• A complete lack of information, or inaccurate results: For people who want to learn more about you, finding nothing may be just as bad as finding something negative. It’s frustrating to discover that there is nothing to learn about someone online — and it can raise suspicion. In fact, many find Facebook abstainers to be suspicious. Searchers may wonder what you’re hiding, or it can also indicate that sadly, no one thinks you’ve done anything worth mentioning.

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  • Negative news stories or bad reviews: Having someone talk badly about you online is one of the worst blows to your reputation. It shows that you not only made a mistake, someone thought it was bad enough to share with the world. A news story about being arrested, irate clients, or even a crazy ex writing about your divorce can ruin your good name online in the blink of an eye.
  • Hateful or controversial opinions, inappropriate language: The Internet is a great place for discussion, allowing you to connect not just with friends, family, and acquaintances, but with literally the entire world and its opinions. Forums, Facebook, and other outlets for discussion are a popular place to share your opinion and learn from others, but they also have the potential to wreck your online reputation. Search engine results that associate a hateful opinion with your name, or controversial discussions that are divisive may turn others off. It should also go without saying losing your temper or using swear words online will look bad as well.
  • Unsavory records: Your single night in jail or decade-old bankruptcy may feel like ancient history to you, but the Internet remembers. It’s a major problem if searches for your name pops up records that show you’ve had run-ins with the law or major financial trouble.

Steps to Assess Your Online Reputation

  • Search yourself: This is the first thing anyone will do when researching your reputation online, so it should be your first step, too. Search for “your name” (using quotation marks for accuracy). Remember to use the name others are most likely to search with. What name are you using on your resume? If necessary, add your city, and be sure to click through Google’s tabs to see images, videos, and other links that may be associated with your name. Remember that if you’re signed in to Google services, your results may be customized, so try signing out and searching as well. Don’t stick to Google alone, either. Be sure to check Yahoo! and Bing as well. Concentrate most carefully on the first page of search engine results, as most searchers don’t bother to look beyond the top entries.
  • Take a look at your social media accounts: Check out your Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, and other public accounts. Do you have any embarrassing photos floating around, irate rants, or overly negative posts? They could reflect poorly on your online reputation. Not sure which accounts are still around?
  • Consider how many results actually apply to you: Having few or no results that belong to you may be just as bad as having negative ones. People, who search for you may wonder what you’re hiding, or worse, think that there’s simply nothing remarkable about you to find. This is a sure sign that you need to work on building your reputation, as it not only leaves you in the dark, it also leaves you vulnerable, allowing a negative search result to creep to the top if you ever have a problem.
  • Assess whether your results are positive, negative, or neutral: How did you do? Remember to save or bookmark any search results that may need your attention; you can work on them later.
  • Ask a trusted friend, family member, or colleague to take a look, too: This is your life, after all, and your view may be a bit skewed. You may not consider certain photos or blog posts to be troublesome, while others do. Ask for some outside help to determine whether you should be concerned about what you’ve found.