How to Protect Your Online Reputation

Four Methods:Presenting Yourself WellReflect Rather than ReactKeeping Things PrivateChecking Your Current Online Reputation

Through the convenience of technology and social networking, any person in a position to review your reputation for the purposes of employment, volunteering, or other public interface can find out a great deal about you and your past. The time of relying on the technological inability of some people has long passed––everyone can check out details online, or find someone who can do it for them. If you're prone to spilling your life's stories online, this can spell trouble. What is your online reputation saying about you right now? And how can you protect it better from this point on?

Method 1
Presenting Yourself Well

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    Write decent profiles. Whenever you join a site that allows you to add a good profile, use each profile opportunity as a chance to show your best side. Write the profiles carefully, highlighting the things about you that really matter to you and that you'd like other people to acknowledge you for.
    • Try to be consistent concerning the information that you provide in profiles. As things change, keep these profiles updated.
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    Avoid poor spelling and grammar. Thoroughly proofread and copyedit any online postings or resumes before submitting them. In most cases, employers frown upon and likely will turn down hiring you if your resume or other important applications are littered with mistakes. Additionally, your friends, family, or coworkers who can see your social network posts may find consistent grammatical errors annoying.
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    Share things that are fun and productive. This means sharing information, photos, videos, and other online items that reflect well on you and improve the general nature of online communications. Things that are not productive include embarrassing photos of you or others (in the latter case, you show poor judgment in hurting someone else's feelings), defamatory or degrading content, filthy jokes, crass comments, flaming or trolling commentary, and so forth. If it's negative, degrading, and hurtful, it's unproductive and will saddle you with a poor reputation.
    • Focus on shining when online. What good things can you say about others? What fun and interesting information can you enlighten others with? In what ways can you share entertaining things with others that are thoughtful and considerate?
    • Take responsibility for the images, information, stories, and videos that you share online. Your friends, followers, and family expect this, just as you expect it of them.

Method 2
Reflect Rather than React

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    Think before you click. Consider what effects a simple status update or blog posting could have on your reputation in the long run.
    • Always ask yourself, "How would I feel if my boss, parents, grandmother, and spouse saw this piece?" Chances are, they probably will see it.
    • Are you feeling angry, upset, frustrated, or just plain bored? Don't post anything until you feel more balanced and can think straight about what you're writing.
    • Remember that once it's posted, it can't be taken back. Daring yourself to "just put it out there" can have long-lasting consequences. Go get a glass of water and sit down away from the computer first...
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    Always be polite. Approach all online interactions with your manners at the forefront. Have the attitude that most people are acting in good faith and the stupid things said online are often a result of not thinking, making errors or simply having an off-moment. And where people are deliberately provocative, don't stoop to their level; unlike real life heated exchanges, written spats are etched in stone.
    • Never flame anyone or respond to flamers; it's usually all about them and you're not only feeding their egos but ruining your own reputation at the same time.
    • Never feed the trolls. Some people love to bait others and watch the destruction unfold. If you don't respond, they'll stop messing about with you and no nasty record will be left online.
    • Accept where you've slipped up and said stupid things. Where possible, leave an apology. It can go a long way to showing you're capable of realizing and acting on your faults.
    • Don't harbor ill will toward a person offline. Carrying your annoyance offline is likely to develop into a bad reputation.
    • Be civil even when you feel uncivil. If this isn't possible, get off the computer until you've cooled down. It is that easy.

Method 3
Keeping Things Private

Where you really want to share things that only a few eyes should ever see, find ways that won't be picked up by search engines.

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    Modify privacy and search settings on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social network accounts. Ensure that only friends with whom you don't mind sharing your personal life or photos will have access to that information.
    • If you don't want your boss or coworkers to see your profile, change your privacy settings to reflect that.
    • Be very careful what you share with "friends". Only very close, well known friends who can be trusted enough not to share very personal details should have access to them; even then you might want to think about keeping such private information in real life only.
    • Unless you've known one another for years in a social context, your boss and coworkers are not your close friends. They may be very nice people but you never can tell, so share wisely.
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    Take advantage of the privacy features on your blog or personal website. Monitor your site frequently, especially if you allow public (visitor) comments, and remove anything offensive or inappropriate as soon as possible.
    • Always prefer the approve-before-publication feature of your blog or website. Why let nasty stuff fly when it can be ditched before it even gets published? Cut off the lifeline of people who want to spread half-baked truths, rumors and malicious gossip. Your reputation will be all the better for it.
    • That said, respond positively and openly to constructive criticism. Negative posts that are written without a view to being malicious or curse-filled deserve your response most times. This ensures openness and reveals to people that you're willing to defend what matters to you.
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    Go incognito online. Use an alias or alternate email address to post comments or make edits inconspicuously. However, be careful about the trail you leave. Some people love nothing better than recognizing similarities between the person they know you to be and your alias' behavior.
    • Never use anonymity or alias status to be mean-spirited, nasty or to behave like a troll. If you can't stand up for what you want to say and say it in a constructive and caring manner, then it's best left unsaid, and your reputation will thank you for it. The risk of being uncovered increases with the level of nastiness, and if you defame or threaten someone, legal authorities may become involved and you will most likely get caught.

Method 4
Checking Your Current Online Reputation

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    Search for yourself. What is coming back right now? Are you happy with it? What aspects of it do you think could be improved? What aspects do you consider are currently problematic?
    • Do you even have a reputation online? No digital presence can be viewed by tech-savvy employers as odd and possibly decrease your chances of employment.
    • Use Google Alerts, Yahoo Alerts, etc. to bring back anything with your name in it. If your name is commonplace, include other identifying factors linked just to you, such as your hometown, your business name, your job title or a hobby you actively participate in, etc., or you'll get snowed under with every other return for Joe Smith and Jane White too!
    • There are online services that can track your comments trail (forums, message boards, blogs, etc.), check your Twitter reputation, search blogs for your name, etc. There are sites that show when people have searched for you or asked questions about you. Focus on what you know you're most active on, then work your way down the list.
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    Consider what you can do to make changes to your online reputation where it lets you down. In many cases, this may be as simple as deleting a profile or messages from specific sites and waiting out the time for the search engine to stop returning these as top returns (in some instances, you can apply to have removal of search returns sped up). In other cases, you may need to seek professional help to get bad returns from continuing.
    • Contact a person who has uploaded damaging images, information or videos of you first. Ask that person nicely to remove it. Don't use curse words or rude statements––keep it clear, simple and factual and ask the other person to kindly remove the offending information.
    • Contact webmasters of sites to ask that your details or offending information be removed.[1] If you can't find details on the website for a webmaster, check Whois for more information. In some cases, the webmaster may ignore or refuse your request, or you won't be able to find the webmaster at all (it does happen). In which, case, keep trying while doing other positive things.
    • Google suggests overriding the negative with the positive if your initial search engine returns are not flattering. This means posting lots of positive things using your name or uploading positive profiles, information, running groups, creating blogs, conducting interviews on podcasts, writing think pieces, etc. to try to drown out the less flattering stuff. This suggestion sounds helpful but can be easier said than done, especially where the sites holding reputation-damaging information are high in the search engine returns and for one reason or other, you can't remove, have wiped or change the information yourself. It also requires time, something you may have precious little of or interest in investing.
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    Seek legal advice if the reputation-diminishing issue of search engine returns is highly damaging or endangering your life. There is a point at which self-help is useless and you may need legal advice and help to make substantial changes. Especially when dealing with search engines that don't make it easy to contact them...
    • There are companies that specialize in online reputation management. They can be pricey, but they might be important for some cases.


  • Be aware that photos of a friend's that you are tagged in may not be protected by your privacy settings.
  • Teach children as soon as they start using the internet what they need to know about maintaining a good reputation. This includes asking them to ask you before joining any site, checking the profiles they're leaving on sites and regulating the amount of time they spend online so that they don't get so wound up that they say stupid things from tiredness or from being over-involved online.
  • Consider registering a free, spare email address for use when signing up on social networking websites or other areas where privacy isn't always guaranteed. This way, it will be harder for people who you don't want as friends, followers, etc. to search for you.
  • Things such as legal records from decades before that have now been digitalized can come back to haunt you. This is why it is important to manage your online reputation proactively, using alerts and frequent checks to see what has been uploaded with your name attached to it.


  • Be aware that there are sometimes the persnickety, threatened or nosy types who enjoy or feel driven to dig up the dirt on a person, especially if you are in a competitive environment. If there are things in your past that can affect your present, consider how being open about past mistakes can actually shield you from such attacks more successfully than any amount of trying to hide it deeply. Of course, it all depends on what was in your past.
  • Remember that posting personal information online is like posting it on a highway billboard. Always use caution in what you choose to publish.

Things You'll Need

  • Post-it note reminders
  • Privacy setting instructions (if you can't find them, ask on the site's forum for directions)
  • A decent profile that can be linked across different social network accounts

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