Reputation Defense for the Individual: Protecting Your Image in the Age of Google
Keeping one’s nose clean isn’t as easy as it used to be. Once upon a time, keeping your name out of the local newspaper — and avoiding any unseemly DUI mug shots — was basically all it took to preserve a positive reputation. These days, it’s much tougher, and Google is largely to blame.
Considering that we live in an era that makes it all too easy for a fifteen year-old frat party photo to suddenly surface on the Web, with your name attached to it. It’s a scary thought, and sadly it is just one example among many of the kinds of damage that can be done to your online image. For instance have you ever snapped a racy photo of yourself, or allowed a romantic partner to photograph you in a compromising situation? And have you ever thought about what could happen if the relationship ends in a particularly bad way? The possibilities for embarrassment are endless.
All of this matters a great deal for your online reputation. This is particularly true for those seeking employment. It is a foregone conclusion that potential hiring managers and recruiting agents are doing their due diligence and checking you out on the Web. So are new neighbors, potential dates, and more. In other words, your online image is invaluable to your personal and professional interests. The good news is that there are actions you can take to protect your good name from embarrassment or defamation.
The first tip is simply to remember that they’re watching you — and by “they” we mean, potentially, everyone, but especially recruiters and potential employers. Understanding this is foundational for preserving your online reputation. There is no corner of the Web into which you can disappear, and say or do whatever you want without fear of consequence. Keeping this in mind will help you cultivate an appropriately defensive attitude about your online image.
As such, it is important to avoid surprises, particularly at job interviews. If there is a potentially problematic online listing out there, and it’s attached to your name, then you need to know about it. Avoiding an “ambush” situation in your next job interview, and coming prepared with an explanation, can help minimize the impact of some of these listings.
Keep Your Life Segmented
It is also important to ensure that embarrassing listings stay out of your potential employer’s field of vision. A good way to do this is to keep your life segmented, at least when you’re online. Use two different e-mail addresses — one for professional activity, and one for blogs, social networking, and other non-professional activities.
This will go a long way toward keeping you out of trouble, and your online reputation secure. Combine this tactic with a thorough analysis of your privacy settings, especially on social networks. Hopefully, taking these precautionary steps will help you keep your online image a positive one.
If a disgruntled ex or a business rival decides to post something damaging about you, though, then you’ll need to take action to defend yourself. Unfortunately, negative listings cannot simply be deleted or undone. What you’ll need to focus on is suppressing them, making sure they rank so low on Google that potential employers never find them.
Suppress Online Negativity With Positive Content
Suppression is all about content creation. Start by buying up the best online real estate. Let’s say, for example, that your name is Blair Sanderson. The online domains that will perform the best on Google, when someone searches for “Blair Sanderson,” are likely going to be BlairSanderson.com, BlairSanderson.net, and so forth. By buying up those domains, you can ensure that nobody else buys them and uses them against you.
After buying them, you might populate them with positive content — some of them, anyway. Even if you are simply posting your resume, or a short biography of yourself, these sites might rank well enough to keep those embarrassing listings at bay.
Post Regularly on Social Media
It is also recommended that you consider populating Google with social media activity, posting regular content to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the like. Again, we urge caution when it comes to social media use; make sure you remain professional in your presentation, and avoid privacy settings that are too lax. Social media accounts are further methods for filling the first page of Google with content, which will help to suppress those negative listings.
Build Your Personal Brand
If these methods are not enough, look for other ways to build your personal brand. Are there academic or professional societies that you might join — specifically, ones with an online presence? Join them, and work to get your name out there as much as possible. Remember that reputation defense is all about building a strong portrayal of yourself — and ensuring that this positive portrayal gains more traction and search engine momentum than any of those negative or embarrassing listings!
About the Author:
Rich Gorman is involved with multiple companies and is an expert in reputation management. Additionally Rich operates the official blog for the Direct Response industry where he shares his thoughts on Direct Response Marketing.