What happens when you Google yourself? If you've got a popular name, any pertinent results are usually washed out by waves of news about the serial killers, athletes, and CEOs who share your name. If you don't have one, then the results will probably be a mismash of labeled photos, corporate memos, and blog posts by your friends that all mention you. (If you're a runner, all of the road races you've run inwith your timeswill also be prominently displayed.)
So how do you make sure that results about you are at the top of searches for your name, and that those results are dignified? First, get a webpage (preferably your firstnamelastname.com) and start a blog on it. The webpage will provide you with an online home base where work folks can find your resume and learn about your interests. If you update your blog consistently (and link to other sites), the crawlers will visit you more often and reward you by moving your site up the chain.
(You'll notice that I have not done this yet. I'm procrastinating from doing this so that I get the rest of my work done.)
Other tips to increase your presence in a good way:
Have friends link to you
Use your real name when you're on a worthwhile message board saying a worthwhile thing
Join LinkedIn and other networking sites
Hire someone really fast to run races under your name
If your friends have embarrassing stuff up about you on their sites, by all means ask them to take it down. But don't try to do that with people you don't know very well, and certainly don't hire a company like ReputationDefender to try to intimidate folks into taking stuff down. (This could happen, and it will become the first thing that people read about when they search for you online. It's called the Streisand Effect, and it ain't pretty.)
One other note: Some people with fairly common names try to set themselves apart by always using a middle initial or name when referring to themselves online. While that may help folks with super-common names to garner some sort of online real estate, the rest of us will only dilute our brand, as many folks surround their searches with quotation marks and thus a search for "Michael Stein" won't include the online references to "Michael J. Stein."
Any other suggestions out there to make yourself more presentable online? Let me know in the comments--