Online, your personal brand reputation may be your most valuable asset. The search engines are the first places people turn to when looking for information. Someone might be checking up on the weather in their area, someone might be looking for the cheapest airfare to Cancun and someone might be looking for information about you! We’re all guilty of Google-ing ourselves at one point in time, but when was the last time you actually scoured the Internet to see just where you name pops up and in what context?
Online reputation management is more critical than ever, especially since the advent of social networking. Anything we post online is there for good; nothing can ever truly be deleted, just buried. This means that a picture of your doing a key stand back in college could show up 10 years down the road when a potential employer or client is checking up on you. While we all do dumb things at various points in our lives, you never know what will come back to haunt you. Some clients/employers may not care about your college shenanigans; others may not be so pleased.
It may be because I have a relatively uncommon name, or it may be because I have worked incredibly hard at building my own personal online brand (probably number 2), but if you type “Nick Stamoulis” into Google, it’s not until page 8 that you find a result that isn’t about me as an Internet marketing professional and SEO expert. I have worked very hard (and continue to do so) to make that happen.
Your name is your personal brand and you need to be aware of how it is being portrayed in the search engines.
Have you ever thought about this before: you could be negatively affected by the online reputation of someone else with the same name! Someone looking for information about a John Smith, for instance, is going to get a lot of results. How do they know which one is the John Smith they are looking for? You might be John Smith, the Vermont-based custom wood carver. But some other John Smith, say an L.A. mechanic, was recently arrested for illegal gun possession. The LA John Smith’s bad reputation might get incorrectly inferred with your own online brand!
Try typing your name into the search engines and adding different keywords to filter the search. Maybe your name alone doesn’t produce a lot of results, but your name plus where you went to college or the company you work for does. Don’t assume that just because you don’t see anything on the first pass you don’t have anything to worry about.
One way to better manage your online reputation management is to set up Google alerts. While not an exhaustive search, Google will find and email daily results of where your name is mentioned online. The best defense is a good offense! It’s your brand; you have to stay in control!