People you know or have never met yet are googl’ing you. Let’s face it, you’re even google’ing yourself! At the end of 2007, the Pew Internet Research Team found that 47% of people search for information about themselves online (Self-Googling), which was more than double 5 years ago. It’s a pretty safe bet that percentage has climbed to over 50 or 60% by this year.
Some people might can it ego-surfing, but it’s actually a good practice to see what results come up for your name. Your teachers, friends, family, boyfriends and girlfriends and coworkers are google’ing you either for fun or because they want to learn more about you. Hiring managers want to see if you have a clean record in Google, which is your permanent record because every move you make (yes even a blog comment) is stored there forever. Before I went on a second date once, the girl Google’ed me. If she hadn’t liked what she saw, the second date wouldn’t have happened. Try doing it right now and see what you get.
There is no hiding from Google!
Google keeps track of just about everything you do on the internet. It patrols and captures your online behavior, such as when you post on your blog, tweet using Twitter, join social networks, comment on other blogs, write articles for online news sources and more. Aside from the content you create and distribute over the internet, other people are talking about you, which means that Google has a complete picture (almost like an autobiography) of your life. In the digital age, Google is your resume, your permanent record and a journal of your life. Your children and children’s children will be able to find out everything about you when they grow older. “Mom, look what I just found out about Dad in Google.” Your personal brand can’t hide from Google. There is one major exception to this though.
If your name is common, such as Mike Smith, then it will be very hard to own your Google results. There are over 54 million results for “Mike Smith” in Google. You won’t be able to compete with the athletes and musicians on the first few pages. If your life goal is to rank in the top ten results, that may be achievable, if you either become very famous or work extremely hard at building content each and every day for your entire life. At the age of sixty you might find out that Google changed their algorithm and you’ll lose all that hard work. The point being is that you’ll have to differentiate your name in order to rank high. I typically recommend you use your middle name or a nickname in this case. The worst case scenario is that you change your name completely ;).
Celebrities are very fortunate because they get mass media attention, which means traditional media sources (NY Times, ABC News) write articles about them. These sources rank extremely high in Google. We’re talking Google PageRank’s of eight and higher! Your blog posts about these celebrities will never end up on the top twenty results for their name unless you are Perez Hilton. If your name is the same as a celebrities, you are in big trouble. Try searching for Christina Aquilera (21 million results), Britney Spears (88 million), Lil Wayne (40 million) and other major celebrities. Personally, I don’t have any friends with these names, but even with C-level celebrities, you don’t stand a chance. If you are stuck with a celebrity name, I suggest that you build your brand around an area of your expertise or interest and connect it to your brand name.
While growing up, you might have been made fun of people of your unique name because it was “different.” Although you were ostracized and made fun of, right now you get to laugh at everyone else! With a distinct name, you are able to easily manipulate the results for your name on search engines. When you go to your high school reunion and see your friends, you’ll get the last laugh because you can be visible and control perceptions, while they simply cannot. When you Google your name, whether you have results that reflect your brand, you’ll see how hard it will be to rank high for it or not. Depending on the competition, it may take you a few days or a few months. Over time, if you work very hard, you’ll own the top ten results for your name.
In my next post, I’ll talk about what you can do to gain control over your Google results and let your personal brand shine through.