Regretting a careless comment in your blog, a humiliating photo on Facebook or a drunken tweet? These can damage your online reputation, especially as employers are increasingly resorting to social-networking sites to vet prospective employees.
"You are essentially a brand online," says Nathan Barker, managing director of Reputation247.com, "and the main goal is to be active in highlighting your good points and capitalising on the tools available to you to bump down those more unsavoury aspects of your online profile down the Google search pages."
First, Google-search yourself and target the negative hits that you would like to remove. Check the results on other search engines, too.
Second, be proactive in creating and managing your own positive output online. Maintain your virtual platform – keep a track of all the accounts you have. Whether it's a blog, a post within a blog or even comments on an article, these will show up. Google reflects what is already out there and doesn't distinguish between data content, though articles and newsworthy items make it quite high.
Tackle this by creating an official online profile – buy a personal domain, publish useful and positive information about yourself. Add links to everything and hook up your LinkedIn, Flickr and Tumblr accounts – increasing the strength on an item. It may sound absurd, but trademark yourself if you want your output to have more credibility.
Finally, if you are in crisis, contact an online reputation-management consultant, who deals with your image on the internet. It might be one for the rich and famous – it costs around £10,000 a month.
And if something is highly confidential, Google's Webmaster Tools gives advice on how to deal with pages that urgently need to be removed.