As great as Google is for day-to-day queries, it can destroy you as an entrepreneur. If someone is thinking of investing in or working with your company, Googles your name, and sees bad press filling up the first page, they will back away from the table.
And don't think people aren't Googling your name. In fact, a recent survey from Job-Hunt.org, found that 40.6 percent of employers look through the entire first page of Google results when researching someone. Chances are, investors are doing the same thing to find out if you're a qualified business leader.
I spoke with Susan P. Joyce, online job search expert and the owner and publisher of Job-Hunt.org, to find out what the results of their survey mean for entrepreneurs who are trying to maintain a strong reputation.
"Many people think there's nothing they can do about what Google says about them," Joyce says. "But the truth is, there are several steps you can take to make sure people are seeing the best of you online."
Here are three ways to keep Google from ruining you as an entrepreneur:
Understand how Google works
For many of us, Google is simply a magical site that answers each and every one of our questions. But we never think about how it actually works. While Google hasn't revealed all its secrets, there are a few things we know about how the search engine delivers results.
For starters, Google uses bots to scour the internet and determine what each Web page is about. For example, if someone Googles "running shoes," it will return websites that frequently mention those and other relevant words.
It also takes into consideration the authority of websites. This is how respected and reliable the information is on the site. Because of this, well-known websites often show up first on Google.
When someone Googles your name, your social-media pages, professional blogs, and, hopefully, your company website will be the first to show up.
What this means for entrepreneurs
If you have inappropriate Facebook posts, controversial political tweets, or a lack of LinkedIn connections, you better believe that will surface in a Google search and people will take notice.
"If you are politically passionate, for instance, it's best to voice these opinions on personal profiles that function under another version of your name and email address," says Joyce. "Until you're established as a business leader, putting controversial content online can scare some people off."
Something else to consider is the commonness of your name. For example, if your name is John Smith, chances are you're not the only one on Facebook. Don't let frat party pictures of someone else with your name ruin your reputation. Keep this from happening by always including references to your company, either in your biography or your profile name.
Also, make sure to introduce yourself and sign your emails with the same version of your name that you use on professional social media. Don't confuse people by signing your email as Daniel but referring to yourself as Danny on LinkedIn.
Thanks to Google Image search, potential employees, investors, and customers will also see any profile pictures that are attached to your public profiles. Typically, your Google profile image is what shows up first, so make sure it's professional.
Joyce also said it's important to have a complete and focused LinkedIn profile. To be taken seriously as a business leader, shoot for at least 500 connections. This signals to people that you're well-established in your industry and have made valuable connections to help your company succeed.
How to get the right information on Google
To give people a better idea of who you are as an entrepreneur, up your internet game. The more professional the content and sites your name is on, the better.
One way to boost your reputation is to a join a professional association that lists their members online, like the National Association of Professional Women. If the association is well-known, your membership will show up on the first page of Google.
Joyce also recommends blogging and sharing your knowledge about the industry you're in. You can do this on sites like Medium or LinkedIn to build your credibility as a thought leader. Another option is to publish on your company's blog. This will also help get people to the company's website so they can learn more about it.
In the end, the most important thing for a young entrepreneur to do is Google themselves often so they can see exactly what others are seeing. This way, they can ensure it's all positive and that their online reputation appears strong to others.