Have you Googled yourself lately? Hopefully you have, because you can be sure others are looking you up online. Your online reputation is like your resume, your business card and a bit of your personal life, all rolled into one.
With so much information about our lives online, it's no wonder that our online reputations play such a pivotal role in job hunting, earning new business and even landing first dates.
One stat that never gets old for me is that 75 percent of HR departments are required to search job applicants online. And 70 percent of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals have rejected candidates based on information they found online.
The bottom line is people are winning or losing jobs and earning or losing clients, all based upon how they appear in search results. If you're like most people, you know your online reputation matters, you're just not sure what you can do about it -- or what the first step might be.
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If you're not happy with the way your online presence looks, don't fret! Here are five steps you can take to clean up your online reputation like the pros:
1. Assess, and do some spring cleaning.
The first step to improving your online rep is to assess your situation. Each person's online presence is unique -- and you can't improve what you don't know.
Google yourself and see what comes up in the first few pages. Do the same thing on Bing and Yahoo. Are there many other people with the same name populating your search results, or is it only you? Are there any positive web pages showing up about you, or is it all irrelevant and negative information? Check the images as well and see what kind of visual material shows up for your name.
To keep track of movement in your search results moving forward, you'll want to sign up for a BrandYourself account. There, you'll mark your search results as positive, negative or neutral. As you make changes to your online reputation, you'll be able to easily track your progress and be alerted to any red flags as soon as they show up.
Next, use BrandYourself's Social Scanner to review your Facebook and Twitter history and flag any potentially damaging or controversial updates. The tool uses machine learning algorithms to scan for risky terms, phrases and keywords that tend to get people fired. It allows you to approve tweets and updates that you're OK with and delete the ones you don't like.
2. Buy up domains, and reserve social properties.
Once you've done a little spring cleaning, it's time to get down to business. First, go to a domain provider like GoDaddy, and buy up your domain with your full keyword/name in it. Ideally you get YourName.com or whatever it is you go by professionally. If the .com is already taken, then consider adding your middle initial in there or adding a hyphen between your first and last name. If you have a few extra bucks to spend, I recommend getting the other major top level domains (TLDs) -- the .net, .org and .info. It's valuable online real estate, and you don't want someone else scooping those up down the road.
The idea here is to have a website that serves as a central hub of information about you when people Google you. Chances are there's already plenty about you online, so this is your chance to take control of that narrative and highlight the best side of yourself.
Not sure what to put on a site about yourself? Consider including a bio, your job experience, a blog, a contact page, awards and honors, and a press page if you have any. And if you're not sure how to go about building a website, you can read the website guides on my website.
Social media properties are just as important. They are a great way to get in front of your audience, and they're likely to rank well in your search results too.
Use the same strategy when reserving your social media accounts. Aim to get as close to your name as possible, and otherwise consider adding in some sort of punctuation (period, hyphen, underscore) to get you a unique username. When you're done, don't forget to optimize your social media profiles for maximum SEO value by following these 6 steps.
3. Determine your goals and your UVP.
Your search results won't change just because you bought a domain name and filled out a few social properties. The two most important pieces to improving your online reputation are consistent online activity and earning attention and engagement for that activity. But how do you figure out what you should be doing online? How do you know what will be most effective?
My suggestion is to first determine your goals. Why are you trying to improve your online presence? Are you looking to get a new job or perhaps shift the focus of your career path? Do you want to bring in more business for yourself, or are you hoping to start your own venture in a few years? Your answer to these questions will be instrumental in guiding your decisions about content and social media.
Next, you'll want to figure out your unique value proposition (UVP). That's a fancy way of saying you need to determine what benefit you offer people. Who specifically are you helping, what problem are you solving for them, and what makes you different from everyone else trying to solve the same problem?
If you're having trouble answering these questions, I find it's useful to first determine why you're passionate about what you do. From there, you'll be able to figure out what audience you'd like to help the most and how you can do that better than anyone else.
4. Develop a content and social strategy.
Once you've developed a strategy to guide your activity online, it's time to put a real plan in place. One way to do that is to answer the question, "How can I delight and impress my audience while simultaneously pushing my personal brand?"
Another way to think about this is, "What does my target audience know about me or my product right now? And what should they know about me or my product when they look me up online that will help me reach my goal?"
As an example, my target audience is young professionals and entrepreneurs, either with aggressive career goals or a desire to start their own ventures. In many cases, these people know they should promote themselves online, but either they don't understand the full value and importance and/or they don't know what the first step would be.
So my content always comes back to answering those questions for those people. If you figure out exactly what your audience wants to know about you or your product, you'll be well on your way to getting deserved attention and growing your following.
5. Create a posting calendar, and stick to it.
You've done all the hard strategizing work, and now it's time to make a plan and stick to it. You need to establish how often you're going to publish content and how often you're going to post to social media. It will never happen if you say "I'll get to it when I get to it."
From experience, I can tell you that this kind of activity needs to be a part of your schedule, same as your important meetings and your gym sessions. So figure out how many times you want to post per day or per week, and then keep at it, no excuses! At a bare minimum, I recommend publishing original content at least once per month and staying active on social media every week.
I also recommend using the many tools at your disposal to monitor your online reputation, schedule your content, and grow your following.
If you're looking for more guidance as you clean up and improve your online reputation, I invite you to take the 28 Day Challenge. In it, I walk you through four full weeks of activities as you get your personal brand in shape. Give me 30-60 minutes a day, and I'll give you a professional digital presence that will help you take that next step in your career or help grow your current business.