The best defense is a good offense when it comes to protecting yourself online.
By building up a well-thought out online presence you reduce the chances of anyone seeing false or personal information about you. Protecting yourself against anything that could cause you issues in the future is really as simple as cultivating a defensive barrier of positive content about yourself. This will help you get in front of existing or future threats to your security and reputation.
In this post we’ll show you why the best defense is a good offense when it comes to protecting yourself online.
The Fundamentals Of A Strong Online Presence
Create a personal brand statement
Before you create new social media accounts or finally build your website, you need to identify a focus that ties them together. This might just seem like extra work, but this helps search engines connect these sites and profiles to each other and to you. So take some time and create a statement that does this well. Your actions need to stretch farther than “protect myself online”, even though that’s your main goal. Focus on the values and beliefs that make you unique. Your personal brand statement should succinctly describe who you are, what you do and pinpoint what makes you different from others. This will be your baseline when you start optimizing the content on your properties.
Build and optimize profiles
Now that you have a clear sense of what version of yourself you’re going to project online, it’s time to create or optimize online properties that you control. Build social media profiles to support your online presence. We suggest that you start with sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google plus because they tend to rank well. But you’ll need to add to this list over time if you want the best online protection possible.
If you already have accounts on these sites, that’s great - you don’t have to start from scratch. But that does mean you need to do extensive audits and make sure that they are in line with your personal brand statement and that they are optimized for search engines.
Build and optimize your website
Similar to creating professional profiles in line with your personal brand statement, you should also build (or optimize) your personal website with this in mind. Make sure that your bio and the content you publish or share on your site reflects these values. Remember to take all steps necessary to optimize your website for your name so that search engines know that this site should come up in rankings when people search you online.
Once your site and profiles are up and running, it’s time to create content. That’s pretty vague, but basically get started writing blog posts, sharing photos, videos, snaps, slideshares, tweets - anything. While engaging with others through likes and comments is important, the heart of your online presence is in the high-quality, original content that you publish.
Now that you’ve set up a strong foundation online, you have the opportunity to take things a little further. To do so we recommend that you build credibility by getting placements in relevant, highly-regarded third-party publications. You should also aim to get your content syndicated if possible. Having other respected people and publications endorse you by sharing your content is a great way to make this happen.
By doing this your properties online will become more authoritative in the eyes of search engines, and will rank higher. This means that if negative or unwanted information about you does show up online, then the number of people that will be exposed to it is greatly diminished. You don’t have to take things this far if you don’t have the time, just know it will help protect you from future threats even more.
How To Deal With Existing Threats
Before you come up with an action plan, you need to accurately evaluate all potential threats to your security or reputation. You don’t want to be so focused on one issue that you completely miss the five others that are even more damaging. Identify and monitor these threats by googling yourself and taking note of the first ten pages of results. You should also perform searches on your social media accounts to see if there is anything on there that could come back to bite you later.
Now that you know exactly what exactly you’re up against, remove everything damaging that you have control over. This could include Facebook posts where you’re drinking, rants from your ancient livejournal account, or tweets that were funny at the time, but don’t translate well. Don’t just set these things to private - delete them!
If you don’t have control over damaging results associated with your name, consider requesting removal directly, filing a takedown request or pursuing legal action. Unfortunately none of these are guaranteed to work and can be quite time consuming and costly. That’s why we recommend that you spend more of your energy creating a strong online presence that you control. If you consistently update your site and profiles, over time that will combat the damaging information.
How To Protect Yourself Against Future Threats
Taking security precautions and monitoring the kind of information that you publish online about yourself is necessary when trying to protect yourself from future damaging results. However, there’s always the chance that some negative or dangerous information will still pop up unexpectedly in the future. This is the unfortunate reality of the times we live in, but by following the steps above you will be prepared for this type of unknown.
Building a strong online presence helps you for future threats in the same way it does for current ones, just quicker. Unwanted information and content that shows up when your optimized web properties are fully-formed and ranking will have an even harder time being seen by others, since they won’t be able to gain momentum in the first place.
This is why it’s crucial for you to put these tips into practice even if you don’t have any issues right now. You never know what might show up down the road, but you will be thankful you invested the time when it does.
Time To Get Started
Now that you know the best way to protect yourself from existing and potential threats online, it’s up to you to do the work. While there’s no way to fully prevent negative content from being published, the best defense is a good offense.
Spend time building and regularly maintaining properties that you can control to protect yourself online and build a beneficial web presence for yourself in the process.
Sabrina Clark is a marketing professional specializing in startups in the technology and Internet space. Sabrina is the Director of Marketing & Corporate Communications at BrandYourself, helping people take control of Google search results for their own name and establish a positive online reputation.