Take Back Control of Your Digital Footprint in Seven Steps

LaptopsToday, Google is the new first impression. What shows up in your search results affects your bottom line. According to a 2012 Harris Interactive survey, 42 percent of Americans have searched for a company or individual online before doing business with them. Although you can’t completely control your digital footprint, what you can do is positively impact your online presence. Below are seven easy steps to build, manage and protect your positive online brand.

1. Google yourself. Search for your name and analyze what shows up online. Anything you want to improve? Immediately tackle and correct areas of vulnerability. Speed matters: The longer something negative appears online, the more damage it causes. It’s natural to be concerned with negative publicity or unflattering photos, so you should do what you can to delete any photos or content that could pose a risk to your personal brand. You should also be equally concerned if nothing shows up in your search results. If you have no digital footprint, create a positive one today.

2. Build a personal website. Buy your name domain (e.g., JohnDoe.com), and make an online resume that highlights your career and accomplishments. There are plenty of intuitive sites, like Crevado and Squarespace, for example, that make it easy to create your very own landing page. Google’s search algorithm values fresh, relevant content and will naturally think your personal site is important when anyone searches for your name online.

3. Get social. The big social media sites usually show up on the first page of Google. Plus, social media platforms make it easier to connect with your target audience and establish relationships. When selecting a platform, consider your brand or business goals. You should also understand which platform your target audience uses and how it works. For most professionals, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook are an absolute must.

Remember that every post, comment and “like” is a reflection of your personal brand and how the digital world perceives you, so chime in with caution. Aside from deleting unfavorable photos and content, take the opportunity to present yourself positively.

4. Take professional photos. Hire a photographer to shoot headshots for your personal website and social media properties. Make sure to dress in business attire and smile. Then swap these professional photos for your profile pictures on LinkedIn and professional sites of which you are a member. Potential employers and investors won’t want to see cropped photos of you taken in a bar in college. People judge you within the first second of seeing your photo, so you might as well put your best face forward.

5. Remember that content is still king. Content is the foundation for any successful online brand management campaign. Consistently create content that’s helpful to your target audience and you’ll become an authority figure while also boosting your organic search rankings. Take advantage of opportunities to become a thought leader by guest blogging on websites in your field — this will help increase the credibility and exposure of your brand. Not only will you build your online portfolio, you’ll also strengthen your presence by speaking directly to potential customers and clients.

6. Seek positive press. If you have negative press on the first page of Google, part of your strategy must include getting new, positive press mentions. So how do you do that? Learn how to write a press release and hone your pitch to journalists. Before pitching, consider the five factors that make a story newsworthy: timing, proximity, prominence, significance and human interest. Apply those factors to your pitch and create a fresh angle that is going to be compelling to the editor.

7. Bring in the experts. While the steps above seem easy, coordinating a campaign, especially if you have bad publicity on Google, is daunting and time-consuming. Professional online reputation management firms have experienced staff and processes in place to improve your online reputation quickly and easily. When hiring a firm, ask for references and avoid firms that have very low pricing. Low prices indicate outsourcing overseas, which can lead to embarrassing and ineffective results on your online reputation.

In today’s world, your online presence can make or break you if you’re looking to switch careers or apply for an award or grant. If you simply want to look your best in front of your online audience, then take these steps to stand out from your competition. A positive digital footprint reaffirms your professional worth and makes the ultimate first impression.

Source: (c)2015 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.