Have you ever received an email that said something like: An acquaintance will bail you out of jail, but a true friend will be sitting next to you in the cell. Many people read this kind of email and think I remember that one time… Well chances are good that one time has a description, or even a picture, somewhere online soiling your online reputation.
Having negative information about you on the internet can prevent you from landing your dream job (or getting you fired from your present employment), getting that dream date, or even cause a fall out between you, family members, and friends. While it may be impossible to have this information completely removed, by doing a few simple things you can bury that information so far back that even the most sophisticated search engines will have trouble finding it.
Fix your online reputation – Google yourself.
The first step in correcting any problem is to evaluate what needs to be changed. This hold true for your online reputation. By using a search engine like Google.com or Bing.com, you will see what is common knowledge, and just how many pages of information are out there that contain your name. This will give you an idea of how much damage control you have ahead of you to restore your reputation, and what needs to be done to prevent further issues.
Fix your online reputation – Disassociate yourself
Throughout your online lifetime you have probably become a member of many online websites, written or commented on blogs, or created online profiles of yourself. Depending on the number of years you have been using the Internet you may have hundreds of associations, some of which may not be flattering to your reputation as you grow and change as a person.
Whenever possible, delete your profiles and comments from sites that could be potentially damaging to your online reputation should a perspective employer or love interest search your name. While deletion of this information may not cause the search engines to overlook the previous association, if a person were to click the link, nothing would be available for the searcher to read. The idea that you were once associated with that sight may still be damaging on its own, however, the deletion of an account may prove that you are no longer interested in the information or topics presented on that site.
Fix your online reputation – Remove images and pictures
This can be tricky. A lot of times pictures that have been posted belong to other people, and while a mug shot listed on a county webpage may look bad, at least there is an description of charges linked to it. This can be explained to a potential searcher, especially if the charges were for minor offences.
That picture taken by your friends or media photographer while on spring break, or other vacations, when you may not have been on your best behavior can do the true damage. If you own the rights to the photo, and you feel it is unflattering, simply remove it. However if a second party holds ownership you have a few options:
1) Contact the person or persons and simply ask that the photo be removed.
2) Offer to pay for the ownership rights of the photograph.
3) Seek legal council sighting possible slanderous information and/or images.
Image searches are less common, but if you have little information for searchers to view online, images could show up on a basic search. These images could potentially cause extreme damage to personal and/or professional relationships if viewed, further hurting you online reputation.
Fix your online reputation – Create new profiles
By creating new online profiles associated with sites that you feel comfortable people seeing when searching your name, you provide new information for search engines to find. Since the newest information is displayed first, this can be a good way to bury, deep in the vast areas of cyberspace, that older information you’re not proud of.
Sites like Facebook, twitter, and FriendFeed are all highly ranked and commonly searched social networking sites. As with all media that shares information, be sure to set your privacy settings to prevent information form being broadcasted. This especially holds true for images and comments that could be posted by people on your “friends” lists. By making sure your setting share information “only with friends”, you reduce the risk of information leaving the safe confines of your profile.
Start a wiki under your own name. A part of Wikipedia, a wiki is a website that can be easily created and links your favorite web sites together under a single server. Millions of people use Wikipedia every day, and not only is it is a highly searched, but many people feel wikipedia and the wikis within it are reputable sources of information.
Fix your online reputation – Broadcast, Blog, and Beg
Broadcast your ideas and information that you would like others to know about you by publishing online articles or by publishing your own e-book. If people see that you have some authority on a few topics, they could have a higher respect for you and your work. This evaluation in their mind, could go along way in repairing a poor online reputation.
Start your own, and participate in, blogs including updated photos of yourself that you don’t mind people seeing. Each time you post comment on a blog your name is attached, and thus will allow a potential searcher to read this comment prior to anything that you may have posted years ago.
Ask, or if needed – beg, your friends to blog and post things about you. Be sure to trust the people you ask to write about you so that you do not create more of the kinds of information that you are trying to suppress. The more times your name appears with new information, the further back the old information is pushed
Fix your online reputation – Be patient
As with any kind of problems in life, repairing your online reputation may take some time. If you are to the point where you need to doing something to repair you online reputation, it can become very frustrating to follow all the recommended tips and still find that negative information is still be prevalently displayed. Remember that the more new and flattering information you post now will push further back any information that you prefer not be seen from that one time years ago.