Cleaning Out an Expired or Previous Online Personal Brand

There are times when we go through transition and change up our own personal brand a bit. Perhaps it’s because it’s time for that change or because you’re just so sick and tired of that screen name that you created back when you were in High School and it no longer *ahem* applies, so to speak.

Or you’re starting a new business, venture, or have moved into an entirely new industry and are starting from scratch and need to clean out a previous online brand. Or, in a “worst case” scenario, you’ve had some really nasty things said about a previous brand and online identity and you need a new one, right quick.

To be sure here’s the honest truth with online personal branding – if it’s been on Google (or any search engine for that matter) then it’s pretty much eternal. There’s not much you can do to “clean up” a previous online brand or name. But you can do as best as you can to clean that digital closet out so that you have the best shot at starting afresh as possible.

So in any of the above scenarios you’ll want to do at least some of the following things to “fix” a previous online brand and start over:

  1. Delete All Previous Accounts – This seems obvious but some people seem to forget. A simple Google of your previous online brand will show you the services that you signed up for. Get the username and password and close those accounts down! If you’re really serious you’ll delete and forward previous domains and URLs. This can be a one-stop shop effort to moving out the old and bringing in the new.
  2. Or… Change Account Name, User Profiles – Some services allow you to change your username. That’s nice. Do that but only if you want to keep the previous history and activity.
  3. Change Out Keywords – Make sure to clean up your meta information on all your previous sites to show up on search engines. This is especially important for title tags and meta descriptions. These are going to show up first.
  4. Strategically Torpedo Offending Content – There are some blog posts, content, and other “offensive” material out there about you that you’ll want to drag down. You can either email the owners of the site requesting they take it down (most likely they won’t, but it doesn’t hurt to try) or try to analyze the keywords of those posts and rework them into your existing content to “push” those results down. Make sure that any site that you manage that has your full name gets targeted for removal and clean up.
  5. Communicate the Change – Most people want to quietly slip into the night and let the community “figure it out” – my thoughts are to engage your audience and share your change with the world since it’s going to be public anyways. Go for it. If anything you’ll learn a thing or two about your existing community.
  6. Trust That It’ll Work Out – Be patient. These things take time to “clear out” of Google and some of your existing online brands have been around for years. So you’ll need to trust that over time, as that previous brand doesn’t get used, it’ll drop off in search engines and your new brand will reign victorious.
  7. Stay Vigilant – Finally, stay vigilant and on the lookout for a previous brand to re-emerge. Make sure you have a Google Alerts for your previous brand so you can respond and redirect attention to your new online brand. Stay calm and carry on.

Ultimately you’ll only be able to do so much to manage and control your online brand. The most important thing is to invest your time and emotional energy in your new brand and forget the previous one – it’s dead anyways and those that are commenting or care about it have missed the ship.

[This is part of the Personal Branding Series.]