Google yourself. (Go on, we’ll wait.) Oh, and make sure you log out of your Google accounts—so you’ll see the results more likely to show up to others.
What shows up? More importantly, who shows up—are the results listed even about you? And if they are, are they painting the complete professional picture that you want your co-workers, clients, and future employers to see?
Whether you’re hunting for a job or trying to establish credibility in your current industry, having a strong digital presence is the difference between being found and being lost in the farthest reaches of the World Wide Web.
So what’s the key to being found, easily and often (and, more importantly, with your best face forward)? Many of the tactics you often hear to help increase your search engine visibility—like becoming a published author or getting mentioned in the press—take time and resources to implement, but the truth is, there are a few simple things you can do to help boost your presence on Google this week.
Step 1: Establish Strategic Professional Profiles
There’s a good chance you’ve started developing a social media presence—and that’s definitely a great way to start showing up in search engine results. But before you wander into the abyss of the Internet creating more and more profiles, it’s important to determine which online platforms are right for you. After all, you only want relevant results showing up.
The powerhouses—Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn—are a must, as they’ll provide you with broad, abundant exposure. However, you should also explore platforms that are relevant to your field. Try searching for industry-specific websites or publications that allow you to create a user profile, like iShade for accountants, GLOZAL for real estate moguls, or Mashable for digital media experts.
Now, keep in mind that creating a smart digital presence also involves thinking about what you don’t want your audience to see. So, when you create a profile username, bid farewell to GlamGal66 and secure a username as close as possible to your actual name—the name you want showing up on Google. This also means, if you’d rather not see your name linked to your old MySpace profile, it’s probably time to ditch it for good, and if your Facebook is for personal use only, make sure your privacy and search settings are locked up tight.
Step 2: Own Your Own Name
If you’re willing to shell out a few bucks (we’re talking $10 per year), take the leap and purchase YourName.com from GoDaddy or Domain.me. If your name is taken, or you have a tragically common name (John Smith, we feel your pain!), tack on an additional word at the end of your domain. Choose a generic professional term, like YourNameResume.com, or your area of expertise, like YourNameHealthcare.com.
This domain (which will hopefully be one of the first things that shows up on Google) can serve as your professional hub. Use it as a digital resume to house all your information, including work samples and links to your professional profiles. Or, if you have time for regular and frequent updates, consider transforming it into a blog.
Once you purchase the domain, you can host it for free on a website like Weebly or Blogger. Both have easy, clean options for customization, so you have complete control over the look and feel of your personalized site.
Step 3: Optimize Your Digital Presence
OK, so you’ve created a few targeted profiles and purchased your own domain name. Your next step is to optimize the content on your social media profiles and personal website, so that you’re easy to find when people are searching for someone like you (e.g., “healthcare marketing writer in Chicago”) and so that Google can distinguish you, Lindsey Hart the marketing writer, from the Lindsey Hart that sells insurance.
To get started, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who Are You? If you had to sum up your professional profile in a few bullet points, what would make the cut? If you’re stumped, start by writing down what you do best, the skills you’ve mastered, and what you can offer your potential followers.
- Who Do You Want to Find You? Just like you tailor your resume to fit the position you’re applying for, you should mold your online presence to appeal to your ideal audience. Take your specific goals into consideration: Are you searching for a job? Attracting HR directors and recruiters may be most important to you, so try taking a look at applicable job descriptions to find out how a potential employer might phrase his search. Looking for consulting gigs? You may want to appeal to entrepreneurs and startup CEOs. Try to get into the mindset of your ideal audience member to determine the most accurate and useful descriptors. (What would you search for?)
With these two questions answered, come up with a list of relevant phrases or keywords that best describe your professional identity. Think about common titles for the position you want, particular industries you specialize in, and your location. Ideally, you should come up with a mix of keywords: Broad search terms with higher traffic volumes (“healthcare marketing”), as well as unique keywords with lower traffic, but lower competition (“freelance healthcare copywriter Chicago”). Broad keywords help for searches related to your name, while more specific terms help to carve out your own niche area of the web.
If you still need help developing phrases, try the Google Keyword Tool. While normally used for paid search, it can be useful in identifying if the keywords you selected are actively being searched, how often, and how competitive they are.
When you’ve finalized your list of keywords and phrases, integrate them into your content where they make the most sense. Here are a few examples:
LinkedIn Professional Headline
Original: Copywriter at Johnson & Eagle
Optimized: Copywriter specializing in content development for software, high-tech, and healthcare
Website Page Title
Optimized: Lindsey Parker Portfolio | Graphic Designer & Website Development
Description: Loves social and shoes
Name: Emily Vansant
Description: Public relations gal @firmname with a passion for everything digital. Shoe & social media savvy.
Location: Chicago, IL
By using (wherever applicable) your real name, detailed location, and descriptive words about your professional life (rather than just your job title), your social media accounts are more likely to show up in searches associated with your name and the area in which you specialize.
Keep in mind that your goal is to have intelligent human beings read your content, so be careful not to cram in keywords in hopes of gaining page views—the forced words will just sound unnatural and awkward (holy spam!) and your readers may not take you seriously.
These simple steps will jumpstart your personal SEO journey, providing you with the perfect base to grow and move up the rankings of search results. With focused, personalized content on your professional sites and profiles, your name is sure to pop up on Google—and sooner than you’d think.