How to Protect Your Identity in an Increasingly Public Online World

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Mon, Oct 29 - 4:32 pm EDT | 10 years ago by
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    Special guest author: Laura Spencer (more on Laura at the end of the post)

    If you work from home in your boxers (as the title of this blog suggests), you probably realize that it’s becoming increasingly necessary to participate in online communities and social media to generate new business. Yet, that very same online presence that you need to attract and retain business clients can also pose a threat to both your identity and ultimately to your business.

    The identity threat to your business comes primarily from the threat that someone else will start using your online identity and/or that it will become associated with unprofessional activity. To your clients, your online presence may be the only thing that they know about you. From a business perspective, it represents you.

    Don’t think that online identity theft can’t happen to you, this post on the Instigator blog illustrates several cases where two bloggers (either intentionally, or unintentionally) started using very similar avatars in social media. At first glance, one blogger’s symbol could easily be mistaken for the other blogger’s symbol. (In a case like this, I would recommend contacting the other blogger to see which avatar is most branded. Ideally, the blogger with the least branded avatar would agree to change.)

    At there are some excellent suggestions and reasons for protecting and promoting your online identity.

    Here are some additional points about protecting your online identity:

    1. Own the domain name that corresponds to your business name. Increasingly, customers are starting to expect that when they go to a search engine and type in “,” your business site will come up. Owning your own domain insures that they will actually reach your business and not the site of some other enterprise.

    2. Place helpful content on your site. It doesn’t need to be a blog, but it should be related to your business. Remember that this site may be the first impression that many clients have of your business, and everyone knows how important first impressions are.

    3. Perform regular searches on your own name, the name of your business, and any pen or screen names that you have used. It’s important to find out how these names are being used and to make sure that they are not by used anyone else in a negative or professional fashion.

    4. Never publish anything online that you wouldn’t say to a client’s face. Even “fun” places like FaceBook and MySpace could become part of your online identity to a potential client who searches on your name. The recent Facebook “scandal” faced by a university president just illustrates that nothing is really private.

    With a little extra precaution and care, it is possible to protect your online business identity and present a unified professional image to your clients.

    Laura Spencer is a work at home mom (WAHM) and freelance writer. Laura blogs about working from home at Laura blogs about freelance writing at

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      • Mary Emma

        Great post, Laura. This certainly is a topic of concern these days.

      • Kathie Thomas, A Claytons Secretary

        I don’t use an Avatar and perhaps it’s just as well. I read sometime ago that branding is important and I’ve chosen to use my name, coupled with my business name for that.

      • Laura

        Thanks for coming by Mary Emma! Yes, it is definitely something that workers should pay attention to.

      • Laura

        Hi Kathie!

        It’s okay to use your name. It might even be better for branding. I’d recommending keying it in to a search engine from time to time to see what comes up.

      • Jeanne Dininni

        Excellent post, Laura! Our online identity is one of our most valuable business assets–in fact absolutely critical to our success. And since that identity is so easily compromised in an online environment, your advice is much-needed.

        Great idea to do a search using your byline every so often! I also always recommend setting up a Google Alert using your byline as the search criterion. When you do this, Google will e-mail you the results whenever the Googlebot finds anything online that carries your byline. (You can also set up alerts using titles or unique phrases from your works.) It’s very convenient to have Google contact YOU when any of your work is found!

        Thanks for sharing those great ideas!

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