Ever done a vanity search on Google? Whether you have or not, plenty of people have probably searched on your name to see what you are about. Wouldn’t it be awful if some type of derogatory search result turned up?
Unless you never access the internet, the opportunity for your name to turn up in search results is high. And who knows what the results might be for someone with the same name as you. The bottom line is – you can’t take a chance on it. The internet will continue to grow and you simply must take proactive steps to manage your personal reputation.
Free Tools Can Help You Manage Your Reputation
Here are some “must have” basic tools you can use to control what is displayed about you online. Every single one of these tools is free and will cost you only a bit of precious time to set up.
Create a Google Profile – This is a page that gives you the opportunity to control what content is related to you all in one place. Your Google profile will show up at the bottom of search results for your name. The main caveat is that you’ll need to have a Google account to set up a profile. That’s not a bad thing. Your profile includes a short bio along with the ability to add photos from sites like Flickr or Picasa and allows you to link to just about any page on the web. A Google profile is particularly important if you have a common name (think Joe Smith) so you don’t get mixed up with all the other people on the web who have your name. A case of mistaken identity on the web is not a good thing.
Become a Member of FaceBook – Facebook is one of the fastest growing social networking sites on the internet and often profile results will show up in search engines. Your can populate your profile with as much or as little information as you feel comfortable – just make sure you include a picture. The by product of having a FaceBook Profile is you can connect with friends and colleagues. If you own a business or sell a product or service, you can create a fan page to help get the word out and interact with customers.
Don’t Forget a LinkedIn Profile – LinkedIn has a reputation for being the “professional” networking site on the internet. It’s a bit more formal than FaceBook and a good place to have a presence as your profile results can show up in the search engines too. It’s more of an online resume type site where you will list your work history and professional achievements. There are also opportunities to create a company page if you own your own firm and get involved in groups of people who have like interests.
Set Up A Google Alert – You need to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s being said about you on the internet. That’s easy to do with Google Alerts. Just set up your name as a search term in the alerts, sign up to be notified via email on a regular basis and you’re done.
One Last Reputation Management Tool
I think it’s critically important that you have a website – www.yourname.com -- with your personal name to help manage your online reputation. You can reserve your name as a domain for $10 or less per year. If it’s too early for you to set up your domain with a web hosting company and create content for your site, at least reserve it so you know it’s available when you’re ready. (Note: Setting up the site with a blog would be a great way to manage your reputation, but that’s a subject for another day!)
What do you think? Do you think it’s important to manage your reputation online or just a bunch of hype? Let’s talk about it.
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About the Author: Denise O’Berry is a small business expert who provides tools, tips and advice to help small business owners be successful. O’Berry is the author of “Small Business Cash Flow: Strategies for Making Your Business a Financial Success.” Her blog can be found at Just for Small Business.