Have you ever ‘Googled’ yourself? Oh come on, really? You know you have. It’s OK to admit because it is something everyone should do. You might get a nasty surprise.
A good reputation, both online and offline, is important. Negative information can be very harmful – it can cost you a job, friends, and have a negative impact on the people associated with you. Negative or misinformation about you should not be ignored. Negative information can be anything from embarrassing photos on Facebook to a scathing review from an early customer of your start-up. Anyone who has an issue with you – a former sweetheart, or an employee you had to let go – can do serious online damage to your reputation. The sad truth is that we tend to believe what we read online.
There are two options you can use to clean up your online reputation: you can hire an online reputation management company, or you can try to do it yourself.
Do it yourself:
It is almost impossible to actually remove or erase something negative unless it is something you posted yourself or was posted by someone you know. The objective is to bury the negative bits in back pages of searches, and promote what you want the world to know onto the first pages of a search.
- First, you should search yourself in Google, Google Images, Bing, Yahoo and 123people.com. Set up a Google Alert for your name so you know whenever your name appears in new content.
- Carefully go through your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn and any other social media accounts you have and remove any dubious comments, photos or online conversations you’ve posted. Where that’s not possible consider closing down the accounts. Request negative info be removed from other people’s accounts by contacting them directly. Don’t overshare on social media sites.
- Build a positive online presence that ranks higher than any negative ones in a Google search. Buy your domain names – i.e. Georgeclooney.com, Georgeclooney.net – go for the major ones. Domain names can be purchased at GoDaddy or Network Solutions. Then create a page of content for the sites – a short profile about yourself, a list of interesting articles, whatever you want to present to the world. Try to post to these websites once a month with positive content. Keep the really private things private but never underestimate the amount of information about you that’s already out there.
There are sources with free, in-depth advice for building a positive online presence like BrandYourself.com and they are worth consulting.
Online Reputation Management Companies:
If you sign up with one of these companies you will have different packages and tools to choose from.
Reputation.com was an early large online reputation management company which launched in 2006. It currently has over 1.6 million customers in over 100 countries. Fees for individuals start at $399 a year and in the thousands for companies.
BrandYourself was started when the co-founder couldn’t get an internship because there were criminals with the same name who came up in Google searches. He couldn’t afford to pay the fees charged by the established reputation management companies. BrandYourself offers many tools and services for free and their concierge services cost $80 – $199 a year.
Here is a list of other reputation management companies that you might also check out: ElixirInteractive.com, ReputationDefender.com, RemoveYourName.com, IntegrityDefenders, ReputationChanger, Big Blue Robot, and Metal Rabbit Media. Make sure you compare prices, as they vary.
Tip: Read all the reviews for these companies. If there are bad reviews that should be a red flag because if that company is in the business of managing and defending online reputations but can’t manage their own, hmmm….
Note: We all want to uncover the truth, positive and negative, when we are researching people or companies and unfortunately there are always the seamy rule-breakers who write fake positive reviews for clients to cover up bad reviews. A recent Harvard Business School study found that up to 20% of Yelp reviews were fake. Websites like Yelp and Wikipedia try to be vigilant about weeding out the false information. Do due diligence but keep in mind that negative information you uncover might not be true and should be addressed directly with the company or individual you are researching if appropriate.