As January comes to a close, it’s easy to forget the whole-hearted resolutions you made at the turn of the New Year (you might’ve even broken a few already). And while the next fad diet can probably wait, making an effort to maintain a positive online reputation is something you definitely don’t want to ignore. No matter what you have planned for 2014—a job hunt, growing your business, getting back in the dating game, etc.—what shows up when people Google your name can have a huge impact on your professional and personal plans.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to resolve to improve your online reputation if it didn’t already make your list of resolutions this year. Below are 6 things you can start doing to put your best forward online.

1. Google Yourself & Get a Sense of What You’re Working With

Just as you would weigh yourself before starting a weight loss regimen, you need to get a sense of your current online reputation before you take any steps towards improving it. That means you want to Google your name and any variations (think about any nicknames, common misspellings, middle name, etc.). You also want to Google your name with any major identifiers that other people may use when they’re searching for you online. For instance, if you’re a real estate agent living and working in Albany, NY., you should Google “Your Name Albany”, “Your Name Real Estate”, “Your Name Real Estate Albany”, etc. Before doing anything though, sign out of your Google account (the account associated with your Gmail) to get the best representation of what shows up when people search for you.

2. Make a Game Plan

Once you have an idea of what’s out there for your name, the next step is figuring out what category your search results fall into i.e. negative, irrelevant, not about you or positive. From there, you can make a game plan about what you need to do and how aggressive to be about it. For instance, if you don’t have much out there about you online, you need to start creating some positive content. In the same vein, if there’s something negative, not about you or something you simply don’t want showing up for your name, your game plan here is also to create positive content but plan to create a lot more in order to bury the search result(s) you don’t want showing up.

3. Create Social Media Profiles (And Clean up the Ones You Already Have)

Chances are, you have at least one social media account. While this is a good start, the more profiles you create, the better for getting positive content about you out on the web—so don’t be shy. The most notable (and ones that tend to rank the highest) are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ but there are plenty of other social sites that you can join. Try looking into some sites that are related to your profession or interests.

When creating these profiles, make sure to:

Use Your Full Name – Always include your full name for your usernames / handles as well as in any bio or ‘about me’ sections.

Fill out the profiles completely – The more content you, the better, so fill out all of the information fields

Add a Profile Photo – Ditch the party pics and upload a professional photo that you wouldn’t mind if people came across it online

Link to other social media profiles, if possible - Linking profiles together indicates to Google that the content is about the same person or thing, which helps the profiles rank higher for your name.

Keep it clean – Keep it PG. Even if the profile is set to private, it doesn’t prevent something from popping up on Google or falling into the wrong hands.

4. Treat Yourself to a Domain Name (or two)

Take some of that holiday money and buy a few domain names for your full name. For example, JohnSmith.com. If your name is already taken, try adding a word related to your profession/interests or another identifier that makes sense i.e. “JohnSmithBusiness.com” or “JohnSmithOnline.com”. While you’re at it, pick up a few types of domains for your name. Even if you don’t plan to use the domain right away, purchase them ASAP to prevent anyone else from snagging them out from under you.

5. Create a Personal Website & Start a Blog

If you don’t already have a personal website, it’s time to create one. And if you already have one, give it a facelift to ensure it has the best chance of ranking on the first page of Google results for your name. There are plenty of tools you can use to build a website without much technical background. Wordpress is a good place to start—it’s free and relatively easy to use. Your website is meant to be a central hub for all information about you on the Internet so make sure to link to other profiles, websites, articles, etc. about you online as well as use your full name throughout the site (Ex. “About John Smith” instead of “About Me”)

Starting a blog as part of your site is not only an easy way to keep your website updated, but it also allows you to consistently create content for your name. You don’t need to be a professional writer/blogger to maintain a blog either. Write about what interests you or something related to the field you work in.

6. Stay on Top of Your Search Results

You don’t want improving your online reputation to be another fad resolution that burns out mid-February. As we mentioned earlier, make a game plan ahead of time to stay on track. Aim to create 1 blog post a month and post to social media once a week or blog weekly and update social media daily. Also, actively monitor what shows up for your name online so there is no surprises. If something negative or irrelevant does pop up, you can ramp up your efforts to fix the situation ASAP.

2014 is the year you put your best foot forward online and we’re here to help. We understand the online reputation management process can seem overwhelming at first, which is why we’ve created a series of resources, tools and services. Our Ultimate Guide to Online Reputation Management details the ins and outs of improving your online presence while our DIY product simplifies the online reputation process for you. Sign up for a free BrandYourself account or login to get started.

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