While there are many different strategies to repair your online image, the best way to protect your online reputation is being proactive. There are many measures you can take immediately to act as a defense against negative information showing up on the Internet and harming your reputation.
Ensure that you have profiles in your own name, brand and business name on all of the major social networks and bookmarking sites. These sites include twitter, Facebook and Facebook pages, LinkedIn, Google+, Yahoo and YouTube in particular. You should also consider creating profiles on MySpace, Naymz, and any new or rising social networks.
Don’t forget about the major bookmarking services and question and answer sites as well, such as StumbleUpon and Yahoo answers.
Make sure that you have an email address set up in your name Gmail. Since this is such a widely used email service, you don’t want somebody else to create a Gmail account in your name and then pose as you. When other users take advantage of an open email account on Gmail such as this they can use it to contact others and it can easily look like it came from you. Also consider creating free accounts at the biggest email services such as Hotmail and Yahoo.
Even if you don’t plan on having your own blog, register your name as a domain name so that somebody else can’t come along and claim it. You can use a domain register like Namecheap or GoDaddy to claim your domain easily. Set it up so that automatically renews each year.
You can also create personal blogs at WordPress.com, Blogger.com and Tumblr.com. Even if you only have a single page with some public information, it’s worth claiming those blogs in your name on all of these major sites. Otherwise you’re letting the competition squat on your potential domain names. Search around to see if there are other websites in your market where people are active. Set up profiles under your name there as well.
Many profiles are accounts that contain privacy settings – check over them more carefully to make sure you are only allowing appropriate information to be seen publicly. For example, you can configure your Facebook profile’s privacy settings to hide personal details from anybody except your immediate friends. There are similar settings on websites like Picasa, where people might be able to find embarrassing photos that you will regret later.
While you might have set up profiles and accounts on a variety of websites online, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to actively participate on all of these websites. Unless you have a large number of people to help or devoted employees, that would probably be impossible. You only really need to be on the websites we want to be seen.
Select the websites where your customers are hanging out or where they go for information. Make it a point to engage with these people on a regular basis on those important websites, answering questions and asking for feedback. If there are specific sites where people in your market tends to go for information, try to get out there regularly and build valuable content and publish there to establish yourself as an authority in your industry.
If you proactively protect your online reputation from the get-go, you can actually control a lot of that information as it appears on the Web. By making it difficult for others to hijack your names and domain names and by keeping a steady flow of content, you’re giving yourself and your business and edge against the type of people who want to cause you harm.