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This is the first in a five part series on maximizing your online brand.

What Does Google Say About You?
Before you put any real time and effort into developing your online brand presence, check out what kind of brand presence you already have. Do an online brand assessment.

Google yourself. Or use Bing or Yahoo or any other search engine.

Come on, you know you all do it anyway. But this time, do a very clinical assessment. We're going to get a little methodical to really see a very accurate account of your brand online.

Tips for an Accurate Google Search
Tip 1.  Don’t just type in your name.  Put “  “ around your complete name. That tells the search engines to search for BOTH your first and last names together. If you just type in your name, let’s say, Joe Jones, without the quote marks, the engines will bring in all the Joes out there AND all the Joneses. 

Try it. I got over 22 million hits for Joe Jones! If you have a very common name like Jones or Smith or Patel, it’s really critical to include the quote marks to narrow the search. Current and prospective employers' HR departments are using this tactic right now to get accurate search results on your name. Beat the to it!

Tip 2. If you still have a huge amount of hits and they are not all about you, you might add a qualifying or keyword word to your search. Perhaps your name PLUS the name of your company or your area of expertise; for example, Jane Jones, chemical engineer.  Or Jane Jones PLUS Oracle. Another option is to add the city or state you are in.  Google LOVES localized searches. Another option is to use a middle initial, or for women, you can add your maiden name.  What you're trying to do is direct the search engines to you, not everyone else on the planet with your first OR last name.

It's also very important that you have a consistent online brand. If you're using a middle initial on LinkedIn, for example, be sure to use it for all your online activities. If your Twitter handle is John Jones III, keep the III on all the sites you log into; it will  help differentiate you and maintain a consistent brand.

Tip 3. Keep in mind you can also eliminate some words from your brand search by adding a minus sign after your name. Is there a person with your name who keeps coming up in a search for your name? Is there a keyword associated with them, perhaps they are an actor or a writer. Set up a Google search with a minus sign. For example,  typing in  "joe jones"-actor tells the search to NOT bring in any results about an actor named Joe Jones. This is one way to eliminate unwanted results and improve the accuracy of a personal name search.

Assess Your Online Presence
When you did your search, did you like what you found? Were there a lot of entries that gave a good and accurate account of your online name? Were there negatives? Embarrassing or unprofessional photos, online comments from family or friends that are far too social? 

There are remedies and ways to proactively control what the search engines list. Our next few posts will give you insights into how to proactively manage and direct your search results.

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Loraine Antrim is co-founder of Core Ideas Communication, a communications consulting agency focused on presentation development and media training for C-suite executives. Core Ideas enables executives to package and communicate relevant and compelling messages in their presentations and interviews. Loraine's expertise is killing butterflies. You know, butterflies: the feeling in your stomach before you have to present or speak in public. Loraine works with executives to create a powerful story, memorable messages and an authentic delivery style. Confidence kicks in, and butterflies scatter. Nice work killing butterflies! You can contact Loraine at: manager at coreideas.com