A man or woman fostering a name for themselves in any industry can’t just assume all is well in the virtual world. With one Google search, a potential employer or client might get an eyeful of negativity. The adage any publicity is good publicity doesn’t apply when you are looking to move ahead. It is a cutthroat world out there, so be proactive about your online reputation.

1. Get to Know Your Online Self

It’s almost a guarantee that anyone considering you professionally will do an online search for your name. Online reputation management is about finagling what appears in search results. One way to see what other people see is to search Google for your name regularly. Another approach is to set up a Google alert that sends you an email every time new content appears. Just open the alerts page on the search site and fill out the form.

2. Purchase Your Personal Domain Name

Even if you’re not planning on setting up a Web site or blog, it’s a good idea to buy your domain name. Anyone can buy your online name and use it in a way that looks bad. Purchase your domain name through a broker site using as many variations as possible.

  • MyName.com
  • MyName.net
  • MyNameBlog.com

The more you get a hold of, the better you secure your name. You’ll have to pay a licensing fee for each, but if your business depends on reputation, it’s money well spent.

3. Socialize Online

The same rules that apply to companies regarding online promotion work for individual business people. Create an Internet presence and social networking is both affordable and effective. When you sign up for accounts on Facebook and the other mainstream sites, fill out the profiles completely.

Get pages on all the social media platforms even if you don’t plan to use them. Social media companies don’t verify a name and identity unless you are a celebrity. That means anyone can get a fake account without you knowing it. Signing up prevents someone else for opening an account in your name.

4. Customize When Possible

The more you use your name online, the more Google hits you get to bury stuff that you don’t want seen. This is an optimization technique that companies such as Reputation.com use to enhance Internet presence. For example, if you are maintaining a blog or Web site, use one of the custom domains as the URL.

On social media sites, you can either link to your domain name or change your profile address to include your name. For instance, go to your LinkedIn account page and look for public profile. You can change the link to include your name like this: www.linkedin.com/in/myname.

5. Avoid TMI

The Internet does not discriminate between personal and professional, and it tends to make people uninhibited. Fight the urge to post unnecessary pictures of yourself or personal information. This all goes out there for a potential business partner to see. Once it is there, it is very hard to remove.

A common sense approach to reputation management is not to put TMI there in the first place — this includes social media sites. Every day, the media covers a news story about someone losing his or her job over a Facebook post. These instances follow your virtual self no matter where you go.

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