I’ve done it. You probably have, too. Who hasn’t “Googled” their name for the fun of seeing what headlines and descriptions pop up?
The real question is, what will someone who has a need to learn more about you see if they search for your name? I’m thinking of a prospective employer or co-worker here. It could happen. A tight job market requires employers to exercise extreme scrutiny when filling positions. Googling your name delivers an e-slice of how you present yourself to the Internet world, and how search engines interpret that presentation.
Will those who Google you find links to your greatest professional qualities in order of most-to-least-important? Not likely. Could they encounter a less-than-tactful comment you hesitantly posted on a social network of questionable credibility? Very likely.
The frequency of hits referencing information about you or posted by you largely depends on what and where you and others posted it. Facebook’s popularity increases the chance that a link to your Facebook page will pop up. It will only reveal any off-the-cuff, casual status reports or comments you’ve posted to other Facebook users, and only if you’ve allowed public access to them. (Hint: don’t allow public access.)
Twitter search results generated by tweets you’ve posted might lead to your Twitter bio, so make it short and content-rich. On the other hand, Twitter search results can also lead to actual tweets. If you don’t want a potential employer—or the general public for that matter—to know you just engulfed a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream while watching “Terms of Endearment” for the 42nd time, don’t tweet it!
LinkedIn, Plaxo and other business networking websites you may have joined will reveal your straightlaced, professional side when your name is Googled. You’ve probably worked pretty hard to make sure every skill, experience and reference detail flows perfectly. Don’t let a stupid-silly Facebook post or Twitter tweet wreck all of your hard work.
As much as you would like Google, Bing and other browsers to round out your business accomplishments by showcasing links (with a flattering description, of course) to the Boy Scout troop you help lead, the school PTA role you fulfill or the 5K charity run you participated in, what you may get instead are links to Flickr photos of the best college keg party you ever attended.
(As I type this, I realize I’m setting myself up for anyone who reads this to Google my name. Don’t waste your time. I’m quite boring.)
Then there is the curse of broken comments that don’t make sense or leave an incomplete impression of what you are professionally capable of. Don’t be afraid to log on and delete some of those potentially harmful comments.
Most people use search engines to cut through the “noise.” If you actively blog, comment on blogs, tweet or manage social networking accounts, you’re creating noise that search engines may cut right through, or land right on.
My goal in creating my Internet persona is to show how I contribute to making the world around me a better place—professionally and personally. If prospective clients see that, I know I’ve presented the best of who I am and how I can contribute those qualities to achieving what’s best for them.