What to Do When You Find Something Negative about Yourself Online
Our last article showed you how to keep track of your online brand with popular tools, such as the Google search engine. Well, let’s say that you are using one of the tips from that article and come across something silly you did years ago. It is not aligned with the brand image you want to portray today, and it would be slightly embarrassing (okay, maybe really embarrassing) if a potential client saw it. What can you do? Here are three things you can do to manage how your negative information shows up on the Internet:
- Ignore it. This solution is only wise if you have a common name and there is no information on the page that can readily associate the negative content with you. Ignoring it will not work if there is a photo attached to the link or if you have a very uncommon name. This solution may work great for a Mary Smith…not so much for a Dequiana Brooks.
- Contact the site to see if the information can be removed. If this negative content has been posted online by someone else, then send a friendly email asking for its removal. The site owner may surprise you and take it down. On social networking sites you have the option to flag content as inappropriate. Then, it could be automatically deleted, or the author will be forced to take it down. Unfortunately, this may not work with sites pulling information from public records, such as newspaper articles or court cases, but it is always worth a try. Remember, this is your online brand.
- Post content about yourself online. If the information cannot be ignored or removed, then give the search engines better, positive information to post about you. Here are a couple things you can do to create content:
- Open accounts on some of the popular social networking sites. Search engines routinely crawl places like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, so their profile pages typically come up first when someone searches for your name. This will push the negative information further down on the search page and hopefully past page one or two.
- Post articles to EzineArticles, Helium or other writing sites. Signing up to these article writing sites gets you an author profile page. Just like the social networking sites, your profile here will typically show up on the first page of the search engines. These sites take articles on almost any topic, and you are likely an expert on something.
If you have employed these tips, and someone still finds that negative piece of content about you online, then be prepared to respond honestly. Say something like, “I was at a different place in my life then. Let me tell you about what I’m doing now.” This gives you a chance to redirect the conversation to something positive. Those are the three quick tips for online damage control. Do you have others? Share them in the comments section below.