You only get one chance to make a first impression and often, that first interaction is going to be online. Are you ready to knock their socks off in a matter of seconds? Because that’s what you’ll need to do to make a good impression online today.

A new study from Microsoft tells us that our attention spans are now about as long as that of goldfish. Thanks to an overwhelming amount of information and mobile deices, the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds. The study found that with short attention spans, we’re now able to quickly identify what we do and do not want to engage with and remember, and if we’re not interested, we will just quickly move on.

Nowhere is this information more important than online, where it’s always been important to make a great impression fast. And now, you’ll need to do it even faster. That means streamlining your online presence to make sure you’re giving off a big impact right from the start.

  • Google yourself: First things first. Hit Google and see what you’re up against. Do you already have a presence that can make an impression? Does it look good? Find old social media profiles, bad photos, and other posts that you should weed out and focus on what makes you look best. Ideally, you want a good mix of photos and videos, online properties you control, social media links, and online expert contributions.
  • Get a great photo: Appearance matters when you’re making a first impression in person, and it matters online, too. A professional headshot can make a big difference in showing that you’ve got it together. Remember that image search results are often shown in the very top of general Google searches, so this could be the very first thing people see when they search for you. Make it count! Remember to put your name in the file name and alt text to encourage Google to show your photo in image search results for your name.
  • Strengthen social media profiles: Your social media profiles should have a great photo and an upbeat tone. At the very least, get on LinkedIn and fill out an accurate work history.
  • Avoid negativity: No one likes a complainer. Post a negative story, complain about work or customers, or get into conflicts with others online, and it will be the first thing anyone zeros in on. That’s not what you want to be your first impression, so avoid negativity completely.
  • Create an about page: Make it extremely simple and easy for anyone to get to the bottom of what you’re about. Your about page should include a brief but informative bio and a photo. Include a portfolio or links to your work to show what you can do. And of course, include links to your social media accounts and other important online properties you want to show off. Better yet, get your own domain and develop a personal website to highlight what you have to offer.
  • Be picky about language: In person, your body language gives off an impression, but online, it’s all about what you type and the images you’re putting online. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to spelling and grammar. Use proper punctuation, and be sure to never, ever use textspeak online.
  • Make friends: Interact with others on discussion forums, comments, and on social media. Show that you play well with others, you have friends and connections, and you’re not just a one way channel online. Networking well will always reflect positively on your reputation and help you make a good impression. And of course, remember your manners, avoiding online fights and other posts that might reflect poorly on you.
  • Stay active: Show regular activity online to reassure others that you’re on top of the community. You should be blogging and posting often, or at least on a regular schedule.
  • Get exposure: One surefire way to make a good impression is to be highlighted as an expert. Offer to guest blog, write columns, or even speak as an expert. You can also simply offer expert quotes or participate in interviews. These are great ways to send a message that you’re influential, respected, and an expert in your field.
  • Be consistent: Reassure others that you are who you say you are by presenting a consistent image online. You can do this by ensuring that your bio and work history line up, that you’re using the same photo for multiple services, and that your online personality doesn’t vary (for example, you use a professional tone on your blog, but textspeak on Twitter). Consistency builds trust and reassurance.
  • Be yourself: Last but not least, show your true colors. When you make a good impression online — no matter how brief it is — you should be sure that you’re impressing others with who you truly are. Avoid being a copycat and show your authentic self.