Personal Branding: 3 tips for personal SEO
If someone were to enter your name into Google, what results would they find?
Establishing your personal brand online has become increasingly important, as more HR professionals and hiring managers turn to search engines for information on applicants. Some reports indicate upward of 90% of recruiters regularly research candidates on Google.
Moreover, realize that your competition has already taken action to improve their search engine results. According to ExecuNet’s 2012 Executive Job Market Intelligence Report, 67% of executives have actively worked to become more visible online.
These executives are working on their results, but what about you? In a best case scenario, you will earn a few results on one of the top search engine result pages (SERPs). Worst case scenario? You find that you share a name with a slew of more established, accomplished and published people — at least according to Google results.
So, what can you do to improve your search engine results? Here are three tips for boosting the search ranking of your name.
Tip #1: Use your name to narrow search results
What’s in a name? In a search engine, your name is a powerful tool. Are you taking advantage of it?
If your name is James (like five relatives on my mom’s side alone), then you are one of about 4,064,550 … and that’s just in the United States! Earning a spot on your name’s SERP can be tricky, but you can use a few strategies to help boost your search ranking.
Below are five ways to narrow your search results, using only your name.
Nicknames: Irene Marshall, president, Tools for Transition, provides a few ways to strategically use your name in your job search, including nicknames, in The Ladders’ post, “When to Use Nicknames, Legal Names.” She says you can use just your nickname, or you can use your full name with the nickname within parentheses.
Suffix: Irene also addresses the use of a suffix. For example, a search for James Parker returns 15.8 million results, but James Parker III returns only 3.87 million.
Additional Name: A common way to set yourself apart is to include an additional name, either your middle name or, for women, your maiden name.
Advanced Degree or Certification: Another option Irene suggests is to include your advanced degree or certification at the end of your name. This does two things:
- It sets you apart from anyone else with your name
- It calls attention to one of your qualifications.
Keep in mind, though, that you cannot be 100% sure that hiring managers will include the degree or certification in their Google search.
Initial: Adding an initial is a popular way to set your name apart in search engines and the job hunt. I used this method during my own job hunt. Luckily, a name like Selena Blue allows quite a bit of control over my SERP. After all, there are only two of us in the United States that share the name, according to How Many of Me.
In theory, I would really only have to compete with one other person to earn a spot on the SERP, right? No, my real SERP competition is Disney star, Selena Gomez and the late Latina singer, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez.
Below, I’ll show you how simply adding my middle initial made a big difference in earning top spots on my personal SERP.
Adding my middle initial caused a few different results:
- By keeping my Facebook name, sans my initial, I dropped the social network from my results. For me, this is a desired result. I keep my page private, meaning visitors would gain nothing from clicking, so I find it better to eliminate it from the search results.
- Using my middle initial not only earned me four more results on my SERP, but I earned the top seven result spots overall.
- Of those seven, the first five were the top sites I would want a hiring manager to come across, as indicated by the red arrows.
- My middle initial cut the number of results from 76.9 million to 26.9 million. Moreover, if you were to search my full name including my initial within quotes (which is how I generally search for someone specific), then the number of results goes down to just 2,280, with all 10 results on the first SERP linking to my personal pages or third-party sites mentioning me.
Keep in mind, though, that you’ll have to do a little experimentation with your name. It is possible that some of the suggested variations could return more results than just your first and last name alone already do.
— Be consistent
The key to this tip is consistency. If you use a middle initial on your LinkedIn profile, then your Twitter, Google+, personal website and any other relevant online presence should also use your middle initial.
And, don’t forget to include whatever name alternative — a maiden name, middle name, nickname or initial — you choose on your résumé and cover letter as well. After all, those are the first two places many of the people searching for you online will see your name.
Tip #2: Expand your online network
Using online sources, from social media platforms to a personal website, gives search engines more options to report for your name. If your name appears on only one website, then you’re only ever going to earn one spot on your SERP. One major step in taking control over your search engine results is to expand your online network.
— Personal website
You might have a personal website for a few different reasons: a place to blog, an online portfolio to showcase your work, or a site to attract potential clients for freelance work (and could incorporate both of the previous reasons as well).
Devin Anderson, Search Marketing Consultant, The Brand Factory, provides a few tips to keep in mind when optimizing your site for search in the article, “How to Google Yourself (And Like What You Find).” All of the tips revolve around using your name as much as possible, while still using natural placements.
First, if possible, include your name in the URL of your website. Even if you use a free URL from a blogging platform, try to secure an extension using your name. For example, www.jamesparkerjr.wordpress.com will earn a higher spot on your SERP for your name than a blog URL like, http://marketingmaverick.wordpress.com/.
Second, use very specific copy in your Meta Title. Devin says, “After the URL, the next most important place to include your name is in the Meta Title of the homepage.”
Third, if you add images of yourself, be sure to include your name in the Title and Alt Descriptions of the image files you upload.
Lastly, try to include your name as naturally as possible throughout your website. One great place could be a footer, where you include your name and contact information for visitors to see on every page of your site.
— Social Networks
You can find a plethora of them out there, and they seem to multiply by the minute. A few of the bigger sites can use their reputations to boost your placement in search results. Again, for any of these platforms to help you, you must utilize your name in each. For example, your YouTube username and Twitter handle should use your name for them to help your SEO.
- LinkedIn is most likely the site you want to rank highest, outside any personal website you may have. Not only can the site act as on online résumé, but it can also serve a few other purposes, including highlighting recommendations from past coworkers or supervisors, and linking to multiple other sites. You can also showcase some of your interests and hobbies that might not feel right on a print résumé, but still reflect on the type of candidate you are.
- Twitter is a great platform to show your personal brand. You can also keep up with industry news while you network with other marketers and thought leaders.
- YouTube and Vimeo allow you to present yourself in an entirely different medium: video. They also let you dive into content marketing. With proper tagging, you can achieve some great SEO results with a how-to video that promotes your marketing knowledge and skill set. These channels also give you another option in the résumé department: Video résumés can be a great way to supplement your standard print résumé, according to Zachary Sniderman, Assistant Features Editor, Mashable, in his post, “5 Ways to Get a Job Through YouTube.”
- Facebook certainly has the power to help your search results, but consider if you want to have your profile open to the public. If you plan to keep your profile private, there’s really no need to work to improve its spot on your SERP.
- About.me is a great site to use if you simply want to earn another spot on your SERP without the time-consuming work that other sites can require. It acts simply as a landing page for you to direct traffic to the websites you want them to visit. The page includes your name, a headline, your bio, tags and links. You can link to a variety of provided services (Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, YouTube, Flickr, etc.) or to any website by adding a URL. You can also choose to allow visitors to email you without actually displaying your email address.
Tip #3: Link to yourself
Linking to yourself provides easy accessibility for readers and search engines, according to a post by RJ Sherman, founder, BrandYourself.com, titled “Personal Branding – 5 tips for branding yourself online“:
— Easy accessibility for readers
You may not be able to get every site you want on the first page of your results. For this reason, you want to make it as easy as possible for that HR rep or hiring manager to find the key websites you want them to see.
Look at the website for which you rank highest. If it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ or about.me, then you’re off to a good start, as they all allow you to add multiple website links to your profiles. Twitter has one designated website link location, but you can technically add more to your bio section if you feel the need. Doing this can make the section look jumbled up, so you might want to pick the site you most want people to visit and make sure all subsequent sites are prominently linked from that most desired site.
— Search engines
When link building to help your website rise in the rankings, Search Engine Land provides three areas to consider: link quality, link text (anchor text) and number of links.
Search engines do not count all websites equally in their algorithms.
“A link from any large, respectable site is going to be higher on the quality scale than a link you might get from commenting on a blog,” according to the Search Engine Land article, “Link Building & Ranking In Search Engines.”
Anchor Text/Link Text
Anchor text, also known as link text, is the clickable text of a link. The key to anchor text is to use descriptive copy. Moving beyond the all too common “click here” text helps both search engines and users to better understand your webpage and its content.
“The more Google knows about your site — through your content, page titles, anchor text, etc. — the more relevant results we can return for users (and your potential search visitors),” said Maile Ohye, Developer Programs Tech Lead, Google, in her post, “Importance of link architecture,” on the Google Webmaster Central Blog.
For example, if you want to direct visitors on your blog to your LinkedIn page, avoid anchor text like, “Learn more,” “View my résumé” or “See my LinkedIn profile.” While search engines don’t know who “my” is, they can trace who Selena L. Blue is. You want the link credited to your name, so try descriptive anchor text like, “View Selena L. Blue’s résumé” or “Learn more on Selena L. Blue’s LinkedIn profile.” (Notice that I included my initial to keep the consistency going.)
As Search Engine Land points out, you may not always be able to control the words others use to link to you, but if you have any influence over this, encourage them to use descriptive text.
Number of Links
Each link the search engine spiders find directed at your sites count as a “vote” for your page to rank high in the search results. So, as RJ of BrandYourself said, “The more places you link to the places you exist, the higher they will show up in results when someone Googles your name.” Keep in mind, though, that while large numbers certainly tack on the votes for a page, you should go for quality over quantity of links.
What other personal branding strategies do you use to improve the results page for your name? Share them with us in the comment section below.
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