn profile, now is the perfect time. Monitor and update these profiles often to ensure your preferred online reputation remains prevalent over the negative. You can also ask certain sites to remove negative information, especially if what’s said is slanderous or in poor taste.
5. Contribute regularly to your online persona.
Online reputation management requires a lot of work but it’s well worth it. Additional steps that you can take to monitor your online reputation include contributing content to an online site such as Yahoo! Contributor or pinning notes on your Facebook profile. You can also respond to blog posts and online forums. Keeping your name continually moving around the Internet with the information you want visible will make it more attractive to the Web crawlers that determine what gets put on the front pages.
Reputation Advocate was founded in 2006 after Managing Director Steven Wyer was dealt a detrimental blow to his career by false information found online. He learned the hard way that his name wasn’t truly his own. Today, Wyer serves a growing population of professionals, individuals and small businesses who are ready to fight back and take control of their online reputation.