Check Yourself! How to Keep Your Web Presence Accurate, Legal, and Secure

| | Security

As travel bloggers, our web presence is one of our most valuable assets, especially if we want to earn a living through blogging and working with brands.

Those of us who are serious about turning a blog into a career, work hard to produce content and build a following. We’re encouraged to produce media kits, focus on stats and invest in making our blogs and social profiles “look good”.

And yes — that stuff matters. But all of that can be a waste of time if proper consideration isn’t given to the footprint left behind on the web or the security of our digital presence. Not looking after your online presence can not only impact your career as a blogger, but any other work you are undertaking to support a lifestyle of travel.

Heart Padlock by MsSaraKelly | CC BY 2.0

Here are 3 ways you can manage your online presence and protect your blogging brand:

Review your digital footprint

Before becoming more active online, it’s really useful to review what is already out there on the web about you, so that you know what other people will find when they type your name into that Google search bar.

Who Googles you? Probably anyone interested in forming a personal or professional relationship. Those professional relationships might include brands, PRs, customers/clients (if you have a another business to support your travel lifestyle), and employers.

What’s that? You work for yourself?

Many of us do. But no-one knows if, or when, we might need a more conventional job with a boss in the future, and that digital footprint will still matter. In fact most recruiters admit to googling prospective candidates prior to interviewing them. Read: You’ve been Googled, to find out more.

When did you last Google yourself (not your blog) to see what turns up?

Some bloggers choose to keep their travel blogging activity separate from other areas of their lives. Others choose to blur the lines or haven’t given it much thought.

Your strategy is your choice and each approach offers different benefits and challenges. I currently choose to separate my work, blogging, and personal life on the web; that doesn’t mean it isn’t searchable, but it makes my social media profiles more useful and relevant, not only for myself, but also for those who want to connect with me.

The information and content that appears on the web is not always within our control, but just because we can’t control our digital identity, does not mean we can’t manage it. We can always take action if we discover something about us on the web that we’re not comfortable with, whether that is a photo someone uploaded to Facebook, a video on YouTube, or content on a website or another blog which you feel misrepresents you in some way.

Quick tips

  • Google yourself to review your digital footprint
  • Consider your strategy for your social media profiles. Are you mixing personal and professional? Is your use aligned with your objectives and blogging brand values?
  • Use Google Alerts to keep track of what Google discovers about you on the web.
  • If someone has shared content about you online that you are not comfortable with, take steps to have that content taken down and seek further guidance if your request is ignored.

Secure your presence

How secure is your blog? Do you use a strong password on your site? What about your social profiles? Consider how easy it might be for a hacker to gain access to your online presence.

There is a lot we can do to ensure the security of our blogs, from security plugins to stronger passwords. Here are some additional steps you can take…

Quick fixes for your blog

  • Never retain the default “admin” username. You can either rename it or set up an admin user with another username, not your name, your blog name or anything else that’s obvious. Remember, the point is to prevent a hacker from getting in, so why give them a head start?
  • Make sure your username is different from your display name – no point in changing the default admin username if your new one is going to show when you post and comment on your site, right?
  • Use a strong password, a long password with a combination of special characters, numbers and upper and lowercase letters. If you struggle to remember passwords, use a password vault like LastPass or 1Password. Passwords alone of course are not really enough these days, so it is also worth considering two-step authentication.
  • Unless you have a membership site, you do not need a link to your login page publishing on your site. Change the default login URL to something unique and hide it. Only those who need to login, need the URL.
  • Limit the number of failed login attempts.
  • Keep your site updated. A lot of updates contain security fixes and removing vulnerabilities in software can prevent a hacker for getting in your site.

We can’t stop a hack or brute force attack (where a tool is used to repeatedly guess your password and access your site) from happening, but we can take measures to make it more difficult. All of the above will help reduce your risk. To find out what else you can do to secure your site, check out iThemes Security for WordPress.

Keep it legal

Compliance is not the sexiest of topics but if you fail to comply with the law, you could be putting your blogging brand at risk. Everything from copyright, data protection, direct marketing (e.g. mailing lists), distance selling (e.g. if you sell digital downloads), liability, web accessibility, etc. are things we must consider.

The laws of the physical world apply to the virtual world and then some. So if you don’t already, make sure your blog has a relevant set of terms and a privacy notice for your jurisdiction and find out which laws apply to your blogging and business activity and comply.

We can also get in trouble if we endorse someone else’s post on social media if that breaks the law, so it can be wise to read and check anything before you share, like, favorite etc.

For those who also offer social media management services, it’s not only your own reputation, but the reputation of the brand you are working with that is at risk if you break the law (or do something that conflicts with their brand values) on their behalf, through careless use of social media.

Find out more

Don’t forget to monitor and review…

Once you have reviewed your digital footprint and secured your presence, you should plan to monitor it on a regular basis. Schedule time for updates (for your website and presence as well as the devices and apps you use to access it), think before you post or respond on social media, and remember to set Google Alerts to notify you of anything Google discovers.

There is a lot more that we can do to manage our web presence, so I’d love to hear what you are doing right now, to look after your own blog and reputation. Please share in the comments, below!

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the products or services I have mentioned and none of the above constitutes legal advice.

Kirsten Thompson is the blogger behind Kooky Traveller and Road Trippin’ USA. She also works full-time in a staff development/learning technologist/teacher role, where she provides consultancy on better managing digital identities.

Recent Comments

  • Interesting information, thanks! I also use to track my online presence. I also find it important to search by my username which is different for some social media (ie, Flickr) to easily find who has been using my photos and crediting one of my usernames rather than my actual name or my blog’s brand name.

    • Hi Adam, is a great tool to use and you make a great point about considering keeping track of mentions of your username, as well as your name. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Keeping track of the various laws and rules for different jurisdictions is a nightmare. For example, the US has robust “free speech” rules that probably allow more speech than in other countries. Which rules apply—-where you wrote the blog post? where your blog server is housed? Where your host company is located? Where someone accesses your content? My mantra, “Just because you’re paranoid, does not mean they’re not out to get you.” In the case of bloggers, which “they” should we be worried about?

    • Hi Suzanne, I completely agree that it can be very difficult and I am not a lawyer but I am mindful of having a responsibility to my site visitors (e.g. regarding their data) and I try to be careful about what and how I publish online. It is definitely an area where bloggers would benefit learning more. Thanks for your comments.

  • I have been “catfished” using the pictures and information on my blog (someone recognized me on an Okay Cupid ad). Now I am much more careful about what I share, and always reverse image search for my main pictures. Thanks for the article!