Updated May 21st, 2019

Whether you’re a highly successful CEO making mega-deals for breakfast, or an up and coming bright-eyed executive, every employable executive has an online reputation to consider. Take a minute to google yourself and/or business. Nearly half of adults in the United States find negative results about themselves online, which can impact all aspects of your professional and personal life — from dating, to applying for a personal loan, your online reputation is something that you can’t afford to ignore in 2018 and beyond.

Consider this, nearly 70% of today’s population now has at least one social media profile. Most of the population is now interacting online while using the resources available to learn more about job candidates, partners, and their peers.

More often than not, people are forming their opinions about you online before they’ve met you in reality.

The first page of Google is much more than the digital version of your personal cover letter. It’s authored from many different sources and uses the information available about you online to make a composite sketch of who you are. It’s up to you to take control of this information.

The sooner you begin cultivating your online reputation, the sooner you’ll start seeing positive results. The following ten tips will help understand online reputation management and serve as a beginner’s guide to cultivating your online presence. 

1. Audit Your Name and Business

Before beginning the real legwork, take stock of what’s out there about you. Google your full name and peruse the first five pages. Take in all relevant information about you. Bookmark the negative, neutral and dated content, as well as anything positive that’s mixed in. In order to cultivate a positive online reputation it is crucial to understand what you are up against and have an understanding of what exists about you online.

If you own a business, or have ever gone by another name, do the same for the name of your business or any past names. People are unforgiving when seeking information online– if you can find it, others can too.

2. Claim Your Space

Claiming your space online is the equivalent to protecting your home with sandbags against a potential flood. Each profile and domain name you own in your name can buffer against negative results, eventually bumping them off the first page, which is where most people’s searches stop.

Start by making an account with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr and other social media networks on your radar. If you’re a business owner, do the same for your business. Don’t forget to branch into web properties on professional networking websites like Yelp and the Better Business Bureau.

Buy domain names associated with your name and business and anything directly related to you. Don’t go crazy with dot com purchases, but think ahead and secure anything that you don’t want someone else to have control over. These domains can be used for blogs, CV websites, portfolios and more. Even if you do not plan to use them immediately, having them in your possession can serve to benefit you in the future. 

3. Establish Your Personal Brand

Whether you own a business or not, a personal brand will serve your online presence well. Consider who you are professionally, and how you want others to see you.

Write in a way online that exemplifies your brand, choose profile pictures and themes that best represent you. Build this brand into a template for your professional persona.

Anything that doesn’t fit your personal brand – a Facebook account that your college friends post on, for example – should be secured with strict privacy settings. No one but close, personal friends should have access to find or view any personal information that could be held over your head online.

While you’re establishing your personal brand, consider your areas of expertise and how you could establish yourself as an expert on them. For example, you might seek training in public speaking and begin offering lectures about your field. Research other leaders who specialize in similar areas and take note of their methods. Successfully establishing yourself as a leader in your area of expertise can generate much more positive content and be a huge boost for your online reputation.

4. Tell Your Story and Be Present Online

Now that you’re on several social media platforms, have hopefully secured at least one domain name for your personal brand, and have defined what your image will be — it’s time to establish a presence.

Make a regular posting schedule that’ll keep you active on all your social media networks and create positive content on a blog. Regular blog posts make great focal points for each of your posts on different profiles, simplifying the process of staying active. As you post content, tell your story, present your brand and research how to create captivating posts.

Combine your efforts to establish yourself as a leader and an expert with your content creation. Post expert information relating to your field, tell your story and explain what you’ve learned from your struggles and look for inspiration for new content on blogs of industry leaders. This will help you create useful posts that generate responses from your audience, helping your content rank higher on search engines.

5. Reach Your Audience

As you grow your presence online, you’ll establish an audience. If you’re a business owner, you’ll increase your existing audience and reach more potential customers. Either way, you’ll have the opportunity to respond to comments and otherwise connect with your audience on a personal level.

Connecting with your readers, followers, customers, reviewers, peers and professional acquaintances will help push your positive, updated content higher in Google search results.

Business owners should also consider their target audience and, if needed, revamp their marketing strategies during this time. This will help you define who you want to reach so you can better understand the best strategy to do so.

Also consider reaching new audiences by responding to posts from similar blogs and by connecting with potential business partners for collaboration. 

6. Avoid Emotional Responses

Connecting with your audience is one thing, but you should avoid emotional behavior. The internet provides anonymity, giving people the confidence to be bolder and often much more negative. Replying to false or negative comments online, displaying negative emotional behavior through your regular content creation and otherwise allowing your feelings to break your brand isn’t going to help improve your online reputation, it will only help to damage it. 

Remember: One emotional, anger-fueled reply to a comment or tweet – even if deleted ten minutes later – can be immortalized in a screenshot. It’s not worth it. Remember: the internet never forgets.

Never reply to anything in the heat of the moment. Take a few deep breaths, go for a walk, shut the computer down and come back to the comments when you are more level-headed to explain your perspective while always maintaining a cool, calm, and respectful online persona.

7. Be Transparent

While controlling your emotions and avoiding anger online is critical, so is being transparent. Don’t lie about who you are, who your business is, what you’ve done or what your business has accomplished. Don’t falsify information or otherwise be misleading and if you’ve made mistakes in the past, own up to them. 

In 2018, the trend of transparency is more prominent than ever. For example, 73% of today’s consumers will pay more to buy from a brand that practices total transparency.  Likewise, people are more likely to dig up negative or dated content when they cannot find transparency on the first search results they review. People want to trust you. In a 2016 survey, 56% of people said they’re more likely to be loyal for life when provided with complete transparent information.

8. Set Up Alerts

Set up monitoring accounts like Google Alerts to keep abreast of the conversation surrounding your. This will  help you become aware of anything about you online the moment it hits the search results. When negative content is posted, a prompt response can make you look better in the eyes of those searching and it can even allow you to have the negative content removed. Without alerts, you’ll be unaware when something less-than-positive surfaces about you online.

While staying aware of your online presence can feel overwhelming, it’s the only way to know how you look to others. This is the equivalent of looking in the mirror before you leave your house to ensure there’s nothing in your teeth or on your face.

9. Hire a Team

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities associated with maintaining your online reputation, you’re not alone. Many modern students, professionals and business owners are turning to ORM teams to help manage their online persona.

Reputation Management is a full-time job and specialists who can provide the amount of attention and expertise necessary are a great solution for people who want to take their reputation seriously but may not have the time needed to devote towards ORM. 

Find a qualified team that you trust with your reputation and delegate the tasks. Trained professionals will have an easier time with the more technical aspects of removing negative content, and can alleviate the time-drain of the constant attention that ORM typically demands.

10. Create a Long-Term Plan

Even a team of highly-trained professionals cannot fix your reputation overnight. ORM is a long-term process that requires months of hard work. Google updates its pages every few weeks and runs complex algorithms of decide what content will appear first. Ask a specialist what a realistic long-term timeframe is for your ORM and stick to it.

It’s easy to become upset if your ORM doesn’t work right away; it’s important to remember that any effort you put in now will help boost your reputation for the long haul.

Your long-term plan can include career goals, social media goals and more, but its main job is to keep you thinking realistically about fixing your reputation. You’ll need patience and the ability to stay level headed about what you post online consistently.

What Now?

No one can opt out of having an online reputation, but you can choose not to have your back against the wall when it comes to online reputation management. Don’t let someone else ruin your reputation – use all available means to protect it. Over 90% of adults online use search engines to find information they’re interested in, and 93% never look past the first page. Even more staggering is that 65% of these adults find online search results to be more trustworthy than information from anywhere else.

Even if you don’t own a business, know that 70% of employers report using social media to screen candidates in today’s age – in 2006, just 11% reported using the same tactic.

To put it simply, if you’re shooting for an excellent 2018, an ORM plan isn’t optional. Just as you maintain your personal hygiene, start maintaining your image online.

Status Labs is the premier digital reputation management firm, with offices in Austin, New York, Los Angeles, London, and São Paulo. For more information visit StatusLabs.com or sign up for a Free Consultation.