Optimize Yourself

By Mike Kowieski, Paid Search Specialist

A friend of mine from college recently contacted me with a uniquely modern problem. She just graduated from law school and was busy interviewing with different firms, and in two separate interviews a question came up about some articles she had written for her college newspaper. Apparently, she had written a few reviews of bars on campus, and the picture that accompanied her byline showed her chugging from a wine bottle, fully stretched out on a sofa with empty beer cans strewn around her. What seemed funny in college was now causing a serious problem – prospective law firms didn’t get the joke and assumed she was a raging alcoholic. Even worse, the newspaper refused to take down the posts.

With everyone from prospective girlfriends to HR departments Googling your name to get a better picture of who you are, personal online reputation management is becoming increasingly important. Fortunately, there’s a number of common sense steps you can take to help take control of the results page for your name.

Check Your Social Network Privacy Settings

Unless your name is Megan Fox or Brad Pitt, chances are your Facebook and Twitter profiles are right up near the top of the results page. With Facebook’s recent privacy settings change, people you’re not friends with may be able to see old photos, view your status updates, and more. This New York Times article goes in-depth on exactly what settings you need to review to make sure those pictures from freshman year of you taking a two-story beer bong remain private. Similarly, if you’ve got some sensitive tweets, make sure your profile is locked so only your followers can see them – otherwise, the entire world can. And if you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, its time to join the 21st century and sign up. These two sites will almost certainly help drive down any negative results for your name by ranking ahead of them.

Create, Create, Create

Search engine optimization is a real estate battle – and the first page is where its at. Your goal should be to own the entire first results page for your name. Any negative or embarrassing links will be pushed down the rankings, and the chances of it being discovered are far less the further down they go. If its available, buy your name as a domain name and set your name as the title tag. You don’t have to update your site every day, but at the very least put up some plain text and link to your other social networking pages. Then, go out and create profiles on LinkedIn, Delicious, MySpace, Naymz, Digg, and any other social networking sites you can think of. Set up blogs associated with your name (either in the URL or on-page) on Tumblr, Blogger, and LiveJournal to start. Once you’ve got these established, try to update them at least once a week – even if its just a few sentences.

Make Your Voice Heard

I’m willing to bet there’s a few blogs you read with a comments section. Now’s the time to make your voice heard – start posting comments with your name as the username. You’ll reap the benefit of having your name appear on a page with a good deal of link juice, and those comments will begin being indexed by the search engine spiders.

These are just the basics when it comes to personal online reputation management, but they’re a great place to start. I welcome any additional suggestions and ideas. Just remember to be patient – search engine results pages don’t change overnight, so don’t get discouraged and keep up the fight.


Copyright © 2008 Resolution Media, Inc. All rights reserved.