Q: What belongs to you, but other people use it more than you do?
A: Your name.
Q: Who is searching your name in Google?
A: Everyone but you.
A recent study showed less than half of Americans have entered their own name into the search box to see what results appeared.
However, prospects for employment can be greatly affected by the results that appear in search engines: about 80% of employers research online information about candidates for positions in their organization.
Nearly three-quarters of hiring managers have rejected potential employees after searching the Internet for the names of hopeful employees and viewing the search results.
How do you discover and protect your online reputation?
Whether it’s for a business name or your own name, online reputation management is an important practice to ensure nothing embarrassing or slanderous appears in search results related to your name.
Search your name as a phrase, in quotations.
This tells the search engine to find the exact phrase of your first and last name together in content of websites. To help filter out results of people who have the same name as you, search a relevant keyword along with your name, such as your state or city, the company for which you work, or different hobbies or activities you are involved with.
For example: [Boston “Joe Smith”] or [“Jane Jones” yachting] helps narrow search results down to a more specific demographic.
Get notified of new content mentioning your name.
To keep on top of online reputation management, register to have alerts sent to your email anytime certain phrases or names are published in the content of websites. Google alerts is a great place to start, and you may personally tailor the details of how and when you receive results — once a week, once a day, or as it happens.
For those with an active online lifestyle, search results for your name can bring up your accounts on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Myspace; online photo albums or video sites such as Flickr and YouTube; and your blog or a blog of a friend, relative or co-worker who mentions you, whether you knew it or not.
Change your privacy settings, clean up those photo albums…
…And ask your friends not to mention you by name in their online forums, blogs or tweets. Keep in mind that your name may show up for a period of time in cached results even after your name is removed from content. Give it time — once the search engine crawls the site again, your name should clear out.
Build your online reputation in a positive light.
In the meantime, if you aren’t on too many social media sites but your name shows up with unflattering content, it won’t hurt to create a Google Profile and sign up for Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube in your name to help bury undesirable results from showing up on the first page of search results.
The above-mentioned sites tend to rank higher than any of the content your name may have appeared within; just be sure to change your privacy settings accordingly and be conscientious of the information you publish to the Internet under your name. After all, it could make or break your next career move.