Ever looked up your own name on Google (GOOG)? Sure you have — and if you haven’t, you should start: For an employer, googling a job applicant is just due diligence.
But what if you don’t like your results?
That’s what happened to the WSJ’s Julia Angwin, whose top hit on the leading search engine was a story she wrote in 2005 that had a correction appended to it. How embarrassing.
So Julia set out to discover: How can individuals game Google to take back control of their own name? Here’s what SEO (search engine optimization) experts told her:
- Don’t bother asking Google for help. The company will almost always refuse to intervene except in cases of identity theft, and even then they’ll try to defer responsibility.
- The key is to create your own content, lots of it, and cross-link. Your Twitter should link to your personal blog, which should link to your Facebook, etc etc.
- You can boost your LinkedIn or Facebook results by writing articles on sites like Squidoo.com, eHow.com or Google Knol and linking back to your personal pages. (So Knol is good for something after all!)
- Create a homepage at yourname.com. Spend a few minutes learning about basic SEO concepts like title tags that weigh heavily in Google’s ranking algorithim. Make your personal page text-based, not graphics-based, for better ranking. Have as many sites as possible (Facebook, Twitter, etc) link to your homepage.
Julia was able to get her LinkedIn page as her top result after two weeks of effort.
But the results changed again, to Julia’s dismay. Google gives a stronger rank to pages that have been on the Internet for a long time. So consider rehabilitating your search engine presence a long-term project like trying to repair a bad credit rating: It will take time.