Starting a business? Make sure you clean up your online presence first

September 6 2017

Author: Jeffrey Wisard

If you own a business, here’s how you can check and manage your personal online reputation.

It’s the big moment – You’ve created your business plan, come up with a name, purchased the dot com, found a location and are almost ready to launch. From all the small business marketing blogs you’ve read, you know that you’re supposed to make a huge deal when you open. You jump on the phone with a potential PR company and you create your marketing/PR plan.

But hold on there, entrepreneur! There’s something incredibly important you need to do first: Check your personal online reputation.

Your online reputation can destroy your business

Imagine that you’re about to release that big PR and advertising campaign around your new business. Newspapers interview you and local influencers come to meet you. Without a doubt, the first thing they’ll do is Google you.

Now, let’s say that your name is exactly the same as a convicted criminal. This mistake could cause a social media firestorm and damage your business before it even opens.

Sounds ridiculous, right? It’s not – This exact scenario happened to Pete Kistler when he was looking to build his career.

Thus, it’s incredibly important that before you open a business, you fully understand what the internet knows or thinks it knows about you.

Steps to check your online reputation

Now that you’re aware of the risk, how do you ensure that your online reputation is in good standing? Here are some simple steps to make sure your online reputation is top notch before you open your business’s doors.

1. Google + Google Images search

Have you ever Googled yourself? If not, you need to before your open your business. To help refine the search, make sure you use some of the Google Operators. Search your name with “” to return an exact match (Exe: “John Doe”) or @ for social media (Exe: @johndoe).

Also, don’t neglect the Google Images tab. Who knows what images you might be tagged in or are associated with? If you find an image that’s not appropriate, contact the site’s admin to have it removed or changed.

2. Review all your social media accounts

Social media has changed quite a bit since Facebook, Twitter and Instagram originally launched. Because of this, you may not remember that one seemingly inappropriate joke you made on Facebook or that not-safe-for-work Instagram post you posted years ago.

To avoid this, review all the images and posts that you’re tagged in on all platforms. If you find something unsavory, ask that it be taken down or, at the least, remove yourself from the tag. Likewise, make sure you review your social media accounts privacy settings. If you don’t want people to see your posts from years ago, make your account private and only available to those you’re close with.

3. Check with your local government

Sometimes payments aren’t delivered and records aren’t correct. Thus, before you open your business, make sure you proactively check your Department of Revenue for any delinquent taxes, your city and county magistrate court to ensure you don’t have any damaging court records and any other agency that may have a public record that could be hurtful.

4. Create Google Alerts for yourself

Google Alerts sends you an email based on the alerts you create. You’ll want to create an alert for your full name (Exe: “Jane Doe”) and your full name plus the city you live in (Exe: “Jane Doe Atlanta”). If your name is mentioned on the internet, Google will send you an email update with the link to the mention. This allows you to proactively manage your personal brand.

Checking off the above suggestions will give you a full scope of what your digital reputation is. Understanding what is digitally available about you and your business will allow to rest easy when reporters and customers come knocking.