Did you know that 77% of employers search the names of potential hires? Find out how to maximize those search results!
What is personal SEO anyway?
SEO stands for search engine optimization–basically controlling the stuff that shows up when a person searches for something.
Personal SEO specifically is making sure that people who search for your name find you. And not some guy who got arrested last weekend for public indecency on Granville. (Or maybe that was you?…) OK, even if it was, read on for some tips on reputation management!
Difficulty level: John Smith
Some folks have it easier than others. If you have a unique name like, Soleil Moon Frye for example, personal SEO will be simple for you! But this is both a blessing and a curse: because with great personal SEO, comes great responsibility. Rest assured that if Soleil Moon Frye writes a blog or is quoted on the Huffington Post saying she hates pugs, and the following month is up for a gig with the Pug Lovers of North America, they will be none too pleased when they see her search results.
On the other side of the personal SEO coin are the folks with an extremely common name, like John Smith. What’s a pug-loving John Smith to do to get his name out there? As with any SEO venture, specificity and associated keywords are the solution!
John R. Smith, Esq. in Vancouver, BC
Perhaps John Smiths are a dime a dozen, but you’re not just any John Smith. You graduated from UBC Law and now you’re hunting for a job in Vancouver and you’re gonna make it after all! These are your keys to success. You want to:
#1 – Modify your professional name
Add your middle initial or a suffix. Anything that’s valid and decreases confusion with other folks who share your name. Be sure to choose something and be consistent.
#2 – Choose a title or field of association
What kind of work are you applying for? What’s the industry term for your, well, industry? You want to start associating that term with your name. For example, “John R. Smith lawyer”.
#3 – Choose a location
Make sure to associate yourself with the location you are in/hoping to work in. For example, if you’re based in the BC lower mainland, go ahead and use Vancouver since it’s the most commonly cited city in the area (even if you technically live in Burnaby).
So you made a huge mistake
Let’s be honest: we all make mistakes. We reach the age of majority at 18 and suddenly we’re considered adults, but our brains haven’t even finished developing. Maybe you shared a lewd photo on your public Facebook account or got caught plotting to burn down the banana stand.
Either way, you need to practice some reputation management. Basically, you want to take control of the message. Most people don’t look past the first page of search results, so your goal is to push the bad stuff down to the second page. You can do this in a variety of ways:
Create a website or blog
This is by far the best option. First, consider purchasing your name as a domain URL (or an available variation of it, anyway). From there, the content creation matters somewhat less, as long as you’re certain to include an “about” page that is titled with the name you use professionally. Create links to it throughout your website and other social media accounts with your name to shore up the association.
Create social media accounts
One of the approximately hundreds of factors that impact your search engine ranking is called your domain authority. This is a number out of 100 that indicates the “confidence” the web has in the legitimacy of your site. Basically, your personal website will probably have a domain authority of 20 or less to start out. And that’s OK, it doesn’t mean it won’t rank! But you definitely want to also use sites like Google+, Twitter, and Facebook who have enormous authority and are willing to share. As always, create profiles using the name you prefer professionally!
Create other professional accounts
Industry specific sites that allow you to create a profile and share your work like GitHub, CodePen, or Dribbble (yes, selfishly these are all in my industry). Not sure where to turn for your particular sector? Reach out to coworkers or classmates and see what they’re using!
Build a brand, not a robot
Even if you are creating your website and online profiles to mitigate a problem, it’s worth it to put some time into establishing who you are using these platforms. Build a personal brand that meshes with who you actually are. Try brainstorming ideas for your brand using a word cloud or other information aggregate (or ask your friends or coworkers). Don’t just tell employers what they want to hear. Milquetoast information falls on deaf ears–people know that isn’t really you. No one actually likes being a “detail-oriented, goal-minded individual”, they like going on hikes or eating chili cheese fries.
There are lines that you can cross when sharing personal info, certainly. Openly, aggressively sharing your religious or political affiliations on professional profiles can lead employers to hesitate. Even if they share your identities, knowing those details in the hiring process becomes a murky liability from a legal standpoint. So keep that in mind when you’re building your online presence.
Put your website to work
Your site should be a “set it and (sort of) forget it” project. Build it well, flesh it out, and let it do its thing. A good website and established online presence is your best promotional tool. Even if you aren’t actively looking for work, becoming known in your industry, area, etc is critical for the future of your career.