Watch Out. How To Protect Your Online Reputation

guest postPersonal Branding

Everyone has a reputation to protect. And anyone who’s hoping for a new job or a promotion must be especially vigilant, as should consultants and entrepreneurs.

The question is: What are the best ways to make yours sparkle and brush away any dirt?

Last week, I joined a webinar on Online Reputation Management, conducted by Janet Driscoll Miller, CEO of Search Mojo, which gave me some new tools and tips worth sharing. The first one comes from Miller’s own name: If you have a common name (like Janet Miller) and could be confused with someone else (like so many are), “somewhat rebrand yourself with initials or a middle name,” she said. “Make your name as unique as you can make it” and you won’t have your reputation sullied with someone else’s sins.

This is smart advice for the Smiths, but also anyone who needs to be found, whether they work as an independent lawyer or a contract social marketing manager.

So what is reputation management? “I look at it as presenting our brand in a positive light,” said Miller, who started her career in public relations. “You have both a personal brand and a business brand. Both are important.”

For many professionals, their reputation “becomes your stock in trade and a lever for success,” reputation and crisis management consultant Deon Binneman writes in a blog post titled “Your Name Is a Precious Commodity.”  He notes that a reputation needs constant work “just like a gardener attending to his flower beds…. It does not take much for weeds to grow, pests to come and flowers to wilt.”

Like gardening, it’s crucial to protect your brand, to prevent negative things from happening or showing up. Here were three of Miller’s best tips on prevention:

  • Buy the domain names of your name.Pick up the .com and .org and .nets and you avoid confusion in the future.
  • Build out your social profiles. They rank well on Google searches, giving the message about yourself that you have crafted. Besides the usuals, she suggests as quite valuable Google+, Slideshare, YouTube and Vimeo.
  • Watch your name and brand online. She suggested both Google Alerts, and Giga Alert, plus Trackur as ways to pay attention to what’s being said about you. I wasn’t familiar with the latter two and plan to check them out this week. offers Ten Commandments of Online Reputation Management that are similar to Millers, and include two  that are worth sharing here:

  • Behave as if there is no such thing as privacy. Any tweet, email or text could possibly be made public. So don’t say it if you don’t want to see it online.
  • Have your say. Comment regularly on major sites or blogs relevant to you and your career to move up in the search rankings.

Miller’s other standout advice was to consider online options for all the positive activities you’re doing in the world. This could be a video or a press release, or it could be a bio page if you’re speaking at an industry event. It could be a blog post (preferably on your own blog) or a Google+ photo and comment.  Google+, it seems, can be a good boost to your Google search results.  She also offered some advanced reputation management suggestions in a blog post that may be better for entrepreneurs and leaders at corporations.

The bottom line: Listen to what others are saying about you, and be sure to add your own messages that match and burnish your brand.


Vickie Elmer regularly contributes articles on careers and small business to the Washington Post. She has collected a slew of journalism awards, large and small. Her career and workplace articles also have appeared in Fortune, Parents, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, the Financial Times, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday and many more. She has been called “dazzling,” “incredibly competitive” “creative” and “prolific and feisty” by those who work with her. Elmer is the mother of three children and the co-owner of Mity Nice, a start-up that employs teens to sell Italian ice and sweet treats from a shiny silver cart in Ann Arbor, Mich. An active volunteer, she encourages kindness and creativity and embracing change, and she blogs and tweets under the moniker WorkingKind.