When someone does a Google search on your name, you want them to be inundated with positive content about you. Whether it's an employer, an admissions board member at your grad school of choice, or even a significant other, the searcher should find nothing but content that paints you in a good light.
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Positive, relevant content that highlights who you are, what you know, and what you do is the bread and butter of online reputation management. The only question is, what steps do you need to take to flood the web with positive content about yourself?
Types of Bad Internet Content
To understand why creating positive content about yourself is so important for online reputation management, we need to look at the different types of bad content and the dangers they pose to you. If your prospective employee or graduate school does a Google search on you, there are a few negative scenarios that could occur.
The biggest issue occurs when the searcher finds content about you that is both relevant and negative. In other words, the content in question concerns you (as opposed to being about someone who shares your name), it isn't out of date, and it isn't flattering. These types of Google search results are the most damaging because they make you look untrustworthy, dangerous, unreliable, or otherwise unimpressive. Facebook photos of you blackout drunk at your friend's Christmas party fit into this category.
Even if the content isn't outright negative, it can still be damning. If Google searches for your name yield content about another person, you run the risk of either being mistaken for that person or being written off because none of your results occupy the front page of Google. Dominating the first page isn't always possible, but prospective employers might be disappointed or confused if they can't find anything online about your accomplishments.
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Irrelevant content doesn't necessarily tarnish your online reputation, but it doesn't help your personal brand, either. Perhaps the search results contain information from years ago that doesn't reflect who you are, where you live, or what you are doing now. Or maybe the results don't relate to your education or work life all – maybe the first things that come up are outdated blog posts or an article about your old high school musical. Either way, irrelevant results distract from more pertinent results and don't give your searchers the information they need to begin to trust and respect you.
The Beauty of Positive and Relevant Content
When people Google searches of your name, you want them to find positive and relevant content. This is content that portrays you, your character, and your professional qualifications in very good light. This content is still relevant to your life now and may relate directly to the job or graduate school program you are seeking.
This type of content is key to your personal branding and can help anchor your online reputation. When people can easily search for your name on Google and learn who you are, what you do, and why you are good at it, you have a much stronger online identity. This type of branding not only helps with job searches and online background checks, but it can also aid you in building an online following and commanding social media presence – which can both be very beneficial to professional development.
Developing Your Web Content Strategy
Now that we understand why positive web content is such an important part of any person's online reputation and brand, we run into a new question: How can you push positive, relevant content about yourself onto the first page of Google's search results?
The specific answer to that question will vary slightly depending on the person, but the first step for everyone is to conduct a Google search on yourself. What turns up when you do this? Do you already have some positive, relevant content on the first page? If so, you might not have to work too hard to conquer the rest of that first page with more of the same.
On the other hand, if the first page contains negative content – or no content at all – you have a longer road ahead of yourself. You will need to start either burying the negative content or building your web presence up from its foundations.
How to Start Creating Positive Content About Yourself
Once you know roughly how much work you need to do to improve your online reputation, you can start implementing strategies for flooding the web with positive content. Consider all the options listed below. You may already be doing some of these things, but all of them deserve your time:
Create pages and profiles around the web: Official websites, online portfolios, active blogs, and social media profiles all usually qualify as positive content. There are obvious exceptions, like if you post pictures of alcohol or drug use or your blog posts contain poor grammar and offensive content. For the most part, though, these are great content channels. If you haven't created or used these resources yet, now is the time to start.
Start blogging: There are few things better for your online brand than becoming a trusted authority in your field of study or interest. One of the best ways to do this is to start writing about topics that matter to your contemporaries. Make a list of topics that you could turn into great blog posts. Choices might include commentaries on breaking industry news or useful how-to guides detailing processes and procedures in your field. Share your posts on social media to get link-building boosts and shares from followers.
Spread yourself out: The more places your name appears on the web, the better your chances of landing on the front page of Google's search results. If you write, try to get your work featured in magazines and newspapers. If you know a friend who likes to podcast, ask about hosting an episode or two. Where possible, get involved with charities and fundraisers and make sure your name and biographical information are featured on the relevant websites or Facebook event posts. Publishing positive content on your own site helps, but you need to spread mentions around the web for maximum impact.
Ask for endorsements: LinkedIn allows other users to endorse and vouch for your skills. A well-written, search-optimized LinkedIn profile is a positive piece of online content. A LinkedIn page with glowing endorsements from past bosses and supervisors, or with lots of connections vouching for your skills, is even better.
Practice what you preach on social media: So many professionals spend hours upon hours creating positive content for their personal brands only to ruin all their hard work with missteps on social media. Prospective employers are going to browse your social media accounts – even the ones you think of as "personal pages." Be positive, inoffensive, and thoughtful rather than negative, profane, and reactionary.
This is not a comprehensive list of strategies you can use to flood the web with positive content, but the tips provided here will start you off on the right foot. Start burying old, irrelevant, and negative content with pages and posts that reflect a better you. This positive content will play a vital role in your overall online branding campaign.
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com.