Reputation Management for Individuals: Cleaning Up Your Online Image

Online reputation management is big business, and it’s an enterprise that more and more businesses are taking seriously. Small businesses and Fortune 500 brands alike are investing big portions of their marketing bucks on reputation management services, eager for the opportunity to control how their brand is portrayed on the Web. Given the prevalence of online review sites like Yelp, this is hardly a big surprise.

Online reputation management is not just the province of corporations, however. It’s also something that offers very real benefits to individuals. Certainly, the need is there. You can bet that any would-be employer (or even a financial institution) is going to Google your name before offering you a job. And what about asking someone on a date, a bank for a loan, or even moving into a new building or neighborhood? There are plenty of instances where folks are bound to get curious (perhaps a little nosy), and see what your Google reputation is really like. In case of financial institutions, they will most likely also verify your credit worthiness and your debt situation. That too is part of having a clean record, and for this particular scenario, you may want to make use of a credit score free service, just to make sure you are good to go.

Anyway, what all of this means is that it’s harder than ever to maintain a squeaky-clean record. There was a time when all you had to do was avoid DUI arrests and you were good to go. Now, a single embarrassing photo, taken at a frat party fifteen years ago, can be your undoing. If it makes its way onto Google, your job prospects — and perhaps that first date — are jeopardized!

Monitoring Your Reputation

There are, of course, some things you can do to fight back, and it all begins with monitoring your online reputation. The worst fate that could befall you is to walk into a job interview and get blindsided, totally ambushed by an unsavory Google entry that you didn’t know was there. If you have all the pertinent information, well, that’s a start — and at least you won’t be caught off guard!

The process of conducting Google, Bing, and Yahoo searches for yourself is important then. Do it on a regular basis, as a way of keeping abreast of what folks are saying about you online. Set up search engine alerts to let you know if any new listings should emerge.

Here are a couple of further pointers. One is to log out of Google before searching for yourself; because Google customizes its search results, it’s likely to show you all of your own social media and blog posts, rather than provide a more objective look at what others will see when they Google you. Also remember to check out spelling variants for your name; if your name is John Niel, there’s a decent change people will also search for John Neal, John Neil, and so on.

Finally, make sure you’re searching on social networks, as well. Remember, it’s not just Google and Bing that shape your online reputation. It’s Facebook and Twitter, as well. Use the internal search features of these social networks to see if anyone is using your name in vain!

Protecting Your Good Name

Monitoring your online reputation lets you know where you stand, but it’s also important to be proactive in defending your good name. Here it is important to remember one of the fundamental points of online reputation management. Most Internet search engine users never click past the first page of results — so if there ever are any negative listings, you want to make sure they’re on the second or third or fourth page of search results, in which case they’re essentially non-issues.

The trick, then, is to suppress negative listings — something you can do by inundating the search engines with positive information about yourself. You’re effectively building a wall here, a defensive wall of positive press, surrounding yourself and protecting your reputation. Start by snatching up the best online real estate. Let’s return to our example of John Niel; what Mr. Niel needs to do is buy the domain rights to, .org, .net, and so on. These are the domains that are likely to “rank” the best for your name, so if you’ve got them, they’re good defenses against any potential negative listings.

Next, fill the Web with as much positive content about yourself as you are able. Publishing content and blog entries to those domains you just bought is important, but don’t forget about social media. Maintain an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest — basically, as many social networks as you are able. The more frequently you are able to publish content, the better off your reputation will be.

Remember that negative listings could appear on the Web at any point, and there’s really nothing you can do to stop them. Your best bet is to seek to suppress them, and ensure that they remain non-issues, stuck somewhere on page 3 of Google and never really interfering with your own online reputation! This requires constant vigilance, both in monitoring and in content creation, but that’s a small price to pay for something as valuable as a good reputation.

Rich Gorman

Rich Gorman is involved with multiple companies and is an expert in reputation management. Additionally Rich operates the official blog for the Direct Response industry where he shares his thoughts on Direct Response Marketing.

12 thoughts on “Reputation Management for Individuals: Cleaning Up Your Online Image

  • Every time I come across something that involves the research and prior investigation on a future employee, the company always looks to social networks first. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a public account, but you need to be smart about keeping your information clear and honest.

  • Hi Rich,

    Do the right thing and release on people’s opinion of you. Managing your online rep is a tricky one. Why? You can never satisfy all, even if you are squeaky clean. Also encourages individuals to come from a place of fear, which is a bad place to foster creativity. Just do the right thing, as much as possible, and let the chips fall where they may. If you come from a place of integrity and honesty in all you do, your online reputation handles itself.

    Thanks for sharing!


    • Hi Ryan. I agree with you. If you traditionally do the right things, the fear of “bad” rep is the least of ones concerns. Like anything in life, it is just impossible to “like” everyone at the same time. There is always someone who for some reason or another, does not share the same opinion, thoughts, etc., and that is just part of existence. In any event, it is always good to know if there is something out there that may damage your reputation. Depending on who is saying some negative stuff about you, may or not be a matter that requires attention. I mean, I will certainly be concerned if you started to blabber bad stuff about me, LOL..

  • Reputation management is really necessary in this information era as social interactions can sometimes ruin online reputation. It requires close monitoring and applications like Klout can be used to measure the influence enjoyed by the social profile.

  • I have used Klout for online reputation management and to my sheer surprise I had a great score.. I have been using FB, Twitter & linkedin for over two years after that I joined klout.. I think it really helps to have a good online reputation!

  • I agree that it is important to have a positive image for oneself on the internet because it increases your prospects and all that. But let’s be honest. To what extent are we going to go to get that squeaky clean image? I agree with Ryan, why not just let the work dictate what people think about you? Because, yeah, as they say, haters gonna hate. And there’s not much you can really do about it. Apart from yes, being careful about how you pose in your future party pictures!

  • Hello Rich,
    I like the idea of watching your rep online using these tools and alert services I once wrote about a service on another blog called collecta but they seemed to have closed the service, Thanks for reminding me I must remove the link anyway but I nearly never started my latest site because social seems to leave little time for you to actually work on your own site material. There is not much point in creating a cool Facebook page for a site with no content since the website owner is too busy being social implementing social into their site and so on. Depending on what you use your website for it could be a good idea to become non social at times how do you feel about this ?

  • Hi Rich,

    I full agree – the importance of having a ORM system in place when you are actively participating in online activity and discussions is key to obtaining a good image and or persona. There are some tools available 0 but the best ones can be quite expensive and not really tailored for a single person but rather a whole company or brand. There are some easy methods and tools available for keeping an eye on your online reputation – maybe a good idea for a follow up post (just an idea).

  • As a provider of reputation management services, I can attest to the importance of maintaining and monitoring your online reputation. Wither you a are a person or a business, information about you is at the finger tips of anyone that wants it. The flip side of that is that a great reputation is a great way to promote yourself or business if it is done right.

  • One must protect your reputation online but this is not always a matter of meeting fire with fire. If you receive negative comments don’t be over-zealous in attempting to defend yourself – this can inflame the situation. Be as polite as you can in respecting the person’s opinion while displaying your belief in what you do.

  • Reputation is at all times vulnerable as well as flimsy for everyone, be it a icon, any common man and even for a company. A petite buzz on any topic, about any one can work as a catalyst, creating immense hitch and damaging the reputation. This is where online reputation management steps in. It is important to protect the identity of any person in the web world. Good reputation is in itself a great way to promote yourself and even your business and get a good client base.

  • Very in depth on ways that online reputation is now important for everyone. Ryan brings up a good point that for most people, just doing the right thing will be fine. You can never please everyone all the time and you will exhaust yourself if you try.
    It’s also important to realize though that even as individuals, we should pay a little more attention to what is out there so that we can be prepared for things that come up. The idea of employers, banks, dates, etc. using the Internet to look people up first is a newer practice and try to keep that in mind when posting pictures to the social media sites.

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