As a digital communicator I sometimes take it for granted that everyone understands the importance of online reputation.
When someone reaches out to me by e-mail for business reasons, the first thing I do before I answer them, is search for their name on Google. Knowing who they are helps me in all sorts of ways.
If we end up getting on the phone to chat, I have information about their professional background, I can even find out whether we have friends in common, and perhaps even other affinities.
Also, I always assume a potential client or editor who reaches out has already looked me up on the Internet.
If they haven´t, and if they want to find more about me, I can always say, “Google me!” with peace of mind.
The importance of online reputation
The first thing they will find is my personal website, followed by my social media handles, entries on Wikipedia, and my author pages on all the outlets I write for on a regular basis.
They will also find my recently published book called REACH!, from single mom on foodstamps to digital entrepreneur that explains a part of my online journey and why I love social media and the digital world so much.
I also have Google alerts set up for my name, so that as soon as something is published that has my name on it, I get an alert by e-mail with a link to the post.
But as it turns out, I was wrong in thinking that keeping tabs on one’s online reputation is the norm.
You should know what the Internet says about you
A recent survey conducted by Domain.ME, a domain name provider that allows anyone to create a unique, safe identity online with a domain ending in .ME., says otherwise.
According to this survey, 60% of Americans have not bothered to search for their name on a search engine such as Google.
And … I´m not the only one who does a Google search on individuals who contact me for business. According to the same study by Domain.ME,
- 23% search for a name because a friend has mentioned them in conversation.
- 16% search people to prepare for a business meeting or work-related event.
- 14% go online to check out someone before a first date or social gathering.
This means that whether you want to find love, work or new friends, you really should know what the Internet says about you.
I´ve had a personal website since, gasp, 1994, when most people I knew didn´t even have access to the Internet.
While this may be unusual for someone my age (I´m 52), the younger generations are growing up with all kinds of access to the digital world.
In fact, they may be posting things now that they may not want out there when they are older.
Because as a digital entrepreneur, I understand this, I´ve told my kids since they were very young what never to post online, anywhere, not even in a private message, if they don´t want their reputations ruined.
Now, what to do if you or your children want to build or rebuild a good online reputation?
4 tips to manage your online reputation
1. Post mindfully.
Assume that anything and everything you post online can be seen and read by anyone.
Even if you have the highest security settings on your social media accounts, you just never know where or how your shares may end up. So always post mindfully.
No matter what your line of work, your social media presence should paint a positive picture of you.
Google yourself regularly and see what comes up on the first and second page especially.
You can also set up Google alerts if you have an unusual name. If your name is more common, then add your hometown or another distinctive factor to the search.
3. Fix it.
If you or your children have ever posted anything online that you now regret, take it down, delete it.
If you didn´t post it, ask the other party to take it down. Refrain from posting anything else that could potentially harm you down the road.
4. Take control.
Get yourself or your children a personal webpage or blog with a domain that ends in .ME. In this day an age a website that acts as your online business card is a must.
A personally branded site with proper SEO (search engine optimization) will rank higher on search engines than other information about you, which will get pushed to the second page.
This is great, because according to Search Engine Watch, only 4.8% of web traffic makes it to the second page of results.
I own several .ME domains, including Viva50.ME. I also plan to give my children their own .ME domains as a gift, so that they can build and protect their personal brand just like I do.