And if you want to get ahead of things that could be more in the hands of others than your own, you have to keep tabs. The question is, when you Google yourself, are you doing it the right way? Online reputation experts say you may not be.
Reputation management companies BrandYourself and ReputationDefender have two key pieces of advice: Google yourself often, and when you do, do so using a private window or incognito mode option so that results are not customized because of your location or search habits.
"Pay extra attention to the first page of your results, as this is the first impression that your personal and professional contacts will see, and 90 percent of users do not bother to look any further," says Rich Matta, CEO of ReputationDefender, the subsidiary of Reputation.com focusing on consumers and small businesses.
"Once something is posted online, it's very unlikely it will go away," says BrandYourself communications director Patrick Leber. "If a negative search result pops up for your name, it's important you catch it early and start doing the work to mitigate its damage to your reputation. The earlier you catch it, the easier it is to suppress."
Ideal frequency of search depends on the person. Leber says most people only really need to Google themselves monthly, but public figures, business owners, and people in services like medical care or real estate may want to Google themselves more often. The reason is that this latter group may be subject to more frequent reviews by the public in relation to their work. His tip: Set a Google alert for your name, which will deliver new results to your email inbox.
Also, when you Google yourself, be careful when and where you click. "If you have any negative or unwanted search results, resist the urge to click into them frequently. Searching alone will do no harm, but extra clicks on negative results may indicate to Google that the world is more interested in those results than everything else that is positive and truthful about you," says Matta.