Hiring managers are googling you-as are your clients and business partners. Maybe you're being googled right now as you read this article. Personal googling is a phenomenon guaranteed to impact your career.
Do you know what Google says about you?
A recent Harris Interactive poll showed that 23% of people search the names of business associates or colleagues on the Internet before meeting them, and 75% of recruiters google candidates, according to a survey by Execunet.
Face it. People are googling you and you should be googling yourself, too.
Why Should I Google Myself?
There may be things about you on the Web that you're not even aware of. And perhaps what Google reveals does not convey the image that you want to share with the rest of the world.
That was the case for Susan, a marketing executive who had been fired by the board of her company. The meeting minutes detailing her firing got posted on the Web, and the first item displayed after a Google search of her name was the summary of those meeting minutes. She didn't understand why she couldn't get any job interviews until one executive recruiter told her about her Google results. Prior to that, she'd had no idea that she had been digitally dissed.
The moral of the story: Google yourself. It's called self-googling or ego-surfing—and you should be doing it regularly.
To those who don't know you personally, you are your Google results. So knowing what Google says about you is important, and influencing what Google reveals is essential.
According to comScore, Google continues to increase its share of the U.S. search market. Approximately half of all U.S. searches are performed on Google. If you're looking to advance in your career, you'll want to proactively manage your online identity to ensure that you have stellar Google results.
What's the Right Quantity of Google Results?
The ideal results depend greatly on who you are and what your goals are. Researching thousands of professionals—from CEOs to independent consultants, from celebrities to entry-level job seekers, from thought-leaders to university students—we have developed some Google benchmarks.
These benchmarks vary depending on your industry and career goals, but they provide basic metrics you can use to evaluate your volume of Google results.
- 5-50 entries: Professional with 0-5 years' experience, graduating university students, etc.
- 50-500 entries: Professionals with 5-10 years' experience, entry-level marketers, junior account executives, etc.
- 500-5,000 entries: Marketing director, managers with over 10 years of experience and several direct reports, independent consultants, small business owners
- 5,000-50,000: entries Marketing VPs, acknowledged thought leaders, highly regarded consultants or subject-matter experts
- 50,000-500,000 entries: CMOs at major companies, highly acclaimed consultants or experts, best-selling authors
- >500,000 entries: Celebrities, internationally acclaimed gurus, etc.
What Must the Results Say?
In addition to having the appropriate volume of results, you need to ensure that the results clearly communicate your personal brand and position you to achieve your goals. We call this measure "relevance." Obviously, you want your results to reinforce your unique promise of value and bolster your thought leadership. You want to reinforce your reputation with each result that Google yields.
- No relevance—Most/all of the results entries are not about you (but are about someone with your same name) or they refer to things that have no relation to your area of expertise.
- Little relevance—Most of the results fall into the first category, but some do communicate your area of expertise.
- Some relevance—About half of the entries are about you and do express your area of expertise. There are many references to your Web site or blog.
- High relevance—About three-fourths of the entries are about you and express your personal brand.
- Complete relevance—It's virtually all about you and very consistent with your area of expertise and how you want to be known.
Take a moment now to Google yourself by entering your name into Google with quotes, like this: "William Arruda"
Are You Digitally Disastrous or Digitally Distinct?
What's the quantity of entries (seen in the upper right hand corner of the results page)? Are the results consistent with your personal brand? Do they clearly communicate your unique promise of value?
From the results of your search, determine which of the following profiles best describes your current online identity:
- Digitally Disguised: There is absolutely nothing about you on the Web. "Your search—"firstname lastname"—did not match any documents. In terms of digital visibility, you don't exist. You're hidden from those who may be researching you. Although this sounds serious, it's easy to remedy.
- Digitally Dissed: When you fall into this category, there is little on the Web about you, and what is there is either negative or inconsistent with what you want to be known for. Although not where you want to be, it is easy to improve your online profile. Just a small number of on-brand entries can help you enhance your digital identity.
- Digitally Disastrous: This is the most challenging situation, because there's lots of information about you on the Web, but it has little relevance to what you want to express about yourself. It may also include Google results about someone else who shares your name, creating confusion (for people with common names, this is a serious challenge). It will take a concerted effort to augment these results with enough highly ranked relevant results to ensure that your personal brand is being clearly communicated. But don't fret. I have worked with many clients who made the move from digitally disastrous to digitally distinct.
- Digitally Dabbling: There is already some on-brand information on the Web about you. Although the volume of results is not high, the material that is there is relevant and consistent with your personal brand. This is a great start. This indicates you have a foundation on which you can build your online profile.
- Digitally Distinct: This is nirvana in the world of online identity. Essentially, there are lots of results about you, and most reinforce your unique promise of value—your personal brand. Bravo!
But don't rest on your laurels, your Google results can change as fast as the weather in London. So you must be steadfast in your commitment to build and maintain your personal brand on the Web.
Understanding where your online profile stands is important, even if where you are on the scale is not where you want it to be. You can always improve. The dynamic nature of the Web affords you an incredible opportunity to have the online profile you need to help you express your personal brand and reach your goals. This dynamism requires that you stay connected and build a proactive plan to manage your online identity.
In a world that is becoming more and more virtual, your online profile is becoming a more important element in your personal branding plan. If you make a steadfast effort to expand your online presence, increasing your visibility and credibility, you'll be on a direct route to digital distinction.
Five Ways to Positively Impact Your Online Profile
- Review books relevant to your area of thought leadership and post the reviews on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
- Use technorati.com to find blogs relevant to your area of thought leadership and then regularly post comments to the entries.
- Publish an article on a Web site relevant to your area of expertise. As marketers, you must know of Web sites that accept articles from outside authors (hint: you are on one of those Web sites right now.)
- Build your own Web site. The best way to ensure that your online profile says what you want it to say is to speak for yourself.
- Create a blog. A blog is valuable only if you commit to posting regularly (at least once a week), but it is a great way to demonstrate your knowledge of a particular topic and to connect with others who share your interest.
Note: Join William Arruda when he presents a 90-minute MarketingProfs Virtual Seminar, "Google, The Secret Weapon for Career Success," Nov. 23, at Noon (Eastern Time). It's a must for marketing professionals at all levels in all industries who wish to manage their careers proactively.