In the digital age, reputation management is a must for people from all walks of life. Anyone that knows your name can google you and find out what the internet has to say about you, and there’s nothing to help them sort out what’s accurate and what’s not. Likewise, anyone can post information about you or use the information available for identity theft, slander or worse.
Nearly half of all adults in the United States say the Google results about their names are negative. Furthermore, only a small number report a positive reputation as opposed to a neutral one.
Your online reputation is a massive liability if it’s negative, and it can be your biggest asset if it’s positive.
Employers, colleagues, colleges, clients, customers, family members, friends and even first dates can google your name in seconds. The first page of results on Google shapes their perspective of you quickly.
Your search results could be the difference between a business meeting and an unanswered phone call, a nice family dinner and an uncomfortable conversation, a college acceptance letter or yet another rejection.
Everyone is responsible for their names online. You don’t have excuses, but you do have options.
Below, we’ve collected eleven of the best actions you can take for your online reputation today. This reputation management checklist will help you plan your steps to a positive image online and start taking action to protect yourself from future issues:
1. Google Yourself
If you haven’t already, now’s the time to search for yourself. Head to Google, Bing, and Yahoo! for a comprehensive look at your reputation and search for your name. Check the first two pages of results and any related images, and then bookmark every relevant link you find.
Next, search for any names you’ve been known by in the past, and any variants of your name that you use. If you own a business, search for that too. You want to know about every piece of information about you online. This tells you what other people might see if they search for you and helps you get a bigger picture view of your situation.
For those who don’t find anything, positive or negative, count yourselves lucky! You have a clean slate to work with.
2. Monitor Your Name
Now that you know what’s online about you, be sure that nothing else can be posted without your knowledge. Set up a Google Alerts account, and then sign up for monitoring on all versions of your name(s) and business name(s). Do this even if you have a positive or neutral reputation online so you will be the first to know if someone posts about you without permission.
Whenever someone posts anything containing the names you’ve set up alerts for, you’ll receive an email with a link to the content posted. From someone mentioning you in a comment on social media to an outstanding review for your business that warrants a response, Google Alerts can find it all.
If you change your name or start a new business, don’t forget to set up new alerts for the new keywords. You don’t ever want to be unaware of what’s said about you online again.
3. Claim Your Space
Claiming social media accounts, professional networking accounts and domain names with your name makes sure no one else can control these presences. It also gives search engines pages to display when someone looks you up.
Most social media websites and professional networking sites are popular enough to appear on the first page of results. This is because these websites receive large amounts of traffic and are considered respected sources of entertainment and/or information.
Direct domain names will appear in searches because your website is a direct match for your keyword. A site titled www. [YOURNAMEHERE] .com will be more relevant to most searches than anything else, and it’ll contain content that you control. This means that you guide the conversation about you or your brand.
If you don’t claim your domain names and social media accounts, other people can do this for you and post incorrect, outdated or hateful information about you. Don’t leave your name in their hands.
4. Think Before You Post
Now that you have social media accounts, professional accounts and websites claimed for your name, you have posting power. You can make blog posts, social media posts, professional posts and more. You can comment on quality content from people in your network and make your voice heard. You can put the right information out there and set the record straight.
But wait… There’s a catch. Before you post anything, before you even review what’s already there, you need to put your head on straight.
Make a personal branding list of how you want to appear and don’t ever post anything that contradicts your list. For example, you might list “compassionate, intelligent, successful, friendly and professional” for your branding. This list in mind, you’ll more easily be able to determine what you should and shouldn’t post.
As a rule, never argue online, never post while you’re emotional and always sleep on a comment or post if you’re unsure of it.
5. Check and Update Your Profiles
Existing social media accounts and professional profiles should be updated to match your status and branding. Check every post ever made on active accounts and delete anything that doesn’t show you in the right light. For your personal social media account – think your primary Facebook account that your friends and family can see – consider setting the privacy settings as high as they can go so nothing posted there is public.
Keep a unified voice across all public profiles and on your websites. Update them all to match each other. You might even consider deleting old accounts and making new ones so you don’t have to edit everything you’ve ever posted.
Sometimes, you’ll control negative links that are appearing in your search results through your social media accounts. If this is the case, delete that content personally and stop the problem at the source. This won’t guarantee that all copies of it are removed from the internet, but it’ll help you improve your name much faster.
6. Be Active Online
Keeping an active presence online is critical if you want to nurse a struggling reputation back to health. Comment on posts that represent your views well, create content that you stand behind and keep everything current with regular profile check-ins.
The more frequently you post, the better, provided the content quality is high. If you own a business, be active both from a personal standpoint and a company standpoint. Every profile you’re signed up for can benefit from being active. When you post regularly, search engines will be more likely to display your content, pushing down anything negative.
Furthermore, by posting regularly, you’re building an effective shield around your name. If something negative comes up in the future, it’ll have to compete with active social media and professional networking accounts that have a long history, which is no easy feat.
7. Start a Blog
Blogging could be included in being active online, but it’s a different ballgame. Your blog can make or break your name. It can be a personal expression of everything you love or the avenue through which you establish yourself as an expert. Blogging can help you get hired with a new job and it can even bring in money down the road if you do it right.
Consider what you’d like to blog about and if you’d like to use your blog for professional reasons. Every post, whether your blog is personal or professional, still needs to fit your branding list from earlier. Your responses to comments also need to fit your branding, even when the comments are negative or inflammatory.
Your blog posts should be grammatically-correct, error-free and engaging. Don’t copy information from elsewhere on the web. Read about what makes a good blog and go from there. If you don’t have time or motivation, it might be time to bring in a professional, which we’ll touch on later.
8. Listen and Learn When to Apologize
Listen to negative comments and information about you if it’s appearing online. Have you done something bad or wronged someone? If so, could you improve the situation with an apology? Keep an eye on what’s being said and see if there’s a common thread that links it all together.
Sometimes, things are best left untouched, but you can almost always learn from reputation issues and use your knowledge to avoid similar problems in the future.
If you don’t know whether or not to apologize or reach out to an offended party, consider meeting with a professional for a consultation of your situation.
9. Manage Your Reviews
If you don’t own a business, you can skip this step, but entrepreneurs take note: How you manage your reviews is everything. Did you know that half of consumers won’t consider your company if your rating is below four stars? Or that responding to reviews is one of the most important aspects for consumers looking for a trustworthy company?
What might surprise you even more, is that 97% of consumers look online for businesses before spending a dime. This means that almost every customer or client you interact with has likely seen your reviews and online presence.
The good news is that, by responding to reviews, negatives can be turned into positives and five-star reviews can become selling points. Sign up with a review management platform or create a careful log of every review site your business is on, and proactively interact with your audience as much as possible.
Always follow the rules of never posting when you’re angry and shaping everything you type to fit your branding.
10. Track Your Progress
Each month, check in with where your reputation is at compared to when you started. Follow your progress, set new goals when necessary and mark your achievements. If new content appears, it might set you back, and that needs to be recorded too.
A good record of your review management process will help you learn from your mistakes, identify what’s working for you and decide where to focus the majority of your efforts going forward.
It’s also helpful to have an annual check-in during which time you review everything you’ve posted and modify what’s necessary to keep it current with any changes to your branding. This can help you set new goals, too.
11. Hire a Team
The work described above is no easy task. A reputation management professional might spend twenty hours per week on a single client’s campaign, or more if it’s a crisis situation. If you don’t have time to spare, consider hiring a team of reputation management experts to handle the heavy lifting.
Avoid discount teams that offer impossible results for very low fees – if it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is in reputation management.
Instead, opt for a reasonably-priced team with a price that reflects a fair hourly wage for a trained professional. Look for guaranteed results and always ask questions about what they’ll need from you before you get started. The right reputation team will change everything.
Find a team that handles content creation, keyword monitoring, social media account management and anything else you don’t have the time or expertise to manage to be sure your name is fully protected.
These eleven steps are just the beginning to revamping your reputation. They’ll build a solid foundation and help you protect your name against inevitable problems in a world that’s increasingly-reliant on the internet.
From your professional endeavors to your love life, your online reputation is inexorably linked to how people view you. Half of adults in the United States will search for someone before a first date, and over 75% of hiring managers check out your social media before making a decision – these numbers will only continue to grow in coming years.
Reputation management is time-consuming and it does not produce immediate results. Even the best reputation experts in the world can’t sit down for a night or even a week and fix your search results. It takes months of hard work and dedication. If you choose to go at it without help from a team, remind yourself that every hour spent is an investment in your career and social life for years to come.
Whether you need to control a crisis, clean up a few bad links or proactively protect your name for the future, don’t wait another day to start managing your reputation.
Every day that you’re not taking action on your reputation is a day that it’s in the hands of other people. If you’re not controlling your reputation, who is?