Today’s guest post is by John Millen.

During the holidays, most of us take some time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.

This year, why not consider a new tradition: Manage your online reputation.

After all, a strong online reputation is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Your online digital footprint is now your digital life resume.

What people read on the first page of search results is who you are.

If you don’t show up online, you don’t exist. Worse, if you have bad search results, people have a negative perception of you. As you know, in a digital world perception is truly reality.

That’s why all of us have to be proactive in our personal online reputation management. (I’m looking at you, too, communications professionals. Sometimes we know this stuff but don’t practice what we preach.)

Think about it. When you meet someone and you’re interested in being involved for business, or, um, personal reasons, what’s the first thing you do?

That’s right, you Google them. What makes the first page of Google results critically important is that only about six percent of people will go to the second page of results.

Certified by Search

This can mean life or death for people who depend on referrals for their success, such as small business owners, professionals, and job seekers. The most powerful source of new business and employment comes from referrals. But today these referrals must be certified by positive search results.

Evidence for proactively managing your online presence is easy. In one recent survey 90 percent of employers admitted checking the online the social profiles of job candidates. While 69 percent said they’d rejected a candidate because of what they found, 68 percent conversely said they’d hired employees after a positive view of their social media sites.

Take Action

With this in mind, here are five actions you can take during the holidays to get started on managing your online reputation for 2013.

  1. Google yourself: When these results appear you are looking at a digital mirror. What shows up? Do you show up on the front page? Are the results positive, or at least what you want to show up? These results are your ultimate metric–your goal should be to create positive content that will grow to dominate your front-page results.
  2. Outline your online reputation map: With yourself as the hub, draw spokes to your online properties, such as your name as a domain, your blog, your social profiles such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others. This visual will give you a clear picture of your gaps and potential opportunities.
  3. Evaluate your digital profile: It’s best to tap trusted friends or hire a professional to help you with this assessment. It’s hard to be objective. You’re looking for quality and quantity. Do you have a basic online network built around your name and identity? Is the content on your sites consistent with how you want to be seen? Realize there are no secrets or boundaries in a digital world–everything is transparent. So, yes, you should use privacy settings on Facebook, but whatever you post online is subject to being seen by the world. Are you producing content that aligns with how you want to project yourself?
  4. Develop an action plan: Review the gaps in your reputation map and outline steps you can take during the next year to move to improve your online identity. Set some reasonable goals such as capturing your name domains, creating and feeding a blog regularly, and assessing your personal brand.
  5. Work on improving your LinkedIn profile: If you only have time to do one substantive thing during the holidays, take the time to update your LinkedIn profile. With more than 175 million users, LinkedIn is your most valuable tool. Plus, properly produced, your profile is likely to rise to the number one result on Google. This is a quick way of temporarily bridging your online reputation gap as you work on the rest of your digital footprint.

The philosopher Descartes’ view was summed up in a famous quote: Cognito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am).

In my talks around the country, I remind people that in the digital age, the equivalent today is: I’m online, therefore I am.

I’m not urging you to make a resolution for next year. You should take action TODAY to assess your online reputation and commit to steady improvement over the New Year.

You’ll be giving yourself the gift that keeps on giving, as you reap the personal and career rewards of your stronger online reputation.

Here’s to a Happy New Year.

John Millen is the chief strategist at Reputation Group, a marketing and public relations consultancy engaged in the social and digital worlds.  He is also a husband, father, runner, and cyclist. John is editor and author of the blog at