Editor’s note: This article is part of a featured series that tackles the basics of reputation management. In our Reputation Management 101 series, you’ll learn about basic (but important) concepts, tasks, and tips for reputation management. Each post will include actionable advice and realistic ideas that you can use — today — to improve your online reputation. Join us as we explore reputation management resources that everyone should know!

Googling yourself is one of the most important things you can do to protect and improve your reputation. In fact, it’s the first step to a better reputation, as you have to know what you’re up against before you can take action. It can be as simple as typing your name into Google and scrolling through, but to be truly effective, you’ll need to understand why it’s important, how to get the most information, and how to handle what you’ve found. We’ve covered all of it in this simple guide.

Why You Have to Google Yourself

One of the first things recruiters, hiring managers, business associates, even potential friends and dates will do when considering whether they want to associate you is hit Google to learn more about you. This is the age we live in. We have so much information available all the time — even about ourselves.

How Google Can Help

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Many people have plenty of information they want to show off online. Volunteer work, online portfolios, expert quotes or speaking engagements, and extensive networks can all be found online and reflect positively on your reputation. This is the sort of thing you want to find on Google, and it’s what hiring managers and others who might Google you want to see.

What You May Find on Google

But unfortunately, you may not like what you find when you Google yourself. In a survey of 1,000 adults sponsored by Domain.me, 20 percent of respondents found inaccurate information and 30 percent found their content shared without permission. An unfortunate 12 percent said they were unpleasantly surprised by their findings, and eight percent found embarrassing or reputation damaging information.

In fact, it’s quite rare to be completely pleased about your online reputation. The survey indicates that only 22 percent of people find information that is exactly what they want people to know about them.

How Google Search Results Can Affect You

Ultimately, online information can affect you negatively. In the survey, 24 percent of adults and 43 percent of Millennials in particular said they’ve been negatively affected by online information. This is no surprise, as the survey indicates that most people will use only tools to learn about people we do business with. Many will perform online searches before meeting with a doctor, work contact, or date, and 42 percent of overall respondents and 57 percent of Millennials admit to changing their mind about a colleague or friend based on what they found online about them.

Are People Concerned with Google Results?

A big problem is that few people actually take the time to research themselves online. A whopping 60 percent of respondents never do searches on themselves. Many of those who do (47 percent) only do it once or twice a year. A rare seven percent set up alerts for their names and only five percent use reputation management software.

This is not to say that people are not concerned about the impact of online information. Many Millennials (66 percent) worry that online information may negatively affect their reputation.

But those who have been harmed by online information know better. Most (77 percent) of the respondents who had a negative experience with online information regularly monitor their online information. But it’s better not to wait until it’s too late.

Like it or not, the information on Google and the rest of the Internet can hurt you — and that’s true whether you know about it or not. You’re at risk if you don’t know what’s out there. That’s why it’s best to know about it and be able to take action against it if necessary.

How to Google Yourself

The basic idea of Googling yourself is simple: just plug your name or your brand’s name into Google and peruse the first few pages to see what you find. After all, that’s what most people will do when they search for you. This gives you a good idea of what they’ll find. But there are a few things you can do to make your searching more effective.

Go Private

To get started, you’ll want to open a private browsing window. This will allow you to see results with a fresh eye. Your browsing history, logged in services, and other factors won’t be considered and will not influence the search results you see. You’ll still get local search results, but a private browsing window will help you to get neutral results. If you don’t go private, at least log out of your Google account.

Use Quotation Marks and Modifiers

To get the most accurate results, combine your first and last name together with quotation marks so that you’ll only see results that include your full name, rather than combinations of your first and last name. If you’re using a different name on your resume, be sure to look for that one as well.

If you’re not seeing much or want to explore more, consider adding modifiers such as your address, city, or state (former or current), school names, company names, and anything else that could be used to distinguish you from others. Experiment with different combinations to see what comes up.

It’s also a smart idea to search for email addresses, even screen names that are connected to you, particularly those listed on your resume or used for communications with those that might search for you. These searches can reveal online forums and social media accounts.

Visit the First Five Pages

Most people won’t look past the first few results, and rarely past the first page on Google. But if you really want to know what’s out there, you’ve got to be thorough. After all, if these pages are ranking for your name on search results, they may be pushed up higher with time and get better visibility. Anything on those first few pages could be seen someday, even if it’s not today.

Dig Deeper into Your Google Search

Basic search results are the most important, but you should also take a look at Google’s other results. Click on Images, Videos, News, Blogs, and more to see what results come up there. You will likely find the most information under Images and Videos.

It’s also smart to look for social media accounts if they’re not already apparent in search results. Consider searching for court records as well.

Analyzing Your Google Results

Looking at your Google results, you may not see exactly what you’d expect. If you have a popular name, many entries may not even be relevant to you. But you should expect to see some relevant search results, most often your website and social media accounts. If you don’t, you’ve got some work to do.

Organize and Classify Your Search Results

As you delve into search results, you should write down what you find. A spreadsheet is especially helpful, allowing you to note search results that are relevant, irrelevant, positive, neutral, or negative. You can also use the spreadsheet to note any action you’ve taken on each link.

Consider how your Google results tell a story about you. Is the information accurate and flattering? Could you share more accurate information, especially on your own website or social media pages? Businesses should consider updating local listings if they’re out of date or not appealing.

Take a look at photos and videos that pop up under your name. Think about whether they’re embarrassing, or if you’d be fine with a recruiter or business partner seeing them.

Ask for another set of eyes to look at your results from a fresh, unbiased perspective. Have a trusted friend or family member to look at your search results and have them point out any results that they think pose a problem to your reputation.

Monitor Your Google Results

Searching on Google once isn’t enough. To really get helpful information, you’ll need to get an ongoing look at what’s available about you on Google. It’s a good idea to set up Google Alerts with your name and related search results so that you can find out right away when there are new entries you should analyze.

How to Deal with Your Google Search Results

In our next installment in the Reputation Management 101 series, we’ll explain how you can take action on your Google search results. This includes removing and updating information you own and working with others to improve your results whenever possible.