For many people, the thought of trying to manage what is posted on the Internet is overwhelming. I want to give some very practical advice to those people. Don’t overreact. When something embarrassing is discovered online, obsessing about it does nothing. Don’t continue to click on the negative posting, it will only make it worse.
First, take a comprehensive look at all of the content that can be found about you online. As you begin, there will be many sites that are unfamiliar to you. Most of these sites can be described as information aggregation sites. They offer information about you that is pulled together from various public sources and then presented as an online “profile.” Many times, that information will be incorrect. Some do sites allow you to “claim” the account and correct the information. But remember, creating a login and password will require your accepting the site’s Terms and Conditions. Once you do, you have opted into their site platform. Understand that, in all probability, you will start receiving email that you may have inadvertently agreed to accepting.
Second, a noisy, unsatisfied customer or disgruntled ex-employee posting a negative review in Yelp, Citysearch, Google Reviews or other online review forums can destroy new business and hurt existing business. As a business owner, you recognize the threat. If you find such negative mentions online, look at the Terms and Conditions of the sites where the slander appears. There is the possibility that the negative content posted may violate the site’s content and conduct parameters. Most sites provide contact information that allows you to request the content be removed. State your case clearly and concisely. While the majority of rating sites view such comments as valid and will not remove them, it does on occasion happen.
Third, define what you can control. Take control of your name. Create a profile for your name on the major social sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. You do not have to provide all of your information in order to secure the accounts; more on this in a minute. In fact, successfully establishing these sites and providing basic information may be enough to place them on page one of your search results.
Another way to gain some control online is to purchase the URL address for your name. A quick search on GoDaddy will tell you if your name can be purchased as a website address (BeckyGreySmith.com). Consider .com, .net, .org or others to expand your digital asset base. Once you own these web addresses you can build simple websites by following tutorials. Posting a resume, bio, public contact information and a professional head shot can be helpful to not only get true information about you online but may also actually enhance your professional profile.
If you have been blatantly slandered on a complaint site or blog DO NOT post a rebuttal. It will create additional negative issues for you. As hard as it may be to do this, leave it alone.
Finally, stop the madness. Stop accepting everyone as a “friend.” Stop allowing other sites to have access to your core social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. We have all heard the saying “you are your own worst enemy” and it can easily be applied to online conduct as well. In the privacy of your home it is easy to forget that you can create issues for yourself online that can follow you. Don’t argue online. Don’t post compromising pictures. Don’t curse trying to be funny and make it a priority to be aware of what others see when they search for you on the Internet.
All of the suggestions outlined above may seem like common sense. All of these actions are free. I hope these basics will get you started with your online defense strategy.