Luckily fixing your online reputation is much simpler than most people imagine because the average busy person is not going to read pages of Google results and other web pages. In my experience most people are content to look at just the first page of the Google search results and rarely click on any link unless they see a problem. And to fix this first page for most people it will be enough to follow these five simple steps.
1. GOOGLE YOURSELF. REGULARLY. Don't wait till someone else does it, Google yourself and look at what comes up. You need to come back every month or so to check on the results, partly because new stuff is being indexed all the time and partly because Google changes their algorithm from time to time to stop search engine manipulators gaming the system. Normally you only need to worry about the first page but the first time you do this I suggest you also go a few pages deeper to make sure there is no content so negative you can't afford to have even on page 20. If your name is extremely common try Googling your name with your profession, your town or some other qualifier.
2. REMOVE OR HIDE NEGATIVE CONTENT YOU CONTROL. If you see any content you don't want others to see that is controlled by you -- like your own Facebook page -- then you should either delete this content or change the privacy settings so it is not findable. Be especially careful with Facebook because changes to privacy settings mean that once-private pages can suddenly become public. If the problem is that someone else has tagged you on a party photo then remove your tag from that photo. Yes, you do have this option.
3. PUSHDOWN OTHER UNWANTED CONTENT BY CREATING NEW; GOOD CONTENT. Pushdown all of the other returns that are either irrelevant or negative by creating new content that Google will recognize as high ranking. Essentially Google values most content on important sites, so an article about you on nytimes.com would rank highly, but is rather hard to get. But luckily there are many high ranking sites that welcome you to create profiles: these are the social networking sites, Create a profile for yourself with your real name on LinkedIn, Facebook, GooglePlus, Zerply, Viadeo and so on and these will appear at the top of Google results.
4. ASK FOR REMOVE OF NEGATIVE CONTENT ON OTHER SITES- If there is negative content on sites you don't control and you are not satisfied with pushing it down onto page four then you should consider asking the owner of the content to remove it. If this page is owned by a friend a polite request is usually enough. If that doesn't work then contact the owners of the site who you can find through the "Who Is" resource at http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp
5. PROTECT YOUR PERSONAL BRAND BY REGISTERING DOMAIN, ID ON NEW SITES. Finally, you can protect your personal brand for the future by registering your real name as ID on new sites that emerge, just in case they become important later. If you try to ask Twitter now for the account @MarcoRossi it is probably taken, but when a site first starts you can have anything. For the same reason it is also a good idea to spend a few dollars to register the domain name yourname.com. Google also ranks content on this domain more highly so it is a good choice for a personal site. For more about this see How Joining Networking Sites Boosts Your Reputation.
These are the five basic techniques that will clean up and improve the online reputation of most people, brands, companies and organizations. There will be some cases that are more complicated -- like if your name is the same as that of someone famous or infamous -- and in these cases you will perhaps need professional help.
If you have any problems fixing your search results or you are just too busy to do it yourself then contact me to ask about fast, inexpensive remote coaching options. I can provide personal advice by mail, chat, phone, videoconference in small manageable blocks of time. See http://andrewhennigan.com/coaching.htm for more details.
Lectures, Workshops & Coaching
For one-to-one coaching, lectures and workshops on this topic see andrewhennigan.com or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 0033 6 79 61 42 81.
Related posts on Branding and Reputation Management:
Choosing Pronounceable Brand Names: Lessons from the Cuil Saga
Five Simple Steps to Improve Your Online Reputation
Branding in the Age of Search Engines
Why Having Accounts on Photo Sharing Sites Is Good for Your Image
Sign Up Now: Joining New Networking Sites Boosts Brand, Reputation