I have been talking to many of my friends recently about personal branding. It is still a tough economy out there and they are having difficulties finding internships for this summer or permanent jobs after graduating with their MBA. When I talk with them, I explain the importance of personal branding both online and in person. They need to present a clear and consistent message about who they are as newly minted professionals. Are they experts in the field they are applying?
Recent studies have shown that more employers than ever are searching for applicants’ names online. They are then taking what they find (good, bad, or indifferent) and using that information to make important hiring decisions.
The first thing I am asking my friends is if they have Googled themselves recently. More often than not, they giggle. I have to admit that I still laugh a little when saying it as well. Once they regain their composure, almost everyone I talk to says that they have, but they don’t like what they see and don’t know how to fix it. In most cases, the problem is just a lack of visibility in the search results. They may have a common name and others are dominating the results.
When Googling your name, you want to look at the first three (or so) pages of results. How many of the results pertain to you? Is the first result a link to your home page or your LinkedIn profile? You want to make it as easy as possible for recruiters to find you and make sure they see the information you want them to get about you.
One of the easiest ways to get the top result for your name is to buy your personal domain. This would be www.FirstNameLastName.com. If it is available and you don’t already own it, you need to buy it immediately. Run, don’t walk to a site like GoDaddy.com or 1&1 and secure it. It will only cost you a few dollars a year and you will be glad you spent the money. Domain names that match the terms you are searching for on Google are going to be much higher in the search results than other pages.
Once you own the domain, you have a few choices of what to do with it. You can redirect it so that it forwards to the site or your choosing or you can buy a monthly web-hosting package and host a new site such as a blog on your domain. It’s totally your choice. For starters, I am telling my friends to get their domain and then point it to their LinkedIn profile. This will ensure that the first result employers see is the professional image you are trying to get across.
Next, you want to go to every site you have a profile and put a link back to your named domain. If you have any control of how the link appears on these sites, you want the linked text (which is underlined) to be your full name. This will help it get indexed and show up in the results on Google.
While this is just a first step to start taking control of your search results, it is very important if you are currently in the job market or planning to be in the future (this is basically everyone).