Growing your personal network is like growing a gardenIn today’s world, we must tend to our network of contacts like we would tend to a garden. Many relationships will grow and blossom, while some will inevitably languish on the vine. Growing a strong personal network helps to grow your personal brand.

I believe that it’s vital to lay a sturdy foundation of social networking, which can help you celebrate successes and overcome obstacles that seem insurmountable. Where you fall within that network, and in the eyes of the general public, is your personal brand, and the cultivation of that brand is a must. To that end, Google — or “the Google,” as I sometimes call it — has become more powerful than ever before. Your personal brand and your status on Google Search are often one and the same. We call it search engine optimization, or SEO for short.

Those of us who are not digital natives might say that we don’t have enough time to deal with our online reputation, but it’s simply too important to ignore. Google is like Santa Claus — its algorithm knows if you’ve been naughty or nice. On Google Search, success is as much a part of the story as scandals and other snafus.

For starters, you should Google yourself and see what shows up. To enhance your online reputation, your goal should be to create content on your own website and for your social media networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) that shows the world what you’re all about. When done thoughtfully, content creation is the best way to explain who you are, what you care about and why you do what you do.

Despite what you may think, people are checking you out online. You don’t have to be a celebrity for people to Google your name. So, make sure to show up in the most authentic and meaningful way.

Stories about you in the news media carry tremendous credibility. Leveraging them is one of the most effective ways to enhance your online reputation. That’s why I have devoted my life to helping clients secure positive media coverage, from their local newspaper to The Wall Street Journal or The Today Show on NBC. Despite mounting criticism of the mainstream media, there is still a great deal of value in news stories that are produced by thoughtful, ethical journalists. Google certainly recognizes that value.