Archive for the ‘personal SEO’ Category

There are a lot of agencies that offer reputation management strategies and assistance in purging undesirable results from your Google search results, and many of them have a hefty price tag attached. As with most things, what you’re paying for is the convenience of outsourcing.

You need five basic things to manage the search results for your name:

– Basic search engine optimization knowledge (check out SEOmoz for a great start)
– A set of keywords you want to focus on (your name, your business name, and a few variations of each)
– An action plan of sites where you’ll place content (social networks, vanity domains, professional domains, and resume sites)
– An RSS reader filled with reputation-tracking feeds (blog searches, news searches, etc.)
– The time to devote to managing your online reputation

There are a lot of services that offer to monitor the web for any mention of you, your name, and your business. The fact is, this is something you can easily do yourself if you have the time to get set up.

Search for yourself or your business in these locations for a good start:

For each search above, subscribe to the RSS feed of the results. This will give you a custom set of feeds to monitor for mentions of your name and a heads up for potential problems.

To monitor your SERP results for your vanity search, try a tool like SERP Monitor. This updates you when new results rank for your search.

When you combine news, blog and social monitoring with a close watch on your SERPs, you already have powerful (and free!) insight into your online reputation. The tools already exist to provide you with valuable information.

Don’t just assume that people who are searching for you online will only search for your given name exactly as you have it on your resume. A savvy employer or media professional will Google everything related to your name, including nicknames, email addresses and usernames. If you use the same username for everything, Google it to see what comes up.

For instance, I recently Googled the Twitter/AIM/Gmail username of a colleague. This led to his Twitter, snarky comments left on a chat transcript about a professional presentation, as well as Digg, StumbleUpon and random forum posts.

If the results you see when you Google your username or email address are all public facing, professional accounts, then you have nothing to worry about. However, if your social media history is spotty or you’ve been using the same username online for a really long time, you might see some things that you’d rather not show off to a potential employer.

Cleaning up:
– Log into old accounts and change details to those radically different than your real ones (age, birthday, sex, occupation). This creates reasonable doubt that the account belongs to you.
– Choose a personal username and a professional username, and never cross the streams.
– Sign up for some new sites with the username you’re trying to tidy up, and update those profiles or forums frequently for a few weeks. Hopefully you’ll see them rise in your username search results.

Social media is a popular buzzword, and it can be tightly integrated with an SEO strategy for your personal brand. As an individual or a small business owner, you can approach social media in a couple of different ways, depending on your attitudes about Web 2.0.

A. Social media as a means to an end

You’re busy, and you don’t have the time to spend all day updating MySpace, Facebook, a blog, Twitter, and a vanity site. You want to make sure your Google results say the best possible things about you and/or your business, but you aren’t interested in social media outside what it can do for your Google results.

First of all, this attitude is a perfectly acceptable reason to pay attention to social media. Not everyone can be an early adopter who endlessly evangelizes about the latest social media widget. What’s important is to create a presence on a few key sites, and target that presence to the keywords you want associated with your personal brand (your name, your business name, and possibly some local search terms related to both). Set them up and let them go out into the wild. You can get great results on some long tail terms when you combine this approach with SEO on your main site.

B. Social media as a hobby

If you’re into social media for social media’s sake, you’re going to have to make some decisions about what to keep public and what to make private. You want to be sure that your personal accounts (crazy Flickr photos, an old Livejournal, some embarrassing Yahoo! Answers queries) are under a different username that’s unconnected with your professional brand. If you sign up for all the latest and greatest social media sites, make sure you take a moment to think about whether you want your profile on the site to be public or private.

What to target?

Whether you fall into category A or B, make sure you know what terms you’re targeting as you’re creating profiles. Don’t refer to yourself with a nickname and don’t forget to include local search terms. “Midtown Market, an Austin grocery” is much better than “Midtown store.” Don’t be afraid to really work the local angle, especially if you’re a consultant or a retailer.

Social media is a powerful tool for managing your personal Google results. Even if you’re not as “into it” as others on the web seem to be, don’t discount it as an option for personal branding. And if you’re beta testing 5 fresh new startups right now and have profiles on every one, be aware of how it will affect your personal SERPs.

People who love to interact with others online, whether via social networking sites, fan sites, commenting on blogs, or just chatting on forums, often have the biggest problem with managing an online identity. People consider certain sites (like their LinkedIn profile or their online resume) their “public presence” and send these links freely to potential employers or other important contacts. They might even have one of these links on their business card. However, most take for granted that people won’t research independently, ignoring the “sanitized” links readily offered.

The fact is, your LinkedIn profile or your resume isn’t any more public than your Livejournal, your MySpace, or your ranting comments on that Lost fan blog. Depending on a myriad of factors, those “non-public-facing” parts of your online personality may actually be MORE likely to show up in Google results.

Multiple personalities

Many people also think that using a different or made up name (lostfan4874vr!) can protect your “private” online presence from your public-facing personality. This simply isn’t true, because there’s almost always a way to connect the two. Location, email addresses, URLs, and other bits of information can easily draw the line between your multiple personalities. Alternatively, using a name that’s not easily identifiable may keep you from being associated with content that would actually help your reach your online reputation goals. No one wants to say to a potential employer, “Oh, I DO blog about widget XYZ, just under the name widgetmaker07.” Using your real name to manage your online reputation lends credibility to your web presence.

Identifying your public-facing online identity

The important distinction to make when managing your online identity is not which sites or profiles you simply think are your public or private sites, but which ones actually allow for some modicum of privacy. Livejournal, Flickr, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn all have complex (well, maybe Twitter’s privacy settings aren’t so complex) privacy settings that allow for some control over who sees what in your profile. You need to identify which of these services is instrumental in maintaining the online identity you’re going for, and adjust the privacy settings accordingly. If you often rant about work in your Livejournal, that thing needs to be private. If you have a WordPress or Blogspot blog that’s public, you need to make sure that any content on that blog is thoughtful, well-researched, and relevant to your topic. Your personal life should never make an appearance on that blog. Planning on putting up drunken pictures? Choose Flickr, where you can limit sets to friends or family-only. Don’t upload the whole album to your public MySpace page.

Ideally, you should have a list of public facing accounts and privacy-enabled accounts. If a particular site or service that you use online doesn’t allow you to restrict who sees your content, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it, but it does mean that you should imagine anyone (and I mean anyone, including your boss, your annoying coworker, or your mother) will be reading what you write. Any and all public online content can be archived by Google. Even if you later take it down, it can still be accessed via Google’s cache.

What to do?

Make that list of public and privacy-enabled online accounts. Keep tabs on the sites you sign up for and be mindful of what you’re posting on sites that don’t allow any privacy restrictions. On the contrary, actively seek out opportunities to improve your online reputation by guest posting on a blog that’s well-read in your field, adding professional interests to your MySpace page, or starting a blog of your own based on a topic you’d like to add to your online reputation.

Welcome to the blog! My name is A.E. Baxter, and I’m an in-house SEO specialist for an Austin-based marketing firm. When I’m not doing content SEO for top-tier consumer tech companies, I’m following the evolution of personal SEO on the web. As online identity becomes more and more important in defining your real-world image, SEO starts to become necessary not just for large companies or web 2.0 start ups, but also for teachers, freelancers, small organizations and non-profits, and others who depend on the web to define their reputations.

This blog will cover online reputation management, DIY online identity tips, privacy issues, and other topics relevant to the world of personal SEO. To subscribe in your RSS reader, grab our feed here:

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