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Developing an online identity

An online identity is an identity that you establish in the virtual world of the internet. It has the ability to both negatively and positively impact your professional reputation.

Don’t be surprised to discover that potential employers, recruiters and business associates are Googling your name to reveal your online identity.

Keep reading to find out about:

  • Developing strategies to promote a positive online identity that will enhance your professional career
  • Promoting yourself online with professional social networking tools

Dos and Don’ts with your online reputation


  • Have a professional personal email address, that includes your name where possible. It is best to avoid humorous email addresses.
  • Work on the assumption that whatever you post could potentially be seen by millions online.
  • Password protect your phone, tablet and computer and be prepared to wipe it clean remotely in the event that the device is stolen.


  • Post or let others post inappropriate or indiscreet photos of you online.
  • Post anything online that you would not want a prospective employer to see. This includes inappropriate language or comments in your news feed.

Your own personal online identity

Have you ever Googled yourself recently? You really should because it is highly likely other people are doing it, ranging from potential employers, lawyers, friends, and family. It’s good practice to Google yourself regularly and see what you need to do to improve and promote about your online identity.

1. Google yourself

Step 1: Go to and search your own name. If you have a common name (e.g. John Smith), you might also want to include other details such as your hometown.

Step 2: Check if you could find the following in your search results:

  • A professional headshot
  • Your online portfolio

Did the results indicate:

  • The size of your digital footprint
  • Your character and behavior

Step 3: Reflect on what you discovered about yourself from your online Google search, is it what you expected? Do the Google results reflect the reputation that you’ve worked so hard to build offline?

2. Banish the digital dirt

Did your results retrieve any digital dirt? If yes, some actions are required.

Step 1: If you posted it yourself, remove it by deleting it. Only hiding potentially damaging posts or images alone can be risky. Follow up by reviewing your privacy settings on social media platforms.

Step 2: If you posted something on somebody else’s site that negatively reflects you, ask the owner or site administrator of the website to remove it.

Step 3: Don’t use your real name if you are a member of a group online that might appear to be controversial or peculiar.

3. Promote your online identity

  • LinkedIn profile; it is one of the first items that will appear in a Google search. Optimise your profile by updating it frequently and joining groups and being involved in discussions relevant to your industry. Watch the following video for tips on how to make a professional Linkedin profile.
  • ‘Follow’ and ‘like’ organisations and companies that you would like to be associated with or employed by on social media.
  • Consider creating a website using a platform such as WordPress, Weebly or Wix with your own name in the URL link. Add a professional photograph of yourself, your resume (remove your personal house address details) and a short bio.
    Include any other professional links to work that you have developed on the site, for example, online presentations, video PowerPoints or YouTube videos.
    This website will now most likely move to the front page of the search results when people Google your name.
  • Explore the idea of creating a Twitter feed related to your career field or industry and connect with leaders in your area.

4. Put a Google alert on your name

Google Alerts are automatic emails that are sent to you when a new Google result for your search term is identified. You will need to use a Google account to use this service.

Go to Google alerts and add your name in quotation marks as a Google alert. Using quotation marks around your name tells the search engine to only bring back pages exactly how you typed them.

Add a second Google alert using your email address.

5. Google yourself again

Once you’ve promoted yourself online, wait for at least a week, then go back and Google yourself again. Don’t worry if your latest online identity does not immediately feature in the search results. It is estimated to take anywhere between 4 days to 4 weeks for Google to index brand new websites.

Continue to regularly Google yourself and update your online identity.