Are you tired of me touting the importance of personal branding and protecting your online identity yet? No? Good. Because I have a lot more to say on the subject. The Internet is here to stay. And if you touch social media in any way, you become a part of the Internet. When that happens you need to protect your identity.
Domain.ME recently conducted a survey of 1,000 adults to see if they are concerned about their online identities. Surprisingly, 60% of Americans have never searched for themselves online. This is disconcerting. It is important to know what may pop up when your name is typed into a search engine. What will others see if they type your name into their search bar? What will your friends see? Your children? Or possibly most importantly, what will a potential employer see? You should know the answer to these questions.
In fact, nearly 1 in 4 (24%) Americans admitted to being negatively affected by information found about them online. 42% of people surveyed stated that they formed or changed their opinion of someone based on information that they found online. I have seen it happen firsthand. At my old job, we received a resume from a young man. He included a link to his website. When we pulled it up, well… I'll just say that what my employer saw caused him to toss that resume right in the trash.
As a mother to 4 children who are tech savvy, I think all the time about what my kids may see if they type my name into Google. And they do! Just last week my 12-year old told me “My friends think it's so cool that you show up on Google.” And this is not the first time. Because I know that they do this I am even more careful about what I put out into the Internet universe. What would your kids find if they Google you?
When Is The Last Time You Googled Yourself?
I have been Googling myself a lot. It is an important part of maintaining my online identity. But lately, I've been searching for myself more than usual. Since I am still trying to recover from a slow year and my name change after marriage I am working on rebuilding my SEO presence across the web. Since I've been doing this for a while I'm very familiar with the results that pop up when I type in my name. Other than another person named “Kris Cain” that does not seem to like clothes (hint, hint), I have never worried about inappropriate results popping up.
Right now my struggle is getting to the first page of Google for my married name, Kris McDonald. There are a lot of Kris McDonalds out there.
In fact, I have several Google alerts set up to monitor my name and my brand. This way I get periodic emails when things pop up on the web that mention me. You can set up your own Google alerts to monitor any search terms that interest you. I recommend setting one up for your name and your brand or company name.
Go on. Go and Google yourself right now. I'll wait… What did you find?
Where Do Search Results Come From?
Search engine results come from public blogs, websites, forums, and social media sites. So ANYTHING that you post publicly on the Internet has the chance to be found by those searching your name. This means Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube… everywhere!
Of course, if you work in social media as you build your brand you want those results to come up. But you also want them to be positive. The more that you use social media, the more that you post on your blog, and the more that you leave comments on other sites, you can positively build your image on the Internet.
What Can You Do If You Find Startling Results?
Once you are on the web, reputation management is important. You should regularly check that information about you on the internet is fair and accurate. Consider these tips:
Delete, Delete, Delete
Most modern social media sites allow you to delete posts that you no longer want in your social profiles. Now keep in mind that once something is deleted it may take a while for the search engines to catch up. And unfortunately, sometimes those results may pop up in a search page even after being deleted. However, clicking on a link will hopefully take the users to a Page Not Found message. If you are unable to correct or delete the content yourself, try reaching out to the site's owner to get it done.
Make Your Social Media Profiles Private
Now, this is not for those of us who work in social media. If you are hoping to make a living in the blogging and social media space your profiles MUST BE PUBLIC. Otherwise, you are limiting your ability to be found, and therefore your ability to make money.
However, if you use social media just for fun and to well… be social, ensure that your accounts are private. And when posting things on sites like Facebook, make sure that it is set to be viewed by friends only.
Why You Should Create An Online Identity
Having your own online identity is important. Whether you are a blogger, writer, photographer, dentist, or dog trainer, you should own your identity and brand. This way you can control what others see about you. And you will create a positive image and hopefully gain some new contacts and business in the process. Consider creating an online resume using a .ME domain. When others ask why you are qualified for a job you can send them to your site. Impressive, right?
This site can showcase some of your experience, talents, a few photos, a link to your business site, and other sites that you contribute to. This way you have one easy link to give out to contacts, put on your business cards, and link to your social media accounts. You can also put it in your email signature.
Do you already have a strong online presence? If so, are you happy with what you found when searching your name?