In today’s digital world, information spreads like wildfire. That includes information about you. What people read about you online—whether accurate or not—impacts your reputation and potentially all aspects of your life. You want the things people read about you to be true.

But keeping track of everything that appears online is time consuming. It may even be impossible to do on your own. This is where automated tools come in. Once you set them up, they do the monitoring work for you.  

I use these tools to stay on top of my online reputation. You should, too. I’ll show you how to do just that.

Step 1: Create Your Official Channels

Start with the basics: Google search. 

The top results when you search for your name should turn up information that you control. 

If you Google my name, Lars Lofgren, you’ll see what I mean. I used the strategies explained below to build my online persona. As a result, I directly control five of the top ten search results for my name. That’s a lot of control over my personal reputation.

How did I make this happen? By taking control of my name in as many ways as possible. Your name is your online currency. Protect it at all costs.

The first step is to buy the .com domain for your name. Whether you plan to do something right now with this domain doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you own it. You control what you own. It’s that simple.

You also never know what the future will bring. Maybe you’ll become famous. Maybe you’ll write a best-selling novel. Maybe you’re on your way to top podcaster status. 

The point is, your name is the foundation of your personal brand. Owning the domain for your name is a smart move, no matter what. Plus when you own it, you guarantee nobody else can steal it. 

Next, make sure to set up social media profiles for yourself on every hot social media network. This isn’t about becoming an influencer, although if that’s your goal, then by all means go for it. 

The point of setting up social accounts is to preserve your right to do something with those accounts now or down the road.

The last thing you want to do is to ignore a trending social channel and find out someone else created an account in your name. Fixing that is a huge ordeal, if it is even possible. Better to be proactive than reactive.

Once you have the accounts set up, you can choose to add content or leave the accounts empty. Totally up to you. 

The overall goal is to control the social media narrative about you—at least on official accounts you own. Others may create impersonator accounts (happens all the time to celebrities), but nobody can take your personal and verifiable account from you.

Step 2: Separate Public vs Private Info

Once your public personas are in place, it’s time to remove your private self from the equation. Creating this barrier is really important. It protects your private self in the event your public self gets drawn into a controversy.

And that’s the thing about controversies—you never know when they’re going to crop up.

We’ve all seen what happens when someone’s name starts trending online. Keyboard warriors are quick to find private information that they never hesitate to share with the world. The more private information you can shield from prying eyes, the better.

So how can you best safeguard your private information? Here are some easy strategies to follow.

  • Add WHOIS privacy to any domains you register, especially your personal website. Domain registration information is public record. It only takes a quick search to find out who owns any domain. WHOIS masks your name, address, and phone number from public view. 
  • Use Google Voice or another service for your public phone number. Unless you’re a fan of fielding never ending phone calls from random strangers with unknown intent, you want to treat your personal number like it’s sacred information. Only share a generic number when you’re asked by anyone you don’t personally know and trust.
  • Sign up for a mail forwarding service, virtual mailbox, or P.O. Box to avoid giving out your home address to anyone, ever. You absolutely do not want someone showing up at your doorstep unannounced, no matter what their intentions. The best way to do this is to keep your home address as private as possible.

If you’re lucky, this will all be purely preventative.

But if you do fall victim to a harassment campaign—either online or in real life—you’ll be very glad you kept your private information confidential.

Step 3: Seed Positive Content Into Your Channels

Okay, I know I said earlier that you could leave all those social media accounts you create empty if you want. And you definitely can. But I recommend you don’t.

Those channels can be leveraged to boost your reputation. You can use them to create and post content that represents your personal brand the way you want others to see you. This strategy lets you control the narrative, which is really important.

Use your name domain to share professional information about yourself. Tout your professional accomplishments and share as much information as you feel comfortable with. Set up a blog and write about topics you’re knowledgeable about. Sharing expertise is a great reputation booster.

Create social media profiles that reflect your brand’s personality and style. Your profile photo can be professionally done or a selfie that reflects you in a positive light. 

You don’t have to post to these channels every day (or even every week), but do share something occasionally to keep things from looking dormant. Active social accounts create an impression that you care about your brand and are willing to do the work to maintain it.

Also be sure to cross-link and promote your site and social accounts as often as possible. These are factors that help your content rank in Google search results.  

Step 4: Automate Reputation Monitoring

You could spend time each day searching for yourself online to see what’s new. But who has time for that? Automated reputation monitoring takes this work off your hands. 

You can automate a little or a lot—totally up to you. It really depends how active you are with your brand. 

For some folks, setting up Google Alerts will be enough. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually pretty easy. I have one set up and recommend everyone take this simple step, too.

When you set up an alert for your name, any time Google sees your name on a new page, you’ll get a notification email. The email will contain a summary of the content and provide a link you can follow to see the full reference. It doesn’t get easier than that.

If you’re really active with your brand, you’ll probably need something more robust than Google Alerts to stay on top of all your mentions, especially on social channels.

This is when you should consider a reputation management tool. These services monitor everything online and immediately flag negative mentions. This is really important if online chatter about you starts to trend. You are far more effective at managing the situation when you can react and respond early on.

Once the online mobs get started talking about you, it can be hard to take back the narrative and control how people see you. Reputation management tools can help you get ahead of the game—before momentum builds. 

The Rules of Reputation Management Change for Public Figures

Everything I’ve mentioned to this point applies to everyday, low-profile people. But if you are (or become) a celebrity or public figure, the game changes. 

Managing your reputation quickly becomes a full-time job.

Reputation management firms exist to help people do two things—navigate the tricky waters of crisis management and stay on top of reputations on a day-to-day basis. I hope it never happens, but if you find yourself in a reputational crisis, it’s time to call in the big guns. 

While traditional marketing and public relations agencies can help, you really want the additional strength of reputation management specialists. They know all the tricks on how to get bad press buried online. They are also skilled at shifting the narrative to help rebuild public perceptions.

Of course, in today’s era of influencers around every corner, anyone can find themselves in need of this type of help. Anybody with any kind of social media presence can quickly become a public figure, sometimes without even trying.

If you’re an influencer today—or plan to become one in the future—having a reputation management firm stored in your contacts list is a very wise idea.