Here are a few tips on how you can manage and protect your online reputation:
- Google yourself and see if anyone has a similar company or business name (or the same name as you!) The best way to protect yourself is to set up a Google profile with a photo or company logo (which associates your face with your business/company name)
- When creating your website, use your business name or a variation of it - this allows you to buy the domain name so no one else can use it
- Don't give out too much personal information on social media sites. There have been Facebook and Twitter hackers running rampant these days, so be careful about the type of information you post on these sites. However, for professional social media sites it's important to add a photo (which builds a sense of trust and credibility amongst fellow site members)
- Don't respond to spam and set up a spam folder in your email account so spam is automatically filtered. Phishing emails are commonly used to steal people's information (bank account information, etc.) so be careful when reading and responding to "questionable" emails. Obviously, never send money to someone you don't know.
- If you conduct sales via PayPal or other payment transaction sites, make sure your business transactions are secure and clear out the cookies on your computer (this both protects you and your clients/customers)
- Set up Google alerts so you can track your information online. If you write articles, make sure you have a copyright disclaimer (if you don't want others to steal your content or ask that your byline be posted when others use your content). For more information about digital copyright laws, check out the Digital Media Copyright Act (DMCA)
- Use appropriate Net-iquette when posting information and updates on social media sites. It's easy for clients and customers to track down information about you. Your words could come back to haunt you!
The last thing you want to deal with is damage control!