Googled yourself lately?

While some of us regularly self-Google to check the health of our public profile, others avoid it. It might be to avoid embarrassment or a sense of narcissism. It might be we’re just too busy, or it hasn’t even occurred to us to check. In which category are you?

With studies showing that 90% of recruiters will Google you before they even meet you, it’s a good idea to get a sense of what information they will find. If there’s anything there that might affect your chance of landing a job or a client, it’s good to be proactive and implement a solution. It’s like having your skirt tucked in your stockings: you may be oblivious to the wardrobe malfunction, but it doesn’t mean that others aren’t looking. And it’s way better if you notice it before someone else does!

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Ace the first two pages

Ideally, the first page or two of results of an online search on your name will present you as capable and relevant to your industry niche.

Have a quick check now. Google yourself (or Bing yourself if you’d rather) and scan the first two pages. Impressed? If so – nice work! You can stop reading (but perhaps bookmark this page for later). If you’re a little underwhelmed, read on.

Cultivating a healthy online identity is all about emphasising positive results, and minimising negative ones.

Emphasise the positive

When search engines determine which sites to include in a search engine results page (SERP), they aim to give the most relevant pages from the most credible or ‘important’ sites. Social networking sites will feature prominently – so it’s a timely reminder to both assess your privacy settings on your Facebook account (if it’s not a professional or semi-professional account) and monitor the content that you post there. While it’s a great idea to make use privacy controls, they’re not foolproof.

LinkedIn is a highly credible site. If you have a profile on this network, it will almost always appear in the first three entries on a SERP page. If you have one, it’s worth giving it a polish. If you don’t, and you could do with some better results, think about setting up a profile. It’s free (for a basic account), and can be a handy resource in its own right.

You could also consider joining a Q & A site like Quora, where you can contribute to discussions on topics you’re knowledgeable on.

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Generating quality content is key to seeing some great search results:

  • publish your own blogs
  • upload relevant videos and photos
  • guest contribute articles and content to other sites

and you’ll give search engines plenty of opportunity to afford you a healthy online profile. Google has set up Google+ and Author Rank to help the search engine index content individuals generate – it’s worth looking into if you’re posting regular content.

Minimise the negative

If you come across images or content that are troublesome, it’s worth contacting the friend/follower or site which has provided the content and asking kindly for it to be removed. Having the content removed won’t necessarily remove it search engine results, but at least if the link is clicked on, a 404-Not Found error message will be displayed and not the site itself.

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, for example, and your results are blighted by a negative review (such as a Google review) you may be able to flag it as inappropriate. If it’s a genuine review, the only real recourse is to encourage your happier clients to submit reviews of their own – pushing the bad one to the bottom of the pile.

A key strategy to deal with negative search results really is just to out compete them with positive ones. Better if that cranky comment you put on a blog post a while back – or that piece of erotic short fiction you submitted in your experimental phase – show up way, way down on the SERP.

Name variations

If you have a common name, you risk being mistaken for someone else online. Rather than taking the blame for others’ mistakes, look for ways to differentiate yourself (an exception could be if you share the same name as someone awesome – however that could just get complicated).

For example, consider including a middle name or initial, or even job title (eg GP, Filmmaker).

It’s also a good idea when Googling yourself to use variations of your name. Use your full name with and without your middle name, plus shortened versions and nicknames. If you haven’t already, choose the variation that suits your purposes best and build on that one.

Which search engine?

Not every search engine reveals the same results. While Australians largely use Google, it’s worth searching others. Search engines will keep cookies on your server too – so for an objective search experience you can use an anonymous search engine like duckduckgo.

A self-search can be a trip down memory lane, and may yield some surprising results. Have you discovered anything interesting about yourself this way?

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Heidi McElnea

Heidi manages written communications for the various digital and print design services offered by Orion Creative. It’s a colourful blend of website and social media content, email marketing, e-learning, copy for print and scripts for voice overs.