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How To

How to Protect Your Online Reputation

1. For better or worse, your digital reputation is your reputation. Every decision about you is going to be determined by a quick Google search, and you won’t have a chance to explain yourself if you don’t have a pristine one. Even if you don’t show up on Google, that just means you’re 10 times more vulnerable. It’s a totally virgin territory on which to get jacked.
2. Manage it before you have a problem. The mistake that most people make is to think that because you’re a good and decent person, the Internet will think so. The two are not correlated. The accidental architecture of the Web is such that one stray remark can radically change your digital profile. People come to me all the time and say, I never thought I’d have a problem until my kid mentioned my fight with my wife online or someone in my company started saying nasty things about management. So the first thing is to Google yourself. When people search for you, they should see all the terrific things that are true about you or your company. Own a Web page with your own name or your business name in the Web address. Have a tasteful LinkedIn or Twitter account with your name in the user profile. The aim is to occupy the real estate on your search results.
If someone attacks you online, it’s almost always best to ignore it. You only want to respond if the material is very visible and demonstrably false. Otherwise, you risk the Streisand Effect, named for Barbra. In 2003 her lawyer sent a letter to a paparazzo who had photographed her house. It only called attention to the photo. Just don’t respond.

Michael Fertik is a Silicon Valley Internet entrepreneur who founded, which specializes in protecting reputation and digital privacy for individuals and businesses on the Internet. He co-authored Wild West 2.0 (Amacom, 2010) and has been named a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer for 2011. You can follow him at

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