People are searching for your name online, like it or not. Translation: If you don’t own your name when someone searches for you, you are behind the curve.The days of first impressions beginning with a handshake are over. Three quarters of companies search for job applicants online prior to meeting them in person. How you manage your online presence is critical to your personal brand and future success, especially for job applicants.
How do you own your name online? Below are six steps you should actively take to ensure that your name online is marketable and professional.
1) Google yourself. Do you already own your name?
If you are like most people, you do not. Nearly everyone falls into one of three categories:
- The “undesired” category: The results are less than flattering. Social media use exploded so fast that the line between our personal lives and our professional lives began to blur before most people had a chance to pull back the reins. By the time many people realized everything online is permanent and that “private” isn’t exactly a reality online, it was too late.
- The irrelevant category: Sure, the results are about you but do they really back up your qualification and align with your career goals? Do they make you more hirable? Unfortunately, at this point no one cares about your high school track times or the award you received in middle school.
- The “hey, that’s not me” category: In this case, somebody else with your name shows up. They may be famous, or worse, they may be someone you’d rather not be associated with. For example, before owning his name, when you googled our CEO Pete Kistler, you were greeted by an ex-convict from writeaprisoner.com. We’ve heard plenty of horror stories along the same line, people being mistaken for having a criminal record and strip dancers showing up first when a colleague Googled them in the office. Whatever the case, you do not want to be misrepresented when you are searched.
2) Own your domain = own your name
Now that you know where you stand in Google, it’s time to take action. Owning your domain name and creating a compelling personal website there is the quickest, most relevant way to get listed higher on Google, not to mention a great place to direct employers online. This will be the central hub where you link to all your other profiles, and it only costs about a dollar a month, well worth the investment.
3) Create a personal site around your name
The best way to really own your name is to include everything that makes you YOU. Be articulate and precise with your language, and emphasize accomplishments you would want employers to see. Identify what you do best, what differentiates you from your peers and know your audience when crafting your personal brand. Write in the third person so that Google recognizes the site is about you.
4) Own your name on professional & social networks
Create profiles on high ranking networks, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Brazen Careerist, Flickr and Ziggs. Joining these networks allows you to increase your presence online and protects you from others creating accounts using your name, resulting unwanted irrelevant results.
5) Create more content and links to rise to the top of searches
When it comes down to it, to own your name, your content needs to show up at the top of Google. One of the most important factors in getting to the top, besides your domain and keyword density, is inbound links. The more links you have pointing to your name, the higher you show up. Join free directories and profiles, such as DMOZ, Yahoo, Web World Index and Zeal. Make sure every place you exist online links to every other place you exist online. For example, link your YouTube account to your Facebook account and your Ziggs account to your Twitter account.
6) Own your name on news-wires
A quick way to highlight your accomplishments in Google results and create powerful links for your profiles is write press releases. Write a press release detailing any of your latest accomplishments. An award you won, your graduation, launching a website, etc. and submit it to free newswires, such as i-newswire and Article Circulation.
Like a job search, managing your personal brand is an ongoing process that evolves and grows over time. Your personal brand is not stagnant. You must be diligent and continue to tweak and update your online content to own your name online, especially when job searching.
Jim Armstrong is a senior advertising management major in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He works in the Tina Press and David Rubin Career Development Center where he reviews resumes and cover letters.