A couple of times every month I browse on over to Google and search for my own name to see what the results will bring. After I’ve done that, I type in the name of my website and run the search engine again.
Checking your online reputation like this is something that every freelancer should do on a regular basis. I wouldn’t recommend stopping with Google, either. You should also check on Twitter and on other social media sites.
While it might seem vain to search for yourself online, it’s actually an important step in protecting your online reputation. If you do business online, then you not only be checking on but also working to protect and manage your online reputation.
What You Can Learn From Your Online Reputation
Every time you search for your own name on Google or Twitter, you can learn several important things:
- What people are saying about your business. If you have an unhappy customer, it’s possible they won’t express that dissatisfaction to you. Instead, they may blog about their dissatisfaction or comment negatively about your work on other sites. Sometimes, untruths and misinformation are spread about your company online without your knowledge.
- Whether your work is being used without permission. As a freelance writer, my work is often “scraped” by plagiarists and used on other sites without my permission. Many plagiarists are careless about stealing my work — often my name remains with the piece. A quick search can turn up my articles on sites that I never submitted them to.
- Whether someone else is using your personal or business name. As a freelancer, your name and your business name are important. But, are you the only one using your name? With a few quick searches, you can determine who is using your name online. If another individual or business has the same name, how are they using that name? Do they appear to be reputable?
What To Do If Your Online Reputation Is In Trouble
Fortunately for me, I haven’t experienced any severe complaints or untruthful information, although I often run across sites that have “borrowed” my work without asking. I share my personal name with several other individuals and a popular television character –- but fortunately that has not affected my freelancing career.
However, not all freelancers are so lucky. If you find that you do have a problem with your online reputation, then you have several options:
- Ignore It. If you have a dissatisfied customer or find that someone has stolen your work or is spreading misinformation, you can look the other way. Perhaps the offending person will stop their activities or the plagiarist will take the stolen material down. If the complaint is minor or if the poster doesn’t look credible, ignoring the problem might be the best solution.
- Confront It. Another option if you find that someone is posting negative information online is to confront the negative poster directly. Contact them and ask them why they posted what they did and ask what you can do to make it right. This approach can be particularly effective with former clients who have legitimate complaints with the service they received.
- Get Help. If your problem is too large or you are facing a particularly aggressive onslaught of false information, then you should get professional help. There are companies that specialize in online reputation management services that range from monitoring your reputation to correcting misinformation to taking legal steps (if needed).
Share Your Online Reputation Management Strategies
I’ve shared some of the steps that I take to protect my online reputation. What steps are you taking?
Do you regularly search for your personal and business name? Have you had to deal with plagiarism or anything worse?
Tell your stories in the comments.