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Tips for Managing Your Online Brand and Reputation

When someone brings up the topic of managing your online reputation, what comes to mind? Ratcheting up your privacy settings? Deleting incriminating Facebook photos?

Those tactics are definitely a good start, but there are many other strategies to consider when trying to optimize your online profile.

According to Mobile Development Course Director Alexia Dawson, giving yourself an online makeover is not just about removing things you don’t like or don’t wish to share. It’s also about deliberately leaving a breadcrumb trail of searchable content that shows off your professionalism and other desirable traits.

Recently, during Hall of Fame Week, Dawson gave a presentation on the topic called Managing Your Online Presence. Obviously, appearing professional online is important when looking for a job or otherwise trying to make a good impression. You should always assume that hiring managers are Googling you and making judgments about you based on what they uncover, says Dawson.

Dawson said there are companies charging good money to help people positively position themselves and their companies on the web. These services are known as online identity management (OIM), Personal Reputation Management (PRM) or personal branding.

However, people with some basic tech skills can do this for themselves.

Who Are You Online? Who Do You Want to Be?

The first thing to consider when thinking about your online presence is who you want to be, says Dawson. Are you an artist who wants to cultivate a reputation as a connected member of online art communities? Are you a programmer who wants to appear knowledgeable and seen as a valuable contributor to game industry sites? Your strategies depend on your industry, professional goals, and personal brand.

Next find out how you appear online now. Log out of Google, go incognito and Google yourself, says Dawson. Do a web search as well as a Google Images search.

What do you see? Professional content like your LinkedIn profile, portfolio site, quality photos or videos, and links to positive comments on industry sites are good. Photos or videos that make you look irresponsible or comments that are inflammatory or offensive are bad.

Most likely, you will also see content from people with similar names, especially if your name is a common one, says Dawson. By putting more quality content on the web, you can attempt to make your content rise to the top in a search.

Scattering the Good Breadcrumbs

So where should you begin? If you want to appear as an authority on a topic, consider answering questions on sites like Yahoo Answers or Quora or posting industry-related news on LinkedIn. If you’re in the programming or development world, giving good advice on sites like StackOverflow or StackExchange is advisable, says Dawson. Designers might want to upload their work to sites like Dribble, Forrst, Behance or DeviantArt. Have a presentation that you are particularly proud of? Post it on SlideShare. You can also develop a professional, authoritative persona on Digg or StumbleUpon.

“If you’re shy, you don’t have to really put yourself out there, but at least put enough of your work out there to develop an online presence,” advises Dawson.

Feed the Web Crawlers

How can you make it easier for those web crawlers that rank content to find your good stuff? Link backs, of course!

A link back is a link from another website to your website. In order to make use of link backs, you need to have a you-HQ to link to. Owning your own domain name and building your site around that is ideal, says Dawson.

“Wherever you have a presence, you would want to link to yourself,” says Dawson. “You need to have one good landing page for people to find you that branches off to other things. Always link back to one main page, and that builds your SEO even more.”

One way to link back to your site from sites you have a presence on is to embed your website link into your signature. That way, every time you comment, you are adding a link to your page, but without spamming. And of course, if you post your work online, you should always include a link to your site, so that people can see more examples of your work – and so the web crawlers can find more examples of your link backs.

You can also create relationships with colleagues or fellow bloggers and agree to link to each other’s sites.

Here are more of Alexia Dawson's tips, for both advanced and amateur reputation managers:

  • Learn to edit YouTube thumbnails (so that the photo that first appears is flattering)
  • Set up a Google alert for your name
  • Un-tag yourself from questionable photos
  • Check all your privacy settings, everywhere!
  • Always fill out your profiles with consistent data and link backs
  • Use Google Plus Authorship Tools
  • Consider what your kids will think when they search for you
  • Be excellent to each other...

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