Have you searched your own name on Google lately? Reviewing personal search results 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.
If you own a business, 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 résumés, business documents or marketing materials, the results might surprise you.
My Online Presence Audit
When I recently Googled my own name, I immediately thought, “That’s why no one is hiring me!” The top result was a freelance writing portfolio for a company I stopped working for more than a year ago. 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 of my social media profiles, I discovered a second defunct YouTube account. I had forgotten about this other account I created years ago for my radio show, NeoSoul Rhythms.
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. (As of 2019, the consumer version of Google+ is no longer available.)
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 decade. Go figure! You can also surmise that I am single and spiritual. Not bad, but not desirable for my job search.
In efforts to improve my personal online presence, I performed the following tasks that you might also find helpful.
Seven Steps for Cleaning Your Online Presence
Decide what you want visitors to see when they search your name. Include 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 on your website, such as a LinkedIn page.
When I seriously decided to streamline my online presence, I used the following headings as a guide: my teaching, my work, my skills, my writing, and 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 how you appear online.
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 that showcases everything I outlined in the previous step.
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 that 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, I noticed that my name did not appear on my editing services website. In fact, my actual name only appeared in the footer of the homepage and the contact section--of my own website! No wonder my business did not appear in the rankings! In general, your name should appear on the homepage, the about page, services page, and the contact page of your professional website or digital portfolio, at the very 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 getting these alerts.
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.
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Ashan R. Hampton is a long-time English instructor turned entrepreneur. She is also 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. Through her company, Onyx Online Education & Training, she offers online writing courses and print books for academic and professional development to individuals and corporations. She is also a prolific published author of several books on a variety of topics. To find out more about Ashan's work, visit www.arhampton.com.
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