Your first impression is no longer a handshake and a smile - it's a search for your name on Google. Based on the first few results for your name, people will make an immediate judgment if they want you as part of their network, if they want to hire you or if they want to buy from you. If you don't take ownership of your online reputation, then your Google results will speak for themselves. You need to actively manage these results because one negative article mention and it can hurt you for the rest of your career. These results will rank high for your name in Google until you do something about it. Here are five ways to build your online reputation so that you're proud of the results that come up for your name:
1. Position yourself wisely. Focus your energy on being known for one specific talent. If you try and be everything to everyone, you will end up being nothing to no one. Attention spans are decreasing and multi-tasking has become the norm, so if you want to stand out, you’re going to have to select a defined niche that you can conquer. If you try and be the finance and marketing expert, people won’t remember you when they need those services. If you become the go-to-expert in your field for a specific skill or topic, then people will remember you, and do business with you.
2. Build a strong defense. The best way to confront a negative mention online is to already have a lot of positive results for your name out there. I recommend creating a website under your name as the domain name (yourfullname.com) and turning it into a blog instead of a traditional website using Wordpress.org. From there, you should claim your profiles on the most important social networks and claim your vanity URL's. These include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Join other social networks with discretion because the more profiles you have, the more you have to manage. For instance, if you can justify being on Pinterest or YouTube, then by all means join those. These networks, along with your website, rank high in Google and can protect you against negative results.
3. Be helpful instead of overly promotional. It's easy to get online and start promoting yourself and your products but what people fail to realize is that we live in an opt-in culture. People can easily unsubscribe or unfollow you in seconds if you are overly promotional. Your status updates should focus on helpful advice, resources, links or be conversational. That way, you can be viewed as someone who is supporting the community instead of disturbing it.
4. Monitor conversations. If you don't know what's being said about you, how are you going to react? You aren't! If you don't react, then a negative mention may be spread with haste and damage your online reputation more. The way I monitor conversations is by subscribing to RSS alerts using Google.com/Alerts and then on Twitter using Tweetbeep.com. I set alerts for my name and the topics I'm interested in. You can also set them for your company, partners and competitors. I review all of the alerts using Google Reader. By doing this, I'm centralizing all of my mentions in one area and can quickly review them and response if need be.
5. Associate yourself with the right people. You want people to see that you're part of the right crowd instead of the wrong one. You should connect with other professionals who have strong reputations because when you start adding them on Facebook and interacting with them on Twitter, others will see. If the person you're connecting with has a poor reputation, then people will have less respect for you and not want to be associated with you.