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The best online reputation management strategy is a proactive one. Instead of trying to suppress your past, focus on building your future. By adding new content in the form of new social network accounts, blog posts, articles and forum posts, you can boost your professional identity and tamp down your “drunk college days” identity at the same time. This works because search algorithms like to see new content — in Google’s eyes, an up-to-date blog is far more relevant than a years-old Facebook picture, and therefore gets prime real estate near the top of the search results.

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Here are some ways to build a brand for you:

Start a blog or a personal website. This doesn’t have to be a professional blog or website; it can simply be a personal blog with work-safe posts. If you want to write about Los Angeles salad places or restoring arcade cabinets, go for it — just make sure you do so in a professional manner. Also, it’s never a bad idea to purchase your domain name (first+lastname.com)

Spiff up your social networks.Create a separate Facebook account for your professional identity. Add your boss, coworkers and professional colleagues, and post (work-safe but interesting) content to this account frequently. If you’re not a member of many social networks, consider joining some under your professional identity; LinkedIn is an obvious choice, but I also like review sites Yelp and Amazon; alumni sites such as Classmates.com; and blogging sites like Tumblr. After all, you want to come across as a well-rounded, totally work-safe person, right?

Be an expert. If you’re an expert in your field, try to get your name placed in industry publications or magazines. The quickest way to the top is to ride someone else’s coattails, and an industry pub is far more likely to have Google clout than little ol’ you. Sites like Help a Reporter out (HARO) and Media Diplomat connect reporters with sources — you could be that source. If you’re not an expert in your field, try to position yourself as one through blog posts, forum posts, and video blogs or on social media.

Then again, remember this: while you might think that a squeaky-clean, ultra-professional online presence is ideal, it’s not. If your professional presence is too sterile, you’ll raise flags — it will be obvious you’re cultivating it — and you may prompt your online stalkers to just dig deeper. You want your branded content to reflect someone who’s professional, but who also has a personality.

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