A number of years ago, my reputation online was less than savory. I had spent a number of years growing a successful company called Wild Creations and in the process had a rather unfortunate run-in with a special-interest group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). It is a long (and very interesting) story, but the short of it all is that the targeting resulted in unfavorable (and, I might add, untrue) content about me online.
Up until that time, I had not put much emphasis on managing my online reputation--which meant I allowed someone else to do so.
Managing your online reputation is not easy and is not an overnight task. Instead, it takes a well executed strategy and regular maintenance. Get started with these simple steps.
1. Set personal goals.
You first need to do understand what you want to accomplish with your online reputation. Are you trying to bury other content in the search results or are you interested in building a strong personal brand online?
Start by considering a consistent "theme" for your online brand, one that will assist also building search-engine optimization (SEO) and organic search results. Try writing three to five words that describe how you would like to be seen -- business leader, thought leader, adventure seeker, intracontinental balloonist -- then use these descriptions to guide how you develop your profile and create and curate content.
2. Find a consistent username.
Having a consistent and unique username across the web helps with SEO. If you have an uncommon name, this should be easy. If your name is less unique and reserved across online platforms already, decide on a username that you can use consistently across platforms.
For example, if your name is Jane Smith, then consider an iteration of your name (TheJaneSmith88) or find a unique name altogether (DonutsAndMarketingGuru). In addition to using this username across platforms, be sure to also use a consistent email, name and profile description, which can be completed in the settings.
3. Invest in your URL.
Armed with your new username, invest in a personal URL (for example, DonutsAndMarketingGuru.com). For now, stick with a ".com," as it is easy to swept away with the dozens of iterations and domain suffixes.
Once you have the URL, consider putting up a simple landing page with Cindr, Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly. For an even easier solution, use sites such as About.me or Flavors.me for setting up a basic personal landing page, which can then be directed to your personal URL.
4. Register on other platforms.
Now that you have a consistent username, email address and website, register your space on other web platforms, starting with the "big boys" like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. If you use any of these sites personally, considering setting up a professional account or business page (Facebook pages or Google+ pages, for example) with the username and personal brand you are trying to perpetuate.
Next, register and secure your account with as many other online platforms as you can, including those in your industry or areas of interest and less popular sites (Quorra, Disqus, Tumblr, GitHub, SoundCloud, just to name a few).
This may seem like overkill, but doing so allows you to build organic SEO and, more importantly, assures that someone else does not secure these accounts. To manage them all, simply keep a spreadsheet with logins and unique passwords.
5. Complete basic profile information.
While you do not need to use every profile online, you should take a few minutes to complete the basic profile information. Again, associating your name, email address, and location with your unique username will help SEO. Also, choose one photo or picture to represent you across platforms, which will help others identify you quickly.
6. Set social-media-profile URLs.
Most online platforms will set your custom URLs with your account (for example, www.twitter.com/petergasca). Others, however, require you to set it up. It is worth taking the time to set up these personal URLs for all social media platforms.
Developing a personal brand online is not for everyone, and some may find it vain or a waste of time. Taking control of your online reputation before someone else does, however, should be for everyone.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs trying to get control of their online reputations? Please share your thought with others in the comments below.