Auditing & optimizing search results for your personal brand
If you’re online, you have a personal brand. This is a lot like a company’s brand but for people; you don’t have to be a huge corporation to have a “brand”. So, what makes up your personal brand online?
- The social profiles you’ve created.
- What people are saying about you on social networks, on news websites, and elsewhere.
- Content you’ve written like articles and blog posts.
These things create your personal brand on the web. How your personal brand manifests is largely through search results. If someone visits Twitter and searches for you, they’ll probably find your Twitter handle and profile. If someone searches for you on LinkedIn, they’ll see your LinkedIn profile. However, if someone goes to Google and searches for your name, what they see is an aggregate of your personal online brand.
Why You Need to be Aware of your Personal Brand
This post uses Google as an example, but the points and strategies that come up are relevant to any search engine. Google is simply a great example because…well, do I really have to explain?
When someone searches for your name in Google, any webpage could theoretically be returned. Look back on #2 from the list above (what people are saying about you). Anything negative out on the web could be returned when someone Googles your name. Even if there is nothing negative out there (let’s hope not), don’t you want to put your best foot forward in search? If you are a frequent blogger, an avid Pinterest pinner, and a expert LinkedIn user, it makes a lot of sense to make sure your website, Pinterest profile, and LinkedIn profile show up on the first page for searches on your name.
The Importance of Auditing Your Personal SERPs
If you’ve active online, it’s only a matter of time before someone Googles your name. Someone probably already has. If you’re seeking employment, you can bet a large percentage of potential employers are going to Google you before even responding to your application.
That’s why it’s important to audit your personal SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). And to do it regularly. If a search result in the top 30 gives away a little too much personal info, looks unprofessional, or actually paints you in a negative light, you better hope you find it before someone else does. One wonky result could skew or ruin an important person’s first impression of you.
How to Dominate the SERPs for your Name in 7 Steps
1. Monitor your Personal SERPs
Go ahead and Google your name.
The first thing to do is, you guessed it, search Google for your name. What do you see there? If you only see the very best of the personal brand, things are pretty good for you. However, that’s not the case for most people. Analyze the top 10-30 results for your name and see if any match these criteria.
The search result:
- Contains something negative about me.
- Gives away more personal information than I’m confortable with having online.
- Is a boilerplate, spammy, or irrelevant result.
- Is about someone else with the same name as me.
Grab the URLs of these results and keep them in doc. We’ll deal with them later.
Now, if you have any experience with SEO, you know that SERPs change all the time. You can check the results for your personal brand on a weekly basis, but who has time for that? To simplify the process, set up a Google Alert for your name (you may need a couple if you have multiple spellings or names). Go here to set one up: Google Alerts. Whenever Google finds a new result that contains your name, you’ll get an email about it. You can then deal with it if needed.
2. Optimize your Social Profiles
The first actual step to dominating the search results for your name is optimizing social profiles. If you have profiles on any major social networks, these are almost invariably going to appear in the SERPs for your personal brand. Social networking websites have tons of search authority which allows them to rank extremely well. If you don’t have any social profiles and you found results that matched the negative criteria in step one, you may want to consider creating profiles to push down the less-than-ideal results.
Beyond just having these profiles, you can take steps to optimize them so they’ll show up higher.
- Use a consistent name on all profiles that aligns with your personal brand/online identity.
- Use an interesting and compelling profile description. In many cases, this will appear as the text snippet under that profile’s search result. By having an optimized snippet show up, you can improve CTR on that result, which can demonstrate that result’s quality; Google will be more likely to return that quality-proven result.
- Link to your personal website in your profile (see step 3).
Recommended social networks for personal branding:
3. Launch a Personal Website
Having a personal website isn’t just a vanity move. In fact, if you’re any kind of online or semi-online professional in the 2010s, having a personal website is just common sense. If you want to dominate the search results for your name you should really have one result that is entirely under your control. For this same reason, your personal site will be the flagship of your online identity.
Here are the most important tips to keep in mind for your personal website:
- Make sure the URL contains your name. Don’t worry about hyphen-separating your name (though that’s totally fine). Keep it simple. Keep it classy, e.g., mikearnesen.com, johnpkoenig.com, adam-ware.com.
- Start your homepage’s title tag with your name, e.g., “Harry Lockhart | Private Detective”
- Include a descriptive and compelling meta description for your homepage.
- Link to your main social profiles from your homepage.
- Keep an up-to-date about page with a concise bio.
4. Create an About.me Page
About.me allows you to create a “simple yet elegant splash page” about yourself. Think of it as an online business card. While a page here is very similar to having a personal website, for the purposes of dominating the search results for your name, about.me simply serves as another search result that will be entirely under your control. Additionally, the site has gobs of search authority, so your about.me page will have a good chance of ranking for searches on your name.
Considerations for your about.me page:
- Try to be consistent with your username so that it matches what you use elsewhere (e.g., mike_arnesen)
- Include links to all your public profiles, your personal website, and/or company website.
- Have fun with it
Here are a few examples.
5. Blog and Contribute Content
Blogging regularly on your own site, your company’s site, or through guest blogging opportunities can do wonders for saturating your personal brand’s SERPs with high-quality results. You can also leverage the guest blogging you do to link to your personal site and, as a result, increase your site’s search authority. If you’re truly serious about dominating for your personal brand, you also need to set up author rich snippets.
6. Create or Edit your Wikipedia Page
In case you didn’t know, anyone can edit Wikipedia and add articles. However, as easy as it is to create and edit content on Wikipedia, it’s even easier to piss off the community of editors by not playing by the rules. The rules and etiquette for Wikipedia editing are a topic that’s way too big to discuss here, but remember that not everyone deserves their own Wikipedia page; if you’ve made a significant contribution to your industry or niche, and can back it up with sources, you can probably get your article to “stick”.
The point is, if you’re somewhat influential, consider getting a Wikipedia page put together. If you already have one, go there and ensure it has a link to your personal website (keep brining it back to your flagship).
7. Clean Up Bad Results
Look for results that are less-than-ideal.
The chances are that on your first audit, you found some bad results; search results that matched the negative criteria outlined in step one. In many cases, the “bad” results are in reality only non-ideal results (like white pages listings and spam sites that don’t really have anything to do with your personal brand) but that you can’t really make go away. By executing on steps two through six, you’ll be off to a good start in pushing those non-ideal results off the first few pages.
But what if there are results that you need to get rid of for one reason or another? Here are a few options:
- Deleting social profiles. Do you have profiles on social networks that you don’t use and don’t plan on ever using again? Delete them. In some cases, you may have profiles on sites that don’t reflect positively on your professional persona. Use your descretion, but you may want to delete your old MySpace profile. Just sayin’.
- Request take downs. Is there a webpage out there that you can’t edit but has outdated information on you? Consider emailing the webmaster about getting the old page taken down. It likely doesn’t provide the hosting site much value and a request may be all it takes. For example, I was still listed as an employee of a company I freelanced for nearly six years ago. I emailed them to get that bio page taken down since it’s completely outdated.
- Contact Google to request removal. As a last resort, you can submit a request to Google to have a search result removed from their search index. It may or may not work; it’s up to Google.
- Actively promote the good results. Consistently link to your high-quality results like your personal website and your social profiles. Also, don’t forget to use your name in the anchor text when linking to them.
What if your Name has Heavy Competition?
Surprisingly (to me), “Mike Arnesen” isn’t a very common name online and this made it fairly easy to dominate my personal SERPs. However, this is not the case for many, many people. It’s very likely that there’s a few people who share your name that Google thinks are notable. This will make your battle that much harder, but there’s really no shortcut to get around it. Follow the steps above to the letter (especially the blogging piece) and over time, you can earn your results more SEO authority than those of your dopplegangers.
Also, you may want to give thanks that you don’t share a name with the Commander of Moon Base Alpha.
Dominating the Search Results for your Company Brand Name
Owning the search results for an actual brand name follows similar principles, but on a much grander scale. The same strategies will work if tweaked appropriately, but it’s almost certain that there will be a much higher volume of chaff to deal with. Rest assured though, it can still be done with the appropriate investment of resources. We may be able to help.
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