Do you have a job interview coming up? Have you scheduled a sales meeting? Have you landed a training or speaking gig? You have? Chances are you’ve been Googled before the meeting or during the event.

According to a 2012 Harris Interactive/Brandyourself.com study, 86 percent of those surveyed used a search engine like Google to find more information about another person.

And those results can influence decisions. In a 2012 Jobvite survey, 73 percent of recruiters said they hired a candidate who was identified or introduced through social networks. On the downside, 61 percent of recruiters who found the use of profanity in tweets and posts said it had a negative effect. As did typos, substance-related references, and former US congressman-turned-NYC-mayoral-candidate Anthony Weiner style references.

With that in mind, it’s mission critical that your online brand demonstrates how you wish to be perceived.

Advertisement

What will a Google search reveal about you? Google yourself now by entering your first and last name in quotes (like this: “Wendy Terwelp”) into Google’s search engine. Check the first three pages of your search results. How do you come across? Are the references to your name actually you? If they are, is what you found online how you wish to be perceived at this stage of your career?

If not, take action. Here are some tips:

  1. Clean up digital dirt. If you found “digital dirt” (inaccurate or unflattering information, off-brand references, and potential reputation busters) you can clean it up by removing it or burying it.

  2. You can remove the digital dirt yourself by deleting a post, un-tagging unflattering Facebook photos or by asking the person who posted the information to remove it. If references like news items can’t be removed, you can bury the digital dirt by creating and posting stronger, on-brand content on blogs, your LinkedIn updates, and Twitter posts. This better, on-brand content will push the unflattering information lower in the search results, thus burying it. Most people don’t go past the first three pages of Google search results.

  3. Beef up your presence. Not appearing in Google searches or having minimal online visibility can be just as much of a reputation killer as off-brand or off-putting references can be, especially at senior levels. If you have a negligible presence online, start building your online visibility with LinkedIn (typically found on page one when you’re Googled).

  4. Complete your LinkedIn profile, upload your headshot, and create a compelling bio. Ambitious? Start a blog and post regularly. Demonstrating your thought leadership online helps build your reputation and influence in your industry.

Google yourself often as results change. It’s important to be aware of your online reputation. Ensure what appears is relevant to you and your goals, and identify what’s NOT relevant so you can take appropriate action.