Effective ways to build a solid online presence and why it’s important. How to clean up your online

The chances are someone is searching the web for you right now, or at least has looked you up fairly recently. Do you know what they learned? You should take seriously what is on the web about you and what people can see. In today’s market it could mean the differences between secure a role or not. Take control of what data is online about you and what information people that do not know you can see and visit. It’s time to take your online reputation into your own hands instead of leaving it to Google or other search engines and social media platforms.

Here are some steps you can take:

Why first impressions matter on the internet

It's no secret that friends, nosy family members, and potential employers may browse Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to look for more information about you when they want it. In the case of family and friends, they already know you. When it comes to potential employers or people interested in working with you, it's important to make sure that the things they find about you are representative of who you are (or who you want them to think you are.)

You don't have to be a job-seeker to understand the importance of your online reputation. In today technological age it very hard to get away from an “on-line presence” unless you live an “ off the grid lifestyle”. Whatever search engine you use it may seem impossible to control, but there are some clever things you can do. Hopefully these tips below will help you tackle some of these issues. Should you follow them, by the end you'll have a better picture of what you want people to find when they search for you. With work, you'll even have better control over what they find.

Then take the following three steps

Step One: Find Out Where You Stand (and Erase Embarrassments)

Before we get started, it's a good idea to see what others see when they search for you. Then we can tweak what we find so it's representative of the "you" that you want the public to see, not just what a search engine collects. Do this by looking on Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask.com, Firefox and any other of the popular search engines. Unfortunately, data collected will vary from search engine to search engine but it will give you an good idea of what data is visible.

Search For Yourself

Start with what is considered to be the most popular search engine in the west : Google. You've probably done a vanity Google search before, but if not, now's the time. Before you start it is important to log out of your Google accounts or use a browser where you're not logged in (Google personalizes results based on your account activity) and search for your name. Don't bother going more than a few pages deep, and make note of what you see. Remember, making a good first impression requires actually making an impression. While turning up nothing means no one will find anything bad, it also means they won't learn anything good about you, and that can be just as negative to, and perceived as, pretty strange.

Next, check Facebook. You can view your public self on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+:

Remember once again, before you start, it’s important to log out of your accounts as you want to see what others see. You cannot do this when you are automatically logged in, or use a browser or device that you do not know or have not used before.  Search for yourself by name. Even if you don't use your name as your account ID, it may be easy to find yourself with a quick name search. See if that's the case, and see what's visible. Take a note of what you find or see - this is what a person you do not know or are not connected to can see.

Log back in and view your profile as “public." Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ all make it easy to do this from your profile page. This way you can see what your profile looks like to someone who stumbles upon you, even if you're not easily found.

Clean Up Any Results You Don't Like

Now that you've seen what others see, it's time to get rid of anything you don't like, or feel is not a good personal representation of you. You can guarantee you will have, or even be given, the opportunity to explain the bad stuff away in a phone call or in-person interview. We've discussed how to fix internet embarrassments before. The key is if you are not comfortable with content you see “as public”  either hide it so only close associates or family can see it, or delete it completely.

Google and Other Search Engines: If you found the offending results at Google or another search engine, ask them to remove the pages from their results. Google has a process for this, and another for Google Images, but they only apply to pages that have been taken down, or old, cached versions of pages that are still up - it's not for pulling down any old page. Most search engines have a policy where you can submit takedown requests for non-legal reasons.

Facebook: Deleting is your best option (so no one takes screenshots or makes your private posts public without you knowing.) Alternatively, as mentioned if you do not want to do this, change post visibility individually. (go to privacy settings - limit past post visibility to hide everything at once.) Get familiar with Facebook's privacy options, and if the content is on Facebook but not under your control then make sure private posts are truly private. The only things public are the ones that showcase your public persona, so you need to think before you post anything you do not feel comfortable for the world to see.

Twitter: Twitter is easy, just look at your profile by name. If your profile is public, everyone can see it, and if you use your real name as your handle, it's easy to find. You can make your account private, but that won't stop public users from quoting you (although it does stop retweets) or responding to you publicly. Remember, Twitter is probably the most public of all networks. “Think” being the optimum word before you tweet, as once it’s out there you cannot turn back the clock. As they say, do not open a can of worms unless you are prepared to defend it. You cannot cry over a perception of yourself after the event.

Google+: Your posts at Google+ aren't as important as your Google profile. Hide anything you saw but wanted private when you viewed your profile earlier. Make sure useful details (a contact email address, links to your portfolio or personal web site, etc) are visible. Create topical circles for sharing and familiarize yourself with Google+'s privacy settings.

LinkedIn: If you post articles to LinkedIn, make sure they're professional in nature and relevant to the public persona you want to put forward. I would not recommend sharing private or personal posts on LinkedIn as this is not what it’s for. Keep it to your professional and work life and persona. While you're there, go ahead and fill out your profile with additional details: odds are your profile may be incomplete, or the last time you updated it was the last time you changed jobs.

If you lead a busy and hectic life, or simply feel this is a technical mine field, you can turn to services that promise to protect your online reputation. They're usually effective, but they all cost money. For example, Brand Yourself and Reputation.com (formerly Reputation Defender) will all help streamline this process for you if you are prepared to pay for the pleasure with an ongoing subscription.

Step Two: Strengthen Your Online Presence with Better Profiles and content

Now that you have successfully removed the bad stuff, it's time to build you profile and portray yourself in a good light. Potential employers, business contacts, and people in your network will look you up anyway, so why not make sure that what they find is what you want them to know? This will only lead to good things in the end, however it has to be a true portrayal of yourself. Do not big yourself up with things that are not truthful.

Elevate Your Social Networks. Your social networks can be valuable tools if you use them in the right way and as they are intended. Update your LinkedIn profile with your interests and skills, not just your work history. Add some relevant interests to Facebook and leave them public. You may even want to like a few job or industry-related pages. Its critical to upload a good-looking clear profile photo to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google profiles, and consider only filling out your photo gallery with flattering shots of you, your work, or even your projects and things you've worked on. Remember, use every opportunity to showcase your skills, talents and interests, whether it's in the "Likes" section of your Facebook profile, or the photos in your Instagram account. There's nothing wrong with food photos on Instagram if you're a self-described foodie, for example. Or picture of engines if you are an Engineer. It’s all about portraying you as you. Sign up for new services and sites that can showcase your skills. Keep an eye out for new sites that you could benefit being a part of.

Domain and your own website. One of the other great areas you should give thought to as a great way to get yourself maximum exposure is to get your own domain and use it as a portfolio and for your professional email. Owning your own domain is extremely valuable and worth more than the money you'll pay to get it in the long run. HSI can help with this.

If you can't use your name, pick a domain you're comfortable using as your personal banner and use that instead. Once you're registered with a great registrar, choose a great hosting company and set up your portfolio yourself, or we at HSIcan do it for you. Your domain can then become your portfolio to showcase yourself, your work and experience and ability. Behind the scenes, use your domain for email. It looks professional and every email you send is an invitation for the recipient to come and see your portfolio full of links to the things you want them to see.

Signing UP-Signing IN.  Make the most of the social media services you use. Make sure all of your profiles are filled out with as much useful information as possible. If you do not feel comfortable in filling in some of the fields they ask you to, ask yourself is this the right social media platform for me? Whatever you do, don't just sign up and walk away. Upload good photos of yourself to your social networks and add good content so that potential employers and new friends see you at your best.

Emails. Use a consistent email address across all of these services so it's easy to get in touch with you, and cross-link them to one another frequently. This makes sure anyone who lands on one can easily get to everything else you do, and makes it easier for Google to index the real you.

Keep an eye on the results. For people who just want a good face and impression, you can stop here. For others who enjoy analyzing how people find them, most nameplate (ie domain and websites) services offer analytics so you can see how people find you and where they click to leave. Add Google Analytics to your personal site and portfolio to see how well you're being received, and what people come to your site to see. This way you can keep an eye on who's looking for you and what their eyes are drawn to when they find you.

Step Three: Keep Your Best Foot Forward

By now, you've done your homework to find out what other people find when they look for you, cleaned up your profiles and keep it this way with good housekeeping. As you go forward with your shiny, professional online persona, make sure to keep it clean by following the fundamental rules of sharing on the internet:

  1. Don't post it if you don't want it to be public. The internet is a big place with a long memory. Internet Shame Insurance can remind you if you're about to post something you might regret.
  2. Keep in mind that your ideal online first impression doesn't have to be a perfect, rosy picture of your personality, just a truthful one.
  3. Putting your best foot forward keeps you from not being taken seriously or an idiot with radical views, don't let it stifle your brilliance or keep you from expressing your opinion and being true to your ideals. After all, those are the things we want people to learn about us when they go looking. Just be mindful of your surroundings and the world we live in as well as what is right & wrong, legal and illegal and the current social mood.

As the world continues to evolve, it is important that we don’t remain static. And seeing as a lot of this evolution has to do with the web, it is essential for your career and future that you create a strong online presence. However, if you’ve not always been web-savvy, building an online presence can be tiring, confusing and frustrating, even with the numerous options available; from creating different profiles and numerous accounts, to building your website and finally figuring out the best medium through which to engage your target audience. So if you do not know how and where to start when building your online presence, please get in touch with us. We would be happy to help.