We’ve all done it. An idle moment staring at the monitor and the thought pops into your mind, “I should Google myself.” It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, figuring out what results you get when you search yourself online is a central aspect of learning how to market yourself and build your brand.
Many reputation-building sites focus on minimizing negative search results, but in fact it can be much more productive to emphasize building a personal brand by getting your name out there on the web in positive ways. Making yourself “Google-able” (if you will) means that you have successfully moored your professional identity to your search results. This benefits you in a few important ways.
When people can find the things about you that you want them to find through search engines, it builds your personal brand. For example, if the first things people see in search results about you are a portfolio website, your Yasni Exposé, your LinkedIn account, and activity on professional websites, they can see that you are active as a professional and within your discipline. This makes you look more credible to people who are seeking your professional services.
Another way of gauging your online presence is by entering your name into people-search engines, which, as the name suggests, operate much like regular search engines but limit their results to individuals. A perk of such sites like Yasni is the user’s ability to instantly improve their name’s rank in their search by paying a small amount to promote it, which can be a seriously worthwhile investment for professionals committed to strengthening their online presence.
Having a strong online presence also makes you look serious and committed to your profession. Would you trust a web developer who doesn’t have a website, for example? A writer without a blog? You might, but not as much as you would trust someone who has a digital paper trail.
Finally, most people have some personal information that they would prefer didn’t surface in search results. By boosting your participation in positive web activities, you push any objectionable results further back. Most people won’t look beyond the first page of results.
Social media is one of the best and easiest ways to stake a claim online, plus it can give you an easy way to interact with potential clients and generate goodwill around your brand. Twitter and Facebook are obvious social media options at this point, but platforms like Pinterest can be great, especially for more visually-oriented services.
Regardless of what your field is, you should have a blog of your own or make regular contributions to a professional blog. This shows potential clients your thought process and helps to demonstrate your expertise. You can also build an active history by writing comments on industry blogs under your real name.
LinkedIn has become an invaluable part of branding yourself in the Information Age. Think of LinkedIn as both an online resume, and a way to curate your network. LinkedIn often shows up in search results and it is a good way to express your work history and articulate your various skillsets. It also offers a good, public option when compared with social networking giant Facebook. You can use LinkedIn to refine your professional image while reserving your Facebook for friends only.
Google Authorship is a new feature from Google that lets you connect your writing to your identity (via Google+). Whenever you write an article online, assuming it is properly attributed, Google Authorship can link back to you. This means that when people search for you or your articles, they will see the link in addition to your profile picture and byline in search results. This is a great way to build your brand and make your contributions to the web known.
Finally, you should have a professional website of your own. This serves as the hub for all your other web activity. You can include links to your social media profiles, or even social feeds. You can showcase your best work and maintain a portfolio or customer testimonials.
If you haven’t already done it, take some time today to Google yourself or make use of people-search engines. If what you see doesn’t sell your personal brand very well, you know you have some work ahead of you!
Sara Collins is a writer for NerdWallet, a site that helps professionals make smart career and personal finance plans by answering questions like, “Should I roll over my 401k?”