Cleaning Up Your Online Presence
Have you searched your own name on Google lately? Conducting a self-search is particularly important for job seekers and business owners. Like it or not, employers and potential clients will Google you before calling for an interview or enlisting your services. Do not confuse your business brand with your personal online presence. People will not only Google your company, but your personal name as well. When you dare to search your name the way it appears on resumes, business documents or marketing materials, the results might surprise you.
When I recently Googled my own name, I immediately thought, “That’s why no one is hiring me!” The top result was a freelance portfolio for a company I had not written for in over a year. An Amazon author page popped up next. As a self-published author, I appreciated the ranking, but my books were not exactly business related. So, this result unsettled me a bit. After perusing more Google listings, I discovered that someone had pirated my Udemy courses, and posted an entire fake profile with my name, Ashan R. Hampton, emblazoned in bold print across the top of the page. How could this happen? I was incensed.
Next came several old Google+ postings. I was surprised, because I had deleted the account months earlier. How was this account still active? As my bewilderment lifted, I soon realized that the issue stemmed from my YouTube account. Like a caduceus, YouTube and Google+ accounts were once intertwined. Changes to one affected the other. Although I had previously taken great pains to disconnect them, it seemed that YouTube had created another ‘dummy’ Google+ account and shared posts between the two.
Upon further investigation, I discovered a second defunct YouTube account. I had forgotten about this other account I created years ago to engage my listening audience for my now obsolete radio show. After wading through tons of prompts to disconnect and delete, I finally scaled down to one active YouTube account and one unwanted, auto-generated Google+ account.
Based on the first page of my Google results, I can be characterized as a freelance writer, published author, and online instructor. Basically, all the activities I have passionately engaged over the last couple of years. Go figure! You can also surmise that I am single and spiritual. Not bad, but undesirable for my job search for instructional designer and curriculum developer positions.
In efforts to improve my personal online presence, I performed the following tasks that you might also find helpful.
Six Simple Steps
Decide what you want visitors to see when they search your name. Exclude your business and professional activities. Remember your lodestar: What should people learn about me when searching my name on the internet?
Browse the first three pages of your Google search results. Delete or deactivate old social media and employment accounts. If old employment profiles surface, ask the company to remove your information from its website.
Create a personal web portfolio to serve as your online portal, based on your desired personal brand. Include links to the most attractive aspects of your online presence.
For example, I used the following headings as a guide: my teaching, my work, my skills, my writing, my books. These are things I want people to find when they search my name. Defining your personal brand in this manner grants you some control over your online presence.
Purchase your name as a domain and attach it to your personal website. For example, when visitors follow www.ashanrhampton.com, they will find my personal portfolio.
SEO your website. Make sure to insert your name among the keywords associated with your website. Optimizing your website is a critical step in scrubbing your online presence. If possible, plaster your name on all the web pages you want to rank in your Google search results. Now, I know I admonished you to separate your business and personal enterprises, but consider this: How often does your name appear on your business site? For example, my name does not appear on any of my externally linked articles; just a photo and the article title. My actual name only appears in the footer of the homepage and the contact section of my own website. No wonder my business does not appear in the rankings! In general, your name should appear on the homepage, the about/services page, and the contact page of your professional website or digital portfolio, at least.
Use Google Alerts or something similar to monitor mentions of your name on the internet. These apps generally track activity across major social media platforms. I was delighted to find that so many writers had cited my work in their books and research projects, after using these services.
Whether you are a job seeker, budding entrepreneur, or candidate for promotion, you must take action to define, clean and control your online presence to appear as a capable professional when people inevitably search your name on the internet.
Ashan R. Hampton has worked as an English instructor in higher education for over 20 years. She is a proud graduate of the Donaghey Scholars Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock under the direction of Dr. C. Earl Ramsey, Emeritus. With her doctoral studies on hold, Ashan has found success in online education. She is also a published author of several nonfiction books on grammar, writing and inspiration for women. Get ordering information and view samples of her work at: www.arhampton.com.
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