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5 ways to defend and enhance your Google reputation

Ensure the net doesn't ruin your life... or career

It's not what other people think of you that matters. It's what they can find out about you on the web that will affect your ability to get a job or promotion, rent or buy a house, be accepted into the school of your choice, or find the love of your life.

Defend your reputation

When it comes to online reputations, people are usually their own worst enemies. Those drunken photos may have been a hoot at university, but they're not so funny when you're prepping for the big job interview. Especially as 77 percent of recruiters use search engines to screen prospective job candidates, reports a survey by ExecuNet.

You can delete your Flickr account or your MySpace page, but once this stuff is on the web, you have no control over what happens to it. If you find nasty stuff floating around that's not under your control, you may have to hire someone to take care of it for you.

Some services, like DefendMyName, can cost around £500 a month; but there are others that are bit more reasonable. For £5 a month, Reputation Defender's MyReputation service will scour the net to find out what people are saying about you.

If the service uncovers anything you can't abide, you can pay Reputation Defender £15 to have it removed. Reputation Defender starts by sending a letter politely asking the site to remove it. If the site refuses, the requests become increasingly less polite. But sometimes this process backfires. When Reputation Defender tried to erase news of one client's arrest from Consumerist.com in January 2007, it spurred a spitting match in the blogosphere that only made matters worse.

And if the service can't get the bad stuff taken down, it will try to bury it by posting positive items about you and making sure the good stuff shows up higher in Google searches (though that service costs extra). Overall, MyReputation has had good success in removing items from video and photo sharing sites, social networks, and online forums, but only moderate success with blogs, says co-founder Owen Tripp.

"Most clients never ask us to remove anything, they just use us as a professional monitoring service for their good names. They think of our services as the new credit report."

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