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 and your love life; it can create a first impression for new people you meet. Take control of your online reputation with a few simple steps to ensure that online search results are favorable.
According to a research report commissioned by Microsoft in 2009, about 70 percent of U.S. recruiters and human resources professionals interviewed indicated that they have rejected a candidate based on information they found online. The most detrimental items, the recruiters said, are concerns about the candidate's lifestyle; inappropriate comments or text written by the candidate; and unsuitable photos, videos or information.
Here are some proactive steps you can take 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 job applications.
In most cases you'll find mediocre results, primarily other people that share your name, and old or irrelevant information. About 15 percent 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 percent of people navigate past the first page of results. The key is to create enough positive buzz about yourself that relevant and flattering content will 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 search engine optimization. See the BrandYourself blog for tips: http://blog.brandyourself.com/brand-yourselfcom/introduction-to-personal-search-engine-optimization-seo.
Conduct damage control. If you find embarrassing or unflattering content linked to your name, don't despair. In many cases, once you know the content exists you can track down what you want to get rid of and attempt to delete it. If the content is posted by a friend on Facebook, ask him 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 in search engine results. Create more profiles, particularly on sites that end in .edu or .gov; 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 higher in Google search results. Premium members pay a monthly fee to promote an unlimited number of links.
(Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds on Call, a company based in Redding, Calif., that offers on-site computer and home theater set-up and repair. Contact her at www.callnerds.com/andrea. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.)
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