Most of us do not give our online reputation much thought but it can affect many aspects of our life. Some employers and recruiters, landlords and rental agencies, as well as prospective love interests may “google” your name only to come across your Facebook or Twitter profile laden with vulgar rantings and discriminatory posts.
Of course, not every person uses social media in this way but what is sometimes meant to be a harmless comment or tweet can turn out to be harmful to your reputation. The key is limiting access to your social media profiles through privacy settings and practicing caution when posting on social networks. It is a matter of common sense but all too often we forget to think before we act when online.
Removing Your Name from Search Engines
If you name and social media profile is ranking high on search engine listings then you can either remove your profile or increase privacy settings to limit access to your profile. Even if you remove you profile, it is not immediately flushed out of the search engine database immediately. It can take several weeks and a cached copy may remain on some search engines for as long as 90 days. But once you have deleted it, your profile will eventually disappear.
The matter is not as simple if you have been named on a website, blog or forum. News about you cannot be removed as easily if it is appearing on independent websites or blogs. You can request that the webmaster removes the particular article bearing your name but he/she is not obliged to do so if it is based on a fact and pertinent to public interest. Forums are a bit more flexible in this regard and the moderators will often oblige if you contact them directly.
Think Before You Post
Remember that the Internet is not entirely unregulated as you are often led to believe. Digital properties (websites, blogs, social networks and forums) are obliged to ensure that they do no publish any false or discriminatory information. But if you have posted a comment, tweet or message then the onus is on you to have policed your actions. Once again you can appeal to the webmaster but ultimately you should have practice a little caution.
All too often we act impulsively and on emotion when reading a blog and then commenting, when replying to a contact on Facebook or Twitter and sharing our opinions on forums. The Internet is a wonderful medium to interact with others and share ideas and opinions but consider how you post will reflect upon you before you submit it. This does not mean that you have to be a Net-introvert but rather stay away from topics that can portray you in a bad light.
Out Rank Other Websites
Sometimes it is not as easy to get your name out of search engines or off websites and blogs. You may have been in some news story and the negative publicity just keeps following you on the Net. At other times it may have not been your fault but your name may be dragged in for some reason or the other. The saying “if you can’t beat them, join them …” is really worth noting here.
You can try to out rank those websites and blogs that bear your name. The entire process is called search engine optimisation (SEO) and without getting into the technical details, it is about undertaking practices online that will put your website, blog or social media profile ahead of other websites bearing you name. By ranking higher than the other websites that have your name published on it, you can limit the chances of anybody seeings these sites. Remember, very few people go past the top 10 listings on a search engine for any given search term.
You can buy a domain on your name, such as johnsmith.com, and host a website about you. You can post your social media profile in blog comments across the Net (be careful about the type of comments you post). You can open a Youtube account on your name and share videos with others that also bears your name, or at least a portion of it. This may seem rather simplistic although labour-intensive but search engines like Google give preference to digital properties dedicated to a specific topic – in this case YOU, or more correctly your name.