As a freelance writer, I often find myself researching random things. It’s one of the perks of the trade.
From a neuroscientist-turned-monk to a medieval-style knight preparing for Armageddon, I’ve researched and interviewed dozens of interesting characters.
But until I was asked to write an article on online reputation management for a business magazine, I’d never actually researched myself.
Truth be told, Googling myself seemed kind of Kardashian. After all, I’m not of the digital generation. I’ve always been carefully about what I share online. The internet doesn’t define who I am.
But when I finally did it , I was shocked by how Google was representing me and my professional history.
Shock Number 1: A photo of me at a Doctor Who convention.
Yes, I am a massive Dr Who fan but I don’t even remember that photo being taken (or providing my name). As it happens, I would run away with the doctor tomorrow if he dropped out of the sky in his Tardis (my husband I have an agreement) but until he does, I have a career to run.
My Dr Who ‘issues’ were not something I necessarily wanted potential employers to know about.
Shock Number 2: A scathing criticism of an article I’d written.
I’d written an article about Seaworld after a travel junket there … and someone posted a fierce take-down of me, suggesting I was a horrible human being for being there.
Again, not helpful for my career.
Shock Number 3: No mention of my career highlight reel.
To be honest, this one hurt the most. Mentions of my successful online meditation business? My dozens of international travel scripts? Nowhere to be found.
As I scrolled my way through the 2,678 Kathy Wilsons on Google I wondered how it was possible I’d been leaving one of my most valuable assets to chance.
For employees of large firms it may be a bit easier to hide but for soloists (like me) and small business owners, online reputations are worth more than gold.
And they are increasing in value every day.
I Google people before I meet with them. Or hire them. Or recommend them.
And people are Googling me.
Could I do anything to get Google to reflect on me more positively? It turned out the answer was ‘Yes’.
Here’s how I took control.
- Once I’d established exactly what people found when they searched my name, the next step was to take control of the security on my social media This is a lot easier than it sounds. Basically it involves setting your social media accounts to private so that you minimise unwanted shares and posts.
- The second thing I did was to buy my own domain name. This is a good idea even if you don’t intend to use it right away. (Bonus tip: While I was at it, I bought the domains for each of my kids’ names. As the reputation economy grows in importance, so will the value of domains. For about $20 a year, it might be the best investment you’ll ever make.)
- I then set up my own website on my own domain showing my highlight reel. I loaded it with the things I am proud of including video scripts and articles that show off my unique range of talents.
- Although most people only see LinkedIn as a cool place to park your C.V. it is actually loaded with “Google Juice.” Search any business contact who has a fairly high online profile and you’ll see his or her LinkedIn page appear – usually in one of the top three spots.So I put my energies into LinkedIn – loading it with rich media, commenting on relevant articles and posting my own pieces.
- And finally, I set up a Google Alert on my name so, going forward, I could monitor what the web was saying about me.
Like gravity and the space-time continuum, what Google spits out when someone types in your name is subject to certain predictable laws.
So go on. I dare you. Google yourself and see what surprises (good or bad!) you get.
And then take control.
Because, after all, to misquote some Dr Who wisdom:
“We’re all stories in the end…make sure Google tells your story your way.”
Have you ever gotten a shock … or a pleasant surprise from Googling yourself?