Here’s a hard truth: You’ve been Googled. It’s a paradox of sorts, this notion that we want to be recognizable and known, but that we only want the most favorable aspects of our lives divulged. So when every ill-advised photo or insensitive slip of the post has potentially far-reaching ramifications, and when having no online presence can also be just as damaging to career aspirations, it’s important that we all learn how to give good Google. How do you ensure that every result for your name is the best one possible? Read on. Here are 4 things you can do right now to fix your online reputation.
1. Build a Website and Optimize It
Lists like these usually don’t start with the most important tip in first place, but we will because it’s just that crucial to getting favorable search results. In fact, let’s just italicize it, so you get the point: If your domain is YourFullName.com, Google will rank it higher when people search for you.
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Now, to the fine print: Just because you build a website doesn’t mean people will automatically visit it. SEO (search engine optimization) may sound like a dirty word to the tech adverse, but it’s a fairly straightforward concept that, when leveraged, can help Google find your online home and bump it up in search results.
“It really boils down to keywords for the homepage optimization,” says Collin Jarman, SEO technician at Click Optimize, LLC, a North Carolina-based Web design and Internet marketing firm. “So, in this instance, your keyword is going to be your own name because that’s what you want to rank for.”
Jarman suggests using your name as your domain, but if that’s not possible it’s not a total deal breaker. Just be liberal in putting your name everywhere else: in page titles, in the About page copy and even in little blurbs at the bottom of every blog post. In this case, humility gets you nowhere. “You need to talk about yourself because, at the end of the day, if your website doesn’t use your name, then Google’s not going to see it when it gets called, and it won’t rank for your own name,” cautions Jarman.
2. Create Plenty of Content, Regularly
If a person builds a website, but never posts any content, does it really make a sound? Of course not. So, now that YourFullName.com is firing on all cylinders, it’s time to get crazy with blogs and video to really fly up the Google rankings fast.
“One of the many things that Google considers within its algorithm, everyone believes, is fresh and updated content,” says Nick Barron, social media manager at Fannie Mae.
“So, if you publish a website and you don’t update it and a year goes by, Google’s going to view that as not-so-fresh content. If someone with your name or with similar spelling of your name comes behind and has a blog or has a fresher website, then they’re likely to rank more highly on Google than you would, because your content is just sort of stagnant.”
Creating sticky content that lots of people link back to is important, as well. “What you want to do is publish content that you think other people would be interested in reading or linking to from their blogs or their social media websites, because that linking in to your content can really help your content rank well in Google,” adds Barron.
3. Get Social Media Savvy
Social media also provides an excellent way to build an online platform quickly and easily, but all networks are not created equally. While Facebook might reign supreme for sharing pics from last night’s happy hour soiree, LinkedIn is the unofficial boss when it comes to landing atop search results with 100 percent user-controlled content.
So, if you’re concerned that news about your leading a protest in 2015 is hurting your chances for job interviews, get a LinkedIn page—now. Employers are much more likely to dig there for info on you.
“The way that the Google algorithms work is a website that is as strong as LinkedIn is much more likely to show up towards the top of a name search, because Google obviously trusts that it’s really a strong website,” explains John Leo Weber, SEO specialist at Geek Powered Studios, LLC. “LinkedIn acts as a person’s digital resume, so it’s very important that people take time filling out [their profiles] and replicating their real life connections on LinkedIn.”
And, again, if your name is John Smith or something equally common, being active on social media is imperative. “[If] you join Twitter but you don’t tweet for a year, Google’s going to say, ‘Well, if this person’s even still alive, I wouldn’t know it based on the fact that they’re not tweeting,'” adds Barron. “And if you have a common name, it just increases the likelihood that someone else with your name is going to [be tweeting]. It’s just a competition.”
When it comes to Facebook, Weber encourages users to spend time filtering through the site’s ever-changing security settings to ensure that unfavorable content stays hidden during searches. Or, even better: Use a nickname or pseudonym to be certain that said happy hour photos never see the light of day.
4. Build Your Personal Brand
Certainly, getting a basic grasp of SEO concepts and learning how Google’s algorithm works will help improve your personal search results, but according to Jay Jessup, brand strategist with Platform Strategy Branding and Publicity and author of Fame 101: Powerful Personal Branding & Publicity for Amazing Success, there’s a better, more effective way.
“I don’t want to call it gaming the system, [but] too many people are focused on just getting their name out rather than doing something that will enhance their brand—the result of which will be to get their name out,” he says.
Jessup recommends that individuals, regardless of industry, write a book and/or try their hand at public speaking. Besides generating additional revenue streams, these offline efforts create buzz (and perhaps regional or national publicity) that is sure to populate search results—no tech training necessary.
“Sure you should have a LinkedIn, Facebook, et cetera, but that isn’t much,” adds Jessup. “It doesn’t get your reputation out; it doesn’t get the thing that’s going to help you in your career out. So, instead, you do some other things that Google and the other search engines will reward you for that you ought to be doing anyway to help your career.”
If you’d like to improve your social media profile even more, consider getting the help of a pro. Mediabistro’s Career Services offer everything from a LinkedIn rewrite to several sessions of career counseling to tackle your cover letter, networking skills, career transition and more.