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    When people search for you online, what will they find? Does your online presence flatter your professional identity? Maybe, during a search a potential customer stumbles upon your social media account or your website. They might see pictures posted online by friends or read comments you left on local news videos or other sites you frequent such as Twitter. You may have gotten mentioned in a testimonial about your work, or worse — a complaint. And, depending on how you spend your time online, there’s a lot more they can learn about you.

    Are you sure that your online presence is what you want prospective customers or colleagues to see? If not, it’s time for an online presence audit of your digital footprint and make any updates necessary to show yourself in the best possible light.

    Why it’s important to audit your online presence

    We all want to be liked, but when you’re a professional with a career that depends on having a good reputation, it’s even more important to make sure you’re presenting yourself well to people who could potentially be future customers. Negative reviews, personal rants, any content you’ve created, and more can ruin a positive reputation and make your leads turn elsewhere with their business. Think of this analysis as another part of your reputation management and digital marketing strategy.

    By not making a regular effort to check in on how your web presence shows up online you won’t know how you appear. And, by not knowing what shows up online, you can’t do anything to fix it!

    Start with the basics — a search engine

    The idea of auditing your online presence feels overwhelming. Your digital footprint is so big that just getting started feels intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a simple place to start: Google yourself.

    Open an internet browser, and in the search bar, type your name inside of quotation marks, like this “your name”. The results will show you everywhere that your name comes up on the internet. The reason quotes are used is to inform the search engine that you’d like the results to be an exact match to what you’ve written. This technique is commonly used in SEO digital marketing, so if you know any other SEO tricks, these can come in handy.

    Now, be aware, this starting place for your online presence audit is much easier for people with complex names and can be difficult for those with common names. John Smith, as an example, would have to put a little more effort into finding himself online. But — this is actually a good thing. This shows you what it’s like for your prospects to find you online. You’ll see what they see and learn about people who happen to be your name twin. 

    If you have a common name, try adding identifying information to your search. Think about how your potential clients would find you. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

    • “Your name” “your state”
    • “Your name” “your city”
    • “Your name” “job title”
    • “Your name” “industry”
    • “Your name” “something you help clients with”

    Just remember, the use of quotes is going to inform the search engine to search for those exact words in that exact order.

    Once you start seeing results that are related to you, decide how to proceed. For example, maybe you’ll see a link to a comment you left on a public-facing social media feed that you’d like to remove. You may also notice an article or piece of content you wrote getting a lot of traction, and you choose to tweak your content marketing strategy and publish for that outlet more often. If you have an uncommon name or find a search term that is good for finding your previous activity online, you can set up event tracking and be notified whenever your name or search term is mentioned somewhere online. If you set up event tracking, it’s best to do it for the most commonly used sites such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

    Your online presence: What to check for on your website

    After you’ve combed through the world wide web, it’s time to direct your attention to one specific website — your own. That is, if you have your own URL. If you don’t have your website, search through your company’s website to find your bio and any other references to you and make sure they are current and complimentary.

    For your own website, you’ll also want to make sure your bio and about page are current. But don’t stop there. Read through all of your web copy to make sure you’re speaking to the right client and you’re addressing their exact needs. Then, look for what may be missing from a professional site. Do you have pages for your terms and conditions, privacy policy, and a disclaimer? Does your services and contact page explain how you best serve your clients and encourage potential leads to reach out? Do you make the process of connecting easy for them?

    What to check for on your social media accounts

    Now that you’ve combed through your (or your company’s) website, it’s time to head on over to social media. First, comb through your profile. When was the last time it was updated? Again, is there an easy way for leads to connect with you?

    Now, dive a bit deeper. Search for your name in any social media groups and see what comes up. Are you providing value? Are you connected to groups still that no longer share your values? What about your “likes”? What pages or posts are you currently liking, and how do they reflect on you as a professional? Finally, scroll through your own profile or business page and determine if what you’re sharing is the message you want to portray.

    What to do moving forward

    Now that you’ve done the first audit of your online presence, set reminders in your calendar to do this regularly — at least once or twice per year. Then, set a Google Alert for your name or business name for possible notification of when you’re being mentioned on the internet. 

    And remember, auditing your online presence isn’t simply about removing items that don’t reflect well on you professionally. It’s also extremely important to take note of what is currently working well for you and do more of that in the future. If testimonial social posts are popular, schedule more out! If you regularly publish blog posts that have good traction, keep it up! The reward of auditing your online presence comes when you do more of what’s working, and less of what isn’t.

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