But even if you correct all errors, you've still got another problem. The Internet isn't very good at sorting and highlighting the various aspects of your identity. For example, a search for your name may show that your recent professional achievements are buried, while references to your old high school MySpace page are front and center. Or maybe other people with the same name are more prominent than you are, and are easily mistaken for you.
Google yourself. What comes to the top? You don't have any control over it. Or do you?
A new category of Web service lets you fix, enhance and optimize your online reputation.
One of the newest and best of them is called Naymz. Basic service is free. You simply fill out a profile like you would on any number of social networking, social bookmarking or other service. The profile asks for links to the existing online information that you choose -- your Linked-In and other profiles, your blog, your online bio and several others. Then Naymz goes into action.
The site scoops up your chosen information and actively promotes it on Google using what the company calls a "proprietary system of search engine optimization techniques" that includes quality tagging and XML sitemaps. Over time, your chosen information should rise in the Google rankings over that information you didn't choose.
By visiting the Naymz site once in a while and checking out your profile, you can see any mentions of your name in blogs, news articles or other Web pages. The basic service is free, and advertiser supported. But you can upgrade to one of two for-pay options.
The site's "Premium" service ($4.95 per month or $47.50 per year) will promote your information on other search engines, including Yahoo and MSN. It also removes ads when you visit, and send you reports on people who visit your profile.
A "Premium Plus" service is very expensive ($299 per month or $2,499 per year), but worthwhile for CEO types for whom reputation determines career. Naymz will actively seek out existing information about you, and work to correct and improve it for you. They'll even buy your name as a keyword on Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask and AOL Search and places your information as a sponsored link when people search for you.
For most of us, however, the free service is a lot better than nothing. For an investment of about 5 minutes of your time, you can give your online reputation a boost, and keep it looking good for years.
Naymz is just one of several online reputation-enhancing services. Others include: