I won’t bother asking if you Google yourself. Who doesn’t? The real question is, do you like what you see?
If you’re applying for jobs, running a business, or on anyone’s mind for any reason—and let’s hope you are—chances are someone will Google you. What appears on the first page of results is crucial in terms of the impression you make, as studies have shown that 93 percent of search engine users don’t click past that first page.
It’s particularly important for job candidates to have a positive appearance on Google. Most people looking for jobs spend countless hours developing their resumes but don’t pay attention to their “online resume,” says Andy Beal, CEO of Trackur, a social media monitoring company. An employer will Google a serious candidate and look at his or her first page of search results, Beal explains. “As an employer myself, I don’t really do background checks anymore. Instead, I Google candidates to see what shows up.”
These five online reputation management tips can help you look your best on Google.
1. Do a thorough Google audit of yourself.
Start by Googling your name or your business’s name. How well are you represented? Is the content positive, negative, or neutral? What do you directly control, what can you influence, and what do you have no control over whatsoever?
Keep a record—a spreadsheet works well—of your Google audit results. Repeat the audit every month or so, or more frequently if you’re actively searching for a new job.
And be sure to look at the second and third search results pages, too. Even though the vast majority of people won’t click past page one, it’s possible something about you on those subsequent pages might suddenly appear on the first page.
2. Hide personal results.
You and I will get different search results, even though we’re Googling the same keyword phrase. That’s because Google serves up what it thinks you’ll find most relevant based on your location, social network, sites you’ve visited, and so on.
To get more objective search results, click the ‘Hide personal results’ button in your browser. When you’re logged into Google, you’ll find it in the upper right corner of the search results pages.
3. Clean up your social media content.
Are there photos of you on Facebook you wouldn’t want a potential client or boss to see? Now’s the time to remove them, or at least make sure they’re private. The same is true with Flickr and other online photo services that the Google search engine indexes.
4. Build up your Google presence with social media.
LinkedIn profiles often rank highly in Google search results, so make sure your profile is optimized for your name. A custom LinkedIn URL that includes your name can help your profile rank better in Google. For instance, my custom LinkedIn URL is http://www.linkedin.com/in/jamesamartinsf, and my LinkedIn account often ranks within the top five results for my name (James A. Martin). Also helpful: A Google+ profile, a Twitter account, a Facebook fan page, a YouTube channel, and a website or blog with your name in the URL.
5. Get help.
BrandYourself is an online reputation management service for individuals, which I use and recommend. You submit links relevant to you; tell the service which links aren’t relevant; and use its tools to make sure your content is optimized for search engines. The free service lets you submit and track three links, while the $10/month plan gives you unlimited links; alerts; and more.