Much like spring-cleaning your house, Online Reputation Management (ORM) should become a crucial maintenance routine in your life – especially during the day and age of Internet sovereignty.

There is negative information lurking in every dark corner of the interwebs, and it can be devastating to find that type of info in such a public space; everyone can see it, read it, like it, share it and save it.

Whether you set yourself up for it by posting an NSFW photo gallery from your 21st birthday in Amsterdam on your personal travel blog, or there are negative stories on different websites that may contain unfair or outdated information, it’s important to keep tabs on potentially detrimental content attached to your name.

And just because you may not use social media a ton or keep a personal website doesn’t mean you’re off the hook; a blank page of search results can be just as unfavorable as negative content.

But the good news is there are simple steps if you want to take a proactive approach to managing your personal online reputation.

You can easily manage content involving you with time and dedication to cleaning up your act online and creating a positive personal brand.

Google yourself

The only way to begin maintaining a positive image online is to know exactly which information is available about you now. Stalk yourself. Hunt down every website, article, social media account, comment or review that mentions your name and keep inventory.

A great starting point to find info already available about you is a reputation audit. When configuring monitoring software like this, it’s key to focus on your name plus other major categories you want to be associated with: your company, geographical location, etc. Reputation audits allow you to understand what’s being said about you, and your brand name.

Make a spreadsheet of search results with your name: the good, the bad and the ugly. You can implement monitoring solutions, like social media monitoring and search engine alerts, to notify you whenever online content involving you shows up or changes, and you can update your sheet as necessary.

Build your brand

Let’s set this straight: your online persona is the individual brand you’re putting out to the rest of the world. That foul-mouthed Twitter tirade you went on about your NFL team losing? That’s your brand. And if you want to be seen in a positive light – by potential employers, new clients or for networking opportunities – you better make sure your online image is as pristine as you can get it.

Don’t worry if there’s something already negative out there: you can bury that by beefing up your content on websites where you are in control of the information.

Make sure your social media pops up at the top of search engine results. That means using your real name on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. Just making accounts helps push content on smaller websites off page 1, and it’s even more effective when all the social accounts are linked together.

Build a personal website or hire an ORM company to do the dirty work for you. By creating your positive content, you’re not only building a brand for yourself, but you’re also using the new content to suppress the negatives.

Brandyourself.com has great resources for pushing your content higher in search engine results. You can even go as far as seeing which people and companies are searching for your name on Google too.

Pay attention to anywhere your name is listed online. That could include awards, listings for running a marathon, donating to charity or any volunteering work. Make a note of anything positive you can use to build your online reputation.

Write for others

Another great way to generate positive content and push the negative stuff further down the search result list is to contribute content to other blogs or websites in your industry or area of expertise.

Write for your company’s blog or try to get featured content on a website that is prominent in your career field or in line with your personal hobbies or interests.

Optimize your content

Once you have the positive content you desire, you still need it to show up high enough on the search result page to be seen.

Applying basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies to online content makes all the difference in associating positive content with your name. It helps ensure your content and name are more likely to appear in results for specific searches.

Social media can be optimized in a few different ways. Using your real name on your accounts is a big one, along with adding photos with the correct dimensions to profiles and posts. Posting content during prime times also optimizes your accounts as well. Social media is one of the easiest ways to suppress unfavorable content.

On personal blogs and websites, properly tagging specific target keywords and phrases also helps search engines better identify the content matter and place it in search results. Moz.com also has great, easy-to-use SEO resources.

Monitor yourself

Stay up to date on everything being said about you online and go the extra mile to protect yourself from Internet trolls and haters of all different breeds.

Social media monitoring is the watchdog for conversations about you online so you can be aware of what’s being said and have the opportunity to participate in those discussions.

Hootsuite and Talkwalker offer great resources for social media monitoring.

You can also set up an automated alert system in search engine alerts that let you know anytime your name (middle and nicknames could be included too) appears on a search engine, whether it’s in the headline, body of the story or a tag.

Google Alerts is free software to do this easy thing. Brandyourself.com also offers alerts when Google search results change with progress reports.

There are a variety of different ways to handle negative content that already exists online, but sustaining a favorable online reputation is best executed with proactive efforts. Start your damage control earlier rather than later.