Technology

Fix Your Online Reputation

You can probably polish your profile yourself.

Googling yourself isn’t narcissistic. It’s necessary. If you track your digital trail with a quick online search, you may be surprised by the depth and breadth of information available about you.

In addition to Google, enter your name into Spokeo.com and Pipl.com, where you might find that your age, relatives’ names and previous addresses are on display, as well as links to old news stories and, say, a forgotten MySpace account. And head to Topsy.com to examine what people are saying about you on social media.

Find something unflattering? You can fix most online reputation problems without help.

Do it yourself. “The average Joe should be able to fix his problem on his own,” says Brian Patterson, of Go Fish Digital, an online marketing firm. Start by beefing up the privacy settings on your social media feeds and deleting that old Flickr account and outdated personal Web site. You can delete search results about you from some information-sharing sites, such as Spokeo and BeenVerified. For other sites, send an e-mail asking them to remove your personal data. If you can’t get a malicious Web site to remove information that would make you vulnerable to ID thieves, such as your Social Security or bank account number, ask Google to delete the site from its search results.

The joke in the online-reputation biz goes like this: Where do you bury a dead body? On the third page of Google. Few surfers ever get that far, so if there’s an unprofessional post that you can’t delete, grab a shovel and start digging. Build a Web site using a free template, from a site such as Weebly.com or WordPress.com, with your first and last name as the domain name (about $12.99 on GoDaddy). Open LinkedIn and professional Twitter accounts and a Facebook page, and spend a few minutes every week keeping them active. If you want to differentiate yourself from someone with the same name, add a middle initial to your online presence. Put a Google Alert on your name at www.google.com/alerts to track online mentions.

Getting help. If you’re a rare case with an online reputation problem that won’t stay six feet under, professional help might be the only solution. That’s true in cases in which your profile is dominated by unflattering news stories, bad client reviews, details of a lawsuit or negative Web sites targeting you (if your name is in the URL, such sites will rank especially high on Google).

But remember that a reputation-management firm can’t force your local newspaper to delete a negative story or an angry former client to kill a bad review. (A recent high-profile case in Europe that allows citizens to petition search engines to remove some data does not apply to Americans.) A pro can bury negative posts faster and deeper than you can, however. The reputation company might create third-party search-engine-optimized sites that link to each other to push positive content up and negative results down. It can help you build your own Web site and update professional profiles while tracking your name online.

Shop around for a repu­tation-management firm, such as Reputation.com or Removeyourname.com. Look for a company that has handled cases that are similar to yours. Ask for referrals from cus­tomers to make sure the company’s strategies work. Prices range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the severity of the problem and the kind of services you buy.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
4 Strategies to Reduce Taxes in Retirement
retirement planning

4 Strategies to Reduce Taxes in Retirement

Don’t let the possibility of higher taxes in the future sink your retirement income plan. Consider these four ways to help manage your taxes, keeping …
May 31, 2021
13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits
social security

13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits

You may have dreamed of a tax-free retirement, but if you live in these 13 states, your Social Security benefits are subject to a state tax. That's on…
May 26, 2021

Recommended

IRS Gives Truckers a Tax Break in Response to the Colonial Pipeline Shutdown
Tax Breaks

IRS Gives Truckers a Tax Break in Response to the Colonial Pipeline Shutdown

The tax penalty for using dyed diesel fuel for highway use is temporarily suspended.
May 13, 2021
Reliving a Harlem Renaissance
Business Costs & Regulation

Reliving a Harlem Renaissance

After a tough winter, two sisters look forward to reviving their restaurant’s business.
April 29, 2021
COVID-19-Weary Business Owners Can Win by Adopting the Right Mindset for a Sale
small business

COVID-19-Weary Business Owners Can Win by Adopting the Right Mindset for a Sale

Your business has survived the pandemic, but it’s taken a toll. Here are some reasons why now may be a good time to sell, and some points to keep in m…
March 31, 2021
PPP Loan Basics for Small Business Owners
Coronavirus and Your Money

PPP Loan Basics for Small Business Owners

Although uncertainty and confusion have surrounded the Paycheck Protection Program since its launch, that shouldn't stop small business owners from pa…
March 30, 2021