Managing your online reputation is increasingly important. You may have have heard that dates, neighbours, clients and prospective employers may be looking you up online. But what exactly can you do about it?  Maybe you’ve heard that once something is online, it’s there forever. Well, while it’s difficult to remove stuff from the Internet, you can take steps to manage your online reputation.

Use a search engine to look yourself up. Most people go to Google, so start there. Note what comes up. Identify results you’d love people to see, results you never want them to see, and results that actually relate to someone else.

Set up a Google alert to scan for your name and let you know when it shows up online. You can create a Google alert in mere seconds.

Create a professional Twitter account and tweet about your industry, profession or business activities. Interact with others. Keep it professional.

Establish your own website, preferably using your own name or company name. From there, you can generate new, positive content. Many people use blogs to quickly publish new information – and help push down negative search results.

Set up free blogs on Blogger, WordPress and other sites. Keep the content professional. It’s a great way to quickly push up positive content in search engines. While you would usually want to keep a blog fresh and up to date, you can set up “extra” accounts if you really need to generate extra positive content under your name.

Guest write. Approach a popular blog, trade journal, professional association or even your alumni association and ask if you can write a free piece for their website or online newsletter.

Take part in intelligent, lively discussions on the websites, Facebook pages or Twitter feeds for your professional association, volunteer association or relevant hobbies.

Manage your Facebook, MySpace and other social media accounts carefully. Lock your privacy settings and only allow trusted friends and family to see your profile. If you don’t want prospective clients or employers to see you partying or looking goofy, use a generic image, a landscape, or a professional headshot. Consider removing yourself from search results.

If you do find negative or distracting content about you, try contacting the owners of those websites to see if you can have the content removed. Some may oblige you.