When you enter your name into Google (or the search engine of your choice), are the results flattering, or at least accurate? Even if you aren’t keeping tabs on your online reputation, others may be. From potential employers to prospective love interests, information linked to you on the Internet can affect your livelihood, your love life; even create a first impression for new people you meet. Take control of your online reputation with a few simple steps to ensure that when someone searches you out online the results are favorable.
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According to a research report commissioned by Microsoft in 2009(.doc download), about 70% of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals interviewed indicated that they have rejected a candidate based on information they found online. Recruiters indicated that concerns about the candidate’s lifestyle; inappropriate comments or text written by the candidate (even their friends, colleagues and work acquaintances) and unsuitable photos, videos or information are most detrimental.
Take proactive steps to ensure that you’re presented in the best light:
Do your research: Google yourself. Before you start, sign out of your Google account so that you see the results that others see. Use all variants of your name, particularly the one you use on your resume and applications.
In most cases you’ll find mediocre results, primarily other people that share your name and old or irrelevant information. About 15% of people have “bad” search results that offer up severely unflattering information or images.
Take control of your results.According to BrandYourself.com, only 7% of people navigate past the first page of results. The key is to create enough positive buzz about yourself so as to have relevant and flattering content appear higher in search results.
Start by joining websites that are noticed by Google’s search scanning algorithm like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), Google+ and Twitter. Complete as much of the personal profile as possible, particularly the sections that relate to job skills and experience. Even publicly accessible Facebook info will appear in your results page.
Bloggers should post content to WordPress (http://wordpress.org/) as it typically ranks above other blogging sites like Tumblr and Blogger. Use Vimeo and Flickr, respectively, to share appropriate videos and pictures on the web.
Even better, purchase your domain name (if it’s available) and build a personal website that utilizes SEO (Search Engine Optimization). See the BrandYourself blog for tips (http://blog.brandyourself.com/brand-yourselfcom/introduction-to-personal-search-engine-optimization-seo/).
Damage control. If you find embarrassing or unflattering content linked to your name, don’t despair. In many cases, once you know they exist you can systematically track down things you want to get rid of and attempt to delete them. If the content is posted by a friend on Facebook, ask them to remove it and un-tag yourself from inappropriate images or posts. Update your Facebook privacy settings to customize what you share and what others are allowed to share on your wall. If you discover posts that seem to be particularly malicious, contact the administrator of a website to request that it be removed.
After removing what you can, your goal is to push down unfavorable content. Create more profiles, particularly on sites that end in .edu or .gov as Google considers those sites more credible and may push those results higher than potentially damaging links.
Stay proactive. Sign up for Google alerts (www.google.com/alerts) so that you’re notified if a new reference to you appears online. BrandYourself (www.brandyourself.com) is a great resource for free information about improving your online search results. In addition to a wealth of tips and tutorials, create a complimentary account to push three links about yourself up the Google results ranking. Premium members pay a monthly fee to promote an unlimited number of links.
About The Author: Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.