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June 10, 2010

Managing your online reputation can seem like a monumental task, especially if you don’t have any previous experience in search engine optimization. By taking things one step at a time, however, it’s relatively easy to build a solid reputation management strategy without undue hardship. These six basic tips will provide a firm foundation on which to build a more robust strategy.

1. Treat Everything As If Can End Up Online

It’s tempting to think that emails you send friends or colleagues, or images you send out, will remain confidential forever. Sadly, that’s not always the case. It’s hard to know when something you thought was private will become public, so it’s a good rule of thumb to treat everything as though eventually it will end up online. This is a basic case of the old adage: better safe than sorry.

2. Be Honest With Yourself About Your Flaws and Weaknesses

None of us like to admit where our businesses and brands are weak. Ignoring these weaknesses, however, doesn’t make them not true. And it’s very difficult to defend against negative spin if you aren’t prepared to acknowledge it may be coming. Taking the time to identify your major weaknesses can help you significantly down the line.

3. Always Comport Yourself Well

No matter what you’re doing online – Facebook updates, blog posts, comments, tweets – make sure to speak with politeness and dignity. It’s all too easy to get sucked into wars of words and say something mean – but two years down the line, when that immature comment is one of the top search results for your name, you’ll regret it immensely.

4. Establish an Official Presence

Don’t let your online reputation be dictated by your personal Facebook page or Twitter account. Instead, set up a professional blog, professional social network presences, and act professionally when interacting with other people’s sites. When using your official presences, take extra care to present yourself in the way you want to be perceived by potential clients or employers.

5. Use Google Periodically

Checking in on your online reputation regularly is one of the best steps you can take to make sure everything is as it should be. If you’re very serious about your online reputation you might want to utilize a monitoring system, but even if you forego that option, it is always worth typing your name into Google at least once every week or two to see what comes up.

6. Act Quickly When Things Go Wrong

If you see something pop up on a Google search that reflects poorly on you or your brand, act immediately. If it’s someone you know who posted a picture that looks bad professionally, ask them to take it down. If someone has a critique of your business or brand, address it respectfully and see if you can resolve the problem. If someone is slandering you, see if you can get the offending information removed. Whatever the situation, every minute you let it sit online is a minute it can be destroying your reputation.
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