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7 Steps to clean up your web image for 2011

January 6, 2011

It’s the New Year, when thoughts go to resolutions and organization. What better time to get on track with all of those tasks that have fallen behind over the past months or years, right? With folks online more than ever these days I argue that closets aren’t the only thing that could use cleaning this January. As you take your Christmas tree to the curb you might also consider taking a few basic steps to give your online footprint an overhaul. Here are a few simple steps to take to help clean-up your online profile in the new year:

1. Google yourself. Always my all-time favorite tip for understanding how others might view or find you online. While it’s easy to poke fun, in today’s Internet age it isn’t vain to know what pops up in the popular online search engines. If you have a profile on a major social networks (Twitter, Facebook, You Tube), you’ll likely find that those sites appear first. Adjust your privacy settings if you don’t want that, and make sure your comfortable with what others find out about you from those sites.

2. Set up a Google alert for your name (www.Google.com ->more -> even more -> Alerts). Easy if you’re a Lindy Kyzer, not so helpful if you’re a John Smith. If you have a common name try including your company, business, or another relevant identifier as well. Alerts may seem excessive but it’s an easy one-step method for keeping tabs of your internet profile – identity theft happens online, too.

3. Clean out your Facebook friends. If you have a Facebook friend who you honestly can’t place – never met, don’t know – remove them as a friend. If you added your boss, mom, cleaning lady, etc. and now regret it, remove them, too. They won’t receive a notification that you’ve done so and if they find out you can always act confused and blame it on a glitch with the latest Facebook upgrade.

4. Develop friend lists on Facebook. This is a great and underused feature on Facebook – you can categorize your friends into different groups, helping you to choose what content you share with whom. This allows you to showcase those cute baby photos only with your family, and make sure those girls night out photos only go to your gal pals.

5. Clean out your inbox. If you never read those Old Navy email promotions, stop getting them. Most all retailers include an easy to click step to stop receiving their promotional email. You’ll be surprised how clean your inbox is once you stop receiving those messages you never read. Does your coworker Bob constantly forward you email threatening you with bad luck if you don’t forward on to 25 of your closest friends? Politely let him know you’d like to be removed from his list, you just don’t have time to read them.

6. Delete old profiles. Cleaning out your online garbage may seem easier said than done but I’m a big advocate for biting off only what you can chew and not maintaining an online presence at more places than you can manage. If you haven’t checked an account in over a month, delete it – this includes old email accounts, MySpace pages, bookmarking sites or other Internet profiles. You can never really delete anything online, but deleting profiles will at least remove them from the site’s search function.

7. Update your information. Check out your bio data in your online profiles and make sure it’s up to date. Make sure you’re still comfortable with what you’re sharing online, and consider paring down some of your bio data – such as exact birthday and address.

Taking the time for a little online clean-up will pay dividends down the road, saving time and helping you to focus your online time on the important things – like sharing all of those embarrassing holiday photos on Facebook.

(Cross-posted at www.ohmygov.com)

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